Have you ever thought about what life would be like if all of a sudden our modern conveniences were taken away from us? Would you have the ability to open the can of Wal-Mart beans in the pantry? Do you have pots and pans that would survive more than one use cooking supper over an open fire or on a woodstove? Your scenario might be a week long power outage or simply your own choice to “pull the plug” long term. Either way, there are some throw backs that still function perfectly and make living simple easier. This is by no stretch an all-inclusive list, but might help get you started. Some of these you may still use, we certainly do, but then again, we’re out-dated kind of people and like it that way. 🙂
1. Hand powered Egg Beater – Even a small hand powered beater can do many of the tasks your mixer or blender does and is much easier than using a fork or hand whisk.
2. Cast Iron Skillet(s) – Cast iron is unbeatable for cooking over an open fire or on a woodstove. While you’re at it, invest in a cast iron Dutch Oven too. If you enjoy using a crock-pot or slow-cooker, a Dutch Oven on a woodstove or fire-pit is an excellent equivalent.
3. 16 quart (at least) Stainless Steel Cook Pot – One of these is a must for any homestead whether you’re with power or not. They aren’t just for cooking soups and stews. We use ours for scalding culled chickens so they pluck easier and have an old enamel coated one specifically for making wood ash lye to be used for whitening linens, in soap making and in the hide tanning process.
4. Hand Powered Grain Mill – Think not just grains, but dried, homegrown corn and nuts too. Stone burr grinders will not do nuts well because the oil in the nuts gums up the wheels, but most grinders offer steel burrs as an option and they will do the trick. Peanuts are an easy crop and can easily be turned into small batches of homemade peanut butter for a little comfort food fix. Acorns can also be foraged and processed into flour using a steel burr grain mill.
5. Manual Seed & Coffee Grinder – One of these is not only good for grinding coffee, roasted chicory or dandelion root, but will be good for powdering dried herbs too. Yarrow styptic powder is just one example of this. Another option is an old-fashioned mortar & pestle, but takes a bit more elbow grease.
6. Stove-top Percolator – One that can also handle being on a woodstove… because a good steaming cup of coffee, chicory or roasted dandelion root will always be a good thing! You can also opt for a French Press. With a French Press you heat your water in a kettle or pot and poor it over coffee grounds in the press. We love ours and it takes the guesswork out of doing it with a percolator if you haven’t practiced with it much.
7. Rotary Scale – This may seem like a non-essential, but accurate measurements will save you a lot of heartache when making things like soap where you don’t want to waste your resources by guessing at portions.
8. Manual Knife Sharpener – This can be a “pull-through” or an actual sharpening steel (wand) or whetstone. A sharp utensil for butchering, skinning, deboning and cooking is irreplaceable on the homestead. Make sure to choose a sharpener (or two) that you can use for all of your blades.
9. Non-Digital Cooking Thermometer – Choose a thermometer with a wide temperature range that can accommodate everything from making milk curd for cheese to making jam to preserve your fruit harvest. You’ll also need a thermometer for some variations of making “mash”… you know, to be turned into products strictly for “medicinal purposes” *wink, wink*. These “rheumatism cures” will also be in high demand if you find yourself needing to barter.
10. Manual Can Opener – If you’re stocking store bought canned goods, this can be a big issue. Sure, you can open a can without an opener, but they take up such little space, why not stash one to make things easy?
11. Hand Crank/Plunger Butter Churn – These can by pricey and space consuming, so the next best thing is a mason jar. Simply shake the cream, using a forceful motion to make sure it “smacks” the bottom of the jar, until you see it separating, then dump it in a fine mesh strainer and rinse with cool water while pressing out the remaining whey.
If you’ve been lucky enough to inherit some of these from family members, be thankful. If not, try surfing your local thrift store for them. They are often priced cheap and with a little TLC may be more durable than newly manufactured versions. What’s that old saying? “They don’t make things like they used to” and that’s a fact!