Cooking oil is one of the main elements of food supply to every prepper. It’s a perfect source of energy and essential fatty acids, it adds flavor, and it also makes cooking a lot easier. You’ve probably stored gallons of oil if you’ve built up a significant food supply, large enough to get you through a winter or the worst of radiation exposure after a nuclear attack.
Oil stores are pretty decent but it does not last forever. It will start to deteriorate even under optimal storage conditions, and after a year or two you’ll probably find a decline in quality. The worst case scenario is that your oil supply will go rancid, making it almost unusable for cooking – and potentially dangerous if you cook with it. Usually this will be prevented by rotating the stock; older oil will become used up before it has a chance to get rancid.
Things do go wrong sometimes, though. A damaged container that lets air in, some mishap that exposes oil to repeated changes in temperature or sunlight – there are different ways you could find yourself on your hands with a few gallons of rancid oil. Hopefully, if that happens, it’s going to be before a hit crisis – so you’ll have time to replace it with fresh oil. But you still have a load of rancid oil to handle whenever that happens. What is it you should be doing with?
Of course most people will just get rid of it. After all, it’s cooking oil, and if you can’t cook it, that makes it pretty useless, right? Well no, this isn’t so simple. In a survival situation, even rancid oil has uses that makes it valuable. Certainly, you’ll want to replace it in your food reserves, but don’t pour it away – it can still boost your chances of getting through in one piece with a little knowledge. Here are some things to which you can use it.
Oil lamps are one of the simplest ways to give yourself light and a bit of heat. At their most basic, all you need is a container and a wick.
That makes them extremely easy to improvise, and if you have a handy source of fuel for them – a gallon of rancid vegetable oil, for example – why not?
You have stockpiled some vinegar, did you? Mix vinegar and rancid oil in equal amounts, then rub it into wood. It makes a perfect polish and conditioner; rub it in and buff it up and you can restore old, scuffed wood to an amazingly good appearance. Use it on butcher blocks and wooden work surfaces, too – the oil provides an easy-to-wipe water-resistant finish. Before using the mixture, give the bottle a quick shake to mix it, and if you leave them standing for some amount of time the oil and vinegar will separate.
Wicker and rattan baskets are useful containers that, in a long-term survival situation, you can make yourself.
They do need some maintenance, though, or they tend to crack and split. Rub some warmed rancid oil into them to give a glossy, water- and dirt-resistant finish.
Cooking oil is no match for modern, high-performance lubricating oils – but how much do you need high-performance oils? If all you want to do is quiet down a squeaky gate hinge, then only a couple of drops of rancid canola will do fine. Maintain specialist oils for jobs that need them, and use spoiled cooking oil on the rest.
They need to be washed and oiled after use, if you want your tools to last. That’ll save them from being targeted by rust. It is therefore a bit wasteful of oil. Refined oils will become scarce in a long-term crisis, and do you really want to use them to rustproof your shovel? Each time you use it, the oil will all end up in the field and after you’ve washed it, you’ll have to use more. Instead, slap on some rancid cooking oil; it is equally effective. If you don’t have anything else you might even use it on your weapon, but when you shoot, it is likely to smoke. But what would you like – a little more smoke, or rust in the bore?
If you’ve got paint on your hands, don’t worry; cooking oil will help you get it off without painful scrubbing.
Massage some oil into the affected areas, then give it five minutes to sink in. It will loosen the paint so you can wash it off with soap and water.
Okay, are you out of the soap? No problem, rancid oil is the perfect raw material for your own creation. The other main ingredient is lye, and you can make this from wood ash yourself. There’s an art to make your own soap, and if you’re using rancid oil you’ll need to get it right, or you’ll end up with rancid soap. Fortunately, rancid oil is an economical option to practice on.
If you have some kind of diesel engine it will gladly burn as much rancid oil as you can get your hands on. Cooking oil is pretty much a one for one diesel fuel replacement; engines can run on it without alteration or any significant output loss. To extract any impurities or water just filter the oil first. By collecting used fryer oil from local restaurants, washing out any food waste and then using it as biodiesel, many people are saving themselves a lot of money. Rancid oil performs just as well as it is used.
You don’t have to wait for the oil to go rancid for either of these applications. Got a fryer? You need to periodically change the oil in that, to prevent harmful chemicals from building up in it. Don’t pour the old oil away; it’s still fine for fuel, rust-proofing or lubricant.