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?

 

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.

Cheap Tricks for Campers

 

Storage space is premium in an RV or camping trailer. Life is better when everything has a place and stays in it, especially for those who make RV and camper travel a way of life. Organizing it is one thing; keeping it in place is another. Every time we set up our camper, I had to open the cabinets, find, and rearrange things before we could begin to prepare a meal. DSC00143

 

A trip to the dollar store remedied that situation.  This shower caddy was a perfect fit .DSC00147

 

It holds plastic cups and glasses on one side and microwavable bowls on the other, with a perfect space for a salt and pepper shaker underneath. The best part…they all stay in place when we move. I also purchased a stacking shelf which affords space underneath while keeping all sorts of plates (paper, plastic washable plates, straw charger plates, etc.) organized.

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I can easily lift it out to remove my toaster which I don’t use often and store in the hidden away part of the cabinet.

 

 

Other snap lid plastic containers hold flour, cornmeal, oatmeal, baking soda, baking powder, hot chocolate mixes, and empty ones are always available to hold side dishes and leftovers. A stack of recycled/reused foil pie tins are in-disposable-okay, they are disposable, and that makes them even better. I use them for cooking over the fire grate, serving things that are too messy for paper bowls, and I never feel badly about throwing them away since I’ve already used them multiple times.DSC00149

Another idea that has made life so much more normal easier (I’ve given up on my life ever being normal…I’m not sure we would even like normal) uses freebies and a Dollar Store plastic shoe or storage box.

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We have a lot of these little recyclables around our house, and I’m always looking for a way to use them rather than putting them in the recycle bin. They are perfect for keeping tableware organized in your camper or RV. Before, I used a plastic shoe box inside a drawer and threw all the tableware in it with tongs, can opener, and other accessories in the drawer space surrounding the box.  Now, three of these containers fit perfectly in the shoe box and keep the forks, knives, and spoons separate. You can use Velcro dots and secure them to the box if you wish, but I have had no trouble with them moving around as we travel, and I can easily remove the canister to set a table. Seriously…it’s the little things that make life better, right?

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Well, I’ve shared a few “tricks” that worked. Now, let me tell you about an epic failure. First of all, never trust an old rope…even if the person recommending it is knowledgeable is completely trustworthy swears it is fine. Thankfully, I have no pictures to support this text, however, I assure you I could have won the Funniest Home Video prize, hands down…bottoms down. And Saint almost lost his status. He tied the hammock between two trees and said, “There. That isn’t going anywhere. Try it out and see if it’s high enough off the ground for you.” Thank goodness it wasn’t any higher off the ground, because that trip to the pile of rocks underneath it, while short, resulted in a cracked or severely bruised tail bone! Yep, the rope broke. The best tip I can give campers is DO NOT TEST YOUR HAMMOCK IN A SEATED POSITION. If I had been lying on my back with weight distributed evenly, it would have made me mad, but that’s about all. When the rope snapped without warning, my behind hit the ground and there was no running. No walking. No sitting. No fishing the next day. No, I didn’t interrupt Saint’s fishing by going to the emergency room. After googling symptoms and treatments, I self diagnosed, finding that there is little that doctors can do for a cracked or severely bruised tail bone other than ice packs, heat, pain relief and rest. It is getting better, but not as quickly as I’d like!

I hope all these little details (no pun intended) make your camping experiences more enjoyable. Do you have tips to share? What works for you? Please comment and share your ideas; we love hearing from you.

Happy tails trails!