Monday, October 10, 2016

The Frugal Way to Stock Your Travel Trailer

Camping can get quite expensive when you sit down and think about all the items needed.  Oh, there are some that rough it quite well and only need a back pack, sleeping bag, small tent.  However, most of us like a few luxuries on our excursions.  Especially those of us that have decided to take the plunge into the RV side of camping.  So, how can you reduce the cost of the items you need for your travel trailer?  Here are some of the ways I frugally stocked our travel trailer:

1.  Pots and Pans:   Scour your kitchen cabinets.  Do you have duplicates?  You don't need every size of pot or pan.  One large pot with a lid, one small pot, and a large skillet are typically what is mostly used.   Timing was everything when we purchased our first travel trailer.  I had received new pots and pans for Christmas and hadn't donated my old set.  They were sitting in a box, in the garage, and I had forgotten to load them into the SUV.  The set fit the camping criteria for us.  1) They weren't in bad condition.  2) They were light weight.  3) They didn't cost much.

If you don't have duplicates, consider looking in consignment stores or thrift stores to stock these items.  A good scrubbing and run through the dishwasher will put less of a dent in the wallet.  Many campers prefer cast iron cookware.  That is fine if you don't mind the added weight and you are going to be cooking over a campfire.  

2.  Electric Skillet, Hot plate, Instapot are three items that I use every single time we camp.  I had two electric skillets in the house and never used both at the same time.  I put the smaller skillet in the RV.  I stumbled upon a never used double burner electric hot plate at the local thrift store.  It was an older model and never used.  I picked it up for $11!  The Instapot is another favorite of mine in the house and in the RV.  I was taking mine from the house and into the RV each time we left on a trip.  My sister had bought one and decided she didn't like it.  So, she gave it to me and I now have one for RV!

I know I got lucky with the Instapot and most won't be that lucky.  Slow cookers are just as good and can be picked up at consignment sales for just a few dollars.  They are well worth the investment.

3.  Plates, bowls, silverware, cups:  I didn't have extra sets sitting around in my cabinets of these items.  During the summer months when all the stores have their summer themed plates, cups, etc. out and marked low, I picked up great deals to stock the RV.  Also, look for dorm specials at the big box stores.  Plates for $1 or less, cups $1 or less, bulk silverware.  So, if you don't have extra sets around the house, this is a good option.  Just don't go overboard on dishes.  Consider one plate, one bowl, and one cup per person.  If you typically bring a guest or two, buy for them.  I keep six plates, bowls, and cups in our cupboards.

Paper plates and disposable cups are great options, too.  Quite frankly when I don't want to be doing dishes all weekend, I opt for paper plates.  We typically go to Costco and buy the large package of disposable paper plates.  They last almost all camping season for us. 

4.  Serving utensils and knives:  I hunted through my kitchen drawers for duplicates and found a few.  Next, I took a long hard look at what I really needed for our typical camping meals.  Space is always dictating practicality. So, 1 slotted spoon, 1 solid spoon, 1 pasta spoon, 1 slotted spatula, 1 solid spatula, small set of nesting measuring cups, tongs, and 2 spreading spatulas.  I bought a set of knives that came with a knife block.  I am not crazy about the knives, but they work okay for now.  I will probably replace a couple of the knives, but still use the block for storage convenience.

5.  Can opener, knife sharpener, and bottle opener!  Don't forget these!  We have a manual can opener that gets the job done very well.  The bottle opener keeps the hubs happy!  The knife sharpener is an item not often thought about until the knife is dull and of course you have nothing to use to sharpen it with!  I bought a very small one that easily fits in the utensil drawer.

6.  Towels and wash cloths:  Again, I got lucky and had received new towels and wash cloths for Christmas. The old towels and wash cloths weren't in super bad condition.  There were a couple that were fraying. However, for camping use they were a great fit! I have one towel per person and two wash cloths per person in the RV.  This works out fine for a weekend trip.  On week long excursions, I typically do a load of laundry mid week and wash the towels and wash cloths.

If you need these items, consider replacing the towels in your home with the new towels and wash cloths.  You might as well treat yourself!

6.  Linens:  You probably have an extra set or two around the house.  We had sets that I had bought for our blow up mattresses when we tent camped.  When we upgraded to our new RV the queen sets still worked.  The twin sets were too small for the kids new bunks.  I needed full size sheet sets.  Unfortunately, I didn't have any in the house.  I lucked out and our local Camping World had just put full size sets on clearance.  I purchased the sets for $14 each!  They even match the interior of the camper.

Ask family members or friends if they have extra sets they don't use, shop the clearance section, or look at thrift stores for linens.

7.  Entertainment:  My kids don't tend to play board games at home, but while camping they love it.  I just put several of the games into the camper.  I keep an eye out while shopping and if I find a good buy on a fun game I will purchase it.  I just bought an outdoor bean bag toss, ladder toss, washer toss combo game on clearance for $10 (regular $20).  It folds compact and is light weight.  Don't go overboard with the games, just a few and you can always trade them out for different ones after a few trips.

8.  Fans:  You can never have enough fans!  We had a box fan for our tent.  It is now in the RV.  I love this fan!  It circulates the air well and doesn't take up tons of space.  It fits on the dinette table perfectly.  We purchased on clearance a table top rotating fan.  We use it outside mostly.  I have a small box fan that is perfect for our bedroom.  My mom gave it to me since she didn't use it.  The kids needed small fans for their bunks in our new RV.  We bought the fans on sale and saved a few dollars.  I looked everywhere to find the clip fans cheaper, but didn't have much luck.

9.  Chairs:  Sitting around the campfire is nicer if you aren't on the ground.  Luckily, most camp chairs can be purchased relatively cheap.  However, the cheaper the seat the comfort level isn't always the best.  If you don't have extra lawn chairs to take with you, pick up each family member a $5 camp chair at Academy.  This will get you off the ground and enjoying the campfire.  That is what we did.  We have upgraded to the Zero Gravity recliners for the hubs and myself. My parents surprised us one Christmas with these.

These are just some of the major needs for camping in your travel trailer.  I didn't mention all the necessities and will post later about sewer hoses, chocks, leveling blocks, etc.  Camping in the travel trailer doesn't have to be expensive, if you use your creativity.  Always begin 'shopping' in your house for items you need.  Ask family and friends if they have the item.  They may give it to you or sell it cheap.  Next, look at thrift and consignment stores for items.  Then move to the box stores.  Shop the sales and clearance sections.  Never pay full price!  If you have to pay full price, make sure it is a need that you just can't wait on for camping and don't have the item to place in the RV from home and take out again when you return.  Lastly, put those items you would love to have on your birthday or Christmas list.  Feel like a kid again opening up the present and finding something exciting to use for camping!  Stocking the RV doesn't have to cost a fortune if you take your time and assess your true needs.