Using natural Gas is how you're going to cook your meals on the road, it could also be how you heat your water or run your fridge. Unfortunately using this fossil fuel its kind of unavoidable if you want to be off grid and not rely on electrical hook ups. Living in our campervan we strive to be as eco as possible while traveling, so if we have to use a non-sustainable resource we want to make the best and most efficient use of it.
Alternatives to Gas
When building the van we found alternatives to using gas for as many things as we could. The biggest swap from gas we chose was a 100% electric compressor fridge. Campervans usually have 3-way fridges which rely on gas when mains power is not available. Running entirely off solar power and our battery charger we were be able to power a 12v 35w fridge, which only runs for about a third of the day
Insulate, insulate & insulate! We can't make this point enough! Whatever you decided to heat your van with, good insulation is vital to ensure you use it as efficiently as possible. We actually used 3 different kinds of insulation in our build (4 if you include the cork wall!) check out our post on insulating you van for more... We got a diesel heater earlier this year which uses a small amount of electricity and diesel fuel to blow hot air. With the insulation and proper insulated window coverings we can turn the heater off once its warm and the heat is trapped inside. This heating method still uses fuel but we've found if you don't leave it running continuously it uses very little compared to gas heaters. Another hack we use is a low watt electric blanket for those really cold nights.
- Hot Water
We didn’t install hot water heater, we thought we could live without and so far we have. For the shower we got a Solar Shower and for the price it does the job, we often use beach showers when wild camping and if we’re lucky we may find somewhere with the occasional hot shower. If we really need it let’s say for washing up, we still boil a little off on the hob but only as much as we need. With hot water accessible on tap I guarantee we would have used way more.
For cooking we found that gas is the most unavoidable as the alternatives we couldn't support. We researched electric hobs and they use about 2kw of power, way more than we could accommodate. We bought a mini oven so when we were hooked up to electricity we could use it to oven cook meals, but our primary cooking means is on the hob. Bellow are some tips on cooking efficiently.
Make your gas go further
You'll want to make your gas canister go as far as it can before wanting to re-fill, not only for the environment but to save you money in the process. We have a relatively simple set up in our van with no running hot water or shower tank system so if we want hot water it involves boiling the kettle. Meaning we shower less to save gas, and water. So the biggest use of gas is cooking. We have a few cooking hacks to share which will hopefully let you make the most out of your gas bottle as well as saving and reducing the amount of precious fossil fuels you use.
- One-pot meals
A one-pot meal is pretty self explanatory; it’s a meal you can cook in one pan or pot. This not only saves washing up (saving water and hot water) but also your gas usage. Our favourite one-pot meals range from risotto, tomato pasta, stir fry and chips with tofu burgers. Find our list of One Pot Meals & Recipes blog post here. Best To invest in good pots and pans as they will also be more efficient when cooking, more durable and healthier for you in the long run. Avoid teflon or ultra thin camping pots and pans. Instead invest in stainless steel for boiling pots and we use a heavy base ceramic Green Pan with glass lid for the majority of our one pot meals. It is certainly an investment as it is not a cheap pan, but we think of it as our oven, frying pan, casserole dish and boiling pot so it well worth the money when you use it everyday.
- No-boil rice, pasta & vegetables
Boiling rice, pasta or vegetables can take time and consume gas. The easiest way to save on your gas is to chuck your rice, veg or pasta in water and then bring it to the boil. As soon as its boiling turn off the gas and leave the lid on your pot. The heat of the water will continue to cook without the use of heat. The best use of this technique is rice, as it takes not much more time and fluffs up nicely. Veg also works well but takes longer and we have done it with pasta but it does create quite silty water. Keep checking until your food is done and don’t forget about it or you’ll end up with mush!
- Vegetable water washing up
This may seem a bit weird but to save gas, water and space in our wastewater tank we often re-use our vegetable or pasta water to do the washing up. If you want to try it out simply keep the water when draining (we use Ikea stainless steel pots which have an insert colander so you don’t need to pour the water out, simply remove with colander when its done) put the lid on the pot with water and its still piping hot after you’ve eaten your meal.
- No cook desert
Home comforts for us include desert. We use our electric mini oven when we are hooked up to electricity, but making a delicious desert without cooking is a big win for us. Our friend and very talented food blogger @Foodiefolk inspired us to create no-cook cheesecake based on her original mango and lime recipe. You can find the recipe in our One Pot Meals & Recipes blog section.
We hope we've inspired you to re-think how you use gas, however you use it!
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