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3 Van Life Recipes: Easy, Cheap & Healthy

Cooking on the road can be one of the most rewarding parts of van life. But it’s easy to be tempted by a fast food drive-thru window after a day of exhaustive exploring. Easy van life recipes are a necessity for saving money…and calories.

But with the added difficulty of minimal food storage space, and maybe a van without a fridge–a little food prep planning is important.

It’s possible to have a delicious, healthy, and cheaper meal than take-out. A meal that you look forward to, even if it’s been sitting in your van all day. 

So, without further ado, let’s dive into my staple van life recipes.

My 3 Favorite Easy Van Life Meals

As a budget traveler, I love finding ways to mix and match ingredients for different travel meals. 

These three van life food ideas cost under $20 total. Since many of the ingredients overlap, they take up less storage space and you won’t be throwing away wasted food.

1. Breakfast: Messy Omelet

cheesy veggie sausage omelet travel meal

I love this van life recipe because the flavor of the vegetables pair so nicely with the egg and cheese. It tastes like a restaurant Southwest-style omelet, but for a quarter of the price. The protein from the eggs, sausage and cheese keeps me full for hours and I like knowing I’ve already had my veggie fill for the day.


  1. Two eggs
  2. Slice of cheddar cheese
  3. One sausage, chopped
  4. Handful of chopped bell pepper
  5. Handful of chopped onion
  6. Dash of salt 


  1. Heat up a frying pan on low-medium heat then add a tablespoon of olive oil
  2. Add bell peppers, sausage, and onions to pan; stir fry for a few minutes
  3. Add eggs; stir for a few minutes until fluffy and almost cooked
  4. Add dash of salt
  5. Add cheddar cheese; stir to melt throughout
  6. Either serve onto a plate, or eat right off the pan to minimize mess!

2. Lunch: Easy Quinoa Salad

**makes 3-4 servings

This van life meal is one of the healthiest and easiest to store.

The crunch of the raw veggies paired with the quinoa is very refreshing and since the veggies are raw, the full flavor (and health benefits) comes through.

It’s easy to make because veggies don’t need cooking–just the quinoa that goes in a pot for ~20 minutes, unstirred. Quinoa is a power food and even a small portion of this keeps me satiated for a full afternoon.

One recipe makes multiple servings, and it’s easy to store and not messy. I love being able to throw open my cooler and grab a container of this–a fresh and healthy meal served up in seconds.


  1. One cup of quinoa
  2. One-third of a cucumber, chopped
  3. One-third of red onion, chopped
  4. One-third of bell pepper, chopped
  5. 2 dashes of salt
  6. *Optional ingredients: feta cheese and balsamic vinegar


  1. Cook quinoa according to package directions (differs slightly by brand) and add the salt to water before it’s fully cooked
  2. Chop the cucumber, red onion and bell pepper
  3. Let quinoa cool, then add all vegetables
  4. Add optional ingredients (feta cheese and balsamic)–otherwise, serve and enjoy!
  5. Throw extra servings into the cooler–tastes even better the next day!

3. Dinner: Philly-Cheese Sausage Pasta

I always look forward to this comfort food van life meal. It’s like a philly cheese steak, pasta edition.

Since my veggies are already chopped up from making breakfast and/or lunch, I just throw them on the skillet with a sausage and sautee for a few minutes while my pasta cooks. Then, I throw it all in my pasta pot and sometimes eat right out of the pot.

Even in the summertime, evenings can get chilly so it warms me up and the flavors blend so well together. 


  1. One cup of pasta
  2. Slice of cheddar cheese
  3. One sausage, chopped
  4. Handful of chopped bell pepper
  5. Handful of chopped onion
  6. Dash of salt 


  1. Bring pot of water to a boil; add salt
  2. Cook pasta
  3. While pasta cooks, heat up a frying pan on low-medium heat and then add a tablespoon of olive oil
  4. Add bell peppers, sausage, and onions to pan; stir fry for a few minutes
  5. Add slice of cheese to pan; let sit on veggies until melted
  6. Drain pasta and move into serving dish
  7. Pour cheesy veggies over pasta
  8. Enjoy!

Staple Van Life Ingredients

These eight ingredients are the only ones you need to make all three of the above van life meals. They have made my list because they are versatile, healthy, cheap, and they last a long time. The only items on this list that need refrigeration are the sausages, cucumber and cheese slices. 

  1. Red (or purple) onion (~$0.70)
  2. Green bell pepper (~$0.70)
  3. Cucumber (~$0.80)
  4. Box of penne or rigatoni pasta (~$1.00)
  5. 6-pack of sausages (Italian or whatever you prefer) (~$5.00)
  6. Eggs (~$1.50)
  7. Bag of quinoa (~$7.00)
  8. Cheddar cheese slices (~$2.00)

Total cost: ~ $18.70

Believe it or not, eggs don’t need refrigeration! I grew up with an avid baker of a mom and she taught me the “ways of the egg”. To this day, we leave eggs out on the counter. 

If your van isn’t super temperature regulated, I recommend still refrigerating eggs (check out my best egg storage container in this list). But if it is, then you can safely leave them out.

Staple Van Life Spices

The best way to convince yourself to keep eating the same ingredients is by changing up their flavor with spices! Every seasoned van life chef has an arsenal of spices (pun intended). 

Top Spices Include:

  • Salt and pepper (classic)
  • Garlic and/or onion powder
  • Thyme
  • Oregano 
  • Paprika
  • Cinnamon
  • Chili powder
  • Italian seasoning (a combo of basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, and marjoram)

The above are simply the most common, but only you know your preferred flavors, so go wild with spices.

My Favorite Van Life Snacks

If there’s a chance these meals aren’t enough to fill your tummy for the day, here are a few of my favorite snacks:

  • Apples and peanut butter
  • Trail mix
  • Grapefruit cups
  • Applesauce cups
  • Tuna Fish and cracker packets
  • Greek yogurt with mixed nuts

These snacks are relatively healthy and also easy to store–the only things that need refrigeration are the grapefruit cups and yogurt. 

My Van Life Food Prep Routine

It took me over six months on the road to figure out how to purchase, store, and make food in an efficient way (with a $45 Coleman cooler that serves as my “fridge”). I’ve honed in on certain ingredients that are healthy and versatile, which helps me cut down on mess, prep time, and cost. 

I started getting better about meal prepping. Which also meant getting better at planning my weekly travel routes. I typically start the week stocking up on groceries, go “off the grid” for 3-5 days, then come back into town and re-supply. 


Eating is such a joy in life and it’d be a shame to taint your van life experience because you couldn’t find a good food routine. So, be sure to make meal prep a priority as you take on this new adventure!

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