Living inexpensively in the desert

The percolator is prepared.

I strike the wooden match and place the flame next to the burner on the stove.  Pffft, and then nothing.  I turn around and look at the refrigerator lights.  The “gas” light is off and the “check” light is on.  Okay.  Not to worry.  The propane tank must be empty.

I step outside to the hitch and open up the tank cover.

After turning the empty tank’s knob closed and the full tank’s knob open, I remember also to turn the black lever (which isn’t a lever really).  All this does is point to which tank is in use.  I go back inside, strike a match, and presto, I’ve got a flaming burner.  Great!

 I turn the refrigerator off and on.  In about two seconds I hear the click of the starter, and presto, the “gas” light is on.  Yay, everything’s back to normal!  Don’t you love it when things work the way they’re supposed to . . . especially when boondocked in the desert by yourself and it’s only 7:45 in the morning.

While the coffee perks, I take the crew out to do their business.

Once settled with my cup o’ Joe, I decide to figure out my daily propane cost.  I bought 4 gallons of propane for $13.56 on Feb. 25th and today is Mar. 12, which I won’t count.  Feb. 25th was a half-day of propane usage, as we were on the road and I don’t tow the BLT with the refrigerator on (personal preference). 

I take $13.56 and divide it by 15.5 days . . . 87 cents per day for propane.  I realize this is only an estimate, as there may have been some propane in the tank when I bought more, although it couldn’t have been very much.

I’m going to go with $1 per day as my cost for propane.

Of course, the cost of propane varies.  Also propane use varies depending upon our location, the weather, my cooking habits, and how wimpy I’m feeling. 

For instance, one night in this time period I felt the need to get really warm.  A cold wind had blown all day and the crew and I were chilled on our morning and afternoon walks.


The television weatherman predicted an overnight low in the thirties.  I put the Wave3 on high and left it on all night!  

Then there were several days and nights I didn’t turn on the heater at all.  Most of the time it was on for about 3 hours to ward off the morning chill.

You may be wondering why I write about propane with such detail.

I may be boring your socks off.  Sorry about that.  Hmmm, which begs the question:  why are you still reading?  Anyway.   I think there are people – newbies and wannabes – who can learn from the details of my experiences and expenses. 

Usually writing my blog comes easily.

However, writing about lazy, stay-at-home, introspective days is difficult, as there’s little activity or travel to report.  (Compare with . . . sheesh) 

For that reason I took a few days off from writing.  Simply performing daily chores, walking the desert with my crew, observing the natural world, reading, reflecting, and relaxing in perfect temperatures (high seventies . . . low eighties all this week) has been enough for me right now.

Everything I need is here, even humor.  If you ever saw Spike sprinting across the desert in pursuit of a jackrabbit taller than he is, you’d laugh, too!


Out-of-pocket expenses:
3/8/12 . . . $0
3/9/12 . . . $0
3/10/12 . . . $0
3/11/12 . . . $0     

About rvsueandcrew

Fulltime nomad
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85 Responses to Living inexpensively in the desert

  1. Denise says:

    Sounds like a nice, relaxed time. I hope you’ll make it up a little higher in a few weeks. My favorite part of my home state is Oak Creek Canyon. No boondocking there that I’m aware of, but it’s certainly worth the drive through the canyon (minus the Casita, steep and curvy road).

  2. butterbean carpenter says:

    Soundz great to me!!!

  3. w says:

    Thanks; I found this entry particularly helpful for me. Getting ready to travel the USA in my Toyota Motorhome and have never used the propane; even had the stove/oven removed as they were propane. Never grew up with propane and prefer electricity. The hot water heater is propane and might need to use it in future. You make it sound easy! I ENJOY YOUR SUBMISSIONS.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I never grew up with propane either. I’ve always used electric stoves and never heated with gas. Propane made me nervous at first, still does somewhat, as it should. It really is easy.

  4. Chuck says:

    These are the kinda’ you look forward to…….doin’ nuttin’ but relaxin’!!!!!

  5. Lola says:

    Hi Sue,
    I am an ardent follower of your blog and really enjoy all of the stories and information you provide. I know you give a breakdown of your daily expenses. Do you think you could also provide a monthly total of your expenses? I don’t want to make extra work for you; just hoping you already tally them up and wouldn’t mind giving a total each month. Keep up the great blog work. Hope you enjoy your retirement living more and more each day.
    Warm regards,
    Lola (another proud Casita owner)

  6. Geri says:

    Propane is the way to go when you are on the road! Chuck even had his generator converted to propane! Better than carrying around Gasoline! So sorry the horses haven’t come back! But at least you really got to see them! Cows seem pretty much contented to share camp with you and Bafield Bunch! Stay happy!

  7. Wendy Hendricks says:

    I enjoy hearing about daily life in the desert. You make is sound easy-just go outside and flip a switch. I need to learn about that switch. How to make my refrigerator go. What the pros and cons of traveling with the gas on for the refrigerator to run.

    Let’s not even start with how to get the thing hitched to the truck without backing up, going forward, backing up and trying to get it lined up.

    I know it’s all part of the experience but it helps to see that it can be done by a woman by herself.

    Thanks for your blog. I really appreciate your entries not matter how simple you think it is because I learn new things every day from it.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, Wendy!

      These rv systems . . . it’s like anything new to you. You bumble around at first and then before long you’re doing things automatically with ease.

      I’m beginning to think hitching-up is not a matter of skill. Sometimes I can hitch up with only two tries (amazing!). One time I must have jumped in and out of the PTV 30 times before I could hitch. The PTV was on an incline. When I thought I had it in the right spot, I’d put it in park and take my foot off the brake. The PTV would roll back about two inches.

      So I thought I’d compensate for that. I parked two inches ahead of where I wanted the hitch ball to be. Put it in park, take my foot off the brake . .. and it didn’t roll two inches! This went on and on . I thought I’d never get that thing lined up.

      Most of the time it’s quick and easy.

      Just a note about a woman being able to do this . . . Remember a hitch or a bottle of propane doesn’t know if you’re male or female!

  8. John Hussey says:

    this is the second time I have commented that I believe your propane consumption is high. But I only use mine for cooking and nothing else. What do you use your propane for, daily?

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Propane runs my refrigerator/freezer, water heater, and my catalytic heater. Your comment does interest me though.

      I’d like to hear some feedback from other propane users.

  9. Teri says:

    When my coffee maker died I decided to use my Farberware percolator fulltime…I LOVE it! Perfect size for just me, and talk about hot coffee! (for some reason the coffee makers I’ve had never made a really hot pot of coffee) And the aroma is better too! So even though I’m not camping it makes me happy each time I use it.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      There is something happy about a percolator! I add milk to my coffee so having it poured while boiling hot is important. Sometimes I make too much and heat it up later and it’s still good.

  10. Donna K says:

    It’s funny…Loree (Life with Luci and Lorre) is not traveling right now and wrote about having nothing really to blog about. My comment to her was that whether on the road or at home, everyone has daily things they do and not every day is as exciting as the last. Sometimes it’s nice to have a slow day and just watch the grass (or Palo Verde trees) grow.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I agree with you, Donna! If a blogger has nothing to write about they should take a look at rvsue and her canine crew. . . I show how it can be done! I go days on end without leaving the campsite.

  11. Royce Fine says:

    I continue to read because you make easy reading. Just sold my Casita to Becky from SC and bought a little larger Coachman Catilina 21′. So Far we like it.
    We’re glad that you are enjoying yourself. Hope we can do the same soon.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, Royce,

      Congratulations on your new home! The word “we” makes me think there are two of you. I can understand a Casita feeling too small for a couple. Best wishes for your future travels.

  12. Kathy says:

    I love reading your blog even when you are just hanging out not doing much. I plan on being out there somewhere next year at this time by myself like you are with a dog. It is nice to know how inexpensive it is.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I’m happy you enjoy my blog, even when I’m only “hanging out not doing much,” my favorite way of life! I’ll try to get you more information on monthly costs to help people like yourself make plans.

  13. Kevin says:

    I don’t mean to be a nit-picker but you said “I bought 4 lbs. of propane for $13.56 on Feb. 25th” ,
    But didn’t you mean to say “4 Gallons”. I say this so that any nubies don’t get cornfused. Glad to hear that you are having such a great time.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, Kevin,

      I don’t know why I keep getting this switched around in my head. One time I did write gallons and was told it should be pounds. I looked up the description in the manual . . . I have 20 lb. tanks, so I must have filled one with 4 GALLONS of propane . . . Thanks, Kevin. I can’t promise this is the last time I’ll need to be corrected!

  14. Maribeth says:

    Hi Sue! Sounds like you have been having wonderful time in the desert. That is what it is all about. www/

  15. rvwayoflife by Lindadeeza says:

    RVSue, you can talk about propane or even the sand on the ground if you want to, I enjoy every post. I look forward to all of your posts. As soon as I get the email that you have a post, I drop everything to read your posts. Keep writing…

  16. Elizabeth in NC says:

    You were starting to worry me…but surely understand you need time to reflect and relax!! I went over to read at the neighbors blog and they mentioned seeing you, so just assumed all was ok. Next time you could tell us, the readers, you are just taking some time to do that…so we don’t worry 😉

    NO, you are NOT boring…these details you share help us learn, those of us not currently living this life…so please do continue on. And being I love dogs so much, just photos and remarks about those cute critters is welcome reading!!
    Elizabeth in NC

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, Elizabeth!

      I’m sorry to worry you. I will drop out for a few days now and then. You can count on it. Remember . . . If anything went wrong, one of my sisters would let you and all my readers know immediately. Thanks for your concern.

      Thanks also for reassuring me that I’m not boring. I look at other rv blogs and they are filled to the brim with places, attractions, and events . . . sometimes it makes me feel foolish writing about the small things. I appreciate the encouragement you and others give me here.

      • Elizabeth in NC says:

        Well, quite frankly, some blogs may have a lot more details, but I rarely read all of it. It is somewhat overwhelming to get too many photos and too much information. At least now, when we are not yet living this lifestyle and not in such places…maybe later those very long blogs will be more helpful…but right now, yours is just right.

        And actually, you write a great deal like Ms.Tioga and George, whom I have read for several years. For one thing, it is nice when pressed for time, to be able to drop by quickly and see an update. In a way, we readers kind of feel like you are our friends and we do worry over your welfare, etc. if you are gone long.

        • rvsueandcrew says:

          A kind and thoughtful comment, Elizabeth. I’m flattered to be compared to the Vagabond Supreme, Tioga George! I’ve read him for years, too. In fact, stumbling upon his blog is what started me on the idea of selling my house and possessions, getting an rv, and living a nomadic life.

      • bearwise2010 says:

        I have to agree, we love your blog because you are down to earth, and we are grateful that you share your adventures, lessons, and life lessons with us. thanks again for sharing and becoming a good friend here. yes I also agree we do worry about you, but I know I love dropping out of site from time to time, so completely understand… take care

  17. Gail says:

    Hey, Sue, I could never get bored with your blog. Love every bit of your take on your brave world.

  18. gumo says:

    I am a teacher nearing retirement and so I was wondering, since you are a recently retired teacher, is there anything you missed about your career and if you ever looked back. Just curious. Thanks.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I have not missed a single thing about teaching. Not One Thing. It ran its course with me.

      I suppose I could say I miss my teacher friends. But we keep in touch and also I’ve made several new friends . . .

  19. Joe says:

    Hi Sue, I figure having a conversation with someone is kinda like reading your blog? My friends and i don”t always talk about important things. Sometimes(most of the time) we tallk about mudane things of noo interest to anybody else but maybe us. Kinda like playing the TV when your”re reading a book. Just a background noise kinda thing. Happy to hear you are well and still having an adventure. I got blown away by the West Liberty Tornado but I”m still kicking…Enjoyed your blog as always…Joe

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Joe! You were in the path of the tornado? I hope you, your family, and your possessions are okay. I’m glad you enjoyed today’s blog. Stay safe!

  20. Gaelyn says:

    During the winter I average 2-2.5 weeks on 7 gals of propane. My fridge is electric, so it for the water heater, cooking and part-time heat. In the summer I can 3-4 weeks. Tank fill has been $22 all winter. RV living is very cost affective.

    Lazy days are wonderful.

  21. Wayne says:

    I may be boring your socks off.  Sorry about that.  Hmmm, which begs the question:  why are you still reading?  Anyway.   I think there are people – newbies and wannabes – who can learn from the details of my experiences and expenses. 

    You bet we can (learn) and you are doing a great job of teaching. It is also quite re-assuring to hear everything you are willing to share on the costs. The contrast of your pace and the pace of Al & Kelly Bayfield Bunch / I believe we will be somewhere in the middle, so it is GREAT to also read about the simple pleasures at camp. SUMMARY, THANK YOU.

    Wayne & Rhonda & the boys…..

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      You’re most welcome! I’m happy that you can see some benefit to reading my blog. I’ve always been a “live small, keep it simple” sort of person. Live each day at the pace comfortable for you, and make honest choices about how you spend your time. . . that’s the secret!

  22. bethers says:

    How many minutes for a perfect percolator brew? I just haven’t been able to get it quite right yet.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I wish I could tell you bethers. I never measure the water, the grounds, or the time. I throw it together and wait until I smell good coffee and until I see the color I want in the little clear knob on top! I pour a little bit . . . if it’s too weak, I let it perk some more!

      • bethers says:

        “if it’s too weak, I let it perk some more!”

        Good idea. I’ll just try shortening the time and/or the amount of coffee. That way I won’t be wasting if it comes out too strong (presently doing about 8 minutes, 8 scoops, 8 cups, and it’s a little strong). I might have to try a different coffee too. Thanks!

  23. Don says:

    I’m a new follower. Have a trailer that we tow but only for a couple of months a year We could probably put three of your Casita in ours!. Love the stories about you and your ‘crew’. Our crew is of mixed parentage – two humans (and you know what they are like) and a mongrel dog and a likewise cat. But we are a family.

    I enjoy reading about your experiences. We are based in Nevada and wandering around in the Southwest is of interest. Best of luck in your travels and if you are ever near Las Vegas let me know.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Welcome, Don! I like the way you sum up your group . . . “But we are a family.” That’s how I feel about Bridget and Spike and me.

      I hope you continue to enjoy my blog and the Southwest.

  24. Maureen McGuinness says:

    Not at all boring, Sue! It’s the funky little details like these that can help us wannabes figure out if we can follow in your footsteps (tire tracks?) Enjoy those down days!

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, Maureen,

      Down days are up days for me! I’m glad you learn something from the “funky little details” that make up a major part of my blog. Thanks for letting me know.

  25. Sue Johnson says:

    Sue, I was glad to read about your propane use today. I was just wonderring last night how much propane one uses while out boondocking. And , a slightly personal questions now? How long can you go before you need to dump your sewer water tank?
    Well, looks like you are having a lovely time and not i dont find your blogs borring either. I like seeing how much you spend or should I say , dont spend. Love the cows too !!!

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hello, Sue!

      I think the last time I figured it out, I went nine days between dumps. The sewer tank is always the first needing to be dumped. I can hear some readers . . . “TMI! TMI! Too much information!”

      • Sue Johnson says:

        LOL !!! Just curious. Because years ago when I lived in RV the longest I would boondock at a time was about 4-5 days. That was mostly cause I went to shows on weekends to sell stuff. I think my tank only got pretty full one time when a friend visited with me and we were at a music festival for 4 days.

  26. GeoBonsai says:

    Here’s a fun YouTube video “Casita Me Gusta” perfect for lazy-day viewing …

  27. Kristin says:

    Good for you, Sue, for leading such a contented life. You’re not boring at all; your life in the desert sounds splendid and I really appreciate you allowing me to live vicariously through you.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      You’re welcome, Kristin. Such a nicely worded compliment! I like that word splendid. Next time I look around and feel good about my day, I’ll say to myself, “How splendid!”

  28. RosalynM says:

    Don’t ever think your writings are boring Sue. I am one of many I am sure, who enjoys every tale of your life doing the things I wish I could do. So please write about your experiences and continue to share with us the things you learn as you go.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I’ll try to remember your words on those days I don’t feel like writing. As most of us know, it’s the getting started that’s the hard part when feeling uninspired. Thanks for the encouragement.

  29. Sylvia K says:

    Hi Sue,
    I wanted to know if you had one of those Coleman bags that heats up the water outside in the sunshine? That would help with your propane usage in heating your water for showers or doing dishes, being that you have plenty of sun during the day that water will heat up nicely.
    Speaking of perculator I love mine, and yes the coffee is so much tastier.
    Yes, I love reading your blog with your great sense of humor.
    Have a great relaxing day.

    • Geri says:

      Sue, Chuck and I just bought one of those Coleman solar water bags at WalMart for $14 !!!
      It’s exactly what I used when I was on the road in the 1980’s! I used it for everything from showers to washing dishes! I used to put it on the hood of my truck and it would be hot in 15 minutes or so! Very handy and they roll up with a small footprint! My bag lasted 6 years of constant use! It is a good investment for boondocking!

    • rvsueandcrew says:


      Sounds like the Coleman bag is a good idea! I’ve been keeping jugs of water in the sunshine which heats them up somewhat. This would be better, I’m sure. Thanks for the idea and for the compliment, too.

      • Sue Johnson says:

        Agreed. I have a solar shower bag that I sometimes take camping . Works great!! Heats up fast and holds a lot of water.

        • Geri says:

          The solar shower bag we bought holds 5 gallons of water!!! That’s plenty for a shower !!! I used a hula hoop with a shower curtain hung from a tree limb for my showers! The 5 gallons was plenty of water!

          • Elizabeth in NC says:

            What a great idea….Walmart also has sold portable showers in the past….seems if the main problem with having to dump is the black water tank…that would help some! And even with cooking…heating water up even part way obviously saves propane!!

  30. Elizabeth in NC says:

    In the past I have collected off the internet, information on several types of solar cookers. Seems in such a sunny area as Arizona, that one could use them…and even put on top the vehicle if worried about critters, insects, etc. finding their way in if they were on the ground. Works on the principle of a crockpot.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I’ll keep that in mind. I remember looking at them a long time ago. I’m still enamored with my little charcoal grill. Soon I’ll be ready to move up to a solar cooker!

      The campfire dutch ovens are nice, too. You can even bake in them. Unfortunately they’re very pricey, like all cast iron.

      • Elizabeth in NC says:

        We have a 3 legged dutch oven, never used YET…but hanging onto it. A friend convinced me of how wonderful (and easy) they are to cook with…using a certain number of charcoals for whatever temp you need, etc. Got ours quite a few years ago..but if we end up RVing, we should have time to use it. I LOVE cast iron skillets too….cook with them most of the time. I have 4 sizes.

  31. Sue Malone says:

    My goodness! 71 comments! Still wanted to add mine saying that it IS interesting seeing your propane expenses. I had read about you on Al’s blog, but just started following. Great reading, Sue, from another Sue.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Sue and Susan is a popular name in our age group. I remember being one of three Susans in my elementary school class.

      I’m happy to have another Sue following along . . . Welcome!

  32. Sherry says:

    Great propane story Sue. $1 a day for propane as one of few expenses per month sounds great to me.

    You sure do have a flock of followers with lots of good advice.
    I wonder if anyone ever boondocks much in the East. We’ve done some in the National Parks but I’d like to know if there is any out in the middle of no where on the East Coast. I fear not.


    • rvsueandcrew says:

      There’s some National Forests but few and far between. It’s the “far between” that makes travel in the East more expensive. Who wants to drive 10 hours in a day in order to leapfrog from one free site to the next? Those campground fees add up fast. There are probably some secret places . . . add that to driveways of friends and relatives . . . maybe it would work.

      Yes, I do have great followers . . . experienced campers, boondockers, and fulltimers with sound advice and great ideas, plus newbies and wannabes adding their positive energy and sky-high enthusiasm! I’m appreciative of each and every one.

  33. Bill says:

    Hi Sue- Your up ti 74 entries so far, wow! I wonder what the record is?

    The solar bags are great. The larger bags are great for taking a shower. If you catch rain water, you’re in for a treat …it does wonders for your hair. And, unlike conventional ‘ at home’ hot water, the more water you use, the warmer it gets! The process is called ‘stratification’. Simply put, the warm water rises to the top of the bag. Warning- water weigths approximately 8 lbs/gal. 5×8=40lbs. Pick your support accordingly.

    Another thing we like are one-gallon plastic jugs with screw lids, not the pop-offs If you hang it upside down, you can turn the lid a 1/4 to 1/2 turn and wash your hands. Very handy for clean freaks!

    We just checked our e-mails and it looks like a great day! Take care. BR, K and kids.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, Bill!

      I know about rainwater’s effect on hair! When I was a kid, my sisters and I used to stay over at our cousins’ house. My aunt had a huge rain barrel which provided water for hair-washing. That rainwater and our youth made for beautiful hair.

      I’ve got the right containers for the hand-washing set-up. Great tip! A faucet hanging from a tree in the desert . . . life is good.

  34. Pauline says:

    Oh yes, you are so boring that no one is reading your post!! LOL I read all your posts and all the COMMENTS. It’s like sitting down on the porch with you.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Oh, sister, sister. I teared up reading “It’s like sitting down on the porch with you.” I instantly saw you on your porch waving goodbye as I drove away last August . . . off to Texas to pick up my Casita.

      It is kind of funny. When I post what I consider a pretty lame attempt at writing something of value, I’m surprised at how many think it was a good post!

  35. I love hearing about your daily routine. I’m a wannabe and it’s great to see another woman try it all first! LOL I was wondering how you keep things cold, but not I assume you use your propane.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Somehow I missed your comment. I’m sorry, Julie. Here it is March 23rd and you commented on the 14th. In the event you clicked to be notified of my reply . . .

      I keep food cold with my refrigerator which is able to operate on electricity from a campground (AC), from my trailer’s battery, or from propane gas. I keep my fridge running on propane.

  36. Using your propane tanks the way you do obviously works but you might be interested in the way we do it. We use the automatic switchover on the regulator. We leave both tank valves open with the lever toward the left tank (when facing the front). We then periodically check the indicator for red meaning that tank is empty and we are operating from the other tank. We then fill the empty tank and put the other tank on the left side so the tanks are constantly alternated. One advantage of doing it this way is that we do not have to go out in a storm to switch tanks.

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