My Airstream Kitchen – Part 1: Organization

Everyone wants to know how we cook and eat in such a tiny kitchen. It’s the number one question folks who are thinking of going full-time in their RV ask us. My first instinct is to reply, “same as we did in our house with a full-size kitchen.” Because the truth is that we haven’t changed much about what we eat and how we prepare it. But I realize that isn’t very helpful. And if I really think about it, there has been a few adjustments. So I decided it would be fun to put together a post that shares the small details regarding how this whole tiny kitchen thing is possible. It started off as just one post all about how the kitchen is laid out, what it contains, and the way I plan, shop for and prepare meals in the Airstream. But then it started to grow long, and then longer, and then way longer. Until finally I realized I needed to split it into two posts. Part 1: Organization, and Part 2: Plan, Prep & Prepare.

airstream kitchen
I’ve never been one to write “how to” style blog posts. The thing is that I am not an expert on any of this. I’m learning as I go, and while I am more than happy to share what I learn, I never want to claim that I know the right way, or the best way, to do things in an RV. So instead of telling you how to cook in a tiny kitchen, or how to make the most of your space, I am going to show you exactly how I make it work, and you can take from that what you want.

 

Okay, let’s start with a pictorial tour of the kitchen, including all the goodies that make the magic happen. I’ll highlight the things I love about my kitchen, and also note where I think things could be improved. For the most part I’m fairly happy with the organization throughout the kitchen. Soooo…here it is, the kitchen.

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My Airstream kitchen

No you’re not missing anything. That’s all there is too it. The only part not shown in this photo is the fridge/freezer combo along with a small cupboard that is located across the hall from the stove.

The tour begins with a close up of the sink area.

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The Sink

I love my double sink because it gives me a place for the dish drainer, but it also means I have virtually no counter space around the sink. Tiny kitchens are all about trade-offs.
A few things worth noting in the sink area:
~ Magnetic Spice Tins. I LOVE these. Each tin has a twisty top that offers a sprinkle, pour, or closed position. I really like that an entire jar of spice will fit in one tin. The magnets seems to be strong, and only very occasionally if we drive on a crazy bumpy road does one fall off. I need a few more sets, but haven’t yet decided where to put them.
Under the counter Dish Soap Dispenser. A must have for any RV kitchen. No need to find a way to prevent the dish soap from flying across the RV when in transit.
Faucet with pull-out handle that has a spray option. My sink is fairly shallow so I use the pull-our faucet all the time to wash things like my big soup pot or a large cutting board.
Sponge Holder. You can’t tell from this photo but there is a divider in the middle of this holder which means you can store two sponges (one for the counter, one for the dishes). It has a rubber bottom and never moves while we drive.
Stainless Steel Utensil Caddy. I love me some wooden spoons and spatulas. You can never have too many. I hold this baby in place with a few dots of museum putty. Solid as a rock.

Next we have the stove and my fold out counter.

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The stove + my gigantic counter

As you can see my stove has a cover that doubles as more counter space. All RV stoves preform this miracle function. The trick is figuring out how to use this space and also use the stove. I will cover this in part two of the Airstream Kitchen series. Hint: it’s all about planning. For know I will tell you that I’ve gotten pretty good at prepping an entire meal on that 2′ x 1′ foldable counter next to the stove. As for the stove itself, it has three burners, and yes I have used all three at one time, and yes they do work great. Under the burners is the oven. I didn’t take a photo of the inside of the oven because…well because it’s an oven and everyone knows what an oven looks like. Again, I will tell you more about how I use my oven in part two.

Finally, it’s time to peak inside the cupboards. Are you excited? Let’s start with the two cupboards above the kitchen. Oh, wait! Before we go any farther I want to say that everything you see in the cabinets stays exactly as you see it while we are in motion. I don’t move things around, or wrap them in plastic, or put them in boxes and then store the boxes in the shower. No, no, no. That all goes against my philosophy of RVing. We live in an RV because we want to be mobile, and I don’t want to spend two hours packing every time we move somewhere. So I have arranged all the cupboards and drawers so there is no need to move anything in preparation for driving. Okay, now let’s look at some stuff!

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Above the kitchen storage

These upper cabinets can be challenging to organize because the backs are curved to fit the Airstream roof. The one on the left holds all of our plates, bowls, and cups. Tim made me a super awesome plate rack out of mini bungee cords and clips. The plates slip in between the bungees and never move. Saves space and I don’t have to worry about them rattling around in there. You can read all about how he made this custom plate rack here.

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Upper Cabinet Left Side

Worth noting:
Collapsible Salad Spinner. The name says it all. Both the outside bowl and the interior colander collapse down and fit inside each other to save space. An all around terrific invention.
Plates & Bowls - We have a mix of white Corelle and colorful Melamine (a super hard plastic that’s supposed to be resilient). The Corelle is crazy durable and will probably last forever, but the Melamine has not been too impressive. Mostly I am disappointed by how easily it scratches. Eventually I would like to transition to all enamelware plates bowls.
~ We started off with a few of our favorite Pint Glasses. Sadly they broke one day when someone didn’t latch the cabinet all the way and they fell out and shattered on the stove while driving :( Now we have just two pint glasses that we picked up at a beer festival in Idaho. They are wrapped in a cloth napkin and wedged in the back of the cabinet. They only come out for special occasions.
Those are the only glass glasses we have. Everything else is aluminum or stainless steel. The Stainless Steel Tumblers each came with their own fancy bags, and I keep them in the bags to prevent scratches. They make great wine and cocktail glasses.
We aren’t coffee drinkers, but I sometimes drink tea so we have one Stainless Steel Insulated Travel Mug that lives in the back of cabinet.

The upper right cabinet could use some organizational improvement. The problem is that I am too short to reach the stuff at the back of the cabinet. I’ve tried to reorganize a few times, but have yet to come up with the perfect solution. For now this is what it looks like.

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Upper Right Cabinet

The goods:
~ Another collapsible item. This time a colander. Love it and use it every day.
~ Miscellaneous bowls. It’s hard to tell, but there are actually nine bowls in that stack. The green one on the bottom belongs to a set of three Vintage Pyrex Bowls that I simply couldn’t leave behind. The Stainless Steel Bowl belongs to a set of three (the largest one is not in the cabinet because we use it as our fruit bowl). And the white one poking out the top is 1 of 4 Small Corelle Bowls that we use almost everyday for our breakfast yogurt.
~ Glass Measuring Cups. A four-cup & a one-cup. This is the only place where I have a small piece of foam that prevents the small cup from banging around inside the big cup.
~ Glass storage. Long before we moved into the RV I got rid of all my tupperware and purchased a few different size sets of Glass Pyrex Dishes with Lids. These all now live in my Airstream kitchen and I use them for everything from leftovers to homemade sauce containers. The ones you see are the small size, and the larger ones along with all the lids are behind them.
~ More Vintage Pyrex Containers. I love these so much that I’ve added to my collection since we’ve been on the road. Each one has it’s own glass lid. Those are stacked behind the bowls.

Moving below the sink we have one large cabinet that houses three drawers one one side and three shelves on other.

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Under the sink cupboard

I’ve always thought it was a strange design because the drawers could be much deeper if they were not behind the cabinet door. As you can see there is lots of wasted space between them.

Airstream Kitchen
Under the sink drawers

~ At the top is our Silverware. I was excited to find an organizer that fit in this funny size drawer. That long thing on the right side is a micro-plane.
~ The middle has two wire mesh organizers that divide the stuff and makes it easy to find little things like my Measuring Spoons and Vegetable Peeler.
~ The bottom drawer is a bit of free for all. It has all the large stuff like the my garlic press, can opener, tongs, and potato masher. I also keep a set of Collapsible Measuring Cups stacked up in here.
~ At the very bottom of the drawers in a tiny shelf about 6-inches deep where I keep my plastic wrap, aluminum foil and sandwich bags.

The other side of the cabinet has three shelves. They are of varying depths because the sink pipes, a heating vent, and a wheel well are behind them. You know, that unimportant stuff that takes up room in my kitchen.

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Under the sink shelves

~The top shelf is tall but only about a foot deep. The black sink drain that you see actually dips down inside the shelf behind the Cloth Napkins (which we do use everyday, by the way). This shelf also holds lots of Dish Towels, a few Pot Holders, Bag Clips and a really cool box with a Set of Knives inside.
~ The middle self is the deepest, but it’s not very tall. This is where I store Baking Dishes of various sizes, along with some lids and my two Plastic Cutting Boards. I got rid of my 9 x 11 glass baking dish awhile ago because it hogged up all the room on this shelf. Now if I want to make a big casserole I just divide it between two smaller baking dishes and they go in the oven together. A simple solution.
~ At the very bottom is another really shallow self (that pesky wheel is in the way back there). There is just enough room down here to store the Spices that I don’t have in magnetic tins. I kind of hate this set up because to get to the back row I have to pull out the ones at the front.

To the right of the sink is a pull-out food pantry. I am going to skip over that one for now and save it for the next post all about food. Beyond the pantry is a large wardrobe. Primarily this space is used for clothes storage, but at the very bottom there is some kitchen stuff. It’s a deep closet so at the front I have a pull out basket.

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At the bottom of the wardrobe

Inside the basket:
~ Re-Usable Grocery Bags, which I don’t use as often as I used to. We have a tiny trash can, and after buying all the different size bags I could find, I discovered the bags that fit it best are the plastic ones from the grocery store. I never seem to use as many bags as the store gives out (I don’t need you to put my package of wrapped paper towels in their own bag!) so when I have too many I pull out the re-usable bags for a bit.
Immersion BlenderI moved from a full size blender to an immersion blender long before we began RVing and never looked back.
Mini Food ProcessorThe two-cup size is perfect for some things like pesto and chopping nuts, and too small for other things.
Hand Held Mixer. This wimpy little appliance is a huge step down from my beloved Kitchen Aid stand mixer. Of course, the Kitchen Aid was way too big (and heavy) to live in the Airstream, not to mention that it probably uses more power in a few minutes than we typically use in an entire day. Not so good for boondocking. I’ve learned to adjust though, and these days I don’t find myself using the mixer as much as I used to. In part because I’ve adapted some recipes to be hand mixable, and in part because I don’t have as many occasions to make things that need a mixer such as cakes and cookies. Which actually makes me kind of sad. Anyone want me to make them a cake?

Behind the basket is a stack of mostly baking stuff with a few others miscellaneous items thrown in.

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At the bottom of the wardrobe

On the side is a Large Wooden Cutting Board. I use this to roll out pizza dough or for kneading bread. I’m glad I have a convenient place to store this because it comes in handy quite often.
~ Grill Tools. I used to store these in the truck with the grill, but they got too dusty back there.
Rolling Pin. Doubles as a self-defense tool.
~ Soup Pot. I don’t use this guy too often, but I like to keep him in the mix for those times when I want to make a big ole’ pot of soup or chili.
~ Inside the soup pot is Ceramic Pie Plate, a Spring Form Cake Pan, and two 9-inch Round Cake Pans. None of these items get used often, but they fit nicely inside the soup pot, so I keep them around.
~ I have a tiny collection of small Paper Plates & Napkins. For entertaining purposes only. Other than that we never use paper plates. I know it saves water when boondocking, but it’s just not my style. Paper plates to me indicate a temporary situation, such as you would have when camping or on vacation. Neither of which describes our life. This is real life, and we use real plates.
~ Bread Tin and behind that a Muffin Tin.  I use these pretty often. I like to make different kinds of bread, and I LOVE to make muffins.
~ Plastic Storage. As I mentioned before I switched from tupperware to glass a long time ago. I do keep a few BPA free storage containers around for those times when we want to pack a pasta salad or something like that in a back pack for a hike.

Finally, we come to the last cupboard, located above the fridge where I store my pots and pans.

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Above the fridge cupboard

This is a good size cupboard where I am able to fit all pots and pans (except the soup pot) along with a Mini Muffin Tin and a Cooling Rack.

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Pots, pans other stuff, and a something strange

~ Three Pots. Three sizes that fit inside each other. Nothing fancy. In fact, all of my pots and pans are really old and belong to various sets I’ve owned over the years. Maybe some day I’ll have a fancy shmancy set that is shiny and matches, but for now what I have works so I see no need to change it up.
~ Three Pans. The bottom is a 10-inch cast Iron, the middle is a 10-inch copper (very tarnished on the outside), and the top is an 8-inch non-stick used almost exclusively for eggs. I love, love, love my cast iron skillet and use it almost everyday.
Stove Top Toaster. Quite possibly the greatest invention ever. It sits on top of the burner, you extend the metal pieces and lean the toast against them. Works great every time.
~ Metal Lids. I have three sizes that fit both the pots and skillets.
~ Silicon Lids. I picked these up in Quartzite. They can be used as pot lids, but their real claim to fame is as a replacement to plastic wrap or tinfoil on top of bowls. You press them on the bowl and they suction to the top. Another great invention.
That Cardboard & Tape thing at the top of the cupboard is not a piece of modern art, but instead some sort of temporary patch them Tim put up there. It was so long ago now (months, or maybe years) that I forgot why he made a hole up there to begin with. Probably had something to to with some sort of antenna for some sort of electronic device. Who knows.

Phewwwwww!!!

We made it. Can you believe I have that much stuff in such a tiny kitchen? Hope you enjoyed this tour of my Airstream Kitchen. Next time I’ll tell you how I put all this stuff to use.

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27 Responses to “My Airstream Kitchen – Part 1: Organization”

Comments

  1. Joan and Steve

    Thanks for the tour. Always find a few ideas when others share. I’m still arranging and rearranging which leaves Steve scratching his head at times.

    Reply
    • Amanda

      I am always rearranging as well. You never know when you might find a better way :)

      Reply
  2. Laurel

    Great tour! I’ve been planning to do something like this on our blog for a long time and haven’t gotten around to it yet. We seem to have very similar cooking equipment, although I really need to get a collapsible salad spinner — I use a small spinner and it works well, but takes up too much space. We also avoid plastic containers and have a couple of stainless lunch box containers with snap-on lids that we use while biking, hiking, kayaking…they’re indestructible and don’t leak. Your pyrex glass bakeware collection is enviable!

    Reply
    • Amanda

      You totally should do a tour! I love the idea of the stainless steel lunch boxes. I will have to look for some.

      Reply
  3. Lois

    Great tour! Love it!! As I was reading, I started thinking about my own teeny kitchen and the stuff I have in there. My trailer is only 10′ long so I have a lot less storage than you do but isn’t it amazing how much we can get in to such tiny spaces?! I love to cook and I’d rather have kitchen gear than clothes – so that’s where my priorities are :D Thank you for showing us your kitchen!

    Reply
    • Amanda

      Only 10′ long! That’s tiny! I agree with your sentiments on clothes versus kitchen gear. I would much rather use my space for food and kitchen gear than silly clothes.

      Reply
  4. Gary

    Would love to hear what was used for the vertical dish holder with the bungee cord. Great idea. Maybe a closeup of what was used for securing the bungee?

    Reply
  5. Allison

    Great tour! I love seeing what other people do with their kitchens. I have the yellow Pyrex bowl that goes with your green Pyrex bowl, but I left it in storage. I miss those bowls, there is something about their shape that makes them perfect.
    Sometime, could you discuss making pizza dough? As in how does one do that?

    Reply
    • Amanda

      I have the yellow bowl as well, but it was too big for the cabinet so I left it with my dad for safe keeping. You’re right, the shape of those bowls is just perfect. I’ll definitely share my pizza dough recipe and method in an upcoming post. I make it almost every week and it’s super easy.

      Reply
  6. JodeeGravel

    The large yellow bowl was for macaroni salad, the green for fruit salad, and the small blue bowl for tuna or egg salad. They were always in our kitchen when I was growing up. And the square blue pyrex with the ridged glass lids…..okay, sorry just jumped in the bus on memory lane there. Great post! The family got us all collapsible kitchen tools for Christmas so now I have to add a couple of these great ideas to the list for this year :-). I’m going to remember that you want to bake me a cake!

    Reply
    • Amanda

      I love that you have memories of those Pyrex bowls! The collapsible stuff is a must have for any RV kitchen. We received them as gifts as well. And yes, I would totally bake you a cake!

      Reply
  7. gary simpson

    great post…called my wife over to read it and she said…why??…your the one who cooks, not me!! :) but seriously, we are about to embark full time and i’m in the process of setting up the kitchen, cause yes, my wife is right, i do ALL the cooking. I like the idea of the collapsable salad spinner, i’ll have to look for that and the idea of the corell dinner wear is something we are considering, want to have as little glass ware as possible. Like the idea of using museum glus to hold things in place and the magnet spice rack. So enjoying your blog and looking forward to part two of the kitchen tour…

    Reply
    • Amanda

      Glad the post was helpful. I also do all of the cooking. I think it happens a lot in an RV that one person takes on the role as head chef. It’s just too small of a space to cook as a team. Corelle dishes are perfect for RV life because they are nearly indestructible.

      Reply
  8. Page

    Thank you! We plan to move into an Airstream next year and I have to figure what to take vs. what to sell at future garage sales. I have been looking at the nesting bowls and the collapsible goodies. Good to know about the toaster, as well.

    Reply
    • Amanda

      Happy to help out. I agonized for a long time over what to bring and how to organize it before we moved into the Airstream. The collapsible items really help out when it comes to space saving. You can find them all (and probably some I don’t have) at Bed Bath & Beyond or Target.

      Reply
  9. Colleen

    Love the bungee cord plate rack! I see a version of that in our future! Thanks for the wonderful ideas

    Reply
  10. BadKat

    Love the set up..have a 1999 Excella full-timing but where is the box food..hehe. I would have a lot of storage but the unrefrigerated items take up the pantry just to the right of the frig!

    Reply
    • Amanda

      I’ll show how I store food in the next post. We have a pull-out pantry where most of it lives, and I keep the extras in one of the cabinets above the fridge.

      Reply
  11. Adam

    I ran a charterboat for a few years in the Caribbean. I had to prepare 3 meals a day for up to 4 guests. I find the Airstream downright luxurious in comparison to the galley. I learned to clean up as I went along and to be very organized when it comes to prep work and order of doing things. People are often amazed that when I’m done cooking dinner at home in a regular kitchen, it looks like nothing has happened.

    Reply
    • Amanda

      That sounds like a situation where organization is the key to success! I do my best to try and clean as I go, but sometimes I get lazy and by the end of meal it looks like my entire kitchen has exploded!

      Reply
  12. Marshall

    You have sooooo much more cooking equipment then I have. Then again there are a couple of differences:

    1. You actually know how to cook! :)

    2. You have a lot more space.

    Oh, and you can bake a cake for me anytime you want!

    I will be traveling to Albuquerque and arriving there Thursday. I will be around for up to a couple of months. You guys going to work your way up into that neck of the woods? I would love to meet you!

    Reply
    • Amanda

      Yes, I do have quite a bit of cooking equipment. Since it’s what I love to do, we’ve decided that devoting a good amount of storage space to the kitchen stuff is not such a bad thing.
      We will be Albuquerque in a few weeks. Tim is flying from there to Chicago for a work conference on the 21st, and we’re arriving the day before. We’re staying at the Enchanted Trails RV Park. We’d love to meet up (and maybe eat cake) with you.

      Reply
      • Marshall

        Sounds good! I don’t have a clue where I will be staying but we will touch base closer to that time.

        Reply
  13. Lynn B~Tales From the Mutiny

    What a great post! We must be on the same wave length!! Haha. I love your set up and how well you’ve utilized your space. It seems so organized!! I’m afraid to take pictures of what we’ve got going on in our RV. Maybe after I implement a few of your tips first, THEN I’ll take pictures. =)

    Reply
    • Amanda

      Thanks! I am kind of one of those crazy people who has to organize everything. I can’t help myself!

      Reply
  14. Robin

    your site gives us a lot of inspiration.
    we just bought a 1999 Safari and am starting the process of updating it and making it “ours

    Reply

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