Tag Archives: RV

Things I Wish I Knew Before Living Full-Time in an Airstream

living full-time in an Airstream Living full-time in an Airstream has been the biggest adventure of my life (so far!). It’s also been the craziest/best/most spontaneous thing I’ve ever done. I don’t regret it. Not a day. But George and I did very little research before we decided, hey, let’s live in an Airstream! Embarrassing little research. If I had to do it all over again, I might be a little more prepared. Although, if I was more prepared I might have wussed out! There’s a lot of realities and obstacles to living in an Airstream.

  1. The buying process may be harder than you think.
    Our buying process wasn’t easy. We easily found the Airstream on Craigslist, but our trailer was acquired in a divorce and there was all kinds of legalese associated with the title. In the end we had to title our trailer in Maine. Why Maine? Well, they have looser titling laws and personal/commercial trailers can be registered in Maine regardless of where you live. Maine also has low-cost registrations!
  2. Things get dirty real quick
    I have a strict no shoes policy in the Airstream, but that doesn’t keep the dirt from sneaking in anyway. It’s such a small space that if we miss even one day of cleaning, the place is a wreck. Which leads me to…
  3. Junk will look junkier in a small space
    You need less “things” than you think. Always. But even the tiniest bit of junk will look junky in a small space. At first I wanted to have lots of open shelves for our things, but things looked too cluttered in such a small space. We did fix the problem with drawers, but I wish I had planned for more hide-away shelving in the beginning.
  4. If you are living in a vintage Airstream, things will break/go awry.
    Things might even go awry in a new Airstream! Just like owning your own home, things will break and go awry. Unlike a home, there are less people with special skills able to fix things. You’ll need to be handy. Or live with someone who is handy (thanks, George!). And you’ll need to be willing to experiment and learn. We’ve learned so much from online forums and YouTube videos.
  5. There’s no privacy
    The bathroom situation gets ugly. ‘Nuff said.
  6. It’s going to get cold and hot.
    The temperature in the Airstream is super fickle. We stay relatively warm with two heaters and the air conditioning works well, but there are times when the weather gets so extreme outside that no space heater or mobile home air conditioning unit will do the trick. We also live in the south so it’s humid most of the time, we control this with a dehumidifier, but it will never be the perfect humidity and temperature in there.
  7. There will never be enough space for certain activities.
    Working out in the Airstream and cooking in the Airstream are both a struggle. There’s never enough room to chop or dice and create even a one-course meal. And jumping around in the Airstream, forget about it. I can do a few push-ups or squats, but forget high intensity training in there. I tried it once. It was not pretty.
  8. I don’t think of myself as “homeless,” but others might.
    I was recently reading an article about homelessness. It described folks living in their campers at the beach. I don’t consider myself homeless at all. George and I chose to live this way for so many reasons. And yes, the main reason was financial, but I don’t consider myself homeless. The Airstream is my home. If something ever happened to the Airstream, we could find ourselves an apartment. Airstream livin’ isn’t out of desperation, but it is out of the desire to stop living paycheck-to-paycheck. Some people judge us for our decision, but it’s proved to be one of the best decisions of my life.

Got any questions about living in the Airstream? I’d love to hear them and answer them in the comments!

Update:  I wrote a book! “The Ultimate Guide to Living Full Time in an RV, Airstream or Motorhome” will show you how live a smaller, happier life in an untraditional home. This is an interactive guide designed to help you plan your journey to smaller living with worksheets and useful tips. Get it here!



Tips and Tricks for Campfire Cooking

Tips for campfire cooking We’re pretty much cave people now. Livin’ in the woods, not brushing our hair, makin’ jerky. Before we start picking bugs off each other to eat, I thought I’d share tips on my new favorite, cave (wo)man way to cook– AN OPEN FLAME!

The thought of a large open flame near my beautiful home still scares me a bit. I usually make George actually start the fire, but I’m not afraid to saute and grill like I’m Bobby Flay once the flame dies down.

Here’s some of the best tips I’ve learned from our campfire adventures.

1. You don’t have to go camping to cook over a fire. Building a fire in your backyard (if it’s permitted) is even more fun because you don’t have to lug all that stuff around. Plus, if you are cooking something a little stinky, like fish, it doesn’t smell up your house!

2. Build your fire with dry, untreated wood. You’ll never get a fire started with wet wood and you definitely don’t want to build a cooking fire with chemically treated wood. Umm, gross.

3. Learn how to correctly build a fire. We’re partial to the pyramid or tenting method.

4. Don’t limit yourself! Campfire cooking doesn’t have to be all hotdogs and hamburgers. I’m all for a good greasy burger and some Heb Natties, but campfire cooking can also be adventurous! If you have a cast iron skillet, you can cook almost anything on a fire! Which brings me to the next tip…

5. Have the right equipment. You don’t need a lot of stuff to cook on a fire. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. Cave men cooked with sticks. A lighter, a cast iron skillet and an old oven or grill grate works great. (Get it?!) It’s what we use! You can make almost anything in a cast iron skillet. I should be their spokesperson, I love ’em so much. I’d also recommend a heat-proof oven mit, like the Ove Glove. I thought that thing was an infomercial joke, but, man it works!

6. Remember the oil and spices! Throw some olive oil, salt, pepper, your favorite spice and a potato or protein into a tin foil envelope. And voila! You’ve got a hobo packet. Really, that’s what they’re called and it’s delicious.

Cooking on Campfire Coals

7. Be patient. Don’t try to cook when the flame is still high. Wait until the flame dies down, or wait until there are only coals or wood chips left. You can even cook directly on the coals or wood chips! (See photo above!)

8. Be safe. If you are ready to go to bed or leave the area, be sure to douse your fire with water. Fires can get out of control real quick and “only you can prevent forest fires.”

9. Keep it fun. Campfire cooking is all about fun. It always requires marshmallows and maybe a few beers.

Have you been campfire cooking? Got any tips? Let me know in the comments.





Airstream Living: An Update

Airstream It’s been almost two months since George and I have moved into the Airstream. Full-time Airstream livin’ has presented some challenges, but the livin’ is easy. (Are you singing that song in your head now?)

The biggest challenge hasn’t been the lack of space, which totally surprised me. I thought George and I would be fighting over territory at this point. Putting tape down the middle of the room, old school style. But luckily, we thought ahead and built lots of storage options into our redesign.

The biggest challenge has actually been that it’s hard to multitask in the Airstream. When I am making my breakfast in the morning, I can’t have the hot water heater on at the same time or the burner will click off. Then, when I’m done cooking, I have to click the water heater back on and wait for it to heat up. It’s been a lesson in patience, fo’ sho’.

Another challenge we’ve been presented with is the bugs. I naively didn’t expect bugs. Even though we live in the woods. Right there with nature. Amongst the trees. Now that fall is making it’s beautiful arrival, the bugs are diminishing, but we’ve been on the war path for the last couple months.

Most of all, I’ve loved how easy living in the Airstream makes it to save money. We have no rent, so I’ve been saving at least $1,000 each month. Our high rent was crippling our savings. I nick-named our savings Tiny Tim, it was so bad/sad. After our wedding last December, we were pretty much wiped out. (Although we were totally realistic and only spent a fraction of what the average wedding cost!) But nothing makes it easier to save than having no living expenses.

We’ve still got some cosmetic things to do before I share the interior of the Airstream, but I can’t wait for you all to see the before and after. It.is.so.good.




14 Ways to Eat Gluten-Free on a Budget

Gluten-free on a budget

Learning a foreign language is hard. Doing math is hard (at least for me). Keeping your nice, “work pants” clean while chowing down on a burrito is hard. Eating gluten-free on a budget isn’t hard. At least it isn’t as hard as everyone makes it out to be. Read on for my all-knowing wisdom, my friends.

1. Become a member of a CSA
Community-supported agriculture (CSA) is a network of members who have pledged to support local farms and in turn, get a share of the bounty. I’m a huge supporter of my CSA and more than anything, I think it has helped me to stay on budget. Read more about that here.

2. Farmer’s Markets
Almost everything at farmer’s markets are “safe” foods, like produce. Foods at farmer’s markets are generally cheaper because you don’t pay for transportation. And the food is local! For us U.S. folks, you can find your local farmer’s market here: http://www.localharvest.org/farmers-markets/

3. Buy local
I know, this kind of sounds like the tip above, but I want to expand a little. Not everyone lives close to a farmer’s market. I know, I’ve been there. But there are roadside stands and entrepreneurial farmers eve-ry-where. I’ve saved myself some serious dough by buying produce out of the back of some guy’s truck. Or by picking at a local farm. And it supports your local economy. Wins all around.

4. Grow your own!
I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t have a green thumb. I’ve killed every plant I’ve ever owned, but if you do have the gift, growing your own food can be a super saver. Learning to grow my own food is definitely on my life to-do list.

4. Eat seasonally
Strawberries are cheaper in the early summer. Eat them then, and freeze the leftovers for when you get a hankerin’ in December. And nothing tastes better than fresh berries during the depths of winter. In other words, eat your favorite fruits and veggies when they are cheap and in-season and freeze the leftovers. So easy.

5. Buy in-bulk for select items
Buying in bulk is hard when you have no space to store everything. I get it. I live in an RV. But sometimes buying in bulk really does pay off. I make a bi-annual trip to Costco with my mom (who has a membership) to buy staple items, such as quinoa, spices and toilet paper. (TMI?) Take a page out of my book, find a friend with a bulk foods membership card and mooch.

6. Buy naturally gluten-free foods
Naturally gluten-free foods are always, always cheaper than imitation glutenous foods. Go check out the price of gluten-free bread and then check out the price of regular bread. Are you in shock? Do I need to call 911? Yeah. Stick with the naturally gluten-free foods to avoid budget explosion.

7. Stay away from prepackaged foods
Prepackaged gluten-free foods are becoming more widely available. They’re awesome and I’m super happy that I can easily find a granola bar now, but I could drain my entire life savings on the price of some of those gluten-free bars. If you must, must, must have gluten-free breads and goodies, to save some cash, I would…

8. Learn to cook!
Before I learned that I had a gluten intolerance my culinary skills mostly consisted of turning on the microwave and heating up a Lean Cuisine. Perfecting the art of cooking has helped my budget tremendously. And now I totally impress people with my skillz.

9. Be flexible
When you are adapting recipes to make them gluten-free or just whipping up a quick dinner, be flexible and don’t be scared to try something new. If you are feeling a little uninspired, sites like Supercook and Recipe Key can help. Just enter the ingredients you have in your pantry, some internet magic happens and out pops recipes for those ingredients.

10. K.I.S.S.
Keep it simple, stupid! I try to apply the K.I.S.S. philosophy to every aspect of my life, but it is especially important to K.I.S.S. when cooking and shopping for gluten-free goods. Recipes with less than five ingredients will always be cheaper, and easier, and often time better than super complicated ones!

11. Check out other blogs
There are some ahhhh-mazing gluten-free blogs out there. Por ejemplo (that’s for example in Español) I adore Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef. Shauna, the blog’s author, is an amazing story teller. Together, she and her chef-husband create some of the most gorgeous gluten-free dishes I’ve ever seen. There’s so many blogs out there that I admire, but my favorites are a post for another time. Blogs just give recipes away! It’s so crazy.

12. Shop international markets
Shopping at international markets is a blast. George and I have spent hours just giggling at the packaging in our local Indian and Hispanic markets. I’m sure my international friends do the same at American stores. And, not only am I entertained, but international markets often carry food at unbeatable prices. I always stock up on corn tortillas, rice, beans and coconut oil.

13. Order online
It’s no secret that I love Amazon.  I’m an Amazon Prime member just for the free shipping. Yes, I’m on a savings spree, but Amazon carries many gluten-free items for much less than your local big grocery. Take an hour out of your next weekend to visit your local grocery store, write down the prices of the food you normally buy, then compare it to online retailers. You’ll be happy you did.

14. Ask for reduced costs when ordering in restaurants
When you are gluten-free, eating in a standard restaurant can be a land mine. I always recommend cooking at home for your meals, but sometimes you just need to/have to/want to eat out. Most restaurants will tweak their menu items for the gluten-free, but there’s always the possibility of cross-contamination. I hate doing it, but I quiz the waiter on the practices used and while I’m being super annoying, I might even ask for reduced cost. If I want a burger without a bun, I shouldn’t have to pay for the bun. Am I right? Some restaurants will oblige and others won’t. (I also make sure to tip the waiter well!)

What tips or tricks do you have for eating (gluten-free or not) on a budget? Let me know in the comments!


Low Sugar Holiday Nuts

Maple, Holiday Nuts

Hello, my name is Melanie and I’m a snacker. I feel like there should be a support group for people like me. If I don’t have a little nosh, I’m completely ravenous during the next meal and I’ll eat everything in sight. Snacks are essential.

But snacks aren’t as easy as they might be for the glutinous. I can’t just grab a granola bar and call it a day. But that’s where nature comes in, nature’s granola bar is nuts! And I eat a lot of ’em. But lately I’ve been wanting a way to spice things up. The old, raw nut routine wasn’t cutting it anymore. I’ve also been on a low sugar kick lately, so I didn’t want to just douse them in cinnamon sugar like most holiday nuts and call it a day. Although, that would probably be delicious. And yes, I’m already talking about the holidays. Don’t act like you haven’t been mentally adding everything in Target to your wish list already. WE ALL DO IT.

Holiday Mixed Nuts

Here’s the recipe for Low Sugar, Holiday Nuts 

1 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 cup raw, unsalted cashews
3/4 cup raw, unsalted pecans
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cardamom
1 tsp maple syrup
Sea salt

Melt the coconut oil over low heat. I used a cast iron skillet, but you could probably get away with any kind of skillet. I just think cast iron makes everything taste better. Ok, so once you’ve got the coconut oil melted, toss in the cashews and pecans, cinnamon and cardamon. Stir frequently and toast until tan. I always like toasting cashews because they’re light in color and you can tell when they are done. It’s nature’s timer. When everything looks nice and toasty, add the maple syrup, give it a good stir and just a little more toast to caramelize the syrup. Finish with a healthy dose of sea salt.

Confession: I ate this whole plate. Worth it.



The Gluten-Free RV: The Beginnings

A typical gluten-free meal for me. Yes, that's a lot of mayo.

A typical gluten-free meal for me. Yes, that’s a lot of mayo.

Now children, gather round, I’m going to tell you a deeply personal story. Once upon a time in grad school I started to get very, very sick. I had debilitating stomach pain. I was hospitalized several times. I had mysterious rashes, unexplained tiredness and nausea. I knew every bathroom within a 50 mile radius of my apartment. It was a miserable, unpleasant, and downright scary time. Sometimes the stomach pain would get so bad, I would think “ok, this is the end. I’m really lucky I didn’t decide to get a cat so he wouldn’t eat my face off when I die.” Really. I thought that.I saw so many doctors and the inside of more depressing waiting rooms than I care to remember. I had so many tests run and everything came out negative. Many doctors brushed me off. “You’re in your 20s, you are young, it’s just stress,” they’d say. I lived in fear of food and on the recommendation of one doctor, ate a very bland, low-acid diet of peanut butter crackers, bananas and chicken soup.

I was sick for years. YEARS. I lived a miserable dietary existence. I was ready to just accept my fate as a weak, sickly individual until I saw one last doctor. This particular doctor suggested cutting out certain foods to see if my pain stopped. I cut out gluten, dairy and nightshades. My pain disappeared. I had more energy than I had in my entire life. I actually enjoyed eating again.

I worked the nightshades back into my diet with no problem. Then I tried the dairy. Still very little problem as long as I didn’t overdue it. I was scared, but I also tried adding the gluten back into my diet. The stomach pain and nausea came back soon after.

I’ve now been gluten-free for a couple of years. And it’s been glorious. I don’t miss “real” bread, pasta or the pain they once caused me. I eat fresh, beautiful foods without abandon. And guess what?! I cook them all out of my Airstream!

So to make a long story short, I want to share those foods with you in a new column I’m calling “The Gluten-Free RV.” The title makes sense now, huh?!

Thanks for listening, ya’ll. I love you and I hope you’ll enjoy.



How to Cook in an Airstream Trailer

Airstream Hot Plate Before we remodeled, we had a sketchy gas stove in the Airstream that was home to a full apartment complex full of mice. Seriously, those things had made a straight up, 1970s NY high-rise in that stove. I’m pretty sure those mice were the mice version of The Jeffersons. (Insert Jeffersons theme song here.)

We couldn’t use the old oven and cooktop. It was gas, there were no indications that the Jeffersons had ever turned it on, and it was just too risky. I like my eyebrows. I have no desire to singe them off. I didn’t want to be scared every time I needed a grilled cheese– which is all the time. So we started looking for RV oven/cooktop combos, and just like everything, they didn’t come cheap. In our true cheapo live little fashion, we started thinking about alternatives.

Could we make it with just a microwave and an infomercial burner? Could we just use a toaster oven and a coffee maker? How about two sticks and panini press?! After much Amazon research, we settled on a double burner and a small convection oven. It hasn’t been the easiest change. I had an amazing four burner gas stove and oven in my last apartment, but I’m learning to be more mindful of my timing and I’ve been making things in smaller batches.

The biggest change has been the no microwave situation. It has forced me to slow my cooking down, but I didn’t want to sacrifice the space for a microwave. It also freaked me out to have all that microwave radiation bouncing around in my tin can of a house.

Airstream Cooking In terms of appliances, we also have a blender, a french press and our biggest unnecessary space hog, an electric food dehydrator. Our blender is a Blendtec and it’s pretty much amazing. It was a total splurge from before I went on a saving spree, but I love it and it blends like a dream. The french press is a total necessity. It’s smaller than a coffee maker and makes a delicious cup of joe. Coffee is my life blood. I sing a song that I used to sing in church as a kid when I make coffee. Not kidding. It’s a religious experience for me.

And then there’s the dehydrator. It may seem kind of ridiculous to have a food dehydrator when you don’t have room for a microwave, but George and I got as a (joke) wedding gift and we love jerky. At least I know when the zombie apocalypse happens, we’re going to plenty of dried food to subsist on. Just keepin’ it real.