No-Money Cooking. Boiling Volcano

Denise has once again come to the rescue with some excellent advice on how to prepare and what to eat when the power goes out.

Hi Michael,

 In reference to preparing with no money, this time I’m focusing on food.  Canned, frozen, dehydrated or fresh,

I had no extra money to buy food this particular week.  I took an inventory of my kitchen and pantry.  I asked myself, ” How would I cook the food I currently have if I had no electricity “?  Some options were, open a can and eat it cold (Yuck!), take it out of the freezer and let it thaw (yes, I know the freezer needs electricity to work), open some kind of package like chips or cookies (these are fun food items, not staples) and since some of my survival food is dehydrated, I’d need to boil water to hydrate it so we could eat it.

I quickly took an inventory of heating methods currently available in my own home.  An average family might have these things too, like a barbecue, fireplace, wood burning stove, campfire, instant cook heat and other camping type supplies for heating without electricity.

I thought about these options and how in my own situation I’d apply them to everyday cooking.  I have a few options to fall back on that basically buy me time, like a backup generator, wood burning stove and a propane fueled barbecue.  I say buy me time because eventually the propane and wood will run out.

Like my laundry approach to survival, I keep a close eye on my propane usage.  The propane company can fill my tank up to 85 percent and prefer to refill it when it’s down to 20 or 30 percent.  I fill it back up when it gets to about 50 to 55 percent as I can afford to. This propane tank feeds my house, which is then only used for heat and the backup generator.  I have three other small propane tanks for the barbecue that I keep filled as much as possible.

I also restock my wood at frequent intervals so I’ll have a good supply when the electricity is unavailable. 

As you can see, my thoughts snowballed from checking my current kitchen inventory to keeping propane and wood well supplied.  It is all connected but it can start to become a little overwhelming, so I mentally addressed my heating and cooking issue and refocused on my food situation.

I decided to use the electricity currently available to prepare whatever dish I would make and store.  After checking out what I currently had on hand I decided to do some baking.

I already had all of my baking supplies: flour, sugar, brown sugar, walnuts, some dehydrated fruit, beer, canned pumpkin, baking soda, baking powder, eggs, vanilla and the list goes on.  Most of these items the average person already has on hand.  I had purchased all of these items months, even a year or more ago.  I just don’t bake very often.  I usually bake around the holidays but with my busy schedule I never even thought about making time for it.  Now was the time, and I had all of my resources including electricity.

I decided to make things like:

Cookies (many varieties)
Breads (mostly banana bread)
French toast  –  I took bread that would go bad soon and made my own version of this dish.  I add vanilla, cinnamon and sugar to the recipe so it tastes sweet.  I made several slices and then wrapped them in foil and then put them in freezer bags.  After it’s thawed, this is a tasty dish right out of the freezer.   I also made banana bread french toast.  Same thing, very tasty when thawed.  Syrup or honey are great with this.  Make sure you have some stored.
Beer Bread muffins  –  sounds weird I know but I found a bunch of gourmet beer that my husband never drank and probably never will.  It was a gift.  I addded some dehydrated blueberries and walnuts and they tasted good.  I was surprised and also grateful that beer bread muffins could taste that good.  Again, I wrapped them in foil, then a freezer bag and froze them.  My family and I ate them months later and they were good out of the freezer.  I varied these recipes to include craisins, pecans and other fruits and nuts.  Adding some kind of texture to beer bread muffins makes them taste so much better.
On a side note here, I made beer bread too.  It only tastes good freshly baked.  Taken out of the freezer and thawed, not tasty at all.  This is my opinion of course, someone else might like it.  Condensing that same beer bread recipe into a muffin tin with fruit and nuts makes a big taste difference.

All baked goods taste best freshly baked, but cookies, most breads, french toast and muffins are good choices for freezing and consuming after thaw.  What I like about the french toast is that it also has eggs cooked into it so you get a little extra protein with the carbs.  Again, these are food dishes to supplement what I already have.  It is certainly not a replacement for anything substantial.

These dishes I made from scratch because I was using what I already had on hand.  In the past I’ve also bought muffin mixes, particularly blueberry, and those recipes freeze well too.  Ever buy those huge muffins from Costco?  They freeze well also. 

What I’ve talked about here are ready made foods that would be difficult for me to bake if/when the grid ever goes down.  I know daily life would be more difficult for awhile so I want my food storage to be as easy to use as possible.  Personally, I don’t see the point in keeping so many baking supplies on hand when it would be so difficult to bake under those circumstances.  Now, I have changed my habit so I rotate and replace these foods on a regular basis.  I mentioned that I have a backup generator.  Well, when I have to start using it, it will be used minimally so I can use it as long as possible.  Basically, I want to be able to flush the toilets and run some water.  I won’t be wasting precious propane to bake cookies, I’ll already have them.  We’ll still be camping, just inside our house.

Baking is only one option I’ve addressed here.  There are many options to choose from.  Check out your kitchen and see what you have.  I found myself going thru old cookbooks and I realized early on that I had more food options than I originally thought.  In some cases I only needed one or two more ingredients, which is much cheaper than just going grocery shopping for the week.  In some recipes, you can even substitute what you don’t have for something you do have.  Use your imagination!
Food is a huge motivator for people.  In high stress situations eating a satisfying meal can make a huge difference.  Feeling food deprived will only add to the stress.  Even the perception of food deprivation can bring out negative feelings. 

Remember, as human beings we also have psychological food cravings.  We may find ourselves in the situation where we’ve prepared well and are two months into our food supply.  Even the well balanced meals with plenty of calories to compensate for changed lifestyles may not compensate for the cravings for Oreos or other junk food.  If you’re still in the habit of eating these kinds of foods frequently, you will likely go into some form of withdrawal when they are no longer available.

Compensate now for that.

While I know I’d be grateful for having nutrious foods available, I also know that at some point I’m going to want comfort food (candy or some kind of sweet).  I plan to supplement these comfort foods as a motivator when needed while also paying close attention to their longevity.

 Again, having a stash of cookies or whatever you decide to store, can be a huge mood booster.  I like to think that when supplies run low and we are cooking our food via campfire, being able to open a bag of cookies will take the edge off and maybe even bring a smile. 

Happy preparing,


How To Boil 24 Million Gallons

AP is reporting that “Geothermal energy developers plan to pump 24 million gallons of water into the side of a dormant volcano in Central Oregon this summer to demonstrate new technology they hope will give a boost to a green energy sector that has yet to live up to its promise.

“They hope the water comes back to the surface fast enough and hot enough to create cheap, clean electricity that isn’t dependent on sunny skies or stiff breezes — without shaking the earth and rattling the nerves of nearby residents.

“Even so, the federal government, Google and other investors are interested enough to bet $43 million on the Oregon project.”

Comment: We wish them luck, considering that fracking (fracturing rock by pumping water and chemicals deep into the earth in the search for natural gas) has caused numerous earthquakes elsewhere.

What will happen when 24 million gallons are pumped deep underground alongside a volcano?

Michael Knight
The Portland Preparedness Center.

Give us your feedback – and hints and tips on preparedness to share with others.

Anteros Oberon
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