Cooking Food After the SHTF – It’s NOT Optional

It can be easy to lose sight of the basics as a prepper. You get to worrying about how many beans and bullets you have, and it can be easy to forget about things like how you’ll cook those beans. Remember, most SHTF scenarios are things you can survive.  Some will be short enough that you can skate through on meal replacement bars, canned fruit and water. For anything longer than a few days though, you’ll want to consider a way to cook some hot food. Cooking is crucial to our diets. It helps us digest food without expending huge amounts of energy. TEOTWAWKI is not the time for a raw diet.

Morale - Cooking a hot meal can also be a good morale booster. Whether it’s a simple pot of oatmeal or a soup full of dried veggies and meat, it doesn’t have to be complicated to raise spirits.  I carry oatmealspaghetti makings in our bug out bags. Raisins and cinnamon already mixed in the measured out oats, just add boiling water.   For bigger groups there are freeze-dried meals that can cover quite a crowd. I have one can that will feed 10 people  spaghetti with meat sauce with the quick addition of boiling water.

Basic - Really basic, can you boil water? That should be your starting point for this one. Make sure you have a way to boil water. Bug out, bug in, power on or grid down. Hot drinks, safe drinking water, simple meals and the freeze dried ready-to-eat meals all need boiled water. You can get pretty far with just boiling water, days and days if you plan your food storage right. Think this one through carefully though. You may have to boil water in your house, basement bug in for radiation events come to mind. You may have to boil water in a temporary refugee type situation, maybe you’re camped out at a state park waiting for flood water to recede so you can go home. You may have to boil water for weeks on end with no warning, say your friendly local chemical dealer lets a couple of tanks leak into your county’s water supply.  So you want something that can handle most of those situations, or maybe a couple of somethings that together can cover all the scenarios. My solution was a Kelly Kettle.  It’s a basic rocket stove design. Very sturdy, very safe, light weight. Runs on twigs and pinecones, which I have a lot of.  I don’t have to balance anything on top of it because the whole kettle fills with water.

Safe Meat -For longer SHTF type events you may need the ability to cook up meat. Hunting prizes or raised livestock or just freezer meat that has to be cooked before they rot because power is down.  Of course a basic stick over a fire can get you some cooked meat, it’s not terribly efficient though. A grill or a way to bake the meat bbq style, either would work better. Meat can also go into the boiling water mentioned above, soups and stews are very efficient if you need to get every last calorie you can.

Vegetables – Even garden goodness occasionally needs some cooking to be at max nutritional value.  Cooked carrots, spinach, mushrooms, asparagus, cabbage, peppers and many other vegetables supply more antioxidants, such as carotenoids, to the body than they do when raw. Boil or steam them for maximum benefits. Lycopene also increases in availability for us after cooking. Gentlemen, if you don’t know why you need Lycopene, give it a quick Google search.

Cooking for a crowd – The last thing I can think about to say on this one, is plan to cook meals to a bit bigger than normal. (And yes, I’m implying that your normal should be a cooked meal.) Whether you are feeding an elderly neighbor, or your brother-in-law is on your couch with his family in your guest bedroom, times of hardship will necessitate people coming together. Make sure you have a large pot and a couple of large pans. And that your cooking/stove setup can handle the weight of those.

What are your plans for grid down survival cooking? Do you get a lot of practice with it? Where do you think your weak spots are?  Shout out in the comments!

- Calamity Jane
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  • Chuck Findlay June 28, 2014, 12:15 am

    The best way to prep for cooking in a grid-down situation is to go tent camping. Tent camping puts you close to nature in a way that trailer camping doesn’t. It’s a good idea to also get a camp stove that runs on wood so you can have free fuel. I have numerous stoves and several of them are homemade wood burning ones. You can make a simple Hobo stove out of a V-8 can or make a more complicated Woodgas stove. Or you can buy a wood stove for $15.00 and up. Search Amazon for listing of a lot of them. You can also make alcohol stoves out of things you throw away and these alcohol stoves work well, they are real stoves that people use every day. But for long-term grid-down (and free stove fuel) it’s hard to do better then a wood stove. And don’t forget the first wood stove invented (discovered?) people have been using for thousands of years, the campfire.

    Tent camping teaches you all kinds of survival skills that would be handy to know if a situation ever happened. Also it’s fun to do and kids love camping and will learn valuable things that could potentially save their life.

    Reply
  • irishdutchuncle June 28, 2014, 1:14 pm

    CJ: very well thought out, as always.
    a certain disgraced celebrity chef had a nice line of cookware, now available at bargain prices…
    time to buy and stash some. (especially the cast iron types)

    Reply
  • Steve suffering in nj June 28, 2014, 9:32 pm

    For cooking on the move I highly recomend a MSR pocket rocket stove. Boils water/ soup very quickly. Easily heats a stainless water bottle to a boil for ramen noodles or coffee.
    I’ve even cooked pork chops with it. Have a small cast iron skillet I placed on top of the burner. Gas is a little pricy about 6 bucks a tank. However it burns VERY hot. The gas goes much further than you would expect. It’s very quick and convinient when powers out too.

    My other option is a cast iron BBQ grill. It’s intended for charcoal but works great with small sticks etc. Gas for the rocket stove will eventually run out.

    http://m.rei.com/product/660163/msr-pocket-rocket-backpacking-stove

    Reply
  • Steve suffering in nj June 28, 2014, 9:46 pm

    And here’s a link for the cast iron BBQ grill.
    Highly recomend this product.

    http://www.bargainoutfitters.com/net/cb/lodge-sportsmans-grill.aspx?a=363704

    Reply
  • Missy June 29, 2014, 7:41 pm

    “I have one can that will feed 10 people spaghetti with meat sauce with the quick addition of boiling water.”

    Of those ten people how many do you think would consider themselves “fed” after eating one cup of spaghetti at 230 calories and 550 mg of sodium?

    Reply
    • Calamity Jane June 30, 2014, 12:49 pm

      LOL probably none of them, but it would have to be a dark day for my fridge to be bare of basic salad and side fixings.
      The cup of spaghetti would be the hot comfort food portion of the plate of food.
      With a side salad and a slice of our daily bread, or some flat bread whipped up on the spot, it would suffice to stabilize most people.
      Good point to keep in mind though.

      Reply
    • JayJay June 30, 2014, 1:54 pm

      This is why I have bought no preparation foods online from any companies.
      I stick to canned goods from groceries.
      Long term?? I’m 64 and husband 66; not really interested in 25 year long-term.
      How hard can it be to boil water and insert pasta—so many ways to use, like pasta salad. And all those ingredients can be dehydrated( onions, green peppers, and tomatoes). or stored canned like olives.

      Reply
  • William Davis June 29, 2014, 10:40 pm

    We have hobo stoves, dutch ovens, propane camp stoves, etc… Use them a lot…

    Reply
  • Chuck Findlay June 30, 2014, 1:55 am

    A person can never have too many stoves…

    Reply
    • irishdutchuncle June 30, 2014, 3:37 am

      (… unless he or she has to bug out)

      Reply
      • Calamity Jane June 30, 2014, 12:58 pm

        That’s why you need a good heavy duty stove for bug in, and a good light weight one for bug out.

        Reply
  • Leon June 30, 2014, 10:17 am

    I have Dutch ovens, propane stoves, biomass stoves and all the gear needed to cook off grid. I completely agree: Hot food is a definite morale booster: http://www.survivalcommonsense.com/survival-food-wwii-morale-boosterfeed/
    Here’s a story from World War II my dad told about food and its impact on morale: http://www.survivalcommonsense.com/chicken-dinnerfeed/
    I also think survival recipes, those that can be cooked quickly and easily using off-grid methods are survival tools and should be in your gear!
    Leon

    Reply
  • Cee June 30, 2014, 8:46 pm

    I bought three dutch ovens and store many bags of charcol in an airconditioned room. I have a propane Colman stove with a converter to operate off 20# grill bottles. I keep 4 in storage and one in my grill. I replace it when it is used up. I also have three of the old type camp stoves we inherited from our parents and ten gallens of white gas still sealed in the metal containers. I also bought a single burner colman stove off eBay a few years back along with some Colman camp lanturns they also work off white gas. We have tried them all and will probably start out using the two burner Colman stove hooked up to a 20# bottle. I bought a seven foot long hose for it at Lowes. All of these items are quite cheap if you get them now. Especially if you can find them at a garage sale, Ebay, or Criag’s list. Many of these items I paid ten dollars for used. It also helps to practice with these items. Like go camping and use a stove to cook your meals and perk your coffee with the old fashioned perkalator pot. I bought a Colman cooler that runs off your car battery and cools the inside 40 degrees cooler than the outside temp for ten at a garage sale.

    Reply
  • Chuck Findlay July 1, 2014, 1:46 am

    I gave up on Coleman stoves (The Coleman fueled ones) as I got tired of putting generators in them.

    The best camp stove I have is the Svea 123. It’s 35-years old and still going strong. And it’s never burned a drop of Coleman fuel, only gasoline.

    I do have a green Coleman stove that runs on propane, I bought it at a garage sale 20-years ago for $1.50. it works great and my camp oven sits on top of it well so I can bake things when camping.

    Reply
    • Cee July 2, 2014, 7:26 am

      Chuck Finley,
      The three stoves I have are from the 50′s and sixties. Perhaps they still made them with quality parts back then. I also have a single burner stove I bought on Ebay for ten dollars. It was also made in that ancient time before China. When I was was growing up in the fifties my parents would go out west for 4-6 weeks at a time and every meal was made on the Colman camp stove using white gas. Never had a failure. I strongly suspect your problem is due to the China syndom.

      Reply
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