For most, eating new and different foods is one of the attractions of traveling, but you aren't restricted to simply eating out for every meal. For me, extended time in New Zealand created the opportunity to build a cook kit to keep in the car as we traveled to take advantage of the produce and meats available, especially those that were new to us. I've had one in my car for years, inspired after a road trip in which I bought an entire beef tenderloin and prepared steaks in three different states. The total cost of the NZ kit was around US$100 and saved an enormous amount of money over almost three months. While some items I purchased new at the Warehouse (Target equivalent), the majority was found at thrift stores/hospice shops in the first few days. Its also helpful when you're travel partner is a great cook! Here is breakdown of what I chose to carry, along with some photos of what I made along the way.
Pot with lid
Skillet or cast iron
2 Cutting boards (meat and veg)
2 Knives, chefs and paring
salt (kosher or flake)
2 ea – plates, bowls, mugs, forks, spoons, serrated knives
Basic Shopping List
spices/herbs (thyme, rosemary, curry powder, etc)
proteins and veg for whatever meals you have planned
While the challenges you'll face when you're car or camp cooking will never really end, here are a few that I can address:
Plan ahead for light. Either make sure you shop and arrive at your campsite with enough daylight, but headlamps are a must. If you're stealth camping, you can always find a store that is closed and park where you can utilize their exterior lights (same goes in a park).
Wind is the mortal enemy of gas stoves. Even if the stove looks like its still ripping, the wind can easily diminish the flame's effect on the pot/stove and keep you wondering why your rice will never cook. Some stoves come with pop-up sides for wind protection, but you can always improvise, keeping in mind that plastic melts and towels catch fire.
Use whole peppercorns. The aromatic esters present in the dried pepper berries dry up quickly after being ground, and a more coarse grind allows the fresh pepper to shine in your food. Use the back of a wooden spatula or the bottom of a mug to crush.
Gas stoves are my choice for heat as you can't build a fire almost anywhere anymore it seems. You can still find grills, but often lugging charcoal around plus the added time of preparing them makes an additional step to getting the heat you need. This being said, I take every opportunity I can to utilize real fire when possible. New Zealand and Australia actually have grills at many parks that really just gas heated flat tops that are free to use.
Watch out for moisture buildup in your kitchen box and cooler, as it will spoil fresh food incredibly quickly. Just leaving the top off works just fine.
As always, rest your meat!