Posted on Leave a comment

Building Site Cooking Tips

building site cooking tips

For generations, people cooked their food with minimal kitchen equipment. I think that this proves that we need surprisingly little in order to have a workable kitchen. However, we have become accustomed to our many and varied kitchen gadgets and utensils, so the thought of not having all that equipment while living on a building site can be a bit daunting. This leads us to the question: What exactly do you need in order to cook while living on a building site? We decided to write up some of our building site cooking tips.

In my mind, cooking on a building site is very similar to cooking at a camping site. Don’t expect to be rustling up wedding cakes and Michelin star-worthy delights. But, for your every day meals of spaghetti bolognaise, curries and stews, only the basics are required.

A little more care is required when planning meals for a long-term building site, because months of cheap and easy food is probably not the best for your health. If your kitchen is only going to be down for a few days as in the case of a kitchen renovation, then paper plates, cereal and sandwiches will suffice. Long term, as in our case where we won’t have a kitchen for quite some time, a little more thought is required.

Louis and Gwen have worked on sites all over the country for many years. A huge silver lining for their rather nomadic lifestyle is that they’ve had the opportunity to see and experience many areas of South Africa. Another result of this is that Gwen has become a pro at cooking on building sites. So, I asked her for her input for this article.

Building Site Cooking Tips – Basic Equipment

This is the basic equipment you will need to prepare food on a building site:

  • Gas cooker
  • Good lighter and backup matches
  • Medium pot, small pot and pan
  • Kettle
  • Egg lift and spatula
  • Stirring/wooden spoon
  • Tin opener
  • Bread board
  • Sharp knife
  • Crockery
  • Cutlery
building site cooking tips spices not necessary
Your entire spice collection is not necessary for a building site kitchen!

Building Site Cooking Tips – Shortcuts

If you are working on a building site, chances are that you’ll lose track of time. Therefore, shortcuts to help you prepare quick meals are useful. Obviously, sticking to healthy options is best.

If you are planning on eating rice at dinner, here’s an easy method to prepare it: While eating your lunch, boil rice in a pot with a well-fitting lid for a few minutes. Turn the heat off and leave the rice to steam until dinner. At dinner all you’ll need to do is warm up the rice to eat with your meal.

If you don’t have access to a microwave, two-minute noodles can be cooked in a similar manner in a plastic container with a tight fitting lid. Place your noodles with required spices and salt into the good quality plastic container. Pour boiling water over the noodles and seal. After ten minutes unseal the container in order to equalize the pressure. Reseal until you are ready to eat.

A quick and easy (and delicious) curry can easily be made up by frying some vegetables of your choice. Add a tin of Indian flavoured tomato mix and a tin of chickpeas. If you don’t wish to have a vegetarian dish, the chickpeas can be swapped with your choice of protein. Chili Con Carne can be made similarly with a tin of Mexican flavoured tinned tomato and mince.

Pre-prepared vegetables and packet sauces can be very helpful in preparing quick and easy meals. Ready-cooked chicken can stretch over several meals, should you have a refrigerator in which to keep the meat. Chicken can be used in salads, stews, stir-fries, sandwiches, etc.

cooking tips on a building site healthy pineapple
Don’t forget those healthy options!

Cooking on the Container House Project Building Site

We knew that we’d be cooking under less than ideal circumstances for many months. Therefore, we have kitted out our kitchen area with a little more than the basics as described above. Our biggest problem is that we have limited power on site. This means that we cannot run many electrical appliances all at once and for cooking, we can run one appliance at at a time. Planning has become essential in order to decide the best order in which to cook each component of our meal.

We have a two plate stove, two gas cookers, a microwave and kettle. We also have the added advantage of having an air fryer and a rice cooker; two appliances I wouldn’t wish to live without. As we leave early in the morning for work, we also have to take into consideration breakfast and lunch for the next day. We often cook double dinners so that there are left overs to pack into our lunchboxes. For breakfast, an egg boiler has proven its worth.

building site cooking tips gas cooker and air fryer
What’s for dinner?

Of course, learning to cook on building sites has sure helped us cope during load shedding!

Do you have any building site or load shedding cooking tips to add? Leave us a comment! We’d love to hear about them.

Posted on 3 Comments

Vintage Concrete Mixer Refurbishment

vintage concrete mixer refurbishment

In 1993 Louis bought a small second-hand concrete mixer. It ran off a two-stroke engine and with this contraption, he proceeded to build a house. Louis has kept the concrete mixer since then, but now, in 2019, it hadn’t run in twenty years and was in desperate need of some maintenance. Louis and Kevin decided to tackle the job of the vintage concrete mixer refurbishment. Why? Because we need to pour concrete footings for the shipping container house project.

Container House Project Concrete Options

We had several choices on making concrete for pouring the footings on our project:

  1. Hire a concrete mixer
  2. Buy ready-mix concrete
  3. Mix concrete by hand with a shovel
  4. Buy another concrete mixer

All of the above choices seemed ridiculous when we had a concrete mixer readily available. But, it wasn’t working. So, could we fix it?

Vintage Concrete Mixer History

Sometime during projects many years ago, the original motor on the concrete mixer stopped working. It was irreparable. At great expense, Louis bought a new motor for the concrete mixer, but it never performed as well as the original motor.

Frame and gearbox. Motor and mixing drum removed.

This little concrete mixer is built on something similar to a wheelbarrow frame, which means you can wheel it around site while it is mixing concrete. You can pour the mixed concrete directly from the barrel into whatever project you are working on.

If you know anything about concrete mixers, you’ll know that the bigger ones have to stand in one spot. The mixed concrete is poured into a wheelbarrow and from there taken to where it is to be used.

The new motor supplied to Louis all those years ago, wasn’t the same as the original two-stroke motor. The original type of motor was no longer available for purchase. The design of the new motor (four stroke; the differences between two and four-stroke motors are another whole blog post!), couldn’t accommodate the different angles that the motor was being positioned into while tipping, being wheeled about, etc . Therefore, the carburetor would fill up with fuel, then when tilted the petrol would be dumped into the cylinder and flood engine. In another orientation, the carburetor would run out of fuel and starve the motor.

Either way, very frustrating; and so after another two hours of work the concrete mixer sat in storage for a good two decades.

So How Old Exactly Is this Concrete Mixer?

We don’t know. But we do know that it was rather worn out when it was purchased, and even worse by the time the motor finally gave in. However, if we could get it going again, it would be worth it, because this little machine would then be able to help us build our house. Kevin also thinks this concrete mixer is of a particularly awesome design so he wanted to see it operational again.

Removed motor glinting in the sunlight

Vintage Concrete Mixer Refurbishment

We are talking about a concrete mixer; not some kind of classic motor vehicle. There’s no point in refurbishing it to the point of looking brand new. However, it is worth getting it to the point of working efficiently once again. Therefore, quite a lot of work had to be done.

New intake manifold fitted to motor

The concrete mixer motor turns several gears and drive chains, which rotate the rollers on the front of the machine. The rollers, in turn, rotate the drum in which the ingredients for concrete are added (cement, sand, stone, water).

Vintage Concrete Mixer Refurbishment Work Accomplished


The first thing to do was to replace all the bearings. The original bearings were in various degrees of deterioration. Only one was still good enough to be reused, but since this much effort was being made, all the bearings were replaced. Even the sockets in which the bearings were fitted were worn out to the point that the bearings just fell out. Ten new bearings were fitted with Kevin making adjustments as necessary so that the bearings fitted more snugly.

Gearbox removed from frame, with the severely perished roller arm (top right of photo)

Drive Chains

The drive chains were a too loose and slipped right off the sprockets. Kevin removed a few links in the chains to make them tighter and more efficient. Louis and Kevin added fresh grease and oil where necessary. The system uses an oil bath to prevent the chains from wearing out unnecessarily.


One roller from the front, on which the drum sits had disintegrated completely. Before it’s exile to storage, it had been repaired with several layers of duct tape. Kevin now has the machinery to make a new plastic roller, so he did. This is an important piece because it is friction between this part and the drum that causes the drum to rotate and therefore mix the concrete.

Motor and gearbox re-assembled; ready for testing. See the new roller?


The trickiest bit was the motor. As explained above, the carburetor on the new motor (barely used although twenty years old) didn’t take kindly to being moved around. Therefore, Kevin made a new intake manifold and bracket. He rotated the carburetor 40 degrees horizontally so that it now sits on the side of the motor. He also tilted it 5 degrees vertically so that when the motor is tilted in extreme angles, it is more likely to hold the fuel in the carburetor.

The vintage concrete mixer refurbishment project was hopefully a success! We will let you know when we actually use it.

All tested and ready to run!

Posted on 6 Comments

Digging for the Footings Again


I might have mentioned once or twice on this blog that having a clay soil causes a few complications when building. A few months ago we dug some holes where we wanted to plant the concrete footings on which our container house would sit. However we didn’t have the the final specs from the structural engineer and were unable to finish the work. We are glad we did dig the holes though, because it gave us a good opportunity to examine the soil type; all information useful for us and the structural engineer. Now we have received the final specs for the shipping container house footings from the structural engineer, John Moll, so can continue the work.

Continue reading Digging for the Footings Again
Posted on 6 Comments

A Head Start on the Earthworks – Ground Preparation

ground preparation

Even though we had extra time over December to work on the Container House Project, we were not able to do as much on the project as we would have liked. The construction industry shuts down in December. We were not able to hire equipment or buy materials. However, just before the holidays began in earnest, we managed to complete a substantial chunk of the ground preparation on the property. Therefore, welcome to our first blog post for 2019!

Continue reading A Head Start on the Earthworks – Ground Preparation
Posted on 26 Comments

We Bought Building Sand and Stone. Why?

building sand header

It seems a bit crazy to buy lots of building sand and stones for our shipping container house when we have tonnes of the stuff right under our feet. There is a reason why we have done so, and this post explains what we bought and why we bought it. Building a home is kind of like baking a cake; you use different ingredients for different purposes, depending on how you want the end product to turn out.

Continue reading We Bought Building Sand and Stone. Why?

Posted on 1 Comment

A Visitor’s Perspective

visitors perspective

Today we have another guest post for you. I recently enjoyed a visit from a friend I have known for many years and don’t get to see very often. She kindly and voluntarily wrote up a guest post for this blog and although I’m sure she’s exaggerating somewhat below, we know you’ll enjoy her visitor’s perspective of our project. 

Sadly, I can’t share with you any links for Lara’s other work. Although Lara has written some very interesting pieces over the years, she’s not sharing anything online at the moment.

So, without further ado, please enjoy Lara’s perspective on our project:

Continue reading A Visitor’s Perspective