You have your preps all set up to keep yourself and your loved ones safe and comfortable post-collapse and you have made sure that you have keep it all under the radar. No one outside of your immediate family knows about all the food and water you have stored away, which is just how it should be. So what happens when disaster hits, the grid is down, and you are enacting your survival plan by cooking dinner on the camp stove? Simply put, if you don’t take precautions, you have just hung a great big sign over your house saying “Food Is Here.”
That’s right. When you cook, especially when you cook outdoors, the smell of the cooking food will drift on the air currents. In fact, smells can travel for as much as half a mile from where you are cooking it. If it is post-collapse and there are hungry people out there, you can bet that every one of them who smells what you’re cooking will come calling – and they might not be the ideal dinner guests. This means that you will need to learn how to cook/prepare food in such a way that it doesn’t have an odor that will attract unwanted visitors.
When society collapses, you will have a grace period of about three days before things really start to go south because most people have at least three days’ worth of food in their homes at any given time. The lucky ones might even have food for a day or two longer. However, it won’t take long before they use up what they have and start wondering where their next meal is coming from.
For this reason, you can use the first three days after the SHTF to cook up a storm. Use up all of the perishable food in your house and cook meals your family will enjoy. Perhaps you can use this time to can, dehydrate, or otherwise preserve some of the fresh food you have in the house. However, once this grace period has passed, the situation will start to deteriorate quickly and by the time a week (at most) has passed you will have a lot of hungry, desperate people out there. With this in mind, you need to learn how to prepare food without any tempting odor escaping.
Tips on Cooking without Smells
Fortunately, there are things you can do to minimize the odors coming from the food you prepare for yourself and your family. Whether you live in a rural, suburban, or urban area, there are a number of aspects to the cooking process that you can control to keep your cooking under the radar.
Where You Cook
If you are able to, cook indoors. There is less of a chance of cooking smells wafting through the air if the cooking is done inside. If you have to prepare some of the meal outside, then keep that to a minimum whenever possible.
When You Cook
Cook in the early hours or late hours of the day, when most people are likely to be sleeping. This will minimize the chances that someone will smell anything from your cooking. It is also advised to cook when it isn’t windy when cooking outdoors. If you cook when there is little or no breeze, then any potential smell from your cooking won’t spread very far.
How You Cook
You will have a number of options for cooking without electricity, provided you have prepared ahead of time. You might have plans to use your barbecue, a fire pit, a rocket stove, or a camp stove. Whatever way you choose to cook your food, use a fuel for your cooking that does not produce smoke or any visible means of identifying your location (this includes wood and charcoal). This leaves you with fuels such as propane, alcohol, butane, or natural gas.
If you have a gas generator, you will draw attention to yourself as soon as you turn it on because these generators are noisy. Opt for a solar generator, if possible, which will run quietly. You can hide it outside during the day and let it charge and then use it at night to power a hotplate or something similar to warm up some dinner.
What You Cook
When it comes to what you cook, you want to keep it simple. Cook food that doesn’t have a lot of odor and avoid using herbs and spices that give the food extra flavor. As nice as they are, they increase the odor of the food. Just think of the smell of Indian food cooking. When you do cook, prepare food for multiple meals (but not so much you won’t be able to eat if before it spoils) so you are cooking less often. This will result in less chance of being detected.
Use cooking methods that minimize odor, specifically boiling or simmering. Avoid frying, baking, roasting, grilling, or toasting food. You can get cooking bags that, when you are cooking, will seal in the aroma of the food. Aluminum foil will also help lock in the smell. Neither of these will keep the smell down completely, but will certainly make a difference.
Related: 20 Foods that Will Outlast You
One very good way of cooking is to use a thermal cooker, which is a type of insulated crock pot. With this you can start the cooking process outdoors. Bring your water to a boil for ten minutes and then take it inside, add your ingredients, and seal it in inside the thermal container for 6-8 hours. It will continue to cook the whole time and no odors will escape.
The way your food is prepared and stored prior to use also has an effect on how much it smells when being cooked. It is wise to eat freeze dried foods when possible, as this only requires hot water to be added and will minimize the smells coming from the food. Another option are MREs (meals ready to eat), which are already prepared and require minimal amount of preparation and cooking time.
Even though it is safer to cook inside to avoid people smelling the food you are cooking, you shouldn’t do this at the risk of burning your house down or generating carbon monoxide, which will kill you and your family. Be very mindful about the safety of cooking inside.
In addition, you need to consider the garbage that is left behind when you cook food. Is there packaging or leftovers that could draw attention should people see it? For this reason, it is important to cook only what you need. If you cook for more than one meal at a time, don’t cook so much you can’t eat it before it goes bad. If you do have scraps, try to make use of them in some way, such as feeding it to pets or as compost.
Remember that food is the primary thing the majority of people will be looking for when the collapse comes. If they know you have it, they will come and take it. If you can keep your cooking and food preparation under the radar, you will be able to enjoy good food, hot meals, and the health and energy you need to see your way through hard times without unwanted visitors trying to take it away from you.
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