Monday, September 19, 2011

Alternate Cooking Methods

One of my readers said one of the things that stands in the way of them being fully prepared is alternate methods of cooking.  I have to say, I really am not prepared in that area, except for my backyard grill and a lighter.  Granted we have grill gas and wood, so we could get by. 

But one thing that always bothered me about cooking outside in a dire "poo hit the fan" situation was depicted on an episode of "Dark Angel".  Dark Angel was a television series where an electromagnetic pulse weapon was used in the atmosphere over the United States.  One episode told the story of a family who was prepared for such emergencies.  They had a generator that kept their power going after "the pulse" had turned a nearby town into darkened chaos.  The townspeople thought that the prepared family had somehow done this to them because they still had power and attacked the family, killing them and burning their home. 

Of course, I know this is Hollywood, but have you ever heard the expression, "life imitating art"?  We are talking of mob mentality here.  So, if I am prepared and start cooking my food outside and others don't have means or food, that could leave me and my family vulnerable.  What might I be getting at?  Well, two things.  One, discretion in preparedness and two, pre-cooked food.

So, while we want to help others learn to be more self-sustaining, we need to be discreet and not publish what we have all over the Internet and TV.

Also, after a stint of ice storms that took out our electricity and we lost a lot of food in a huge freezer, we decided we didn't want to rely on electricity to preserve our food.  And, if we pre-cook our food, we can just open a jar and eat it cold in a real "poo hit the fan situation".  Not the most ideal, but definitely doable.  So, we learned to preserve meat by canning.

Let me say that you need to follow ALL safety precautions and check with your local extension office for the correct way to can food in your area.  Here is a video my husband and I did on canning ground beef.  Remember, do not do this at home unless you contact your extension office for the proper proceduresCanning meat can be deadly if done improperly.  In fact, your local extension agent may not recommend canning ground beef, but you can use the same method for canning beef chunks or roast.  BE SURE TO FOLLOW YOUR AGENT'S INSTRUCTIONS OR YOU CAN END UP POISONED.    

We also did a series on home butchered and canned chicken.   You can view it on my channel here.

The extension office recommends that you heat the canned jar contents for 15 minutes after you open them and before you consume them.  In a normal situation, you would do so.  I am speaking of using this in times when you don't have an alternate method of cooking. 

My friend, Marianna Bailey has uploaded a wonderful document to her Facebook page about alternate means of cooking.  I don't think anyone can access the page unless they are part of the group, so I will post her document here.  It is vital information and I thank Marianna for sharing it.  She has a great group called "Prepare with Me".  I love it.  You should join it. 

Here is the document, if you can access it:  Cooking Without Electric.  If not, I have posted it below, in it's entirety.  It is more information than I have ever seen compiled on the subject.

Kylene Jones said there are a few basic principles that apply to cooking without electricity.
• Conserve fuel so you don't need a lot
• Plan to be able to cook indoors and out, in the home or evacuated, in cold and hot weather
• Remember, any flame can produce carbon monoxide — the cooking area must be well ventilated

Different emergencies will require different things.
Kylene Jones said she likes canned heat for basic cooking because it lights easily, burns hot and she can simply take away a can to lower the cooking temperature.
She said Coleman fuel or white gas is very effective but also very dangerous and must be stored out of the house. 
Kerosene must be used with great caution but requires very little oxygen.
Propane has an indefinite shelf life but homeowners may only keep up to five of the 20-lb. containers. If the propane leaks, it lingers and will explode at a spark or flame.
Butane stoves are lightweight but won't work well in cold weather.
Charcoal briquettes are easy to use and inexpensive but should never be burned indoors.

Observe Fire Safety Rules (from
• Do not bring a gas grill or stove inside, as this can cause toxic fumes and vapors to build up in your home, and is also a fire hazard.
• Do not build a fire or light a grill close to your home or garage.
• Leave plenty of space so sparks don’t fly off and ignite something you want to keep.
• If you cook on a wood stove, keep small children clear of it at all times.
• Never use gasoline to start a wood or charcoal fire; it can explode and burn anyone nearby severely.

(the following info. taken from government site:
There are 91,200 BTUs in a gallon of propane - times a 4 gallon bottle = 364,800 BTUs in a 20 lb tank. Take 364,800 and divide it by your burner’s BTU rating to figure how many hours you can run your burner on High. If you turn the burners down, you can extend that time a bit.  Normally you won't be cooking with it on full heat.

Under normal usage, one can (16.4 oz. Coleman Propane Cylinder) will burn about one hour.  When using the one burner “Perfect Flow Stove” from Coleman, which attaches to the top of the cylinder, one can will last 2 hours on high or 4.5 hours on low. This type of stove works well for heating small pans of food or water only. Heavier pans must be hooked up to a larger camping stove or a single burner stove that rests on a flat surface.

Charcoal goes on sale for the best prices of the year around Memorial  Day and Labor Day. The last two years sales prices have been about $4 per bag (16 lbs - 20 lbs).  Kingsford Original Brand (not matchlight) burn hotter, longer.

More Great Websites for Cooking without Electricity and MORE:

For Recipes and Other Preparedness:

Alternatives to Electric Appliances: (list from:
(Google or search the above website for specifics on these)

Alcohol Stoves
Apples Box Oven
Camp Stoves (liquid fuel)
Canned Heat
Dutch Oven
Hay Box
Kerosene Stoves
MRE Heaters
Paperbox Oven
Portable Grill
Pressure Cooker
Propane Stoves
Solar Ovens
Thermos Cooking
Volcano Stove
Wood Cook Stoves

For Volcano Stoves:

-Use 3 different kinds of fuel
-Use less fuel
-Compact and outside of stove stays cool to the touch

For Rocket Stoves printed picture instructions:

-Search Rocket Stove in a #10 Can

Rocket Stove Videos:

-Search “Best Rocket Stove Design Ever”
-Over 100 Preparedness Videos posted by our own Bro. Gillmore

Alternative Cooking Methods

Dutch Oven Cooking: Cooking techniques such as roasting, baking simmering, stewing, frying, boiling, steaming, and many others are easily done on the campfire with only a single utensil, the dutch oven. Think of the possibilities, delicious fresh baked bread that will rise up and lift the lid, cobblers made from berries picked fresh at the campsite, incredible deep-dish pizzas, stews, quiches that melt in your mouth, Cornish game hens roasted to perfection, and imagine a chocolate cake a foot in diameter. These and many, many more are very possible and sometimes easier than they are at home. With very few exceptions, I have been able to duplicate my home recipes on the campfire using the dutch oven. Check out this website for a complete book about Dutch Oven cooking, with recipes included: 

Rocket Stove: Why? – Rocket Stoves are:

Fuel Efficient: Because they direct all the heat energy (from the flames) upward, most of the heat actually goes into heating the food, rather than being radiated outward (like most campfires). Instruction for a rocket stove:
Rocket_Stove_In_A_Number_10_Can. Here's a variation:

Here's another one:

Volcano Stove: Volcano II Collapsible Stove. You will love the versatility of this stove. The Volcano II Collapsible Stove works great with many different methods of cooking and three different fuels. Use this collapsible stove for your cookouts, camping, or emergency cooking. 

• Tri-fuel Stove: The Volcano II Collapsible Stove uses Charcoal, Wood, or Propane*. Changes easily between each of the fuel sources.
• Versatile Cooking Options: Grill right on the stove, or use a skillet, griddle, pot, or wok. Also great for 10-12” Dutch ovens!
• Patented Heat Chamber: Cook a meal with as few as 12 briquettes. 15-20 lb bags of charcoal can be enough for 1 hot meal a day for a year (we recommend storing the charcoal in sealed plastic buckets to protect from moisture). • Double Wall Construction: The Volcano II Collapsible Stove minimizes heat transfer.  Much safer for small children.
• Collapsible: Collapses to only 5.5” tall for easy storage. Comes with a storage bag.

*Propane attachment included in combo or sold separately. Works only with 20 lb tanks.

Solar Ovens: Solar cooking requires only your oven and a sunny day. Brightness of the day, and not outside air temperature is the most important factor. Solar cooking entails a few basic principles; reflection, concentration, the green house effect and absorption. Solar ovens have properly arranged reflective inner walls to direct and concentrate the sun's energy on the dark pot or dark bottom tray. A clear covering lets in solar heat, but prevents most of it from escaping, producing a green house effect. You know how hot the inside of your car gets in the summer sun, your black pot is similar to the dark upholstery that gets too hot to touch by the process of heat absorption. Sun Sport Solar Oven Sun Ovens Want to make your own solar oven:

Butane Stove: Another usable fuel for cooking... Can be used inside in a well vented area.

Wonder Box: or

Fuel: Insta-Fire is a safe, simple, and versatile new fire starting product. It has water-repellent properties, a fiffteen minute burn time and a thirty year shelf life. Use it to light campfires, prepare charcoal briquettes, or as a safe and reliable fuel source for cooking or heating in emergency situations.

Fired Up: Similar to Insta-Fire but at a different price. Comes in two sizes...!%E2%84%A2%20Emergency%20Fuel%20&%20Firestarter%20IN-A-BUCKET%20-%2013%20lbs

Magnesium Fire Starter: In survival situations, you'll want this simple, compact magnesium fire starter with you at all times to get a fire going even in damp weather. The magnesium fire starter is a small block of magnesium that is waterproof and fireproof in its solid form. Scrape some shavings and then strike the firesteel built into the starter to ignite the shavings. The fire generated is extremely hot and will ignite even damp kindling. Compact size – fits in a pocket - Comes with a striker -

Built-in fire steel for sparking. Harbor Tools has the best price...


Well, my Prepared Household, that should get you started on alternative methods of cooking.  All links are live, just click on them to access the page. 

What do you have in your storage for alternative methods of cooking?  Have you tried or tested them?  What works for you?  Please share.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Make Your Own Cleaning Supplies

I attended a workshop this past weekend that taught us the art of making lye soap and laundry detergent at home for pennies.  There are many times where we can make our own cleaning supplies and save money.  These processes are also green.  So our children and the Earth will thank us too.

Making Lye Soap

The biggest problem with making lye soap is finding the lye to make it with.  Other than that, the process seemed relatively straight forward and easy.  Just  be sure to wear protective clothing.  Here are the instructions for making lye soap:

Jennifer's Lard Soap
1 4lb bucket of lard
8.4 oz lye
20 oz water
2 oz of fragrance oil (optional)
Vinegar (This is precautionary.  Should you get the lye on you at any point, simply use the vinegar to neutralize the burn.)

You will need a scale, pans, measuring cups, stick blender, plastic stirring spoons, two thermometers, molds, goggles, apron, gloves and white vinegar.  Use these items only in your soap making and should never be used in cooking again.  Be sure to wear long sleeves, pants, apron, goggles and gloves.  You should have a healthy respect for this process as you can get burned.  Lye is extremely caustic.  Carefully pour your lye into your water.  NEVER, let me repeat that, NEVER pour water in the lye.  You will get a volcanic eruption.  This is dangerous.)  If possible, do this mixing outside.  The fumes are unpleasant and not safe to breathe.  As you add the lye to the water, stir constantly until the water clears.  At this point, you can take the temperature and it will be extremely hot.

Measure the lard and add it to a pot.  Place on direct heat and melt on low.  Prepare any molds you may have.  Jennifer uses Pringles potato chip cans.  Lay newspapers on the counter.  Check the temps of the lye and lard.  Sometimes you can cool the lye faster by placing the container in a tub of ice water.  When both the lard and the lye are 110 degrees, using your gloves and goggles, slowly pour the lye into the lard while you stir with a plastic spoon.  When it has been completely added, begin using the stick blender to stir. 

(I have to add that at this point, we can smell the soap.  It has a naturally good "soap" smell.  I don't know how, as it is lard and lye, but it smells like a plain soap being mixed.  The end result has a good clean smell too.  I wish I could let you smell it.)

Stir the soap until it traces.  At first, your soap will look like a think pudding,  As you stir, it will thicken.  Be sure to continue to stir, but rest your stick blender motor so it will cool and not burn up.  When the mixture looks creamy and mixed together and just starts to lightly trace, you can add fragrances and additives such as honey or oatmeal.  Continue to stir.  If you just want plain soap, continue to stir until you see the drizzled soap stay on top the mixture for a few seconds before folding in.  This is tracing.  It is now time to pour into the molds.  Jennifer pours it into three Pringles cans.  This recipe makes two completely full and one partial.  Place the cans in an area where they will not be disturbed for at least 24 hours.  Wrap them with old towels.  This is a necessary step for the soap making process.  Your molds will get very hot due to the chemical reaction that is taking place.  This chemical reaction is called saponification and it is turning the lye and lard into soap.

After 24 hours check on your soap.  If it is very soft, let it set for another day or so.  When it is ready, remove it from the molds.  If you use pringles cans, you can just peel the can off carefully, so as not to damage the soap.  Let it sit another day and then cut into bars.  Put the cut bars of soap on a cooling rack or lined shelf.  It needs to cure.  At this point, the lye content is only 90%, but will need to cure for 4 - 6 weeks for the last 10% to evaporate.  You need to turn the soap halfway through the drying process-probably at about 2 - 4 weeks, or it will discolor.
Jennifer's Lard Soap.  Feels so creamy and smells so good.
Jennifer sells her lye soap.  If anyone is interested in purchasing, please let me know and I will get you her contact information.

Make Your Own Laundry Soap

Photo courtesy of
Liquid recipe

1 small bucket with a lid (2 - 5 gallon buckets will work)
1/3 bar of Fels Naptha Soap or 1 bar of Ivory soap
1/2 Cup Borax powder
1/2 Cup Arm & Hammer Washing Soda
2 gallons water

Grate the soap and put it in a saucepan.  Add 6 cups of water and heat until the soap melts.  Add the washing soda and the borax and stir until dissolved.  Remove from the heat and pour 4 cups of hot water into the bucket.  Now add the soap mixture and stir.  Add another gallon of water plus six cups into the bucket with the soap mixture and stir.  Let the soap sit overnight and it will gel.  Use 1/2 cup per wash load for a normal wash.  

Just remember that this will have the consistency of egg drop soup.  It is also low sudsing, so you won't see a lot of suds.  But don't worry, it is the ingredients that cleans the clothes, not the suds.  

Jennifer told us that she adds Purex 2 color safe bleach when washing dirty work clothes to boost the cleaning power.  It is only $1.97 a box at the big box stores, which is cheaper than Clorox 2.

So how do the numbers add up?  Is it really cheaper to make your own?  Jennifer says it is.  Here, the cost of making the above recipe is .68 cents or about .02 cents per load.  Two gallons will give you enough to wash 64 loads.  Liquid Tide 64 load is $12.47 or .19 per load.  Gain 63 load is $11.97 or .18 cents per load.
Powdered recipe

Rebecca, who knows the chemical processes in these ingredients, showed us a powdered version.

1 bar of Ivory soap or 1/3 bar Fels Naptha
1 Cup Borax powder
1 Cup Arm & Hammer Washing Soda

Finely grate the soap.  Add the borax and washing soda.  Mix in a canister with a lid and use approximately a teaspoon  per load.  Double that amount for hard or iron water.

Photo courtesy of
Other cleaning

Use vinegar as a fabric softener.  It will take away those off smells and soften your clothes. 

Use baking soda and vinegar for your drains.  Put baking soda in all your drains and toilet.  Add white vinegar.  Follow with boiling hot water to clean out your drains.  I haven't tried this yet, but plan to soon.

There are tons of other recipes for making your own cleaning products.  What do you use to clean?  What are your secrets?  Please share. 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering 911

September 11, 2001 is a day that will forever live in my memory. As the song echoes in my mind asking the question “Have you forgotten, how it felt that day?” I say a resounding "No!"  I will never forget.

Surreal images flicker in my mind of the first plane that hit the tower. And then, when the second plane hit the second tower, I awoke from the naive place I had always lived to the truth of the world we live in.  I was at home sick that day.  So, I saw the images live on TV.  Shocked, I watched as a woman from another country danced, shouted and praised those cowardly, evil deeds and subsequently my perception of the world and the people in it, was forever changed. I realized I did not live in a world that was safe and secure, but one that held dark secrets. Before that time, I had no idea how hated I was because I was an American. And it would take years before I realized the true implications.

Our President declared "War on Terrorism".  A few short years later, he declared war on Iraq. My first thoughts had been to just leave Iraq alone. We should take care of things at home. I still believe things need addressed at home. But there is an indelible image engraved in my mind as I watched footage of a war-torn Iraq. A man running down the debris littered street suddenly turned to the camera and waved. In broken English he gleefully shouted “Thank you Mr. Bush.” And then turned and ran away. Again, I was awakened…if but just a little more.

I won’t pretend that I am the most politically correct or most politically minded person on the planet, probably the farthest from it. However, I realized that day that our brothers and sisters in this world who are citizens of Iraq and other countries needed a hero too. Someone to save them from the tyranny and evil that gripped their world. How lucky we are to call America home. We have so many freedoms; even the freedom to complain about and ridicule our leaders without fear of any real repercussions.

Our world has drastically changed since that time.  Gas prices have more than trippled.  Food prices are so high, some are going without food.  More and more people are losing their homes and becoming "homeless".  We have greater need to prepare today than we have ever.  I feel an urgency to prepare for life's storms now!  But in a calm and orderly manner. 

So, let's honor our lost, our heroes and our Country.  God Bless America! 

If you get the chance to do so, please enter your comments below.  Share with me your thoughts on 911 and our lives since then.

Creative Food Storage...Storage

Okay, I admit it.  I have pantry envy.  You go online and google food storage or pantry, you will see image after image of neatly placed rows of foods on shelves.  So many ideas, it makes one envious and wish they had that organized and fully stocked food and emergency supplies storage.  Wouldn't it be "the bomb" if we could grab one of those hand held shopping baskets and "shop" for items in our own basement to stock the kitchen pantry.   Like photos on Google Images, I wish I had a basement grocery store, with aisle after aisle of foods, water and other emergency supplies.  Ahhhh. 
Photo courtesy of Robin's Roost
Okaaaayyy.  Back to reality.  And the reality of it is that to some of us, one of the obstacles in the path of food storage is space.  No place to store food or other emergency items.  Do you feel like you are a prime candidate for an episode of Hoarders?  Is every room in your house crowded with bags, boxes and piles of food towering over you to the point that you wonder if one day it will all implode and you will be lost in the debris? 

Have no fear, I have a few suggestions.  Not having had time to take actual photos, I checked the Internet for photos to illustrate my points. 
Photo courtesy of
I purchased a set of bed risers from Walmart.  (But you can find them anywhere.)  It lifts up the bed about six inches and gives you room for storage underneath.  Some food storage items have a long shelf life.  Simply tuck them  under the bed and be sure to record what you have under there in your food storage inventory book with expiration dates.  That way, you will know what is there and when it expires. 

Photo courtesy of  A Matter of Preparedness

In my Internet search, I ran across a great blog called A Matter of Preparedness.  She has a couple of entries on storage in small places, as well as other preparedness ideas.  In her entry, she says that she stores 104 #10 cans under a queen size bed.  You could get more under a king size, but you would require a couple of extra risers.  Please visit her site and enjoy. 

Another idea in creative food storage storage is to utilize underneath coffee tables, end tables, sewing machines, etc.  Store your boxes under the tables and drape a coordinating cloth over it.  There you have it, easily disguised storage.  Another cool blog, Prepared NOT Scared goes one step further to create an entire nightstand table out of food storage.  See the image below and read about it here

Photo courtesy of Prepared NOT Scared

One of my favorite ideas on water storage is a Youtube video from LowBuckPrepper where he displays his wall of water.
Using 2-liter bottles as storage is simple.  As you empty one, fill it up with water and stack it on the wall.  You should store at least one gallon of water per person per day.  Two 2-liter bottles is approximately equal to one gallon.  If my calculations are correct, that is twenty-eight bottles per person for two weeks.  LowBuckPrepper has enough water stored for nearly four people for two weeks.  Storing it against a wall, makes it a lot easier than stacking boxes.  I think this idea is ingenious. 

Here is another great idea.  A self-rotating can rack that doubles as a buffet-style table behind your couch.

Be sure to check out this great blog with lots of great ideas:

I once stored things behind the curve of a sectional couch. There was a ton of room between the wall and the couch.

Now, get your creative juices stirring and see where you can reclaim precious space to store the items you need.  Under or behind a couch?  What are your creative food storage storage solutions?  Share!