How To Make A Portable Kitchen
I’m updating this post I wrote several years ago in which I detail how to make a portable kitchen. It can be used as an emergency kitchen to take to a church or school after a disaster, and it’s perfect for camping. Most schools are equipped to cook meals, or at least some of them are, but most aren’t prepared to provide emergency services on a scale needed.
The church in our area has a policy that people can’t use the kitchen stove to cook or bake anything. You can only reheat or keep a casserole warm. If we had an emergency it would be my last choice to go to try and cook and provide food service for people there. I would hope that in a disaster the policy would change and people could use it as a backup emergency kitchen. I think it may have to do with insurance and liability issues.
After a disaster, FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is called in to provide disaster relief for those affected by a natural disaster like hurricanes, earthquakes, tornados, etc. Depending on the type of emergency situation, one of their first concerns is how best to feed those who survived the event. You may think of their support equipment as portable kitchens, mobile kitchens, temporary kitchens, container kitchens, or as a stretch in terms, mobile catering units.
These facilities often come in a trailer that includes refrigeration units, ovens, food preparation (prep) tables, and cabinets for dry storage. As you can imagine, they would also need kitchen cooking items like pots and pans, small stoves, non-perishable foods, utensils, and other critical items they can effectively pack away.
Hopefully, you won’t need to rely on FEMA to help your family survive because as a prepper, you’ve planned ahead and have a well-organized and stocked portable kitchen. If not, we’re here to help you get started.
How To Make A Portable Kitchen
I recently visited my daughter and her family for a few days. I tried to give my very ambitious daughter a little break by making a few meals each day for her and the family. You know it’s funny how I assume everyone has a Danish whisk, or a hand mixer, or whatever is your go-to kitchen item. You know, like everyone even knows what a Danish whisk is. LOL
I had never heard of one until my friend, Melissa Richardson who wrote the book: “The Art of Baking Bread with Natural Yeast” introduced me to one. She has since written another natural yeast book, but she showed me how to use one of these, an 11-Inch Danish Whisk
I prefer the 11-inch size because the metal whisk end will fit inside a wide-mouth mason jar to make natural yeast, salad dressings, or whatever you may need in the jar. The large one is too large for the jar opening. The large one is great for cake batter, pancake batter or muffins, etc. that are mixed in a bowl.
Please picture me at my daughter’s home in her kitchen fixing meals without my usual kitchen tools. She has plenty of my favorite kitchen tools, but she had some measuring cups I could not read the 3/4 or 1/4, etc. to get the right measurements.
Good Measuring Cups/Spoons
I know it’s because my eyes are not as good as they used to be, so of course, I ordered her a set of my favorite measuring cups: Measuring Cups. And my favorite measuring spoons: Measuring Spoons
The old ones she had worked great for my daughter over the years, but I couldn’t see the amounts on any of them. My point today is, if by chance our neighborhood or community at large had to gather at a local building, such as a church or school, will the kitchens be equipped with all the utensils we’d need?
I’m sure we would all make do, but if we can plan in advance we are ready to prepare and serve the meals to feed some very hungry people after a disaster or unforeseen extended power outage. Or maybe even something worse.
I call this my mobile portable kitchen, but I didn’t put cookware, dishes, or silverware in this container. I did put serving utensils and so much more, but I wanted something I could transport very easily. It’s ready when I need it at a moment’s notice.
My friend, Lisa, and I were talking about this portable kitchen idea because we both are prepared chicks and we decided this is what we both needed. I didn’t put any food in this gem because we have critters here in Southern Utah.
But I will tell you this, I am prepared to cook anywhere. I will grab my cast iron pans, paper plates, cups, and plastic silverware and I’m good to go. They are placed neatly next to each other right next to my 72-hour kits. This container is the one I bought, it’s a Stanley Fatmax on Amazon: Stanley Fax Max. From Stanley, I’m sure it’s designed for tool storage on mobile use, but comes in so handy as a kitchen unit.
All we need is food, and a stove, and we are good to start fixing meals almost anywhere! Yes, I can cook anything outside with solar, wood, propane, briquettes, etc.
Mobile Portable Kitchen
I have a FREE PRINTABLE below listing all of the items for each compartment in the Stanley Fat Max for you.
I’ll tell you row by row what I put in each section. The first top “tool” container/compartment sits in a slot on top of the top opening that has my dishwasher liquid soap (in a ziplock bag). I have 2 light sticks and six kitchen knives enclosed in knife sheaths. This section sits on top of the second compartment. A portable kitchen, who can use one of these for camping?
Six kitchen razor-sharp knives with protective sheaths, 8″ chef knife, 8″ slicing knife, 7″ Santoku knife, 5″ Santoku knife, 5″ utility knife, and a 3″ paring knife. Chef Essential 6 Piece Knife Set
Two light sticks
Two bottle openers
Flashlight: batteries don’t store well here in So. Utah, so I opted for solar flashlights. This is the one I recommend: Goal Zero Solar Flashlight
Silpat mat: you can use these inside cookie sheets, but you can also set hot pans on them.
Hand-egg beater: Danesco 12-Inch Rotary Egg Beater
Rolling Pin: I use a rolling pin to make cinnamon rolls and roll out my pizza dough, I’m sure a lot of people make pie crusts.
Pizza Cutter: I love pizza baked outside on a cast iron pizza pan: Lodge Pro-Logic Cast Iron Pizza Pan, Black, 14-inch
3-piece silicone spatula set (12-inch, 9-inch, and 7-inch) Heat resistant to 450 degrees
Two stainless steel whisks: one thing I must say, I bought a set of three whisks from Amazon and ended up sending them back because they would have bent just scrambling some eggs. I opted for these: Norpro Krona 9-inch Stainless Steel Whisk and Norpro Stainless Steel Krona Whisk, 13-Inch
One pancake turner
One slotted spoon
Kitchen shears with sheath cover
(25) 33-gallon size garbage bags
Tongs: short for cooking and long ones to move the hot coals around if you are using a Dutch oven, etc.
Two aprons with pockets
Salt & Pepper: I decided against storing any other spices besides salt and pepper (this is my disaster mobile portable kitchen). Need I say more?
Two bottle openers
2 Can Openers
Coconut oil: I chose coconut oil because it will last longer than olive oil, or any other oil for that matter.
Firestarter: Aurora Fire Starter
Stainless steel bowls with lids: five, three, and 1.5 quarts. I need at least a 5 quart size to make two loaves of bread. Remember the bowl needs to fit in this Stanley Fatmax. I bought these: Cuisinart Stainless Steel Mixing Bowls with Lids, a Set of 3
Cloth Diapers: (instead of paper towels), these can be used for so many things. Gerber Birdseye 3-Ply Prefold Cloth Diapers, White, 10 Count
Red silicone hand gloves: heat resistant to 425 degrees Oven Mitts Gloves Potholder
Red silicone hot pads
Heavy-duty hot pads
Ziploc gallon-size baggies
Dough scraper: I use this when I make bread, cinnamon rolls and so much more: OXO Good Grips Multi-purpose stainless steel scraper & chopper
Bamboo wooden cutting board with interchangeable plastic inserts: Seville Classics Bamboo Cutting Board with Removable Cutting Mats
I actually added more items to my portable kitchen as I filled it because it had more room than I thought. Things I added included a rolling pin and a pizza cutter (not shown in the picture). It has plenty of room for several spices or small containers. I also added a package of baby wipes and a bottle of hand sanitizer (also not shown in the picture).
If your family likes spending time in the mountains, by the lake, or just around the corner at the local park, you’ll love having one of these Stanley units. Stanley is known for quality as evidenced by the great tools they make. If cared for, this unit will last you a long time.
Consider buying one as a family and be willing to share for all to enjoy. Get one and start making some memories, besides being as prepared as possible for the unexpected events that come our way when we least expect them. Please let me know if you make a portable kitchen! Enjoy! May God Bless this world, Linda
FREE PRINTABLE: Portable Kitchen Contents by Food Storage Moms May 2019
26 thoughts on “How To Make A Portable Kitchen”
I do not see a manual can opener in your list. We have a similar set up for camping, but it includes pots and pans and paper goods. Ours is in a heavy plastic square container that can be padlocked as we frequently camp in bear country.
Hi Liz, thanks for catching that. I need to add it to the list. You can see the can openers on the table, I just forgot to type it in. Thank you so much! I’m fixing the list right now! Linda
I guess I am planning only for myself! I don’t have the room (in an apartment) to store more than the kitchen I have for camping. Well, actually I have two. I camp in primitive settings (I re-enact the Fur Trade Era pre-1840 and cannot have a kitchen that is not made of wood) so I have limited “container” space. I have all the things I need to cook in the great outdoors for a 10 day rendezvous but it will not be sufficient to cook for a large gathering. One of my boxes contains my dishes, silverware, knives, wooden spoons, measuring utensils, kitchen rags, salt and pepper (when I go, I add other spices as needed for my menu), oil, recipe cards (I purchased a 3X5 spiral bound from the office supply store in the school section) with recipes as well as my DO heat chart; basically all the things I need to use while cooking for myself. The second box contains my cast iron tortilla cooker (useful for anything that needs to be cooked on a flat surface), my very small skillet, my coffee pot, and my fire starters.
My two kitchen boxes are not very portable in an emergency, however as they are not on wheels but have to be carried. If I have time in an emergency, I will load them into my car along with my tent, sleeping bag, emergency bags, etc. If I don’t have time, I do have a way to cook in my larger rolling emergency bag but it will be extremely basic! I have a small pot to heat food and water and a long handled wooden spoon, a butcher knife and a paring knife, a small cutting board but little else in the way of “kitchen” items.
I am sorry to say that, in a disaster situation, I will not be trying to feed the masses. I will be looking out for me and possibly one or two others. If I lived in a house or had a garage to store things in, I would gear up for more but my vehicle has limited capacity as well.
Hi Leanne, you are doing what is right, my friend. This post is to help those who do have room to store stuff, can go camping and have the know how to cook for large groups. I have cooked for large groups hundreds of times. We all bring stuff to the table, whether it’s for ourselves, two people or dozens. We are all prepping because we know it’s the right thing to do. Linda
I was just going to point out, that if you weren’t sure you had everything, go camping at a primitive site. You beat me to it.
Hi Janet, great comment! I love it! Linda
Janet, I have been primitive camping for 60 years!! I will never say that I have it all together but I can survive for 10 days with only basic hygiene and minimal cooking!!! I love it and pray that I can continue my “hobby” for a few more years.
Maybe one of those rolling luggage carts or a couple of rolling duffle bags that are large enough to hold the boxes?
I’m in an appartment also and I’m disabled so my go-bag is a rolling suitcase and a backpack that is strapped to my rollator. It has a small basket under the seat that I can use for any last minute items.
DavetteB ~ My emergency bug out bag(s) – one is a rolling suit case (carry on size), a rolling duffle bag – pretty big and a couple of smaller duffle bags. I have practiced with the 2 rolling bags with the smaller duffle bags on them. Challenging but do-able! I don’t plan to carry much in the way of “kitchen” items but have some very basic cooking tools. Guess the thing I am looking at is in a bug out situation that is immediate (i.e. leave in minutes) I will take just my bug out bags and do the best I can. If I have time to load my car, I will be able to take much much more (if I have a few hours to load the car).
Hello! I’m Beth and my husband an I camp as often as possible and in areas where amenities are not available. So I wanted to share a couple of things we have done.
For our silverware (spoons, forks, and the like) I use a plastic pencil case the one you can get anywhere for a dollar, but luckily I found one that’s more slender and for my husband an I that works. But if you have a larger amount of family the larger one is better.
instead of using plastic ware we use the cheap real utensils from any dollar type store cause they are reusable (don’t get the ones with plastic handles they tend to come apart) and who needs more trash in nature.
We have steel buckets like mini trash cans because they can be put on an open fire to boil water for washing dishes, bathing and such, we got ours I think at Ace Hardware. Before we got these we used some reclaimed roasting pans out of a couple of electric roasters that no longer worked.
I have not got to use the tic-tac method for spices because we don’t use them and they are small and we love our seasonings so I just take the whole containers and they don’t take up too much space. For our salt and pepper I use the disposable plastic ones and you can get mini funnels to refill them instead of throwing them away an they last longer than the cardboard ones.
For food storage I reuse jars of all sorts, but I’m thinking of using plastic soda bottles because they are thinner and won’t break, I have funnels so they could be filled easily.
Last summer we stayed on the river close to us and because our youngest daughter was expecting we got a toilet seat with a lid that fits on a 5 gallon bucket, you can use the products that goes into rv toilets to keep the smell down and I recommend digging a hole to empty contents if there is no where near to discard.
And we do love our cast iron pans!
I also recommend getting a plastic container with a spigot it helps make washing hands easier.
A few years ago my husband took a 55 gallon barrel and put a spigot on it put it in between two boards on the bed of our pickup (yes he screwed them down) put the barrel in between them so it wouldn’t roll filled it with water so when we needed water we would just turn the spigot on. We use this mostly when where we are at the water is too muddy to use. If we are somewhere where the water isn’t muddy then we take a little less water for drinking and cooking.
For an idea in recycling and creating table and seating that is collapsible we could use old ironing boards but they have to be the sturdy ones. This is our next project. You can either apply wood to the board or make a top and apply the bottom to whatever you are going to use as the top. Anyway this idea is so that you can have a table and seating that will fold flat for space saving.
Hi Beth, your comment is a gold mine of ideas!! I love all of them! Thanks for sharing your tips, I could almost visualize you and your family camping near the riverbank! Oh, how I love to camp! Great tips!!! Linda
I do apologize for not saying this earlier! I love your portable kitchen!
The military had a cabinet that was about 2×3 that was a portable field kitchen/office that looked like this
I had one for years.
It’s a solid concept to have a plan B
Mine has switched from one of these to the camper.
Hi Matt, oh that table on the side would be awesome!! Having a camper is even better!!! Linda
My parents took an old kitchen cabinet and added handles to each side and a latch to the door to keep it from opening when traveling. My mother called it her camping kitchen. She also had an old apron with all sorts of pockets added to hold silverware, paper towels, and anything else you might need. Add in the old Coleman stove that my grandparents gave them as a wedding gift in 1955 and she had a working kitchen. My grandmother usually joined us on our camping trips and she always carried at least 2 cast iron dutch ovens and cast iron skillets of every size imaginable. She would cook on the campfire and man, could that woman cook! People would walk by our campsite just to smell what she was cooking. She made the best cobblers in one of the dutch ovens. I wish I had her recipes. I should check with my cousins to see if any of them have her camping recipes.
I can cook in a dutch oven but not like my grandmother could.
Hi Topaz, what a great story to share, thank you so much!!! I love hearing how families did things together! Camping is fun! Linda
I found this writing years ago and I finally got my mobile kitchen set up. then I kept adding to it and found I needed to expand to a second rolling cart LOL. It just wasn’t enough to hope somebody would have facilities and if it is monsoon time here there is no way I was cooking outside so I had to add a propane burner and away it ran LOL. Thank you so much for all your guidance on so many issues, it makes me feel so secure knowing we have what we will need because I planned ahead with your help.
Hi Jay, oh thank you for your kind words, my friend! I decided there may be some people who had not seen this so I updated it a bit! I got the giggles on the “I had to add a propane burner and away it ran”, that’s called a prepper or someone very prepared! Good job! Linda
One other handy thing I have in my emergency kitchen supplies is an old Canadian Army Recipe Book from 1957. The recipes are very basic and all for 50 or 100 and each section starts with instructions that assume a person knows absolutely nothing about cooking so anybody can use it. It has come in handy cooking for large groups of people for various events and has useful information on the amounts of ingredients needed if you end up part of a large emergency response. When looking for a toolbox to use make sure it has good clearance for the wheels. Some are better than others, as I found out. The Fat Max is fabulous for accessing contents with minimal fuss. I have a small roll up camping table strapped to my portable kitchen and added one of those large plastic tablecloths with clamps to use on a picnic table or whatever working surface you have. Much easier to keep clean than the usual picnic table surface.
Hi Alice, oh thank you for your tips today! I am going to be on the lookout for that cookbook. It may be hard to find because of the year but I will look for it, thank you. I love the plastic tablecloth and clamps!! I need to look for a small roll-up table, I love this! Linda
I found an old book on chuck boxes. The portable kitchen idea goes back to the western migration and while many have heard the term “chuck wagon” I had never heard of a chuck box until I came across this old book I found at Goodwill.
So for years, people have purchased or more often built their own chuck box. Some even build a trailer or they utilize tables. The boy scouts and some campers will build a kitchen, which is cool, but you have to still bring all your gear and it’s not organized and a grab and go type of setup. I have seen what are folding tables that have sinks and in conjunction with a portable kitchen or chuck box, you’d have a nice setup.
But I like that you made use of an off the shelf item and being plastic it won’t rot or rust and having wheels is just darn convenient. And with a propane or butane stove you can be as good a cook on the move as you are at home. And when you get home that unit will just sit in a corner, ready to go.
Hi Frank, oh my gosh, I remember the chuck wagon term! I had forgotten that one! I had to have wheels on my kitchen because it’s heavier than it looks, but it works great! I have never heard of a chuck box! I learn something new every single day! Love it! Linda
Thank you for the information. I have one thing I would use and it is my small wood cook stove. If I am at home I could use my kitchen wood cook stove. I believe the little one may have been used for a apartment when it first came out because it is really small.
Hi Jackie, I have a few small stoves I can use outside with wood, charcoal, or propane. I have one that works with pinecones, small but great for camping! Linda
WhenI was in the Park Service we sometimes cooked over a fire, but we usually used a WhisperLite stove. It takes any kind of liquid fuel (kerosene, white gas etc) and as the name suggests is very lightweight, which is useful when you’re carrying it up a mountain in your pack. If you were using it at home I think you’d have to use it outside, though.
HI Sarah, oh the things you learned and experienced on your job!! Yes, that stove would for sure be an outside cooking device. Linda