The Frugal VanLife Kitchen, Part 1

Oh yeahhhhhhh! I am one happy van-dweller-to-be… Our frugal Prairie Schooner Galley kitchen has been secured!

This week, Rock surprised me with a couple of Amazon orders… He picked out the

Dometic CFX-65DZUS Portable Electric Cooler Refrigerator/Freezer 61 Quarts

and the

Camp Chef Outdoor Camp Oven and stove combo…

These will make living in a van, down by the river, a do-able thing for us both. We neither one are fans of junk food, and this will make us able to cook real food on a regular basis, frugally!

I would like to think that these purchases were solely out of the goodness of his huge heart; however, I must admit that I saw him End Zone Dancing up the hallway to open the boxes… so, methinks, that he might have a little smidge of self-indulgence in these purchases. He does about 40% of our cooking, so this might not be a huge stretch of the imagination!

Dometic Fridge & Freezer 12v

The fridge/freezer is an amazing product.It is virtual silent and is very efficient. We have gauged the power usage to be something easily supplied by our solar solution and a requirement for our HomeFree existence.

It holds a generous 61 quarts, or a freezer area about the size of 12-pack of soda or a large glove box, plus a cold area that can easily accommodate a standing 2-litre bottle of soda or a wine bottle (always a plus), and has an extra area that works like a crisper drawer at a chilled temperature. The crisper is smaller, because it is over top of the compressor or whatever keeps this fridge cold! The deeper fridge and the freezer areas have lift-out baskets that allow you to remove the contents and dig through them without leaving the lid open.. Leaving the lid open, on a chest type cooler, is not as bad as leaving the door open on a stand-up fridge, as the cool does not “fall out” onto the floor – it stays inside the cooler! Great concept!

It has a big-cooler-sized footprint of about 29 L x 18 W x 22 H which is about what you would take on a trip. It should hold about 60 soda or beer cans… 😀  It is heavy at around 50 pounds empty. And it runs on either 12v or 24v DC or 120v AC, and is supposed to intuitively switch between your DC power and AC power as applicable. It also has an external, pass-through USB port for charging your favorite toy. Rather handy!

Our research indicates that it only uses minimal amounts of electricity, either 120 or 12. The amperage for 12 volt was under 7 amps when running, and more along the lines of a 1 amp draw average. It cycles, of course. Most users report that they can run it for “days” without draining their batteries. We will report actual usage once we are livin’ the van life…

You can remove the divider between the freezer area and the fridge area to make the whole thing either a fridge or freezer, depending on the temperature you select. Very handy!

When we received it, we plugged it in to our household AC power and set a thermometer in it. Within a few hours, it had dropped to an acceptable temperature of 17 degrees F in the freezer, 34 degrees in the fridge, and 45 degrees in the “crisper” area… very acceptable!

We dropped a couple of our favorite beer in there, as a test… and they came out absolutely luscious! Almost painfully cold and perfectly refreshing!

One thing to mention is that this wonderful little fridge is rather pricey, at $700 or so; however, if you consider the fact that eating prepared food, fast food, junk food, or only snack food will cost you significantly more in the scheme of eating, than will buying groceries and making your own meals – this will save you much money over the period of your travels.

To set the temperature or Fahrenheit/Celsius Properties, there is a small trick… when you hit the SET button and select your choice, you do NOT press SET again. Just leave it be and it will process your selection! Kinda counter-intuitive, but very efficient economy of button pressing!

It has a bright little LED light on the crisper side of the fridge, which clearly illuminates the contents. Enough that we can read the thermometer in the bottom of the middle (fridge) compartment.

Another thing worth mentioning is the awesome handles – they are heavy and sturdy and self-retracting. They pull back out of the way, when not in use. Tight and tucked in, out of the way. I really like the handles, for some reason. Economy of space?

One thing I especially appreciate is that the body of it is very sturdy and solid, which makes it a wonderful seat… there is nothing in the Prairie Schooner which can only serve ONE Purpose, so this doubling as a seat or table will be one of its more endearing qualities!

Overall, for the couple of days that it has chilled beer in the living room, we have been quite impressed with its performance and quietness. We see this as a wonderful addition to the Prairie Schooner Galley’s accouterments.

Once we secure a bottle of green Coleman fuel, we will review the Camper Chef Oven and Stove setup.

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2 thoughts on “Dometic Fridge/Freezer – Frugal VanLife Kitchen, Part 1”

  1. Looks like you have some excellent items there. The stove/oven looks awesome and that fridge should work out nicely. I can’t imagine how excited you are to get the two items!

    1. We are psyched!

      The cost savings in being able to cook and store our own real food, will be enormous! While it kinda hurt to cough up the cashola for these items, they will easily pay for themselves in the food budget!
      We both enjoy cooking, so we were really wrestling with the prospect of only have a campfire or little Coleman burner over which we could “create meals”… I cannot wait to try out the stove/oven this week!

      Thanks for following along on our adventure! We love hearing from ya!

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