Food is a hot topic for any truck driver that’s trying to save money and eat while on such a tight schedule.
Knowing how to meal prep with a small fridge is a challenge when you’re at home let alone if you’re living out of a mini fridge in your semi truck or RV.
Don’t have a mini fridge?
There are a lot of options, but we’ve picked some of the best mini fridges for truckers and listed them to give you some ideas. The article also has a handy buyers guide to help you make a decision.
Small in size but large in potential, they can hold just about everything that you need to enjoy a quick meal on-the-go and hopefully save some cash along the way.
This quick tip guide gives you the ins and outs of successful meal prepping when all you have is a small fridge. It provides you with easy-to-prepare meals that are both filling and nutritious. If you do a little meal planning and preparation it will take a lot of the hassle out of getting started
How To Meal Prep With a Small Fridge
Meal prepping involves a budget and a plan. It requires you to shop for food and beverages when you’re not busy driving a load somewhere. It gives you the opportunity to see what supermarkets have to offer in the way of cold meal items and shelf-stable products that can be cooled once opened.
Just to Recap:
- Make a food budget
- Have a plan (or recipes)
- Keep your mini fridges size in mind
- Go shopping
More than anything, the act of preparing meals involves time and space. You need both to be able to chop up, portion out, and store the food that you’ve taken the time to fix. If you don’t have a few extra hours to devote to the process, or you can’t find a surface big enough to prepare food comfortably, you may want to buy already chopped fruits and vegetables to save yourself the effort.
What’s in my mini fridge (Video)
Some necessary supplies are needed to make meal prepping successful. You need storage containers and utensils to divvy up the food you’ve prepared.
Items you’ll need to get started, these are pretty common sense items:
- Mixing bowls
- Pots and pans
- Cooking utensils (spatulas, measuring cups etc)
- Plastic wrap
- Aluminum foil
- Plastic bowls (tupperware style)
If you’re on the road, you may want one or more of these items to help you either cook or reheat your food:
- A one or two burner hot plate
- A microwave (small enough to keep in your truck)
- Electric grill. Propane is not recommended if your going to do this in a sleeper for obvious reasons.
As most truck drivers know, you’re going to need a way to power those appliances. Power inverters (link to our top power inverter picks) are generally the way to go for many drivers and reasonably priced depending on your needs. In addition, make sure you understand the power requirements for your mini fridge and other appliances you’ll be using to either prep or reheat your food.
If you stick strictly to ready-to-eat cold meals, you may want plastic wrap or aluminum foil to wrap items before placing them in the small fridge. The added protection helps keep excess moisture off your food so it stays fresh longer and tastes better. Smaller Mason jars are excellent for storing items such as salads because of their airtight lids.
Setting aside at least an hour to prepare your meals for the week can make driving on a tight schedule easier. You have access to all the food that you bought and prepared for the week in advance. You don’t need to stop every few hours to buy a meal from a restaurant or truck stop.
Where do I buy the foods and beverages?
The best places to buy supplies to meal prep are at discount supermarkets and big-box retailers. You’re able to purchase many items in bulk, lowering the cost per meal or snack significantly. You also have access to the broadest selection possible thanks to the many brands and products available through the retailers.
You can opt to shop local farmer’s markets, too, when you find them. You’ll find the freshest produce available being sold in parks and market squares. Farmer’s markets also have homemade baked goods, artisan jellies and jams, and pickled items that keep well in small fridges and make meal prepped food taste better.
Dollar stores accept coupons and offer excellent sales that allow you to stock up on your favorite food items and drinks. If you have the space in your fridge, you can keep extras of the things you eat the most. Some items that you purchase have a long shelf life until you open them. Then, they must be refrigerated to prevent mold growth and spoiling.
It’s up to you to decide where to buy your meals and snacks. Discount stores such as Sam’s Club and Costco provide significant savings if you’re willing to buy larger packages and bottles of the items you plan on consuming. You may not have the space inside your truck to store them in their original packaging.
Meal prepping and divvying up individual portions of the items can make it easier to get everything to fit in the mini fridge without issue. You can stack lidded containers on top of one another to save space. You’re able to keep several days’ worth of food prepped that way.
What about for road warriors?
Some truck stops and convenience stores are clearly better that others for buying fresh food. Once in a while you may actually run into a store that actually sells meat (use your judgement!) or has vegetables.
Those are few and far between of course.
If you run a regular route, make note of places where you know you can get good food, places you can get your truck in and out without a hassle. Once you find those places you may want to use the map on your phone to drop a pin so you’ll be able to find the place again.
For truck drivers, you probably won’t find a lot of what you’re looking for. Flying Js and Pilots typically offer convenience store type food. If you’re trying to eat healthier, you’ll need to plan ahead and find a store that offers more choices.
What are the best ways to store meal prepped foods?
The perishable nature of items determines the best way to store them. As mentioned before, some items such as tuna pouches are shelf-stable until opened. Once they’ve been combined with mayonnaise and eggs to create tuna salad, however, they must be refrigerated to prevent bacteria growth.
The best and most simple ways to store food:
- Plastic airtight containers
- Paper or plastic bags (reusable)
- Glass containers
- Freezer bags
How much space do you have?
Determining how much space you have available in the small fridge helps you decide which containers to use to store food. If you plan on prepping many meals at once, you can remove the shelving from the fridge, so you have more room for stacking. You’re able to fit double the amount of containers in the same amount of space if you take out the shelves and put them aside.
You can take the items out that you know you’ll eat that day and put them in a cooler in the front of your cab. That way, you can eat your meals while you’re parked or driving to your next stop. Replenishing the empty fridge is easy when you can see how many meals and snacks you’ve gone through during the week.
It’s very important to seal containers well before placing them in the fridge. It prevents items from leaking on top of other containers. You’ll have fewer mishaps that you need to throw away if you take extra time to make sure everything gets sealed well, especially if it contains liquids like soups or stews.
If you have a freezer in the small fridge, wrapping items in aluminum foil to freeze is best. Making several burritos at once makes sense because it gives you access to a cheap and fast meal to eat while on the road. Once you’ve stopped at the hotel for the night, you can place the food that you prepped in the microwave and enjoy a hot meal in a matter of minutes.
What should I get for my mini fridge?
When shopping for foods to fill your mini fridge, there are some things you’ll want to consider. First, how large of space do you have available for prepped food? If you purchase too much at once and don’t eat all of it, it will spoil.
Next, think about the things that are the fastest, easiest, and tastiest to eat (more suggestions here). You shouldn’t sacrifice flavor for the sake of saving a few dollars. There are many ways to transform the simplest food into gourmet eats.
Mini Fridge Shopping List
Here’s a quick list of items to get for your mini fridge. It’s important to make sure that you can keep your food at the right temperature to keep it fresh.
- Fruit and vegetables
- Lunch meat
- Condiments (ketchup, mayo, mustard etc)
Additional food ideas
Some of the best meals to prepare in advance include soups, salads, stews, and sandwiches. Beans and chili are easy to heat up if you have access to a heat source. Finger foods such as summer sausage, cold cuts, cubed cheese, grapes, nuts, seeds, olives, and pickles keep well and are satisfying.
Cups of fruit, pudding, and gelatin are easy to eat as snacks and taste better chilled. Cold noodles and pasta salads are also things you can prep using a few ingredients in large batches. Cut vegetables such as celery and peppers can be dipped into ranch dressing or hummus along with carrots and cherry tomatoes.
Any foods that take little time to prepare and are easy to eat while driving is ideal. Ones that don’t require utensils are best unless you’re stopped somewhere and parked. Burritos, wraps, sandwiches, and quesadillas are all options that you can prepare in advance for little money and eat quickly.
Condiments and seasonings dress up ordinary meals and give them flavor. You can transform a basic sandwich with a spicy mustard or herbed cheese spread. Experimenting with different ingredients and flavor profiles ensures that you’ll never grow bored of eating the foods that you previously meal prepped.
Save Time and Money by Thinking Ahead
Meal prepping allows you to take advantage of store sales and manufacturer’s coupons which helps lower the price per item that you buy at the supermarket. After all, constantly eating out on the road is unhealthy and expensive.
Once you have a clear strategy how to meal prep with a small fridge you can stop eating fast food garbage and at least try and slow down eating truck stop food. You’ll have more control over your food intake and exactly what you’re eating which in turn can go a long way to keeping you healthy.