When emergency planning topics come up, rarely does the topic of actually cooking the food come up. It seems to make sense if you are planning emergency food, then you would be planning emergency cooking but that’s not always the case. This sort of reminds me of a story – once I met a homeless man who was telling me about his experience being homeless. He said he had found a food bank and they gave him this big bag of food. He was so excited that he took his haul to his favorite grassy spot and opened the bag. It was all canned foods. He didn’t have a can opener or any way to open those cans. (He did eventually get a can opener and that quickly became his most prized possession.) I think of that often. It’s such a little story but there is so much there. It doesn’t do anyone any good to have food if you have no way to access it.
Most emergency foods come dehydrated and require hot water to make it into food. You could just eat it dry but that will get old fast. Having a real plan to cook your food is a major part of emergency planning.
Being outside in an emergency does mean you could have a fire and cook that way but what if you aren’t in a position to have a fire. What if the emergency leaves you without power but stuck in your home? There’s a chance you could barbecue if you have a barbecue-er and the necessary accessories. However, having a back-up plan is always nice.
I have three back-up plans that are inexpensive enough to be saved for emergencies or added into your camping gear.
The first is this neat little stove:
It’s about 10 dollars and uses a sterno can. Sterno is cheap to come by and there are a few variations of this sort of stove.
You could make one:
This beauty is what held up this post for so long. It’s called a hobo stove. It’s made from a #10 can and a tuna-sized can (we used a water chestnut can). There are much prettier versions. I had some difficulty making my can and partway through I realized that I had a choice – I could wait and get the proper tools or I could use what I have. I knew that if I was in an emergency situation that I wouldn’t have access to the proper tools. I, also, questioned the sort of tools a hobo would have. I used a can opener on top to create the vents. My can opener broke part way around the can and I was going to leave it because any vent is better than no vent but my lovely husband went to the store the next day and bought a new can opener and surprised me with the vents finished. The opening below was supposed to be cut to make a damper sort of structure but that was one heavy duty can (it’s an emergency food can). I had a P-38 can opener (military issue) and used that with a hammer to cut open the can. Then I folded the sides back with a pair of pliers. I may not have complete control over the temperature but then I’m not going to be doing any fancy cooking in an emergency situation.
I made my “sterno” can with two strips of cardboard and wax. I rolled the strips of paper up and inserted them into the can and poured melted wax over. In this case, I used dirty wax from our paraffin dip. I’m thinking of making a version with left over candle wax and maybe even some shortening just to see how they burn. If I ever actually complete those experiments, I’ll let you know. I’m thinking it’s a summer activity.
The last stove I would recommend is:
A butane stove. These are inexpensive devices. About $20-$25. Butane is fairly cheap as well. Again this is not your gourmet cooking device but it’s super user friendly and boils water with efficiency. We have one in our camping gear and love it.
A have read that you can bring your food to a boil, remove from heat and wrap in blankets to get it to finish cooking which will save fuel. I haven’t taken the time to try it but I’ll add it to the list of experiments we wish to try.
The final suggestion I have but have no experience with is solar cooking. I hear it’s easy and doesn’t require much of an investment (cardboard box, aluminum foil and something clear to cover the top). I have a friend who is huge into solar cooking so when the sun comes back, she’ll be helping me learn how to make some solar goodies. I’m excited. Anything to learn how to be more self-sufficent.