One interesting thing I’ve noticed living on the road is how we shop for groceries and what we buy.

Our RV has precious little storage, at least compared to our bricks & sticks home. I would estimate total pantry space at about 8.5ft³ (we happen doing to be doing coming in school, I actually did the math) and the fridge is a small dorm room size. Although there are a few other places we can stash dry goods, that’s constraints we’re under.

I’ve actually found these constraints kind of nice. See, I get a great satisfaction from using what we have vs. having tons of things we rarely use. When we were preparing for this trip we purposely tried to “drain” our food stores by rooting through the pantry at home and seeing what we could make to use what we had.

Funny how you end up with four cans of tomato paste yet still buy more when you’re at the store, because why not? You know you need it, aren’t sure you have it, it’ll keep, and you’ll eventually use it. So you have two half-used things of panko, five boxes of onion soup mix, and three tied-off bags of bulk oatmeal, etc.

Living in the RV, the limited space forces this sort of satisfying real-time utilization to happen as the normal. You don’t have room to store things for the sake of having them so you buy what you need, use what you bought, and then do it again.

This space-constrained utilization leads to a couple changes in shopping habits. (1) Since we can’t just have tons of stuff, we shop more frequently, particularly for perishables. (2) You realize that “base ingredients” are the most effective used of space as they can be combined and transformed into higher-order foods.

For instance, making your own pizza crust, bread, cookies, etc. So, instead of buying a jar of marinara, instead buy tomatoes and herbs and make your sauce that way. A jar of marinara will only over be a jar of marinara, taking up space waiting to be used as marinara, but tomatoes and herbs can be all kinds of things.

This means our shopping becomes dominated by the staples. Every week we need milk, eggs, fresh fruit and veggies. Every several weeks we need coffee, butter, flour, sugar, cheese, and meat to be frozen. What strikes me about that shopping list is how much it resembles humans’ shopping lists for forever.

Let’s take the wagon into town, we need flour and sugar and coffee and… Go fetch the eggs, pick some apples, and bring in a pail of milk…

OK so I’m wanting to come clean and be sure to clarify that we’ve not completely broken the modern American shopping model and gone full pioneer, as we do still buy prepared and preserved items on the regular (pretzels, yogurt, cereal). But, it’s definitely a change from the buy-and-horde model we were on at home.


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