Oh dread. You turned on the faucet or tried to flush the toilet and nothing happened. Maybe you had previously noticed (and ignored) the incessant sound of your water pump constantly running. Either way, it means the same thing; you are about out of water.
Although there are many things that can ruin a camping trip, running out of water is definitely near the top of the list. When you are boodocking, you only have what you brought with you, which includes the supply in your fresh water tank and any extra jugs you have with you. With such a limited supply, you should probably consider employing some water saving strategies. For example, you could use bottled water to drink and cook with and save your tank supply for showering, cleaning, and flushing.
Not only does practicing water conservation help you avoid running out when you are boondocking or “dry camping,” but it also helps you live a more environmentally responsible lifestyle. Check out these water saving tips for cooking before you take your next RV excursion.
Prep Food With Less Water
Conserving your supply when cooking begins with how you do your prep work for meals. Generally speaking, the two times during a meal that you are likely to waste the greatest amount of water are during ingredient preparation process and during clean up. Therefore, the efforts to sustain your supply that would yield the greatest results would be during those two phases. Consider implementing these easy adjustments.
1. Defrost Your Food in the Fridge
When camping, one of the easiest meals to prepare consists primarily of grilled meat, and generally speaking, meat stays fresh longer when it is frozen. In order to thaw the steak, ground beef, chicken, or fish, many people place the packaged protein under hot running water or submerge it in a sink full of it. This is a huge waste since your supply is either running down the drain or becoming full of blood and thereby unusable after the raw food is thawed.
Instead, plan ahead and place the package on a plate in the refrigerator overnight. This ensures it is ready to go when you are without the mess and waste of the traditional methods.
2. Dry Scrub Your Vegetables
The typical way to clean dirt and pesticide off of produce is to scrub it under running water. This is fairly inefficient when you are trying to maintain your supply of H2O.
A better method is to use a brush or an abrasive pad and scrub the vegetables or pieces of fruit off while they are dry. After all of the grit has been loosened, rinse the produce quickly, turning the tap off between vegetables, or better yet, use the following method.
3. Rinse the Produce in a Bowl
If you prefer to clean vegetables or fruit while they are wet, run an inch or two in a dishpan or a clean, plugged sink basin with about 1-cup of white vinegar and soak them before scrubbing. The white vinegar loosens debris much better and allows you to use less.
Rinse them by dunking them in another inch or two of clean water. This uses far less than opening the tap and letting it run over them and down the drain.
Cook With Less Water
Your conservation efforts don’t stop there. There are many methods cooks can employ to reduce the amount of water they use while making food. From using fewer pans to using the right pan, every little bit helps.
4. Cook Your Food Outside
There are several ways you can cook outside, including grilling, fire roasting, and even using a portable camp stove. Whichever method you prefer, the result is the same. You produce a tasty meal while keeping the mess outside and the RV’s kitchen clean and tidy.
This reduces the time, cleaning supplies, and water required to straighten up afterward.
5. Prepare “One-Pot” Meals
Of course, cooking outside isn’t always an option. In fact, some RV parks and boondocking spots prohibit open flames. When that is the case, making a one-pot meal greatly reduces the number of pots and pans you will need to clean.
Any number of dishes can be produced in the easy to use crockpot, also referred to as a slow cooker. Plus, stews, chili, and soups can be made in a large pot on the stove creating several lunches of leftovers, further limiting dishwashing chores and therefore water use.
6. Use Non-stick or Cast Iron Pans
Pots and pans or electric skillets with a Teflon coating keep cooking food from sticking to the surface. This makes cleaning them easier and allows you to use less water to do so. If you don’t have a Teflon pan or are concerned about the reports of its effect on health of those cooking on it, liberally use a nonstick spray or oil, such as coconut or olive oil to lubricate the surface.
Cooking on or in cast iron griddles, skillets, and pans is another great option when you want to use less water. Merely clean it immediately after using it, while it’s still pretty warm. Use just a little bit of water and a stiff brush or sponge to clean it out. Dry it thoroughly and add a bit of oil to re-season it.
7. Double Up Duty
When preparing dinner, use water sparingly by steaming your vegetables instead of boiling them. Use a rice steamer with about 1-inch of liquid to cook rice and simply place the veggies over it. This cooks two elements of your meal with the least amount of water possible while providing added health benefits, as well.
8. Use a Tight-fitting Lid When Boiling
Make sure to use the smallest pan that would adequately serve your purpose so you don’t have to use additional water filling a larger pot, and make sure to use a tight-fitting lid. This causes it to boil faster while keeping it from evaporating or boiling away. This actually helps save energy or fuel, as well.
Plus, if you boil something, keep the remaining liquid for later use. It’s a good resource for rinsing toothbrushes and razors, doing an initial rinse of dishes, and flushing toilets.
Serve Meals with Water Conservation in Mind
The manner in which the food is eaten also determines how much water is used throughout the day. For example, using disposable plates or even no plates at all and eating finger food greatly reduces clean up.
9. Use Disposable Plates and Ware
To eliminate or reduce waste, use real plates, dinnerware, and glasses. To conserve water, however, you should use paper or plastic disposable versions. In order to minimize waste as well as your use of H2O, use paper plates on plastic paper plate holders to make them sturdier and use small sized plastic forks or the multi-purpose sporks.
If you are having a sandwich or something similar, consider just using a paper towel or napkin to keep your trash from piling up quickly, while still reducing water use.
10. Eat Outside
Similar to how cooking outside does, eating outside of the motorhome helps cut down on your water use. First, the mess from the meal remains outdoors simplifying clean up. Second, the food is often less elaborate or conventional. The use of paper plates is expected and premade side dishes in disposable containers are often included for convenience. Third, the rules are more relaxed. People often eat with their fingers and food dropped on the ground, for example, usually remains on the ground. So, whether you eat at a picnic table or on a sturdy blanket in the traditional picnic-style, eating outside reduces the amount of water you use.
Clean With Less Water
As previously mentioned, the clean up process is one of the two aspects of meal preparation that typically wastes the most of your precious resources. Some of the tips here are commonly used for cleaning with a limited supply whether it is for the human body or the entire RV. Since cleaning up after preparing and eating food is a practice undertaken up to three times a day, I’ve included the following tactics.
11. Use Pan Liners
Pan liners are a fantastic invention to minimize mess. In fact, in some cases, you may be able to avoid using water for washing plates and pans altogether. Parchment baking sheet liners, steamer liners, cooking bags, and slow cooker liners ensure clean up is a breeze. These can usually be found in grocery stores in the aisle with the baking supplies and aluminum foil.
12. Scrape Food From the Dishes
Shorten your dishwashing time - thereby reducing the amount of water you use — by scraping excess food off of your plates, out of your pots, and into a compost area or trash receptacle. Then, use strong and absorbent paper towels like Viva or Bounty to wipe away any additional remains before washing them.
13. Use Less Detergent
Instead of running the tap over the pots and pans while you scrape them out, add hot water (perhaps some that you boiled your food in) and let them soak for a few hours, or even overnight, before scrubbing them clean. Use the least amount of dish soap possible to help sustain your water supply. Plus, you could consider a vegetable-based dish soap like “Simplicity” so a thorough rinse isn’t as important. Either method enables you to reduce the amount you use when washing and rinsing our dishes.
To clean the counter and table, use wet towelettes like Lysol anti-bacterial wipes. These not only clean, but they sanitize surfaces, as well. Using an all-purpose cleaner like Simple Green or plain white vinegar and a paper towel achieves the same result.
14. Turn Off the Water
Opening the tap and allowing the water to run without catching it in something is literally just letting it go down the drain. Turn it off when you are cleansing your dishes and just let it trickle over them to rinse. Additionally, consider using hand sanitizer after doing household chores rather than soap and water. It serves the same purpose without using up your H2O.
15. Wash Dishes in a Bucket
Invest in a bucket or a large dishpan to wash your pots and pans in. You will use much less water than when you clean them in the sink. This also allows you to use the remaining liquid for other tasks, such as flushing the toilet, for example. Otherwise, it drains into your gray water tank, requiring you to empty it more frequently, which is another unnecessary hassle when you are boondocking.
Note: If you use a vegetable-based or organic dish soap, you can use the remaining amount to water your plants. Most commercial detergents would be harmful though.
With just a bit of ingenuity, you can conserve water, thereby reducing your ecological “footprint” and increasing the length of time that you can dry camp. Refrain from turning on the faucet when you are defrosting meat or cleaning vegetables and turn it off while you’re cleaning the dishes. Make “one-pot” meals and use disposable flatware to reduce the number of plates and pans you will have to wash. Consider cooking and eating outside to keep clean up quick and easy, as well as keep your fresh water from running out before you’re ready for it to.