Planning frugal meals and percolator coffee

For six years I saved every penny I could. 

I knew getting started in an off-the-grid,  fulltime life on wheels would take money.  I also knew that my small retirement income would require that I live modestly.

Do you have a dream you want to make come true? 

Or maybe you have debt that has crushed you for way too long, and now you’re ready to do whatever it takes to get out from under it.  Maybe your income has been drastically reduced due to the economy, divorce, retirement or whatever.   In today’s post I’m going to focus on one part of living frugally: 

How do you eat well and cheaply when on the run?

For a long time I couldn’t come up with a good breakfast that was quick and easy for workday mornings.  Eggs and toast take time and up my cholesterol.  I have a hard time keeping fresh milk in the fridge for cereal.   As most single people know, there’s a lot of waste with perishables.  Milk goes bad and eggs get old.  Dry cereal is boring.  (I want to save money but I’m not a monk!)  Granola bars from the supermarket are handy but tiresome.  Pop-tarts, despite what 8-year-olds may tell you, are not food.  I tried picking up an egg biscuit or a chicken biscuit at the convenience store on the way to work, but that’s too expensive and so fattening.  Each week at the grocery store I pushed the cart around in desperation looking for an answer to the breakfast dilemma.

What can I get that is nutritious, filling, easy and cheap?

What about nutrition bars from the pharmacy section?  I cruise on over.  What?  Five bars in a box cost between four and five dollars?  Five itty-bitty bars!  No way . . . but wait!  If I think in terms of cost-per-meal, instead of cost-for-volume, the nutrition bars aren’t so pricey.  Let’s see. . . five bars for $4.34.  That works out to about 87 cents for breakfast.  Add the small coffee from the convenience store and my morning meal is less than $2.00.  I tried the various brands . . . Luna, Cliff, Power Bar . . . and decided I like Zone the best.  Fourteen grams of protein and lots of vitamins.  They taste great and are filling. Why am I writing about this?

Think cost-per-meal when trying to keep your food costs down.

This simple concept helped me more than any other when it came to being frugal with meals.  What good is a sale on anything if you end up throwing a good portion of it out?  What good is buying food that has a large volume, yet isn’t nutritious or filling so you end up snacking a short time later?  I’m not saying nutrition bars are for everyone.  That’s not my point.  Think cost-per-meal to save.

No more convenience store coffee for me! 

Only one more week until I retire!  That’s the end of the workday morning rush!  So I ordered a coffeepot that I can use on the propane stove in my camper.

Farberware Stainless Steel Percolator

 The percolator I chose has a classic, functional design and cost $22.90.

My parents were epic coffee-drinkers.  The sound and smell of their percolator in the morning was divine, even to me as a child. You know this coffeepot is going to FILL my 17-foot Casita with the most delicious aroma every morning!



About rvsueandcrew

Fulltime nomad
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21 Responses to Planning frugal meals and percolator coffee

  1. CamperPaul says:

    I like the “cut of your jib”…

    It took me almost five years to save up enough to buy my 31 ft. Four Winds 29Q and a Diesel Suburban.

    • rvsueandcrew says:


      Ooh, a Suburban. Nice. Actually your entire set-up is mighty fine. Five years — you’re a good saver. I am too intimidated by 31 feet to even consider it! “Cut of your jib” — haven’t heard that saying in a while. Glad you’re with me on this crazy endeavor!

      • CamperPaul says:

        I have been “full-time” for over eleven years…

        Oh – I make my coffee in a “French Press” or a stove-top Espresso maker.

        • rvsueandcrew says:

          I’d love to have a long conversation with you about those eleven years! You must have a lot of knowledge I could use and interesting stories to tell.

          I’ve never used a French Press. People who use them love them. I guess I think of french presser people as more gourmet than I am. I admit I’m a Maxwell House coffee person. I bet you are into special blends and freshly ground ….

          I had a husband who liked espresso coffee. So nix on that. I stay away from anything that vaguely reminds me of him!

  2. Kim says:

    OMG, RVsue! You and I have so much in common, it’s uncanny. I, too, have been saving $$$ & also searching for the perfect (soon-to-be-ordered) Casita stovetop percolator and finally decided on the very one you have!

    I used a stovetop coffeemaker in our first Casita and it worked great. Another appealing feature is that the 4-cup size can double as a water-boiler and also a teapot. Uncanny. Really.

    • rvsueandcrew says:


      It makes me smile to read there’s someone who has a lot in common with ME!

      One great thing about the percolators is the coffee is hot, hot, hot!

  3. DebbieT in Alabama says:

    One week… you’re now officially a “single digit midget” as we used to say in the army – enjoy this last week…. the last monday dragging out of bed early…. enjoy!!

    Love the little coffeepot. I have a small pot that’s similar that I use often – it’s just the right size for so many tasks!

    • rvsueandcrew says:


      I’ve been dragging out of bed at 5:15 a.m. for many years. Soon I’ll be up early to enjoy the sunrise and a cup of percolator coffee!

  4. susan coltrin says:

    You might try toast with peanut butter and sliced banana. on it ( ala Elvis ! ).. this gives Protein, fruit, and a little cheaper too…. i need protein in the morning….not cereal, not sugar,…this seems to do the trick….keeps me full for hours…..just say’in

    • rvsueandcrew says:


      That would be a good breakfast! I didn’t mention in the post that I can’t be fussing around in the kitchen before I leave for work or the crew thinks I’m going to give them a snack. I made the mistake of giving them a treat before leaving in the a.m. to try to ease their histrionics. It doesn’t work. They still go nuts. If they think they’re going to get food, it’s worse. Now you know who rules this house.

      Good tip for people with no pets or sane ones . . .

  5. Dave says:

    Wow, the exact pot my wife gave me for Christmas to use in the ‘sita. It works great! Totally different taste and a lot HOTTER than drip coffee. Nothing better while camping than a good cup ‘o joe while watching the sunrise over the mountains.
    I’m also retiring on the 31st. This next week may be a l-o-n-g one! We’re gonna be taking off for a month long sojourn in the ‘sita the 1st full week of June.
    Congrats on your retirement!

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Congratulations on your retirement, too, Dave! You’re right about this next week. Every day seems to be longer than the one before it. I hope that keeps up after we’re retired! Enjoy your Casita!

  6. Robert says:

    Peanut butter mixed with honey and rolled oats. I add ground flax seed for a boost in Omega 3’s and sometimes powdered milk or raisins.
    It’s sort of a blend of Scott and Helen Nearings “Horse Chow” and “Scott’s Emulsion”
    Helen has a cookbook on Kindle, if you have one. “Simple Food for the Good Life.”

    • rvsueandcrew says:


      Very healthy, indeed! My goal has been speed more than anything. Now that I don’t have to rush… at least after May 31st retirement date … I can focus on healthier eating. I have a Kindle. I’ll look up the Nearing cookbook. Thanks!

  7. theresa says:

    sue—-you are almost there! one more week……

    i agree with you wholeheartedly about the cost per serving concept. sometimes a bargain isn’t a bargain at all. enjoy the delicious coffee you’ll be brewing..and savouring…after next week!! it’ll taste a million percent better just because it CAN be savoured.

  8. strawberrypolly says:

    Oh My!!!! That percolator brought back a flood of kitchen memories at home. Dad and Mother could do without almost anything but that percolator!!!!! LOLOL

  9. Barbara says:

    The one thing I was determined to bring with me in my RV was my coffee maker. I have a Keurig, and I love the single cup coffee it makes. It was expensive, but super good coffee, and I usually only have one cup, so I’m not wasting a pot.

    Isn’t it funny how we get frugal as we get older? I’m also in my 60’s and I’m starting to get downright cheap, and I love it. A total turnaround from when I was younger. But if I want something bad enough, I will indulge myself. Like the Keurig. 🙂

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      People do seem to get thriftier as they get older. I’ve always been super careful with money. Cheap about buying for myself, generous when spending on others.

  10. Sheila says:

    Congratulations – dreams can come true!
    We lived on a sailboat for 3 years so I got some practice with the small space, no refrigeration, decent meals problem. If you are not a vegetarian there is always canned, tuna, ham, chicken etc. in small serving sizes and the dogs will love the liquid they are packed in on their food, an added bonus. Non fat evaporated milk is great in cooking though an acquired taste in coffee. Regular milk freezes well if you are using the fridge and we took eggs along with no refrigeration. You cover the eggs with a thin coating of vasoline to seal the pores of the shell and they keep weeks. You can keep eggs in the fridge also for many weeks – just turn the box upside down for a week then right side up again for a week, ad nauseum. To test if they are still okay put the egg in a glass of water. If it sinks it is still good if it floats toss it.
    Fresh veggis can be bought in small amounts and cooked up easily steaming, grilling, microwaved, stir fried in a skillet. Yogurt is always great and also, if locally made, helps you gut deal with local bacteria.
    You could probably find a good used cookbook for camping or sailing. They always have a ton on tricks and recipes. ABE Books is a great online source of really cheap (also some really expensive) used books on almost anything you can think of.
    Grains and beans sold in bulk are great because you can control the amount you buy .
    Flat breads cooked on the grill or stove top are a great source of fresh bread. Just make up enough for a couple of days.
    Being retired you’ll have plenty of time to cook.
    As the Irish say,
    May your home always to be too small to hold all your friends.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi Shiela!

      So many good, practical tips from someone who obviously has tried them out. .. I never thought to freeze regular milk. I’m thinking I could use an ice cube tray and then pop a few milk cubes into my hot percolator coffee. I like hot coffee but not so hot I burn my tongue. Coffee’s mostly what I want regular milk for. I had forgotten about that ol’ vaseline trick with eggs.

      I bought some plastic containers that are squarish and have screw-tops for things like grains and beans. I have a thing for containers.

      You’ve got me motivated to collect camp recipes. I’ll do an online search. Thank you for taking the time to send me all these great ideas. And thanks also for the Irish blessing!

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