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Cooling (Non-)Options

Hunger Chapter Four:
Cooling (Non-)Options

homelessness and hunger
At times I have had a supply of canned or bottled food and/or produce stored in my plastic cooking bin or canvas zip bag. I dutifully cook and very much enjoy the results. But cooling the leftovers is a problem. I’m on my third Styrofoam cooler. One lasted five days. The second lasted one day before cracking and leaking. The third is faring better since I no longer store my laptop next to it, but ice is $2 a here and often it melts without me noticing.

I threw out the leftover fried potato and burger/purple cabbage/tomato fry I’d made when I realized the melted ice was no longer cold. Such a waste.

Living in a house I would always cook enough food for leftovers. I did not and do not like to cook, so making more than one meal at a time was a strategy for eating well. But living out of a portable cooler, who knows if ice bags really keep meat leftovers at a healthy temperature, even before the ice melts. The temperature varies depending on whether the food is above or below the ice, touching the ice bag or a layer away, etc.

I shopped online for a fridge/freezer that runs off car batteries. There are great options made for truckers and some for car campers. But they are several hundred dollars and take up a lot of room. Solar would be better yet, but yet again more expensive.

In both cases, I would not want to leave an expensive item like that at the campsite, and I have no room in the car for it. Even if I could fit it during the day, it would be heavy to lift them into the car during the day for security and to the ground at night to make room for sleeping.

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  1. Dear Deborah,

    I am very sorry to hear about your situation. I can’t help much myself financially because I live with one foot in the street myself and I also have pets- quite a lot of them. I’ve been homeless in my car with dogs and cats as well. I know how difficult it is to be at the mercy of the elements and how hard it is to get a good night’s sleep when you are in that situation. I know how terrifying and lonely it is. I’m praying for you.

    I have a suggestion or two for you – you might try insulating that cooler- although it may not be as much of an issue this time of year. Wrap bedding around it several times and keep it away from the hotter parts of your car – oddly it does work. You might even put it all in a trash bag after that to add to the insulation effect. In some places, people bury their coolers to preserve the ice – same principle. I also put my ice in freezer bags, then I place them strategically around the food and when the ice melts it doesn’t soak everything and the water is cleaner for reuse- like for dog water.

    You might want to research rocket stoves and hayboxes on youtube – they can save you money on valuable cooking fuel resources. In fact, YouTube has a ton of videos on roughing it – camping, survival skills, shelter mitigation, heat and cold mitigation etc. I don’t know how cold it will get there, but there is a way to make a shelter with a space blanket, heavy plastic and a camp fire that should be comfy. I think it’s called a Mors Kochanski shelter or something like that . They also used it in a Dual Survival episode on the Discovery channel.

    Also, if there is a store near you called Dollar Tree – it is worth a visit. Everything in the store is a dollar or less and they carry a ton of different kinds of thing. Bottled water, sterno-like stuff, car window heat reflectors, freezer bags, plastic containers, food (trail mix, nuts, crackers, canned stuff) , pet supplies.

    Also, I visit the local furniture store on trash night and sometimes they throw out foam rubber mats that they used for packing as well as heavy plastic. These are free insulation and rain protection.

    Additionally, I sometimes make money doing scrap metal- the best money is in breaking down electronics. Visit the scrapmetalforum.com and look at the electronics section if you are interested. You may have to clear some space in your storage area but I’ve made happy amounts of cash doing it. Christmas tree lights, aluminum cans, wiring of almost any kind – including whats on lights and vacuum cleaners is worth money- and people throw all that stuff away. Almost all electronic devices have parts that can be resold. I know you are short on room – but what about on the top of your vehicle? Can you get a tarp, rope and some boxes and keep stuff up there? Also, computer repair shops often throw out electronic scrap that is worth money – some will save it for you if you ask them.

    Best of luck to you,

    Please contact me if you wish.


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