18 RV Cooking Secrets You Need To Know To Save The Most Water

Ok, all of you RVers that cook... you're using up a TON of water to do the job! (Mostly due to cleaning dishes.)

If this is you, and you're dry camping, you need some good RV water saving tips.

Marshall cutting onions in RV kitchen

Marshall cooks WAY more often than I do! Proof here.

Yeah, I am known for not cooking much. Even so, I still recognize how much water cooking (mostly the cleanup) consumes. And when you are dry camping (dry camping definition) or boondocking, water is severely limited.

You can't afford to waste any of it.

To help you extend your water supply, here are my 18 best RV water saving tips from 5 years of full-time dry camping. (And trying not to cook.) Beware, some may be a little non-conventional.

Like number one...

1. Lick Your Dishes

What, you're scared to look silly? Hey, I'll do this in a restaurant. If I can do it in public, you can lick your plates clean in your RV! It saves mess. And less waste, lol.

Kelly licking plate

Woman to the left clearly judging me. LOL!

2. Let Your Dog Lick Your Plates

Again, TOTALLY serious here! You're gonna still wash it, right? If you think that's gross- think about how many other mouths (albeit human) have been on the forks and spoons you use out at a restaurant.

Now THAT grosses ME out! I'll take a dog lick (my dog) on a plate over a stranger lick any day. Well, that sounded weird.

dog licking food container

Sure takes this little one a long time to 100% clean a plate, lol.

3. Squeegee Your Dishes Before They Dry

Ok, you don't like the licking stuff- then use a spatula or a product made for squeegeeing plates and pots to get most of the food off BEFORE you rinse. The kicker with the first three methods is you have to do it right after you cook/eat. Not for the lazy.

4. Catch Water While Waiting For Warm Water

Unless you have an on-demand water heater, you're going to have to wait for the warm water to get through your lines. While you are waiting, you're watching perfectly good water down the drain. Unless you catch it in something. Catch it and re-use it! For dish washing. Or toilet flushing. Maybe for drinking. Whatever.

5. Bring Separate Drinking Water

Marshall recently started using this method. It allows your fresh water tank to go longer. He uses the refillable 3-gallon containers. Stores them in his tow vehicle. Puts one on the counter in his RV using a battery powered pump on the top to dispense it. There are also 5 gallon jugs available. You can easily refill these at any water filling station commonly found at gas stations and grocery stores.

3 gallon water jug outside

6. Line Pans With Parchment Paper

This is a HUGE water AND cleanup saver. Do this when possible. No cleanup whatsoever. A bit wasteful, maybe. But you must choose your battles at times, right?

7. Use Crock Pot Liners

Same result as #6. No wasted dish water, easy cleanup! You can use them on a crock pot or instant pot, long as you are using slow-cooking mode.

8. Make One-Pot Meals

Whether you choose to line or not, making a one-pot meal means using and dirtying up less cookware. Bring your Instant Pot! Another bonus is that it's almost impossible to cook with two pots on most RV stoves. The burners are close together and tiny. They make them for tent camping sized pots, apparently. You could even pre-cook one-pot meals for the trip. More on that later.

Instant pot

9. Pre-Cook Pasta Or Only Use Enough Water To JUST Cover It

Easy solution! Why do we normally use so much water in a pot to cook pasta? It's not necessary. Either pre-cook it at home, or just use enough water to cover the pasta.

10. Pre-cook Meals And Seal-A-Meal Them To Save On Dirty Pots

My mom would love this one! She uses her Seal-A-Meal regularly. Additionally, she tries to get me excited about using one but it never works, lol! Make your meals before your trip. Stash some in the freezer and some in the fridge. Seal-A-Meal it or use ziplock freezer bags. Who wants to spend their camping vacation cooking, anyhow?  Here's a way to not waste water waiting for it to get warm...

Frozen vacuum sealed package of food

11. Heat Water On The Stove

If you aren't needing a lot of warm water for X job, don't get it through the tap. Just warm some up on the stove! Saves water, saves propane. I do this most of the time. No, I don't use warm water to do dishes. I only need small amounts for, well, I can't think of any examples. I just know I do it. (Oh, like for washing your face.)

12. Cook Over The Fire or Grill Using Tin Foil

Here's a no-brainer. If you're camping, you may want to utilize a grill or a fire to make your food. Here, you may be able to skip using pots and pans altogether. You may only dirty a few tongs, use a skewer or three, and some serving utensils. All very lickable, heh.

Man tending to campfire by Class C motorhome

13. Bring Extra Water

You're not really limited to the size of your fresh water tank. You can simply bring extra water with you on your trip. Carry it in 5 gallon plastic bags, or in hard-sided containers. Once you need it, put it into your fresh water tank. Be aware that once your fresh water is used, you may not have much room in your grey tank. Depending on how much you put into it. (You can conserve grey tank room by catching dish water and throwing it outside. And by showering outside. Some water will go into your waste tank. So you should have some room. You'll learn your RV.)

14. Use Paper Products

Easy peasy and another no-brainer. Instead of using dishes that need to be washed, you could use paper plates and plastic silverware. Again, rather wasteful and worse for landfills, but if you only use them a few times a year... maybe it's not so bad.

Dishes in cupboard

15. Soak Dishes In A Bucket Or Bin In The Sink

Here is where that water you saved waiting for it to get warm can come in handy. If you don't want to lick, don't want the dogs to lick, and don't want to do dishes right after dinner, at least scrape then soak them. You'll use way less water getting them clean.

16. Wipe Dishes Down With Paper Towels

Same concept as the licking or squeegeeing. Just a different angle. A little more wasteful. But hey.  Pick your battles.

Paper towels on holder

17. Install Low-Flow Faucets on Sinks

Not sure how much this really helps. I simply control how much flow happens using the on/off knob. But maybe you have kids and they aren't as good at this kind of control.

18. Use Very Diluted Dish Soap

The less soapy your water is, the less water required to rinse it all off. Many people like to use Dawn foam, or simply use a water and vinegar mixture in a spray bottle to wash dishes.

Camp table and chairs in desert


What's to conclude? Maybe that you crazy chefs out there know that cooking uses up a lot of water in an RV. Probably more than anything else besides showering.

But it doesn't have to be wasteful. Use your smarts and use these RV water saving tips. You just easily extended your dry camping trips!

Kelly Headshot

I dedicated myself to living the full-time RV life for over 6.5 years, immersing myself in the unique quirks and joys of the boondocking lifestyle and gaining a wealth of knowledge and experience along the way. In December 2020, my business partner and I made the transition to part-time RVing, but in January 2023, we hit the road once again, this time in our trusty vans. My mission is to help others embrace the RVing lifestyle with confidence and excitement, armed with the knowledge and resources needed to make the most of their adventures. I believe that the more you know, the more you can truly appreciate and enjoy the freedom and flexibility of the open road.

  • When we boondock we shower outside, unless it’s too cold, and we do it at night so that if anyone is around they would see our aged bodies only if they shined a light on us, which would burn an image in their minds that would haunt them, and it would serve them right.

    We also save the water we run, while waiting for the warm water, in a bucket, then add a little hot water and use that as our rinse water. Anyway, it’s fun showering outside, kind of like we were newlyweds over forty years ago. (Ha! It’s good I read this comment because the above sentence stated, “…kink of like we were newlyweds…” Now you’ll have to delete this comment.)

    We also share the same plate when we eat. One less plate to wash.

    • Are you a writer? You should be, if not. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your comment!

      Too funny. And you burned an image into my mind without even trying, LOL.

      Sharing a plate? That’s a good one, one I had not thought of. Probably my inner germaphobe at play, there. But if you’re a couple… then you’re already contaminated with with the same germs, so it’s all good. 😝

      Thank you for the tips and the fun read!

      • Kelly, well, I write, but I’m not a writer. It takes too much time and energy for me to write. I do find joy in reading your writings, as well as those of other writers, who, like we who read your thoughts, enjoy the silence and solitude of nature.

        I’m very good at daydreaming. I’m also skilled at brooding.

        • I hear you. It DOES take a lot of time and brain-melting energy to write well. Maybe that’s what’s wrong with my memory. 😝 It’s shot at this point.

          Keep on daydreaming. It’s good for the soul! 😊

  • when my boys were little, I learned that empty laundry detergent containers with a spout make a great handwashing station outside. I rinse them well and fill with water to sit on the picnic table or tongue of the camper. If it’s in the sunshine, you get warm water too!

  • So I would have my rinse water in a separate bowl or bucket that I dipped dishes or glasses in to rinse them. Then I could use that water to wash my face or later in the day, hand washing needed to be done.

    • Hi Priscilla,

      Yes, that’s a great idea! That’s how bars rinse their glasses, too.

      Thanks for the tip!

  • We did some longer boondocking stints than usual this year, and I experimented with watered down dish soap in a spray bottle, and really liked the water-saving results once I figured out the best ratio for us, which is 7 parts water to 1 part dish soap. It got the dishes clean and still allowed us to save considerable rinse water.

    If we happen to dine on something particularly greasy, I just grab the dish soap bottle and use it straight, like I did back in the day (like, 4 months ago).

    • Thanks for that ratio tip! Be nice if people in sticks and bricks homes did this, too. Could save a lot of water in a lot of places. (Not to mention the short showers. But man, people LOVE their long hot showers! LOL!)

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