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Haybox Cooking: Frugal, Practical and Convenient

Haybox cooking is convenient, frugal and practical for today's lifestyles, not just for survivalists or homesteaders. Here's how to do it.

Have you ever used a haybox cooker? With threats of the cost of both electricity and gas on their way to new highs, it makes frugal sense to learn and use cooking methods that use less fuel of any kind. This is not an extremely frugal idea and you don't have to be off the grid or wait for a power failure to try it. It's convenient and practical.

What a haybox is

A haybox was (or is, if you use it) a box lined with hay for insulation. Most of us don't have access to hay now but we can use other insulating materials. Haybox cooking works well for food like stews, pot roasts or other dishes that require liquid and long periods of cooking.

How a haybox works

The food is brought to a boil for 15 to 20 minutes to make sure it's heated thoroughly, then removed from the heat source and put it in an insulated box, covering it with more insulation and ignored for the next few hours.

Really, that's all there is to it. There have been articles written by techno folks who enjoy making things complicated, but haybox cooking is very simple.

Here's a more thorough explanation of haybox cooking.

What you'll need

  • Heavy pot with a snug (but not necessarily sealing) lid
  • Cardboard or wooden box with a lid, four to eight inches wider and deeper than the cooking pot
  • Insulation material
  • Source of flame or heat

What to do

First, assemble the food and put it on to boil. While you wait, put three or four inches of insulation in the bottom of the box. Shredded newspaper works best for insulation because air pockets help hold the heat in. If you don't have a paper shredder, cut or tear the newspaper into strips, then crumple it gently.

After 15 to 20 minutes of boiling, put the food, still in its cooking pot, into the box and quickly surround it with more shredded newspaper. Cover the lid with another three or four inches of newspaper, then close it. For added insulation, cover your haybox with a blanket.

The food will continue to cook for three or four hours or more, depending on how much insulation was used.

A variation on haybox cooking is "thermos cooking," where you put small amounts of easily cooked foods in a thermos, add boiling water and close. This works great for hot cereal because you can get it ready the night before and wake up to a hot breakfast. Thermos cooking works well for pasta, grains and the like, which absorb water as they cook. Raw rice (not converted) doesn't do as well in a thermos as it does in a haybox, because rice needs more intense cooking.

A nice bonus is that haybox cooking doesn't require watching or checking, making it very convenient and frugal at the same time.

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Comments (5)

Good Lord, the things you come up with girl. Very interesting.

Great information here, thank you...like/tweet/stumbled.

Good article,thanks

Ranked #11 in Frugal Living

How long does "safe temperature" last? Would hate to have organisms growing rampant.

Ranked #1 in Frugal Living

Irene, that depends on a lot of things like actual temperature of the food when it was put in, how much insulation and what kind, where the box is setting and so on. Food at it's optimal boiling temperature, moved quickly into the box and covered with adequate insulation should safely keep 8 - 10 hours. You can test this by trying the thermos cooking method. Food left overnight is, under good circumstances, hot enough to be safe the next morning.

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