Cooking Off the Grid

People have to eat and water has to be safe to drink no matter what.  A lot of preppers are planning to use propane, butane, and kerosene fuels for these uses in case of emergencies, natural disasters or the end of the world, and that’s smart.  Longer term planning, though, raises the question, “What do I do when the fuel runs out?”  It’s very easy to imagine shortages of all fuels, including gasoline and diesel, even as a temporary condition.  As another alternative, I suggest giving some thought to how you’ll prepare food and heat water without any liquid or gas fuel whatsoever. 

One option is a solar oven.  A solar oven can be as simple as a box lined with aluminum foil or, my preference, the Global Sun Oven.  If you’re like me, anything that is overly complicated or inconvenient is rarely used, and that is why I love the Sun Oven.  It’s portable enough to be taken on camping trips, light enough for my kids to carry, and the set-up takes less than a minute.  As long as there is sunshine, this baby can cook anything from hard boiled eggs to roasted chicken to casseroles and cookies.  I learned that I can make homemade chicken soup with a simple combination of noodles, veggies, water, and raw chicken.  Yep, raw chicken.  As the soup heats up and cooks, the chicken and water create a rich broth, so I don’t have to use canned broth or bouillon cubes for flavor.

You can even pasteurize water in a solar oven.  Water actually pasteurizes at temperatures below boiling, and yesterday I discovered a terrific low-tech method to determine when water is safe to drink.  The Water Pasteurization Indicator (WAPI) is a simple, small polycarbonate tube that contains a small amount of wax.  This wax melts at the same temperature required for pasteurization of water and milk.  Dangle the WAPI into a container of water, and when the wax is melted, you know the water is safe to drink!  When the WAPI is removed from the water, the wax hardens, and it’s ready to use again and again.  Brilliant!

With solar ovens, you never have to worry about fuel, and this is a big advantage.  The cooking process may take a bit more time, depending on the type of oven you use and how much sunlight is available at the time.  You can help the oven cook faster by refocusing it toward the sun every half hour or so.  This is just a simple process of angling the oven in the direction of the sun, taking no more than a minute or so.

On overcast days, a solar oven isn’t going to work, but there are other options for grid-free and fuel-free cooking.  Take a look at stoves that require very small amounts of charcoal or wood.  Although wood is technically a fuel, it isn’t something you normally have to purchase or rely upon an outside source to provide.  The Stove Tec Rocket Stove  is an example of this type of stove.  It’s small and portable, and as long as you know how to start a small fire using tinder and small sticks, you’re good to go.  Along with a stove of this type, you’ll need a few pieces of cookware that can be used over an open flame, and then plenty of practice! 

Cooking off the grid is a challenge but one that is worthwhile, whether you use your knowledge on camping trips, during a power outage or all-out TEOTWAWKI.

There may be links in the post above that are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission, which does not affect the price you pay for the product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. 

© Copyright 2010 The Survival Mom, All rights Reserved. Written For: The Survival Mom
The following two tabs change content below.
I'm the original Survival Mom, and have been helping moms worry less and enjoy their homes and families more for 5 years. Come join me on my journey to becoming more prepared to handle everyday emergencies and worst case scenarios.

Latest posts by The Survival Mom (see all)

I want to receive updates and
EMP survival reports!


  1. says

    I was wondering if you were going to mention propane, which is plentiful in the Midwest, so I would hate to see it go away. You really can't go wrong with cooking on hot hickory coals either. They burn long and hot.

    • says

      Red, there's nothing wrong with propane or any other fuel. I just want to have other options. I remember a couple of years ago we had to go to 2 or 3 different stores looking for a filled propane tank for our grill. Cooking food and heating water are too important to not have options that don't require any type of purchased fuel.

  2. RevLong says

    if your gonna use petrol based fuels such as propane gasoline kero etc..use it for cooking food takes alot of fuel to boil water so my suggestion would be to use wood fire to boil water with due to its availiblity and ease of use..@red..remember if the grid goes down so does the availibility of any fuel that needs pumped or pressureized..and if i guess right a 20lb bottle would last no longer than a week and half of cooking

  3. says

    A sterno stove is a good option too. The two packs of sterno is about $4 for the two and a half burning time per can. Good for cooking on too and very portable.

  4. rightwingmom says

    The solar ovens are pricey and we live in a heavily wooded area with minimum full sun.. I'm still considering investing in one or at least having the supplies to make a DIY one. My husband's trying to convince me to let him build a brick oven off our back porch. Due to the trees in our area, the Rocket Stove (and his brick oven) would be perfect for us.

  5. Sgt Joe says

    I have set up many different ways of heating water/cooking as I rebuilt my home/retreat. My kitchen is in the center of my place and has a potbelly stove in it (it will heat my whole home), I also have a couple sterno stoves with about 50 cans of sterno stashed away. Outside I have a concrete block fireplace, 2 -30 gal drums made into a bbq and the other a smoker. Almost everything runs on wood which is very plentiful around me, to save live trees (which I will use when all else is gone) I always search for highway crews and landscapers cutting down trees, they are usually very happy if you haul it away for them.

    • says

      Joe, quite a few years ago I lived in a cold part of my state and only had a wood-burning stove for heat. I loved it! I also got really good at starting fires! Thanks for the tip about hauling wood away for landscapers and road crews. A landscaper in my neighborhood used to drop off tree and grass cuttings for our compost pile, and it was great!

  6. says

    Cooking with propane or other fuels are fine but I prefer old fashion way, I love to cook with wood or charcoal. Cooking in a pot using wood/charcoal with natural spices are the best tasting food I ever tasted. For me it is safe because all are natural.

    I am not against other fuel product, I just want to share my favorite method of cooking.

  7. Andrea says

    So in your opinion, the Rocket Stove is a quality product? I've been tossing around the idea of buying one, and it's hard for me to commit simply because I've never seen one. I watched the video on Stove Tech and it looked like a decent stove.

    • says

      It's very heavy duty and seems to be well constructed. I'm not sure what type of warranty or guarantee it has, but unless I dropped it, it's hard to imagine it falling apart.

  8. Billie Moon says

    You don't need to spend a fortune on a solar stove. Here is a link to a site with a wealth of information on the subject along with plans for building very good solar stoves from handy material. These plans were made for third world locations with little resources… a situation we would be in if the SHTF!

    • says

      You can definitely build one yourself. I chose the Sun Oven because I knew I would never actually get around to building one myself, and it has some features I really like. Maybe building one first to learn how to use it and see whether or not you'll get much use out of it would be a good idea before buying one. I know that when the summer comes, I plan on using mine every day and not using my kitchen oven at all. Our highest electric bills in Phoenix are in the summer where we get charged premium rates.

  9. says

    Many people looking over the net for cooking things are simply looking to buy something (to cook with) however this kind of blog post shows you that you can actually learn something about cooking, maybe even improve your cooking skills! Thanks!

  10. Lynn says

    I just fired up my rocket stove for the first time this afternoon. My kids (6 and 10) and I played around for a bit with different twigs, wood chips, etc right in our yard, since I pruned a bush this week. We boiled water for cocoa/coffee, and then my son (10) announced that he would be making supper. He has rudimentary knowledge of fire starting and cooking, so I was curious to see how it would go. He built a fire with half a dozen thumb-sized sticks on the bottom, a handful of smaller twigs in the middle, and a wad of coir from an old hanging flower basket on top. He peeled and chopped potatoes and carrots, boiled them for 20min, and then added broth powder and a pint of venison that I canned last fall. We had a nice hot dinner for three using a remarkably small amount of fuel, some of which was even green. There was enough heat when we were done to roast marshmallows.

    For gentle cooking or baking, I will stick with my SOS solar oven, since I don't have to tend it, but for boiling/stewing, this worked very well. I may at some point try it for frying/sauteeing.

  11. Mary says

    Sam's Club sells sterno cans in quantity. I have a number of these stored, they seem reasonably priced (to me). In my area, you don't find them many places, so I don't really have a good price comparison. However, at Sam's they are always in stock.

    • says

      Great tip, Mary. Everyone should have at least one alternative way to heat and cook food and water. For people in colder climates, having an alternative way, or two, to keep warm in the winter is also a necessity.

  12. HEATHER says


  13. Kris says

    I’m curious about opening the door after cooking – doesn’t it get hot? I don’t see a handle… what am I missing?

  14. Vikki Wright says

    After 9/11 the trucking industry came to a screeching halt and it took quit some time before the trucks started moving regularly again. I live in Texas many miles away from any of the disaster areas so you wouldn’t think it would have affected us, but it did. There were so many products in short or nonexistent supply. The store shelves were so empty. In the Dallas area the stores only keep about 2 – 3 days worth of product on hand. This along with water main breakages causing whole neighborhoods and even towns in our area to go without water for sometimes weeks or more at a time has caused me to keep more supplies on hand. I have not, however prepared for cooking food in a power outage. Thank you for the reminder.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *