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One of the first things to consider while becoming self reliant is to have alternate means of cooking for an emergency situation. Some of these methods are expensive and require specialty fuels that may not be around when you need it. I found a way to make an awesome rocket stove out of upcycled (and free!) junk.
I like to save stuff. Like random, weird stuff. My husband calls me a hoarder. I like to think of it as channeling my creativity by using stuff that would normally be thrown away. Poh-tay-toh, poh-tah-toh, whatever. I keep old baby food containers, old formula containers (can you tell I’m a grandma?), mason jars, and old empty food cans. You can read my post on upcycling on the homestead here.
The old baby food containers and mason jars have had a myriad of uses. I use a mason jar nearly every morning for my breakfast smoothie. I have also put all kinds of herbs and stuff in both mason jars (for big quantities) and baby food containers (for smaller amounts). I have also made salves and natural beauty care items (you can find my salve recipes here and here) and put them in baby food containers.
With the old empty food cans I have had to get a little more creative. I made my very own rocket stove with them, and plan on making a few more and improving on it. If you haven’t seen a rocket stove, you should definitely check it out. They are an amazing little personal stove that you can cook on with just a few sticks. I saw these on Pinterest and my prepper self said – YES! – They are so efficient and almost free to make. I love free!
All you need is 4 cans-3 small and one large, some insulation from the attic, some wire, and some sharp cutting tools. You start with a large can (I used a big hominy can), and don’t forget to save the top that you cut off. Then you make about 12 slits 1 inch down from the top. These are going to be tabs that will stick up above the top of the stove for air flow. You also want to put one small hole on either side of the can, about a half-inch from the top on two of the tabs that will be sticking up. The small holes will be for the wire handle.
Take one of the small cans (I used regular size soup cans) and cut the bottom off of that can so you have a cylinder. Then trace the circumference of it onto the outside of the other small can, and also onto the outside of the big can. You want to make sure the bottom of the circle is about the same distance from the bottom of both cans. I did about ¾ inch from the bottom of each. Also take the top of the big can and trace the cylinder into the middle of it. Cut out the three circles that you traced.
Take the cylinder and cut multiple slits at the bottom so you can bend them out to secure it inside the large can. Then you put the cylinder through the hole in the side of the large can, put the other small can inside the big can and feed the cylinder into the hole in the side of the small can. Then you can bend out the tabs made on the cylinder to help secure it.
After you have done that, you stuff some insulation (I grabbed mine from the attic) into the space inside the big can around the small can. Make sure you pack it good and tight. Then take the top of the large can and fit it inside the big can, so the hole in the big can fits securely over the top of the small can inside. Then fold over every other tab that you cut into the top of the big can until they rest on the lid, making sure to leave the tabs with the small holes up. Then take about a foot of wire (I actually used part of a metal clothes hanger – free again!) and bend it into a curve, insert both ends into the small holes in the tabs, and bend the ends to secure. That is your handle.
Take the final can and cut it in less than half, leaving a small tab on either side of the cut near the top. I left about ¼ inch on both sides. This is going to form a tray to put the fuel on, that will go inside the cylinder in the side of the stove. This tray should be relatively easy to remove so that you can move the fuel in and out of the stove as needed to adjust the temperature.
Everyone needs to have options for cooking in an emergency. A rocket stove is the perfect, low-cost, low-fuel solution. Are you going to try to make one for yourself?