YE OLD CHUCKBOX
I usually keep two ‘chuck boxes’ packed in my garage ready to go at a moment’s notice. All I have to do is load them in my Jimmy (GMC) and I’m off and running. What is a chuck box? It’s a box to transport chuck. Ok, so I put in a little humor. Let’s just say it’s a box used to contain your cooking equipment and/or food. Cowboys use them but theirs have wheels and they call them chuck ‘wagons’ and they’re a lot bigger. Mine, you can carry in your car trunk.
If you want to keep your cooking gear neat and clean and always have it ready to go then you will need a container; likewise with your food stuffs. Instead of building your chuck boxes, do like I did when I put together my first ones. Start with a couple of ice chests; I bought one in a garage sale for a dollar and I found another at a flea market.
They were beat-up, but usable, 24-quart coolers, the kind that you normally carry food and drinks in to a picnic. You can use Thermos, Gott, Igloo or any brand that you can pick up cheap. All it’s for is to keep your food and equipment in one place, keep it clean, and prevent it from getting beaten up when you go driving over bumpy country roads.
BOX #1 THE PERSONAL UTENSIL CHUCK BOX
I put in two one-burner stoves. One uses a small propane cylinder and the other is a Coleman multi-fuel stove. I put in a spare container of propane and an aluminum fuel bottle of Coleman fuel. I normally use just one stove but I like having a backup. I put in a Boy Scout mess kit (plate, cup, skillet, pot), a small 2-cup coffee pot, eating utensils; my favorite coffee cup, a spatula, a stirring spoon, a small cutting board, a potato peeler, and a P-38 can opener.
I added a cereal bowl or two, some paper plates, a dish cloth, pot holder, pot scrubber, small container of dish/hand soap, and a towel. I added some aluminum foil, some paper towels, a cigarette lighter, salt & pepper shakers, strike anywhere matches in a match safe, and a roll of toilet paper. Add a pair of pliers and you can heat food right in the cans they come in (open first). For water, I usually carry a Clorox jug or two full of water in the car, in case I stop where drinking water isn’t readily available or if I need to wash my hands, like after cleaning a mess of fish or skinning squirrels.
Over the years, as the family grew I’ve changed to a bigger box made of wood and added a family size set of nested cooking utensils. I added a few other things to the chuck box like a washbasin, 2 plastic dishpans, a cutting board, a bigger coffee pot, and some spice containers. It has a drop front lid on chains that can be used as a working surface.
The ‘ice chest’ cooler is basically all you’ll need for preparing a meal at a roadside park or on a short camping trip. For two people add an extra knife, fork, spoon, cup, and maybe a bigger pot or skillet.
BOX #2 (THE PERSONAL FOOD CHUCK BOX)
I use the other junk cooler to carry my food in. Here is where I go overboard when I go shopping. When I’m on the road by myself I’ll carry foods like sardines, Vienna sausage, hard salami, canned ham, corned beef, potted meat, smoked oysters, tuna, smoked clams, beef stew, chicken & dumplings, Beef-A-Roni, Spaghetti O’s, beanie weenies, pork & beans, chili, pinto beans, and packaged stuff like cookies, Slim Jims, peppered gravy mix, pepperoni, jerky, two or three kinds of snack crackers, corn chips, potato chips, hard candy, peanut butter, jelly, candy bars, hot cocoa mix, powdered milk, instant coffee, and whatever I can find on sale or in the markdown bin. And of course there’s the perishables like steaks, eggs, potatoes, onions, sausage, hamburger, cheese, hotdogs, beer, pop, and ice that I carry in a smaller cooler, pick up on the way, or buy as I need them.
When my wife is along I have to pack corn, green beans, beets, broccoli (yuck), salad fixin’s, juice, 2% milk, wheat bread, and other healthy-good-for-you foods. And I usually have to pack more than just the two junk coolers. Now I’m forced to bring one with ice and another for the stuff I couldn’t get in the other three.
Usually on a short squirrel hunting trip, fishing/canoeing trip, or while taking a break during a day of deer hunting, I only use the small chuck box and the food box with just enough food to get me through the day.
You’d be surprised at the savings of both time and money when you pack along a compact chuck box and a small food box when you’re traveling. Hungry or need a coffee break? Just pull into one of the many roadside parks along the highway, whip out the old coffee pot, fill it with your safe-from-home drinking water, fire up your camp stove, dig out the instant coffee and have yourself a cup of Joe that doesn’t cost a dollar and take a half an hour to get after you’re waited on. While you’re at it, snack on a homemade cookie or two, make yourself a sandwich, and then get back on the road again, wallet and bank roll intact.
Later on, when you’re more organized, you can design and build a wooden chuck box with a hinged lid that can double as a cutting board or a work surface and stock it with your own personal equipment needs. Look for stuff at garage sales or shop Goodwill and Salvation Army stores for bargains.
Let me add something here that may save your marriage, “NEVER BORROW YOUR WIFE’S KITCHEN TOOLS, POTS, OR PANS. BUY YOUR OWN AND HIDE THEM IN YOUR CHUCK BOX.”
I hope to see you out there in the woods or on the water.