Top Ten Freebies, Upcycles, and Dollar Items to Make Your RV Camping Easier

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If I were going to be a full time RVer, I would no doubt probably be willing to shell out the big bucks for quality items for my cabinets. Since I’m not…yet…I like to find things that make my camping trips easier, more fun, and convenient. I occasionally lose misplace things along the road, and I don’t want to have to worry go back and get them. That’s why I made this list of things that are indisposable very helpful, and best of all, they are all free or cost one buck. I’m serious. When you try these ideas, you’ll never go searching for that perfect dish, pot, or accessory again. You’ll just do what I do and go through your trash recyclables, scout out garage sales, and/or head directly to your local Dollar Tree. Here’s the list…sort of in order of importance.

  1. Foil pie pans and microwavable individual meal trays-  Start saving them NOW. Every Weight Watchers’ meal you eat will leave you with the perfect little tray that you can reuse to heat things in the microwave. These are particularly helpful when you prepare food in advance for traveling across country from campground to campground and don’t always have time for the fun cooking outside. When you do have the time, the foil pie pans are perfect; better than foil pouches because they are sturdier. You can cover with foil OR put one pie tin on top and clothespin together or tie with kitchen string. Very little clean up is involved. You can wash them if you want, but since you have already reused it, you don’t have to feel guilty about tossing it.
  2. Shower caddies from the Dollar Tree-Buy two or three of these because you can use them everywhere. One of the most pinned postings from my camping board is the one I use in the cabinet to separate plates and cups and hold things in place as you travel. They also work great for carrying directly from your trailer or RV to the outside picnic table…paper products, condiments, cutlery.
  3. Crystal Light type drink containers-These are the perfect size to hold your silverware, fit inside a drawer, and keep the implements separate. I put forks and spoons in with handles down, but since I keep sharp steak knives in them, too, I put the knives in with the handles out.
  4. Mesh Collapsible Hamper-Dollar Tree-one buck. I love mine. I used to stuff dirty clothes in a big trash bag. Trust me, this smells is so much better! You might need more than one. Five days of camping, for Saint and me,will fill it up. I like that it is not shapeless like a trash bag and it is breathable. I put it on the top bunk, which we never use, and it is totally out of our way.
  5. Mt. Olive Pickle Jar- If you haven’t eaten Mt. Olive dill pickles, well, I’m sorry. You should eat them just for the jar, but no! These are the BEST dill pickles. Almost like getting them out of a pickle barrel. And the jar is the perfect size for sun tea and other drinks. A  gallon sun tea jar takes up too much space in the cabinet, takes too long to make the tea, and makes too much for two people to drink before it gets old. This one is perfect. If you have more than two people, get two of them because they still fit in the cabinet better and give you a choice if you want a jar of sweetened and another of unsweetened tea or a jar of tea and a jar of lemonade. ALSO, you can put a candle or solar light inside for your picnic table ambiance. Aren’t you glad I used also? Way too many twos in this paragraph, but totally necessary.
  6. Reading Glasses and Tinted Reading Glasses-Once again, a dollar. “What!?” you say. Yes, if you pay $35-$135 for a pair of stylish reading glasses, you don’t want to leave them at a fast food stop along the way or lose them overboard trying to get your fish netted. I buy 8-10 pairs of these and keep them everywhere-one in my purse, one in the truck, one stays in the trailer, one in the boat, and one in practically every room of my house. They work just as well as the expensive ones…well, the earpiece doesn’t last as long, but what the heck…you can just throw them away. If you leave them, lose them, sit on them…it’s okay. One less thing to worry about…or two.
  7. Foil Grill Covers-Once again, Dollar Tree, where everything is a buck. When you have too much for your portable BBQ and you need to cook over the fire pit grill at the campgrounds, these fit right on. They have holes already reinforced so the juices get out and the smoke flavor gets in. Just another way to make your meal faster and easier. Throw away after one or several uses. They come in a pack of two.
  8. Solar Lights-Dollar Tree sells these for a dollar apiece, of course. You can attach them to your tent or awning stakes or rods so visitors don’t trip, screw the stakes off and put them in jars for table lights, or replace bulbs in a vintage chandelier to make an awesome outdoor light fixture. You can mark paths, make games and obstacle courses for the kids, as well.
  9. Screen Colanders- Stackable on top of your pots and pans, these wire mesh colanders wash veggies or kids’ toys, but my favorite use is to turn them upside down over a bowl of potato salad or a plate of cookies to keep the flies off! You can fancy them up by attaching a drawer pull as a handle, but why would you? Just pick it up from the bottom. They store much easier without a cumbersome handle.
  10. Collection– I know, I know. This is a cheat. I couldn’t narrow it down to just ten, so I lumped several other things into this last point. Butter tubs and  plastic deli meat containers that you have in the trash or recyclables work just as well as a matched set of covered bowls. Save them. They are dishwasher safe and perfect for the fridge. Use them for pickles, olives, sliced onions, mushrooms…things that come in a jar or can and take up too much room in their original containers. You may notice a couple of bottles in the above pictures that look like water bottles for toddlers. These are from Dollar Tree. I use them for mustard and mayo. No, I don’t suck either one, although I do like Miracle Whip almost that much. I transfer mustard and mayo from the big jars I have in my kitchen at home into these. The “straw” makes a perfect spreader and these fit into the door of the camper fridge. I also find that a quart milk jug fits much better so I save those, wash them, and pour the milk in from my gallon jug at home. Also, I have glow stick bracelets for putting around a toddler’s wrist…easier to keep track of, and to place in the bottom of a cooler or tub of ice. Such cuteness you’ve never seen, and it makes it easier to select your cold drink. I have tiny command hooks to use everywhere I want. One goes in the space behind the hide-a-bed, and I hang the fly swatter on it. TaDah! Out of sight, yet accessible.

There you have it! Long post, I know, but good grief, there’s a ton of helpful information here. How do I know? Just look at how many times I used words like easier, perfect, easier. Yep, camping’s about the fun and the food. Anything that makes your life more fun, more delicious, and easier has got to be worth a 1290 word count, right?

 

Camping Trailer Organization

Here’s another upcycle for your RV or camper.

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Who doesn’t have one of these from ten years ago, right? This handy-dandy carousel  used to be full of cute little, neat little all sizes of plastic storage containers with lids. Until…you started sending them in your husband’s lunch or filling them with leftovers and sending them home with your kids or melting a lid or two in your dishwasher, and then you are left with this. PERFECT! Even worth scouring garage sales for, if you don’t already have one, because the caddy fits right into your camping trailer cabinets. See!

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It secures your peanut butter, coffee, canned goods (although I don’t take many of these on the road) and revolves when you need access to them.

Just another genius idea that stumbled upon me. You’re welcome!

Another Freecycle (or two) for Your RV

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STOP! DO NOT throw this plastic heap in the trash when there are millions tons so many ways to use them. Especially if you are a camper.

I usually have several of these around the house because I fold wad them up and stash them in the closet to reuse. Yesterday, I found some that were perfect for our camping trailer. One was small, having housed a couple of sheer curtain panels, and it had two inner “flaps” where the cardboard pictures of the curtains had been inserted. It was the perfect size to hold all our important camper papers that were previously strewn stuffed loosely in a cabinet. It had plenty of space for the owner’s manual, cooling/heating unit warranty and replacement part brochure, microwave and stove pamphlet, and all the other magazine type folders containing essential information should anything fall apart break go wrong. One inner flap holds receipts, the other secures extra fuses, batteries, screws, etc.

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Everything you need to know about your RV in one handy-dandy bag, and it’s free! Best of all, look at this! It all fits compactly in the BOTTOM of one of my closet drawers, leaving room for pj’s or underwear on top.

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Yay!

Next, on to bigger and better bags. Comforter and blanket bags are also perfect for your camper. I dislike leaving my pillows uncovered in our trailer when we are not using it. I simply wad fold the pillows into the bag. Two will fit inside most of the bags. Before zipping, I sometimes add another freebie. Remember those annoying, stiff pages in magazines that advertise a fragrance? Rip them out!

Cut the sticky strip off, open it up, and place it in the bottom of your pillow bag. When you open the bag and take your pillows out on your next trip, you will smile! Makes you want to lie down and take a little nap, right then and there. If I don’t have a freebie, I use a dab of Tea Tree Essential Oil on a cotton ball placed in a corner of the bag. I’m told this keeps the dust mites away, but I have not researched that. I do know that it smells heavenly.

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Perfect! Now all I need is a road trip.

DIY Privacy Curtain for Travel Trailer

Our Work-In-Progress continues, and I’m so excited about this simple update that I could hardly wait to share it.

My quest to replace the country blue decor with a coastal theme has gone well. You can see previous results here:

http://thymelesssageandrandomrants.wordpress.com/2013/02/12/move-that-bus/

Although I had updated the bedroom curtains, I still had the blue pull curtain that divides the bedroom from the living/kitchen area.

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It was not obnoxious, but outdated and too thin to keep light out…probably not for other people, but, I think I might have mentioned that I LIKE DARK sleeping quarters. (I know there are others of you out there who carry clothespins, duct tape, safety pins, etc. when you sleep at a hotel. First, you have to pin the curtains together to keep out the pole lights outside, then you have to tape over the media center lights, the clock, the microwave. I mean, it’s like sleeping in Vegas in most of the motel rooms, even the expensive ones.) Turns out, some campgrounds have the same issues, especially if you have a neighbor who loves the rope decorator lights and leaves them on all night. During one of my wide awake nights, I had a brilliant idea and couldn’t wait to get home and get some rest try this.

WooHoo! This is one of the best tips you are going to get about updating your curtains: A drop cloth from Lowes or Home Depot is the perfect width for a trailer curtain.DSC00247

I just laid it on top of the original curtain, and it fit perfectly. The drop cloth is considerably longer, but I wanted the curtain a bit longer than the original one. I simply held it up to the rail/rod and marked the length I wanted, folded up the excess fabric, as shown, and cut it off. (I’m using that leftover fabric and I’ll show you how later.)

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Now, the drop cloth is hemmed all the way around…until you cut off the bottom. I don’t sew all that much, but I managed to turn under a hem and machine stitch it with no problems only a little help. I think I might have had my machine threaded wrong or something, but I finally got it worked out.

Now for the fun part. I’ve always been scared of grommets. But that was before I knew how simple they really are to work with. My word. If I had known, I’d probably have grommets in everything I own. Purses, lamp shades, the possibilities are endless! All it takes is a package of grommets, a little grommet tool which I got at Walmart for… like …two bucks, and something to punch a hole in your fabric. The canvas type fabric of a drop cloth works great with grommets because it doesn’t ravel or pull. Oh, and it also helps if you have a strong hand. I used Saint’s. It worked perfectly. And, it gave him a chance to show me the antique leather punch that his grandfather and father used and handed down to him.

DSC00250 Oops! Looks like he punched a hole in his sock. 🙂 Didn’t I tell you he never throws anything away? He’s gonna’ read this and never help me again.

When I laid the drop cloth over the original curtain, I marked through the grommet holes onto my fabric so they would be evenly spaced, but I wanted the folds in the fabric to hang better than the original curtain did, so I marked between each one. With this little grommet tool, Saint had these in place in no time!

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And I had it hung in even less time.DSC00251

Isn’t that amazing? And look how well it fits into the grand scheme of things:

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A clean coastal look, privacy, and light blocking all for less than $15.00. Now, tell me, campers, is that not one of the best tips you’ve seen in long time?

Happy sleeping camping!

Some Failures, Some Successes, and Some Do-Overs

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Trees are budding, grass is greening, the white bass are running, and this is the view from our little camping trailer. We had a few perfect days on Beaver Lake in Arkansas this week, as we enjoyed our work in progress trailer makeover. You can see the results atthymelesssageandrandomrants.wordpress.com.

It’s a challenge, sometimes, to plan meals when your main focus is on fishing. There’s nothing better than a skillet of bacon and some potatoes frying on the 40 year old Coleman Camp Stove we are still using.  But, that’s probably just not gonna’ happen when the bass are hot. We want to be on the water ASAP, and we might not come in until afternoon, starving ravished and too impatient to wait on food to cook.

A little preparation ahead of time makes life on the water much easier.I’m always looking for new camping tips, and in this post, I’m sharing the things that worked, and didn’t, on this camping trip.

Keeping the breakfast issue in mind, I saw these make ahead breakfast sandwiches here.

I made several of these, using ham instead of bacon…a sort of homemade Egg McMuffin. I followed directions for wrapping them in a paper towel, freezing them, and taking them directly from the freezer to the microwave; no dishes, no mess. I considered this a FAILURE. The English muffin heated to toughness while the eggs inside were still cold. This might work better in a different microwave or thawed before cooking, but we just didn’t care for the taste. It was filling, however, and served its purpose well. After that first morning, however, we were good to grab a protein bar and a cup of coffee and go.

Before leaving home, I made a big pot of chili and put half of it in the freezer. The plan was to use it in a variety of ways that would not seem like we were eating leftover chili five days in a row! Frito Pie, of course, was the first on the menu. A staple for our camping trips, this simple recipe calls for a cup of chili, a handful of Fritoes, shredded cheese and sour cream on top. If you have the small, individual sized bags, you can mix the chili and fixins right in the bag and eat it with a spoon.
The second chili menu item I planned was chili mac. I had precooked elbow macaroni, drained it, dumped in a jar of Ragu, and poured the mixture into a gallon sized baggie. When lunch time rolled around, I mixed it with, you guessed it, chili, and topped it with some grated Parmesan cheese. And here’s another camping tip: Save all the little trays from WW and other frozen microwave meals. They are perfect for the camping trailer, and a good way to reuse trash recyclables. I spooned one tray full of chili mac and topped it with another tray to avoid the mess in the microwave. Another SUCCESS. Still, we were tired of chili after that, so I ditched the idea of the baked potato topped with chili and onions and the chili dogs.

Dinner is another subject. Sometimes, we are too tired for the ordeal and others, we enjoy the process. The weather is also a factor. Even though we have a very cute little four burner stove complete with oven, we like to cook outside whenever possible. Kabobs can be quick and quite delightful if prior prep has been done. I had washed and cut up chunks of yellow squash, red peppers, and mushrooms. Into the baggie they went. I parboiled the potato and onion chunks since they take longer to cook on the grill. They, too, went into a bag with chunks of Polish sausage. Each bag was doused with Italian dressing to marinate.

The kabob plan is coming together perfectly…except that we forgot that we had taken the skewers and hot dog roasters out of the trailer. No failure here, though. Have foil will cook. (Most of you are probably too young to get that play on words; Have gun will travel, old TV show…oh, well.) I wrapped it hobo style and threw it on the fire grate. It would have been better had I used heavy duty foil. The trip from the grate to the plate was messy a near disaster, but we rescued plenty before the rest slid into the fire.

I consider this a DO-OVER. It was delicious, but would have been so much prettier on the skewers.

So, the next night, I wanted to try some new with the old. The old is a time tested Boy Scout recipe and my favorite way of making potatoes.A sheet of foil, enough to wrap everything and pinch the ends together, slices of bacon on the bottom, slices of potato and onion on top, salt and pepper. That’s it. A no-fail technique. I like it best when the bacon on bottom gets perfectly charred crisp.

And we wanted to try something new I’d seen on Pinterest. Again, hampered, but not to be thwarted by the lack of roasting sticks, my husband, aka Saint, as in Garage Sale Saint because he is great to take my mom and me to garage sales and load and unload our stash purchase, sharpened a forked stick so we could try this. We slid frozen slightly thawed, precooked link sausages onto the stick and wrapped them with canned biscuits. We roasted them like hot dogs until the biscuit was browned and the sausage was heated through.

We smeared a little butter (I know, I know, but fishing is really hard work and we found some great hiking paths I’ll show you later) and these little bundles were quite tasty. Next time I think I will use crescent rolls. Hint, do not use the thick biscuits as they burn before getting done.Mostly SUCCESS but will be even better with proper sticks and crescent roll DO-OVER.
And finally, an old reliable with some hints and a new “original” recipe. In MO we do tri tips. These cuts of meat may be between a sirloin roast and a brisket, I’m not sure. Some roast it in the oven, but most of us smoke or grill it. It’s a big hunk of meat and takes longer to cook than we usually have when camping, so I asked the butcher to cut it into inch/inch and a half steaks. I rubbed each steak with Pappy’s rubbing spice mixture and put them all into a zip lock bag, adding a splash of Dale’s seasoning (from Wal-Mart) and froze them. The seasoning and marinade infiltrated the meat, enhancing the flavor, tenderizing, and reducing cooking time. I moved these from the freezer to the fridge to thaw a day ahead. We cooked these over charcoal on a little grill we carry with us. Washing, drying, and tearing all salad ingredients ahead of time and placing them in a baggie with a paper towel saves time and precious water at the campsite. A bag of washed and sliced strawberries, a tub of sugar free glaze, and cool whip provided a great dessert. I even pre baked the potato so that I could simply scoop out the inside, add butter, cheese, and sour cream, wrap in foil and throw back on the grill for heating. Voila! Twice-baked potatoes in a matter of minutes.

 But now, on to the original recipe. We had a few several Peeps left from Easter. We had angel food cake leftover from the strawberry shortcake. I feel pretty sure certain that these would have been even better with the proper roasting sticks, but, oh my, if they were any better…
Saint popped those little peeps on the stick and roasted the little chicks to a golden brown while I cut the cake into very thin slices. We slid the gooey goodness between two slices of cake. Yum. SUCCESS!

And our efforts were rewarded. We caught a lot of fish. Saint cleaned and cooked these few. Me…I’m a catch and release girl.

And here are some pictures from our hikes. If you are anywhere near Eureka Springs or Rogers, Arkansas, this is a wonderful campground. Dam Site camping on Beaver Lake. Enjoy. And please feel free to add any tips or recipes you use when camping. I’ll have more posts on the continued camper update and organizing tips later. Thanks for stopping by.

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