You know some of those old hand-powered gadgets of grandma’s you sold in the yard sale several years back? That’s the stuff I am talking about. Most of us have replaced and upgraded this equipment and either gotten rid of the old stuff or put it in storage long ago. Take some time to go through your kitchen this weekend, and make a list of some things you might want to acquire in the near future. You don’t have to get these items new, they can be purchased used from yard or estate sales.
Think about how you would cook and handle food if the grid was down. What if it was down for a long time and your little battery operated appliances were dead? What if we were hit with a strong solar flare or EMP, and those little gadgets just stopped working? Or maybe you just don’t want to be dependent upon going to a store or having to plug some appliance in to be able to cook to further your level of preparedness. I took a look around my kitchen the other weekend, and found the following things – do you know of something else that should be added to the list? Leave a comment below and we’ll work it in!
Percolator: Remember these beauties? If not, perhaps you are familiar with a french press? Both are excellent ways of preparing coffee without electricity. I highly recommend that you practice making coffee, with whatever method you choose, before you need a pot of coffee from it. There is an art to each method.
Thermometers: Get some old fashioned ones that do NOT require batteries. You’ll want a “meat thermometer” that lists right on it your target temps – no one wants to get food poisoning in the middle of an emergency and taking short cuts like just cutting into the meat and looking at it will get you just that. You’ll also want a candy thermometer as it reads higher temperatures than meat thermometers. The one pictured in the middle has a handy clip on it which you can use to clip on a pot. You might also want to pick up an oven thermometer. These are handy not only for checking the temperature on your current oven, but also in wood burning ovens and checking the temperatures of dutch ovens.
Manual Scale: Measuring and weighing ingredients will still be important and most people now only have digital scales which can break, be rendered inoperable by EMP or solar flare, or just run their batteries dead. Having one of these around is not only decorative but useful.
Pepper Grinder/Mill: Peppercorns will store for far longer than the ground up version you buy for your table shaker, as long as they are kept dry and out of the sunlight they will last years. That’s one of many reasons why “pepper” was one of the spices Columbus was hoping to find. You can get a fairly nice set of salt and pepper grinders at Target for under $12. This will allow to purchase and stock up on peppercorns, and pepper tastes better when it is freshly ground anyways!
Cast Iron: Ever wonder why everyone recommends cast iron for people getting into emergency preparedness and self-reliance? Because you can cook with it over an open fire and it lasts forever. Aluminum and Teflon pots and pans should be avoided over and open flame over high temperature heat sources, cast iron however, was made for that kind of cooking! A set of cast iron cookware will last for several generations if cared for properly, and dutch ovens can take care for your baking and slow cooking needs (click here to learn how to Get Started with Dutch Ovens).
Manual Timer: Egg timers work, there are also others on the market – I believe you can still get sand timers. They aren’t digital and do NOT require batteries. Today you can get them for under $6. Someday in the future, they may be priceless.
Egg Beaters: Try to find a nice set that doesn’t have plastic gearing. These are NOT going to replace your mixer but they will help you mix up eggs, whip cream, and light liquids. They will be handy and save you time. Best of all? No electricity required.
Manual Grater: For cheese, for carrots, for anything that needs to be grated. Might seem obvious but just was over at my friends house, and found out than they got rid of their manual grater since they use an electric one, or their food processor now.
Manual Coffee Grinder: Handy to have if the electricity is shut off. They are efficient, adjustable and allow you to store coffee beans which will inevitably last longer than ground coffee. Having coffee may not be important to some people but to others it may be a big morale booster or even a sanity saver! I recommend using a little ceramic coffee grinder over using a grain mill to grind coffee beans because coffee beans are oily – that oil will have to be completely cleaned from your grain mill before you can switch back to grains. These little grinders are quick, easy and inexpensive.
Manual Food Grinder: Grind up fruits, veggies, and even meat to some extent without the aid of electricity. One of these will help you get food ready for storage during times when you really need it (click here to learn how to make your own sausage). Keep an eye out in thrift stores and at yard sales. These won’t grind up grain – for that you will need a grain mill, which you might also want to add to your list.
Collapsible Steamer: These are handy little gadgets that not only work with your existing pots and pans, but will also work with a cast iron dutch oven, or even your pressure canner. It’s one more item that will expand your cooking and food storage capabilities, even if the power is out.
Grill Toaster: The little accessories are small, collapsible, light weight, and inexpensive – look for them in the camping section of department stores. They serve their purpose and routinely make several pieces of toast without hogging up the whole pan. If you are gluten intolerant, like me, these are especially handy as most gluten free breads are significantly improved by being toasted or heated.
Cone Colander Food Mill: You can use this model or the hand crank version. Personally, I like this old fashioned version better but many other people do not. Either way, I would recommend stainless steel only because aluminum tends to discolor your food. These work great in conjunction with a jelly strainer bag and rack as this offers another layer of filtration for whatever you are making.
Manual Can Opener: The lowly manual can opener. Many people don’t even own one of these anymore. We have two or three of these where ever we have food stored, and so should you.
Apple Peeler: These are awesome little gadgets that will make quick work of a big pile of apples. They peel, core, and slice. You can save the peels for many uses like making pectin. I recommend the clamping version like this one and not the suction cup version.
Pastry Cutter: You can use this handy tool to cut lard, Crisco, or butter into flour for biscuits, pie crust, or other pastries. They are handy to keep in your kitchen when you don’t want to get the food processor out, and as a bonus they can be used even if there is no power.
Cheese Cloth: I can’t keep enough of this in my house. There are endless uses for it in the world of food preservation. It’s thin so you can’t reuse it very often, it’s a great item to stock up on.
Potato Masher: Useful for its name sake, and for mashing anything else you are processing from sugar beets to fruit for jam. It’s an important part in processing and preserving food, especially in the absence of a food processor.
Water Bath Canner: For it’s food preservation capabilities in home canning, as a stock pot for large meals and stews, a pot with a suitable coating to make soap in, as a wash basin, for boiling laundry, and as a container for carrying water, food, or anything needed. These black granite enamel pots are tough enough to put over a low fire, large enough to get the job done. They remain one of my most frequently used pieces of kitchen equipment.
Pressure Canner: Again, for it’s food preservation capabilities in home canning of low acid foods, like meat and for it’s ability to speed the cooking of regular food thereby conserving fuel. A beef roast which takes 4 hours to cook in the oven can be completely cooked and incredibly tender in under an hour when cooked in a pressure canner, this also greatly conserves fuel if you have a limited supply. There are specific “pressure cookers’ for this on the market but most home pressure canners can also double as a cooker (see the product manual for your canner for instructions). It is completely possible to pressure can or cook food over off-grind gas stoves, rocket or volcano stoves, and even over wood burning stoves with the appropriate amount of skill and practice.
Aside from being prepared for a grid down situation, owning this equipment makes you more self-reliant and less dependent on others. If you don’t want to run into town to get new batteries for your digital scale, you don’t have to. If the grid goes down you won’t have to go anywhere in search of food because you can’t prepare the food you have – you will be cooking your food safely and efficiently while others will be looking to the government for help.