Cooking Off the Grid Post Collapse
This picture makes me Hungry!

Cooking and canning go hand in hand when it comes to being prepared, cooking is a part of all of our daily lives. Some may be good at it, while others need more practice. With lots of practice, you can hone your cooking skills into cooking as a prepper.

When cooking, there are items you need for any recipe you are creating for it to turn out correctly. There isn’t really any difference in prepping and cooking. Before you cook, you prep.  The difference comes in the planning.

Cooking in a post collapse situation can create a sense of familiarity, peace, and comfort. But depending on the situation, how you go about cooking might change a little bit if we are off the grid. Thinking outside of the box is helpful when it comes to cooking.  There are different ways to cook outside of using the standard oven and microwave so many of us take for granted will always be there, and look at it as the only option. So let’s say your electricity is out, or your stove and microwave are no longer working, what would you do? Here are some options:

1. Solar Ovens

A solar oven is just what its name implies. An oven uses the energy of the sun to bake or cook food. There are many different versions that you can purchase, however, it is possible to build your own as well.

Materials needed:

  • A reflective accordion-folding car sunshade.
  • A Cake rack (or wire frame or grill rack)
  • 6 inches of self-adhesive backed Velcro.
  • Dutch oven (cast iron)
  • Plastic tote or basket (even a plastic trash can)
  • A large clear plastic baking bag.

Lay the sunshade out with the notched side toward you, then cut the Velcro into three pieces, each about 2 inches long.

Evenly space your Velcro, onto the edge to the left of the notch (at the middle of the sun shade); and attach the matching half of each piece onto the underneath size to the right of the notch, so that they fit together when the two sides are brought together to form a funnel. You don’t have to use the self-adhesive Velcro, you could use craft glue if you only have plain Velcro, just make sure it is attached really good.

Press the Velcro pieces together, and set the funnel on top of a bucket or a round or rectangular plastic wastebasket.

Place your Dutch oven on top of a square cake rack, placed inside a plastic baking bag.  A standard size rack is about ten inches.  This is placed inside the funnel, so that the rack rests on the top edges of the bucket or wastebasket.  Since the sunshade material is soft and flexible, the rack is necessary to support the pot.  It also allows the rays of the sun to shine down under the pot and reflect on all sides.  The funnel can be tilted in the direction of the sun.

If it is windy, you can place a stick across from one side of the funnel to the other to help keep it stable and open. With the weight of the cast iron Dutch oven you should not have to worry about it blowing over, even if it is windy.

When you’re done cooking, all you have to do is fold up your ‘oven’ and slip it into the trash can along with your rack and store it away until you need to use it again.

This little oven is practical and easy to use. It will not cook as fast as your conventional oven would, but if you don’t have a stove for whatever reason, this will work in a pinch!

So far with a little practice, and a lot of sun, I have gotten my solar oven up to 375 degrees. This may be due to our elevation, and the amount of sun we get, but it does work. I have cooked beans, scalloped potatoes, brownies, vegetables and even boil water.

The sunshade may not be available everywhere, but you can always find them on the internet. The Velcro is available at dollar or fabric stores and of course, online.  Cost of the sunshade was about $5.00(I found mine on eBay for $4.35 and free shipping) and the Velcro about $.75, the cooking bag is a plastic bag, which I got for about $.50.  So for less than ten dollars, you have created your own oven that uses no electricity.

2. Camp stove

Camp stoves are great, you can use them in place of a regular stove, as long as you have the fuel source. These little stoves can always be found at yard sales for around ten dollars. I have run across them at thrift stores as well. If you are not able to find one in your area, you can purchase them new for around seventy dollars, but too me that seems like a waste of my money, and my limited budget for prepping.

It’s better to save money by spending a little extra time searching for the great deal. The bottles of fuel run about two dollars and last a long time, well worth investing in. You can also make your own camp stove using a little ingenuity and a aluminum water bottle.

3. Backyard grill

Don’t overlook your trusty grill! Most people have grills, whether they are propane or charcoal, a grill is a grill! Use your grill just as you would your stove top for cooking food, boiling water, and of course grilling your meat. (Remember to keep it outside of course.)

And almost any food can be cooked over the grill wrapped in aluminum foil, fruits, vegetables, and meats. It will also keep your grill cleaner, and no grease for you to clean up off the grill!

4. Fireplace/Wood burning Stove Insert

Don’t forget your fireplace, if it’s wood burning. Start a fire, and cook right in the fire. Wrap up your food in aluminum foil, and place it in the fire. You can also place on top of the grate in the fireplace.

Another option is if you have a wood burning stove insert. These are great! The not only create heat, but the top can serve as a cook top as well. If you have a fireplace that you are able to put a wood burning stove insert into, you can find them on Craigslist for cheap, sometimes even free, if you have the muscle to help you get it home.

Cast iron pots, frying pans, tortilla pans, and Dutch ovens are great items to search for at the thrift stores and yard sales. Yes, of course you can buy them online, but why? You can find them all over the place for cheap.

5. Solar Water Lens

Although not as practical as some of the other cooking applications, this could be one worth looking into depending on what area of the world you live in, and at what time of day you are going to be cooking. But basically, you create a disk with water in plastic (clear) that has been rigged up so the water forms a “bowl” or lens. Think about it like this, when you were a kid, did you ever pick up a magnifying glass and burn ants?

This is the same principle that the “Aqua Lens” uses to cook food. The sun’s rays are intensified through the “lens”, and whatever is below it, gets cooked.

It is not possible to cook your meals like this, however, the sun needs to be overhead for a longer period of time, so if you are closer to the equator, you will have more success than if you were in the far northern United States. And although it may not be a great option, it is an option, and worth looking into. This isn’t for everyone, but it is an option that you could cook with, if you have the time to create the giant lens.

There are a lot of videos on YouTube, and more information on the internet if this is something you would like to try.

6. Volcano Grill (Stove)

This stove is the coolest thing I have ever seen! The Volcano stove is a product that uses three different types of fuel sources. It can be used with propane, charcoal or wood. This stove is lightweight and versatile making it a great alternative way to cook.

With the multiple options for fuel sources, this little stove can be used in many different ways. The stove is collapsible, making it easier to pack up and move, or just keep it stored until you are ready to use it.   You can cook directly on it, like a grill, or you can use pans, like a stovetop, or you can cook in a Dutch oven, utilizing it like an oven.

These stoves are a great option, and are a little expensive in my opinion, but it would be a good investment that would pay for itself in times of need. At the time of writing this I found it online for $169.99, and that includes a propane attachment on eBay. Emergency Essentials website has it for $195.00 including shipping. It is helpful to know that the places I found to purchase this stove offer the propane tank attachments for five gallon tanks. If you want to use the smaller 1 pound tanks, you will have to purchase an adapter separately.

7.  Rocket Stove

Rocket stoves are pretty interesting. Not only could you use it for cooking, but you could use it as a heat source as well. A rocket stove uses small wood fuel which is burned in a simple high-temperature combustion chamber containing a vertical chimney and a secondary air supply which ensures almost complete combustion prior to the flames reaching the cooking surface.

You can purchase these stoves online and the best price I have found was on Amazon for $160.00. Or, if you are handy, you can make one too. Unfortunately, I am not that gifted when it comes to making something like this, so I would rather leave the hard work to someone who really knows what they are doing in constructing something like this.

8. Charcoal Fire Pit

This is easy, and can be created in your backyard. If you are thrifty, you may be able to build this for less than $50.00. Basically a fire pit that you have created by digging a wide fire box area, so dig down about 8 inches, and line the pit with bricks, the floor (base) as well as the walls. Then, around the upper edge, place bricks all around it, lying flat, and do this with two to three rows of brick.

And now you have created a pit you can not only cook in using charcoal, but you could use it for a wood fire as well. I like to use charcoal in mine, because it is easy to use, the bricks heat up and help to keep the heat in the deeper ‘box’, which works great for doing some Dutch Oven cooking in. I like the wide brick base around it to help keep the area well marked, and cleared of debris, so people know this is a fire area. We don’t get to use it very often because we have had such a high fire risk lately, but I am happy we made it.

Think of Other Alternatives

There are other alternatives, such as cooking over an open fire, (which you could do if you have a fire pit in your backyard and you are allowed to do so.) there are alternatives to using electricity to heat your dinner, it’s just a matter of using what you have, and using your imagination to figure it out. The best reward though is being able to provide hot meals for your family.

However, if you are in a post collapse situation where there is no electricity, and the neighbors are hungry as well, remember you will have to try and disguise your cooking. Which leads to our next area;

Keep in mind when considering how you are going to be able to cook after the SHTF. These aren’t just things to think about, but things you can and should be practicing now. By learning different skills, not only are you preparing your skills, but you are making yourself a valuable asset for your family or your group.

Try alternative cooking methods, like a Dutch oven, a solar oven, or creating a fire pit. If you have a wood burning stove insert or free standing, cook on top of it, and even inside. Practice makes perfect, and the more practice you have, the better you will become not only with your cooking, but also your ability to camouflage your cooking.

In times of need, you have options. Keep that in mind if you are presented with an emergency situation. The more you practice these alternative methods, the better prepared you will be when an actually emergency is thrown in your face.


As a registered nurse, a mother of 5 and Dale's wife I post on this website from time to time about what I know and love, Preparing my family to survive any sort of unforeseen situations. Most of my articles will probably be based on medical needs and prepping techniques, but you never know, I may surprise you every now and then.

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