Saving and Recycling Oils Should Be A Top Priority

This is a guest post by Kim B

pic of oil drumsIf you really want to survive when times get tough, then save all of the oil that you can.  I do not mean just car oil but used corn and bacon oils because they can be reused even if they go rancid.  Like my mother, which taught me to do this, I have regularly practiced saving oils because “you never know”.  Besides, why throw out something that you can use when the lights go out, the flame of a lamp is all the heat you are able to have and it is cost-effective for the budget.

After food has been cooked in them they can be poured into a stainless steel bowl or container, cooled, filtered into a glass jar with a lid and stored in an area where the container will not break from freezing or overheating.  Bacon grease is the exception because it can be stored in a refrigerator or freezer for a very long time, without filtration only when it is to be used for cooking.  It should be thrown out when the smell is not right when it has been heated or it is suspected to be bad.

Corn oil, no matter how old it gets, can be poured into an oil lamp’s tank in place of the traditional fuel and the wick wetted, the excess squeezed from it’s length, prior to lighting it.  I have a few lamps with cheap liquid oil in them and used them during a short power outage last year without a problem.  I added nothing to the oil and it burned just fine.  Many of us use liquid cooking oils so much so that there is always a little left over from fries, hash browns, eggs or other foods that it would not take us more than a year to have around a gallon collected.

It is amazing just how much oil you will see fill up a container when you save every bit of it that you can.  Several years ago, when I began to change how I ate, that “change” led me to tilting every pan and pushing the food to the high end and pressing it out with a spatula to see if anything more would drain from it.  The first time I tried it I was amazed because I got between one-half and one teaspoon of oil.  No matter how little oil I used I always found some left over that I could pour into the salvaged oil container.

In my stock piles of foods, I have several gallons of very old, extremely rancid, cooking oils and that is where they are going to stay.  I will never throw them out because one day, sooner than I would like it to come, I or someone else is going to be in need of them.  I know what it is like to be without a home and heat for longer than a year and it is miserable at best so experience tells me that I would rather save now and be warm later, than to suffer because I did not do anything when I had an opportunity.  Corn oil is good for other things such as oiling moving parts of tools, lubricating squeaking hinges, easing sticking locks and treating a pair of steel toed leather boots prior to and after breaking them in.  There is no limit to the uses of corn oil and you should never be afraid to try it on something at least once.

Car oil, the weight of it does not apply here, is one of my favorite non-edible oils.  Unlike corn oil, I never filter it because on a cooler day it would take a very long time because cold always thickens engine oil.  When I change my vehicle’s oil I use a large square pan, a six dollar cheapy, to catch and hold it in.  One that has a few screw-type plugs in it’s top to allow oil to enter inside after they are removed and to keep it contained after they are installed.  At one end it has a cap that can be unscrewed so the container can be tipped and the contents drained.

It is the most ideal oil collection pan because it allows me to pour it’s contents right into a kitty litter jug or wide mouthed bottle of sorts.  I never skip salvaging the filter’s oil because if I throw it out then I am being wasteful, costing myself money and helping some company get richer.  Unless oil gets water in it which is where it will turn strange colors such as tan, brown, yellowish and/or white, or the elements do not destroy it, then I will keep it.

I never understood why my father would douse some outdoor wood piles with engine oil before starting them alight until I was absolutely unable to start a fire because the wood was far too wet.  My first oil-assisted fire was amazing because of the oil’s ability to catch quickly, burn rapidly and I did not have to use much.  Years ago, I used to perform certain types of work during an agriculture/horticulture class where it was required to wear leather work boots and every student had to oil their boots to keep them in top condition.

To this day it still amazes me just how water proof my boots were and I believe that I owe it, in part, to having oiled them regularly.  Although engine and other oils can become sticky and dry out when warm temperatures arrive and heat them up, from where I sit, all that I am collecting now may be all that I will have to use in the future.  I do not care because it is better to have something than nothing at all.

Times are becoming more difficult financially but they could get so tough that it would be painful.  Considering that a loaf of bread is going to cost a day’s wage, according to the reliable Holy Bible, on my side of the country that could be more than one hundred dollars, then oil and other essentials may be equally expensive.  When comparing what a gallon of gas costs to the price of a loaf of bread at this time, a gallon of gas costs about four dollars more than a loaf of bread.

So, if a day’s wage for a loaf were to cost one hundred dollars then a gallon of gas will cost five hundred dollars or so.  If, because of inflation and the cost to manufacturers and others down the line, wages were not increasing as they should but prices continued to increase then there is no way in the world that I, for one, would be able to afford anything.  If you think it is not possible, then I would reconsider because not more than thirty years ago I learned that in a few places on the other side of the world, a person had to pay a day’s wage for a single apple.

I was young with little economical education so I did not understand the world and how it worked.  I was always puzzled and wondered how that could be.  The answer did not come until I delved deeper into the inner workings of commerce, banking, finance and inflation, to name a few.  Today, knowing what the good book says about the cost of food one of these days , I am nervous and hopeful that what I have been preparing for will last but it will not go bad or be destroyed for some reason and I will make it through that time.

There is no better time than now to get a container and start filling it with used cooking oil.  Empty plastic coffee cans, kitty litter jugs, clean bleach jugs, lightweight bins with lids and other containers will suffice as long as they have lids, they are stored in an area where animals cannot have access to them and they will not break due to outdoor elements or stacking.  There is no requirement as to how much you have on hand but to make sure that enough to get you by in a pinch, when stores may be out of fuels or for a few weeks or more is the main idea.

Have you saved your oil today…


  1. JP in MT says:

    Recycling, and unique and innovative uses for recycled products, is a great idea. And I’m not talking about the commercially done stuff, I mean stuff, like this article shows, that you can do at home.

    This knowledge needs to be shared and saved. If we don’t have to use it, our children may very well have to.

  2. My parents and grand parents always saved their bacon fat for cooking. It made everything taste better, but the best part was using it instead of butter on bread or biscuits. Nothing like hot biscuits with bacon fat melted into it.

    • I have used bacon fat in biscuits instead of Crisco or lard. Delicious. Mostly I use fresh butter in my biscuits these days. I have half a cup though, maybe I will make a batch of biscuits with it.

      • Thomas The Tinker says:

        Rebecca: in a large pan, heat bacon grease. Slice thick pieces of bread (or use what ya have) and press a juice glass through them making ‘egg’ space. Fry bread on one side until brown. Flip and crack egg into ‘space’. Cover with a wetted lid for 2 to 3 min. Flip and cook for a few seconds more. Add bacon on the side and serve.

        My ‘Gramma Bessie’ would add a wee bit of flour to the rest of the grease and make a gravy for the ‘eggys’.

        Peasant food… gut food.. working food.

        • This is probably a really stupid question, but when you all talk about “bacon fat”. Are you saying that when you get bacon you cut off the fat and store it? Or that when you cook bacon you drain off the rendered fat and store it?

          If it’s been cooked wouldn’t it then go rancid?

          Sorry, I’m a bit of a dummy when it comes to fats and oils.

          • Not a stupid question. We’ve been told for so long that fat is bad for us,nth at folks are afraid to use it. Bacon fat is what is left in the pan after frying it up. Mine has never gone rancid, I keep it in the fridge and I use it. I usually don’t have more than a half cup on hand cuz we like our eggs and potatoes fried in it.

          • Anette — I was once told the only stupid question is the one NOT asked:)

            I cool my bacon and sausage grease and pour it into a lidded canning jar, then store in the fridge. We don’t use it all that often, but have never had it go rancid.

            The fat is also a good binder when making treats for the chickens in winter.

          • If you strain the bacon grease through a coffee filter into the jar it will never go bad. It is the bits of meat that turn rancid not the grease.

          • Poor man
            Thanks for the grease tip.

          • Thanks so much everyone. I Found this article really interesting. I’ll definately be using some of these tips.

            And I love love love bacon and bacon grease, never knew I could store it for a long time.


          • And chicken fried in left over bacon fat is the best. But then again, IMHO everything is better with bacon.

        • TTT — I’ve heard those called Toad in the Hole. That was one of the first things DD learned to cook.

      • We use to just spread it on the biscuits like butter and eat them.

    • Axelsteve says:

      great idea since I hate butter
      on my food

  3. Such great advice. Grandma always had a container on her stove for bacon fat, so did Mom, so do I.

    I have painted our split rail fence with used motor oil. Preserves the rustic, rough sawn wood a bit longer. We don’t do much frying these days since we don’t burn calories like we used to…but I always fry potatoes in bacon grease. Otherwise, they just don’t taste right.

    I cooked up a chicken the other day, saved the drippings. The next day I mixed the congealed chicken fat with some flour to make a second meal from that chicken: chicken and gravy. Oh my! The flavor!

    Great article. Yes, hard times are ahead and hard times are here for many.

  4. I have never saved oil, but will start doing so. I “inherited” cases of empty large motor oil containers when I bought this place. They are heavy plastic with lids and had oil for the guy’s dump truck. I just found a use for them. I wonder if those oil change places would give you old motor oil?

  5. Thomas The Tinker says:

    OK… I can do this. Never held onto ‘oil’ of any kind. I retired from a local refinery and us folks used to bring in old engine oils etc. and it would all go into the ‘Slop oil tank’ and get fed back into the refining process… My old employer would sell it back to me in the form of 97 octane………..

  6. we sold our apartments in little rock arkansas back in 2006. we had over 100 unite. the city of little rock waste water department started handing out a tin can with lid and some heat resistant plastic bags to pour your used oil/grease in so you could throw it in the trash instead of pouring it down the sewers. well i called them up and told them i wanted to place one in each apartment and they delivered several extra cases of cans and an extra case of the bags to the office, and i placed one in each kitchen and told tennents i would give out free bags when they needed one. sure saved alot of oil and grease going down the pipes i had to unstop all the time! and no cost to me either.
    i use to collect the used shortning from an convience store in 3 gallon food grade buckets. i made a batch of soap from it 8 years ago and made a 60 pound batch, i gave away over 100 buckets full of the shortning and still have 50 of the full buckets! barells and barells of used cooking oil, all filtered and ready. and many IBC’s of used petroleum oil too. i am a pack rat for sure but i wont be hurting for this stuff when the time comes!!

    • Thomas The Tinker says:

      Sir Leonard: Would you consider posting something on the ‘soap’ making with the used shortning??

      • Chuck Findlay says:

        I looked at soap making (I even have a book on it) but soap is super inexpensive right now and I decided it was not worth making. I have a 5-gal bucket full of bars of soap I have bought (3 or 4 bars for $1.00) bought inexpensively. Probably have enough to last the rest of my life.

        Nothing against making soap, It’s just I did the math and found it easy and inexpensive to buy it and stock up.

        Post SHTF (if it ever gets that bad) I feel I will have enough other fires to put out and won’t have time to make soap.

    • Leonard
      please do that! I have already made lye from my juniper wood ashes for nixtamalization… A half step from soapmaking!

  7. What a lot of people don’t know is that engine oil if it has not reached a high temp does not break down. On big stationary engines such as in a ship the oil is constantly run thru a purifier and is only changed if the acid content gets to high, I’ve had oil that has run indefinitely this way. In tough times I wouldn’t hesitate to make a filter out of something like fiberglass insulation, warm the oil and filter it then reuse it.

    • WxNW, u use the ex of a stationary engine on a ship. Does this also apply to automotive engines? or do car engines get so hot that it breaks down the oil? The oil change shop that my family uses, recycles the used oil, & puts recycled oil in engines. But can an individual somehow filter it at home, to reuse it?

      • Sorry about the time lapse, been at the VA. our purifiers were centrifuges, same thing as a cream seperator, so things of different viscosity were all removed, such as fuel dilution, a filter system will only remove solid material like metals from engine wear, but when I was a younger person with very little money I used rock wool as a filter and ‘re-used oil from the local gas station.

  8. I save it as well. I use bacon grease for cooking, and mix motor oil with new bar oil for my chainsaw by adding 25% used motor oil. As mentioned, it works well for brush fires.

    Betty Lamps; were in daily use in most colonial homes. In the book “The Road”, a ‘slut lamp’ was referred to, the name I took as the lamps ability to take any and all oil for burning. I pictured it as a bottle lamp made like one you would use for olive oil. The ‘aladdin’s lamp’ was much like a Betty Lamp, but instead of rancid grease/oil’s for fuel, olive oil was used.

    The Pacific Coast Native Americans used the oil from rendered candle fish in their lamps. Often a clam shell or dished piece of soapstone for a vessel with a natural fiber wick.

    • Right is RIGHT-wrong is WRONG says:

      PatrickM…I do believe that “Aladdin’s lamp” also used clarified butter (it was called a butter lamp also….. cook unsalted butter until it separates and pour off the clear part…also the butter you dip your lobster in) as a fuel. Clarified butter also used to start cow paddy fires in cooking for thousands of years all over GOD’s green earth. If you had goats, cows, or camels nothing went to waste.

  9. mom of three says:

    I keep bacon grease, to cook with too it’s amazing how small our world really is when most of us grew up knowing this it was just a givin. Now a day’s you have to teach and pass this type of knowledge on because so many people don’t do this anymore or are not teaching it to the younger generation. Heck, I’m still learning and I’m 46 I give my knowledge to my kid’s, even if they think they don’t need it one day though:)

  10. when your jars of bacon grease are 2/3 full, I put them in the freezer until I need them. Or some one asks for a jar. They last forever. Never have too much bacon grease.

  11. I have a newer car and the manufacturer requires the use of Synthetic oil. Should I save this as regular oil also? Any drawbacks to using it in lieu of regular motor oil? Can it be thinned and burned in a combustion diesel engine?

    • Right is RIGHT-wrong is WRONG says:

      Methane………the Chinese have been using various vegetable oils for years in their diesel engines. A South African in South Florida used cooking oil to drive his Mercades diesel. It is not an easy process to filter plus there had to be up stream adjustments in his fuel line. Perfume has been used in diesel engines. The great pressures used in diesel engines is a combing factor along with combutability of a fuel that makes a diesel engine so attractive to “preppers” (translation: a fuel does not have to come from oil–hydrocarbon–like gasoline to used in a diesel) nor does a fuel have to have an alcohol flammable base to be used in diesel engines. There is Bio-Diesel that is processed to be used just with diesel in certain proportions and then there is Bio-Diesel that is made out of corn oil (for example) that can be used by it self in diesel. There are needed changes up stream in the pure corn oil diesel fuel. It is amazing what will burn when it is subjected to great pressures used in diesel engines.

  12. GardenNut says:

    I never understood about saving bacon grease until a year ago. I was so surprised the first time I cooked real bacon. I grew up on the Costco “pre-cooked” bacon. There was no grease to save because pre-cooked bacon has no oil left in it, we actually had to fry it in olive oil or it would burn. But the Costco stuff got too expensive, and when I saw the price of real bacon there was no question which I would buy. The smell and taste of frying up a pan of real bacon, ah, nothing can compare. And the oil! So much oil from just two or three strips, cook five strips and everything is just floating in it. It was just such a difference. I save every drop of oil now. I use it for cooking and I use some of it for the dogs when they just won’t eat.

    Another use for oil: preventing wasps from building nests. I use petroleum jelly (vaseline) but a farmer near me uses creosote, and another uses a motor oil. Coat the undersides of the rails with it and the tops of the pickets. The wasps will refuse to build nests anywhere you dab it. They land and then have a little hissy fit and lift off again, then they go to the next post and do the same thing. They do this all the way down the line, and then at the end fly off pretty pissed. It’s hilarious to watch.

    One more use. When you fire arrows on a bow, you have to wax the string every hundred shot to prevent fraying. Now I use bowstring wax and my friend uses beeswax on theirs, but I imagine if I had nothing else I would definitely be getting creative and experimental.

    • PatrickM says:

      Saving the oil/grease for the dogs is a good idea. When I was 12 my brother and I worked in a Kennel, part of our job was to cook stock pots full of hamburger crumbles for the owners dogs and those borded. The hamburger and oils were added to the kibbles.

    • Axelsteve says:

      sometimes we will get bacon/sasauge drippings to give to the dogs.We pour a lil bit on the dry dogfood and they love it.

  13. Curley Bull says:

    Great article Kim!! Like most of you, I grew up on bacon grease (fat). Tried to use the “healthier oils” the doctors recommended a few times and still use a fair amount of olive oil, but still have and use my bacon grease.

    As for used motor oil, don’t waste that either. I used to know a fella that after watching it on “Doomsday Preppers” bought a military duce and a half with the multi-fuel engine (for $3500) and runs it on nothing but used motor oil.

    I use to make and treat my own fence post using a mix of used motor oil and diesel. The post lasted as long (if not longer) than store bought.

    • I still used posts treated with used motor oil around my ranch. Soaked in a 55gal barrel half full of a mix of used oils from trucks, cars and our tractor for about a week then wiped dry.
      With all this talk about Bacon I am surprised we haven heard from BC Truck..

  14. Chuck Findlay says:

    All this talk of Bacon, where is BC Truck??????

  15. Great article MD! For decades I have used old engine oil for
    bar lubrication in my chainsaws. This was both in the timber industry and for personal firewood. Consider the money saved from not buying commercial bar oil.

    • Chuck Findlay says:

      Jim I do the same thing, I run it through an old sock to filter out any large debris. Works great and is free.

      • I agree! I never filtered the oil-most solids fall to bottom of jug. In Se Alaska, we made so-called “boy scout juice” to help build a quick fire. Just mix some gasoline in the oil. Works great under absolute rain forest conditions where the only dry wood was within standing dead tree snags. MD is doing
        a great job promoting these conversations, I say.

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