Paring this list down to ten must-have items was not easy. I had dozens of tools I could have included but I tried to choses the ones I could simply not do without. I had to give a pass to a cider press (useful but expensive and I could manage without if I had to) and neither my bottle capper (fun but corks are reusable nor my antique, stove top toaster (I can make toast on my griddle) made the cut. I looked for the tools I use nearly every day as well as those things that will serve you best should the grid be down for a long while. Here are my favorite things.
- Pressure canner: In the worst-case scenario I would be canning up a freezer full of meat. I actually have four pressure canners and, with all hands-on-deck, we could get the pork, chicken and beef on the shelf before the propane ran out. All American Canners are my preferred brand. They built like tanks and I expect to hand them down to my kids someday.
- Steam juicer: We grow and forage a lot of fruit. Turning all of that yummy goodness into juice would be an arduous task without my steam Juicer. Mine is a Mehu Maija from Lehman’s. You can use it to make stock too. My looks a little worse for wear because I use it all the time.
- Grain mill: Whole grains have a shelf life of nearly forever but the grain can only be turned into bread and cookies, pies and biscuits if it’s ground. I have an electric mill for everyday use but if the grid went down I want a hand mill for back-up. I rely on my Wondermill Junior. It turns easily enough for my grandkids to use and the flour can be ground fine enough for bread.
- Steam canner: This a new purchase for me. It’s from Victoria Steam Canner so you know it’s reliable. What I love is that it uses much less water and that translates into less time and less energy. I had avoided getting one for years as the USDA had not tested them but they finally did and gave it their stamp of approval.
- Knives: Bad knives are frustrating and dangerous. Good knives are priceless. I like my food processor when I have gallons of cucumbers to slice but I can manage without it as long as my knives are sharp. Mine are Wustoph and they are excellent. Plan to spend a fair amount of money but expect excellent knives to last about forever.
- Oil lamps: You need to be able to see properly to prepare food. These lamps are very inexpensive and the fuel is cheap and abundant. Stock up now, while the lights are on.
- Breather Washer: There are a couple of non-electric options for washing clothes in the absence of electricity. I have a Breather Washer and a WonderWash. Both work just fine for small loads. Add in a clothes line or drying rack and you’re good to go with clean socks.
- Water Filter: You can generally find surface water but it’s almost never potable. With a good filter like the Big Berkey you can keep you family hydrated and have still have enough clean water to cook and wash with. This is another big spend but clean water is priceless.
- Composting system: Dealing with trash when the garbage trucks don’t come is a serious issue. I have a Hot Frog composter and I love it. I toss in egg shells and coffee grounds, plant and vegetable matter along with some leaves and grass clippings and in a few months end up with rich, black compost to add to my garden. Nos smell and nothing to attract critters.
- Stock pot: You will need a LARGE pot for feeding the multitudes as well as for boiling that chicken carcass into soup. I use mine for cheese making and for fermenting batches of wine or vegetables. It can hold a lot of sap to boil into syrup and can even be used to boil small loads of laundry that need sanitizing. Set on the back of the wood stove, it will keep a canner load of jars hot until you are ready to fill them.
When the microwave and electric popcorn popper are just taking up space, your home can still function if you plan ahead and stock it with non-electric options for getting the work done. In fact, you may come to prefer these quiet alternatives in a slowed down life. Lehman’s and Pleasant Hill Grain are my go-to internet sources for all things non-electric.