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Since power outages are the most common of all disaster and the one most of us will face one at one time or another, let’s take a look at a great food preparation options. Two years ago I published two articles on Dutch oven cooking so as you prepare your binder be sure to copy those and place them in your binder. Links are below.

Haybox Cooking

Haybox cooking uses a small amount of fuel to begin the cooking process and finishes the cooking using insulation. Several months ago a reader wrote to tell me she cooks this way and just did it instinctively one day when she needed to leave home before the meal was finished cooking. She used blankets as insulation to finish cooking. This method was used extensively during World War II as fuel was rationed and in short supply. This would also be a great way to cook if living in an urban setting where fuel is even more scarce and you want to keep the fact that you have food unknown to others.

Step One: When choosing a pot be sure you have one with a lid and that it is the appropriate size for the amount of food you will be preparing. The pot should be small enough so it is at least half full after all the food has been added.

Step Two: Place all ingredients in pot. Meat should be cut into bite size pieces. Cover and bring to a rolling boil. Simmer for 3 minutes after the temperature reaches boiling stage.

Step Three: Place hot, covered pot into the prepared haybox box (direction below), and cover with insulating material. Cover insulated box tightly with a lid or piece of wood. Box should always be at room temperature when beginning.

Step Four: Food will take 4 times longer than the normal cooking time to be ready to eat and should be timed to finish in 4-6 hours or the temperature will cool down too much and the foods could spoil. If food needs to be cooked for a longer time, remove pot from the box, bring to a boil again for at least three minutes and return it to the box for the remainder of the cooking time.*

Step Five: When food is cooked remove pot from container and serve. Leave insulated box open so moisture can evaporate before storing.

Preparing your haybox.

1) Choose a container that is at least four inches larger, on all sides, than your pot. Line the container bottom and sides with insulation. For the best results there should be four inches of insulation, or in other words, your pot should be at least four inches from the walls, top and floor of the container.

2) Make a “nest” in insulation for the pot.

That’s it!


Obviously, hayboxes originally used hay as the insulation but there are many options.

  • Blankets: wool works best, do not use quilts you care about just in case some of the food spills.
  • Fabric: yards of flannel, batting or felt.
  • Newspapers or magazines: these can either be stacked or shredded. Naturally the material over the pot would make a mess if shredded.
  • Sleeping bags
  • Coats and/or sweatshirts.
  • Dry and clean: hay, straw or sawdust.
  • Cushions or pillows.
  • Old drapes.
  • Extra mattress pads.


Plan for the largest pot you anticipate using. It is also possible to use this method to stack Dutch ovens in your container. Any container should have a good lid. If your container does not have a lid you should make one of wood or a sheet of metal. You must have a good lid.

  1. A large camping cooler can be used with only 1-2 inches of insulation around the pot but any less and you could melt the cooler.
  2. Cardboard box
  3. Computer or appliance box (these are heavier cardboard and are great)
  4. Wooden box
  5. Plastic or metal garbage can (be sure to insulate plastic well or it will melt)
  6. Metal tub
  7. Trunk

*Food MUST remain above 140° F during the entire time it is in the haybox. Test by using a pot of boiling water, ½ to 2/3 full and treat as though it contained food. After 4 hours, remove pot and check temperature. If the Temperature is too low, add more insulation and test again.

To test the accuracy of your thermometer place in a pot of boiling water for 10 minutes and check temperature. Your thermometer should register at the temperatures listed below. If your thermometer registers higher than the temperature given below for your altitude, add the difference to 140° for the minimum temperature you must maintain in your haybox. If it registers lower, subtract the difference from the 140°.

For example:

If at sea level your thermometer registers 220º that is a difference of 8 degrees so add 8 to 140=148, now you know your haybox should remain at 148º or higher when using that thermometer.

If at sea level your thermometer registers 200º now you would subtract 12 degrees 140-12= 128, now you know your haybox needs to remain at 128º or higher when using that thermometer.

Altitude Boiling Point Chart.

Sea level 212° F
1,000 feet 210.2° F
2,000 feet 208.4° F
3,000 feet 206.6° F
4,000 feet 204.8° F
5,000 feet 203° F
7,500 feet 198.4° F
10,000 feet 194° F

Rocket Stoves

Rocket stoves were conceived by Dr. Larry Winiarski in the 1980s and have been adapted and used to meet needs for emergency cooking, camping and cooking in third world countries.

A rocket stove is an extremely efficient cooking and heating stove that can be built with a wide variety of materials including bricks, pipes, clay and in our case cinder blocks. The design is simple and relies on an L-shape tunnel that creates a high heat while using very little fuel.

Fuel for rocket stoves can include twigs, scraps of wood, charcoal, bark, leaves or anything small that will burn. They are extremely effective when you have not stored fuel for cooking purposes.

You will need:

5 cinder blocks

  1. Cut end off one cinder block.
  2. Place one cinder block on a non flammable surface with the opening facing out.
  3. Place block with end cut off on top of first block.
  4. Place another cinder block on top again with opening facing up.
  5. Place another cinder block on end in front of the cinder block stack lining up the opening with the opening in the modified block in the stack of blocks.
  6. Slide top block in the stack three inches forward so it overlaps the block placed on end.
  7. Place last block on top of the stack with opening facing up.
  8. Place fuel in the top opening of the block placed on end. Light fuel and the heat and flames will be pulled into the H block.

You will need very little fuel, too much will cause the fire to become too hot and will result in burned food.

Cinder blocks will not explode but they may crack. As long as your stack is on a level surface and stable a crack will not affect the stove’s effectiveness.

If you are a visual learner watch this video and practice now.

For a larger stove check this out:

Dutch oven articles:

Cartoon: Dye Egg

Cartoon: Dye Egg

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