Outdoors, Green Living, Homesteading, Sustainable living, Green Building

Survival Trucking (Eating in the truck only)


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This article will be about how to live from the truck or any vehicle such as pickup with cowboy camper or van. No truck stop food, no restaurants, no full service food, no fast food, no quick stop food. All the food must come from grocery store or Wal-Mart. I intend to take some photo’s of things need to cook with and cook on in the truck.  I will tell you what has worked for me. I will tell you what recipe’s seem to work for me and what brands.  I will tell you which cooking methods work best.

Boiling water.  There are two or three main ways to boil water in a truck. The 12v appliances sold at truck stops work fine but are slow. Inverter powered 120v hot water heater pot from Wal-Mart works great and boils nearly half gallon in 1 minute. I mean rolling boil. Probably need a 1500 watt inverter for that though. Of course the inverter would power a microwave as well. The other two types of 12v water heaters is one that looks like a thermos. The other is called a smart pot and shuts off if tipped over or if the water boils dry. The thermos looking heater needs to be watched while it heats and not left alone for a minute unless unplugged. If you forget about it you could burn a truck down. I almost did that once. I forgot about it for 35 minutes, I ran from the house to the truck and it was at a rolling boil with about 2/3s of the water left that I had put in it.

I just picked up a little camp cooker from Wal-Mart camping section that sits on top of a small flat propane canister. A single canister seems to last about 5 to 10 meals for $5 in propane.  I need to find a way to recharge the canisters using my RV propane to get that cost down.  I also picked up a spatula, flat skillet like pan, and a small lid and more bowl shaped skillet for frying. Along with that I have the 12 volt lunch box oven which heats to 300 degrees. Those lunch box ovens work great by the way for some things and not so good for others.

For cooling in a truck we have 12v refrigerators, and 120v refrigerators. Some are almost affordable and others that work better are expensive.  The 12v ones that rely on thermoelectric cooling barely work. The small ones I never got to work well at all.  A larger one worked well but took a long time to cool anything down that was at room temp.  And if it was in hot inside the truck it barely worked.  Anything with a compressor would work well, but cost a lot. And I have seen some recently that are 12v and 120v combo that have compressors.

We have the ice chest and ice cooling as well. I am going to try a 1 gallon container with ice that I will bum from the coke ice machines.  Will keep a few things cool but not much this way. With that there is always the pouring off of the water to do. I bought some bubble wrap to help add extra insulation to my 1 gallon cooler. I do not sit it on the floor mat but on the end of the bunk. I keep it insulated on top, bottom and sides. 32 oz of ice seem to keep it cool all day. I can get by with having to get ice only once a day, or sometimes twice.

I leave home for about 7 days at a time on my current job.. I hope to pack some meat in the cooler for the first few days. Deboned Chicken, Pork and Beef and maybe Fish.  As long as I can seem to keep this stuff cool I will try to do a little grilling. Will also keep cheese and hot dogs cool in this.j


Truck Date:201203301249 (yyyy:mm:dd:24hh)


Well last two weeks I have cooked soups, roman noodles, pork chops, chicken breast, bacon, scrambled eggs, American fried potatoes,canned veggies, mashed potatoes (instant), Velveeta shells and cheese and grilled bread toast using the camp stove. I have had no ill effects from CO(Carbon Monoxide). The truck is pretty roomy, as an 8’x8’x8′ cube maybe. I also keep the a/c blowing while cooking. I might crack the windows but I doubt that helps much. I really don’t think I’m getting enough CO to be harmful in the minute or two that I have the stove on. I really do not think CO will be an issue. Though I’ll keep you guys posted.

I think it might be best if potatoes are parboiled then kept cool in the cooler. This would require less fuel for cooking and less cooking time. I could parboil the potatoes in the lunch box cooker. This would save space in the cooler.

I had some trouble in the cooler with water infiltrating the zip lock bags and soaking cheese and meats. And I had some egg white escape into the melt water. So I am thinking that better zip locks are needed or some other method of sealing the meats and eggs. Small plastic containers with sealing lids might be in order, however these may use up more space in the cooler. Vacuum packing in Mylar would work well but Mylar is not cheap, and this is very temporary storage. Buying something that is already individually vacuum packed seems to be a good way to go here. Another thing I will try is to wrap cheese or meat in saran wrap and twist tie, then put in zip lock.

If the ice melts to produce ice water things may become soaked, however ice water is good thermal mass. Addition of salt might also keep it cooler longer. As long as salt does not leach into the food this might work. I am also going to grab a space blanket to wrap the cooler in to see if that helps the ice to last longer.

I brought only enough bread to make toast for 4 or 5 days. Bread can mold quickly in a humid truck environment. The one thing I am missing so far is salads. I could keep one small bag of salad stuff on ice to eat on for a couple of days after I leave out. I could also just buy salads from the fast food and quick stop sections in the truck stops which I think might be a better plan for now. That might be cheating but its not cheating much and I can still save money that way. Also flying J truck stop sells boiled eggs. They will be more costly than keeping boiled eggs on ice but not nearly as costly as sitting down to breakfast in full service. I may have to make some compromises to make this workout better.

I have cheated and sit down to food in full service twice in the last 2 weeks. Total cost of that so far was $20. I ate light both times. I broke down and ate a good breakfast for $12 plus tip after that a day ago.

The net result here is that after more than 2 weeks I’ll go home to about $500 extra in the bank. I intend to use that to buy a 5×10 bumper pull trailer that I have been badly needing. Note that this amount saved would also buy a very good inverter or a 12v refrigerator with a compressor and freezer section. So has it been worth it? I’d say so.


Truck Date 201204082149





I wrapped this 1 gallon water jug in 4 or 5 layers of bubble wrap packaging material. I also wrapped it in a space blanket on top of that and duck taped it. If somewhat insulate the bottom and top with blankets or whatever you can keep it near freezing for 24 hours with 32oz of ice.


Here I show the 12v smart pot. It boils water in 10 to 15 minutes. I use it only for heating water. It’s too much of a mess to clean up to use it for heating anything with sugar in it in my opinion.

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2 responses

  1. JT

    I recently tried the same thing (am not a trucker) driving from west coast to Iowa, then up thru upper midwest to PacNorWest then back to SoCal. Keeping Ice was a real challenge with fresh veggies & meats… I walked thru (and on the road websearched) everything from walmarts to cabelas looking for descent coldmaking solutions that would not be “huge” in a truck and did not look like it would break quickly and kill my walet… stayed with ice chest too…12v seems like it could work if somebody could make it durable and “really insulated”… but not too big… seems the current market is made only for the “sixpack” crowd, which doesn’t care about longer term storage like when you stop and go to sleep and have warm food… 😀

    BTW like your seat o’ the pants science on your site… Are you former Military or ?
    Your water purification analysis was fun to read for layman to understand. Thx!

    Keep on writing…

    April 18, 2012 at 5:06 pm

    • Yes I’m former Army Reserve, Combat Engineer. That’s my goal, to reach laymen. Glad you enjoyed it.

      April 19, 2012 at 1:26 pm

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