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Pantry Essentials for Living In Your Van in 2024

Pantry Essentials for Living In Your Van in 2024!

Navigating the compact and dynamic world of van life requires every aspect of living to be streamlined, and that includes your pantry. Curating a pantry suitable for the van lifestyle means being meticulous about what you stock, ensuring each item offers maximum utility and nutrition in minimal space.

In this guide, we’ll help you determine the essentials to fill your van pantry with, ensuring you’re prepared for every culinary adventure on the road.

Basics of Efficient Pantry Organization

Organizing a pantry on wheels has its unique set of challenges, but with a few principles, it can be both functional and efficient, important things to consider are;

Pantry Essentials for Living In Your Van

Prioritizing Pantry Items

What are your go-to ingredients? Ensure they’re always within arm’s reach. Items used less frequently can be stored deeper or higher up.

Storing for Stability

Consider the fact that your pantry will be in motion. Use secure containers and organizers to ensure items stay in place while you’re driving. Velcro, non-slip mats, and tension rods can be lifesavers.

Weight Distribution

For vehicle safety and optimal fuel efficiency, be conscious of how your pantry goods are distributed. Heavy items like cans or bags of rice should be stored lower and towards the center of the van. Although it is unlikely in most cases this will have an affect on your van’s handling.

Dry Good Essentials for Van Life

The majority of your pantry will likely be dry goods, and for good reason. They’re durable, versatile, and can pack a nutritional punch:

Grains and Cereals

Quinoa: A protein-packed grain that cooks quickly and can be used in salads, soups, or even breakfast bowls.

Rice: Opt for parboiled or instant varieties to reduce cooking time and fuel usage.

Oats: Perfect for overnight oats or quick stovetop porridge. They can also serve as a base for homemade granola bars.

Pasta: A van life favorite, due to its quick cooking time. Opt for whole grain versions for added nutrition.

grains and cereals

Legumes and Pulses

Lentils: A protein and fiber powerhouse, lentils cook quickly and can be used in soups, stews, or cold salads.

Chickpeas: Great for making hummus, adding to salads, or roasting for a crunchy snack.

Black Beans: Ideal for tacos, burritos, or mashing into a bean dip. Consider dried beans if you have ample water and time, or canned for convenience.

Nuts and Seeds

Almonds: A protein-rich snack that can also be chopped into salads or desserts.

Chia Seeds: Perfect for making chia seed pudding or thickening smoothies.

Flaxseeds: When ground, they can be an egg substitute in vegan cooking or sprinkled on breakfast dishes for added omega-3s.

Spices and Seasonings

Build a compact spice kit with essentials like salt, pepper, chili flakes, cumin, garlic powder, and Italian seasoning. These basics can be combined in various ways to enhance the flavor profile of numerous dishes.

For herbs, dried versions offer longevity, but if you’re feeling ambitious, a small mobile herb garden in the van can provide fresh flavors.

Canned and Jarred Goods

A champion of long shelf life and convenience, canned and jarred goods can be a real lifesaver on the road:

canned and jarred goods

Ready-to-Eat Foods

Soups & Broths: Opt for low-sodium versions and enhance flavors with your own spices. They make for a quick, warm meal, especially on cold days.

Vegetables: Green beans, corn, and carrots can be added to meals or eaten as a side.

Fruits: Ideal for desserts or breakfast. Look for fruits canned in their own juice without added sugars.

Beans & Legumes: While we touched on dried beans earlier, canned beans offer quick convenience. Just remember to rinse them to reduce sodium.

Fish & Meats: Canned tuna, salmon, chicken, or even SPAM can provide protein on the go. Ensure they’re packed in water or olive oil for health benefits.

Pickled & Fermented Goods: Pickles, sauerkraut, or olives not only last long but also add a burst of flavor to meals. Additionally, fermented foods introduce beneficial probiotics to your diet.

Storage Tip: Remember to utilize a can organizer or secure storage to prevent cans from rolling or getting dented while in transit. If you are after more van life kitchen storage tips make sure to see our guide to safely storing food in your van & our van life fresh food storage techniques.

Oils and Condiments

The right oil or condiment can transform a bland dish and in most cases are essential for a successful non stick pan:

oil and condiments

Cooking Oils

Olive Oil: A versatile oil perfect for sautéing, dressing salads, or drizzling on finished dishes.

Coconut Oil: Useful for both cooking and baking, and it can also serve as a body moisturizer in a pinch.


Soy Sauce or Tamari: Great for stir-fries, marinades, or to add depth to soups.

Vinegar (Balsamic, Apple Cider): Essential for homemade dressings and can also brighten up dishes.

Mustard & Mayo: For sandwiches, dressings, or to add creaminess and flavor to dishes.

Hot Sauce: To spice things up! A couple of different types can offer variety to your meals.

Storage Tip: To save space, consider transferring oils into smaller, leak-proof bottles, and using condiment squeeze tubes for efficient storage. For some condiments you may require refridgeration, make sure to see our picks for the best portable fridges for van life.

Beverages and Drink Mixes

Hydration and a caffeine kick are crucial on the road:

Coffee & Tea

Coffee: Depending on your preference, you can opt for beans, grounds, or even instant coffee. There is plenty of portable coffee machines available including a French press or Aeropress which offer convenient brewing methods without the need for electricity, you can see our picks for the best portable coffee machines for van life.

Tea: A mix of black, green, and herbal teas can provide both caffeine kicks and relaxation moments.

tea, coffee and beverages

Hydration Essentials

Powdered Drink Mixes: Electrolyte solutions, vitamin C packets, or even flavored drink mixes can break the monotony of plain water and help in staying hydrated.

Special Considerations for Dietary Needs

Every traveler is unique, and your dietary preferences or needs should be reflected in your pantry. As some remote areas you may find yourself travelling in often are less catering to dietary considerations it’s important to ensure you are always stocked up.

Gluten-free: Stock up on gluten-free pasta, crackers, and snacks. Be wary of cross-contamination in shared cooking spaces.

Vegan/Vegetarian: Ensure a good mix of plant-based proteins like lentils, chickpeas, and tofu. Nutritional yeast can be a great cheese substitute for vegans.

Keto: Prioritize high-fat, low-carb items like avocados, nuts, and seeds. Coconut oil and almond flour can be staples for cooking and baking.

Building the perfect van life pantry is a mix of art and science. While space is at a premium, with careful selection and organization, you can ensure that you have a pantry that meets your nutritional needs, satisfies your cravings, and brings joy to your mobile cooking experiences.

No matter where the winding roads take you, with these pantry essentials, you’ll always be home at mealtime. For more van life cooking & food storage tips make sure to checkout our other food & cooking articles.


  • Zaara

    Zaara, a kindred spirit of the open road, has nurtured a deep-seated love for RV travel since her childhood. Journeying with her parents, she learned early on to cherish the little things that make life rich and fulfilling. This emotional depth and appreciation for simplicity have become the cornerstone of her life philosophy. A firm believer in the idea that true happiness is found in nature's embrace, Zaara continues this legacy of exploration alongside her husband, Augustus. Her passion extends beyond landscapes to the joy of connecting with life's purest forms - the unconditional love of dogs and the innocence of babies. These connections reflect her nurturing soul and emotional acuity. Zaara is also a culinary enthusiast, delighting in creating meals that blend flavors from their travels, infusing each dish with memories and love. Her expertise lies in living fully, finding joy in every moment, and inspiring others to seek happiness in life's simple, natural wonders.

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