I started this article out with a “Top 10” list in mind. But as I looked around my kitchen I realized there are many more than ten kitchen items that I’d want to have in a long term emergency situation. When it’ll be up to you to do all of your own food processing, you’ll need some key tools to make your life a little easier, and make more meals possible. Obviously this list in for a bugging-in scenario, to keep wherever you plan on hunkering down for the long haul, if possible.
Not only are these items handy for preppers, it’s actually a list of the kitchen tools I’ve been acquiring as we’ve been working on moving off the grid. You’ll notice that everything I mention is non-electric. You might already have an alternative energy source in place, but you definitely don’t want to depend on it to run essential kitchen tools. Save that energy for more important things, and put some muscle into your meals.
I’m assuming you already have basic kitchen tools, such as a colander, a small wire strainer, a sturdy whisk, a manual can opener, measuring spoons, a cheese grater, etc., so I won’t go over any of that stuff. Most of these things aren’t life-or-death important, but they sure would make preparing food much less work. If you’ve got the room, it wouldn’t hurt to add the following items to your kitchen as you can afford.
Keep in mind, the main theme here is preparing food from scratch, and what you’ll need to make your job a easier and more efficient. I’d encourage you to think about the recipes you plan on making with your food storage, with garden produce, and with wild edibles, and then collect the tools you’d need to make those meals without electricity.
31 Must-Have Prepper Kitchen Tools
1. Butchering Kit
Buy a good quality set, with high ratings. It should have several different types of knives, a wood-bone saw, game sheers, a cutting board, etc. If you know nothing about butchering, a well-written book on the subject would be handy to have as well. Don’t assume YouTube will always be available to walk you through the process in a SHTF scenario. Start practicing now.
2. Knife Sharpening Tools
Your knives will be incredibly important in a disaster, whether for food or for self defense. Dull knives are not only less efficient, they can be downright unsafe. When you’re working with a dull blade you tend to apply more pressure, which makes it easier to slip and cut yourself. That’s the last thing you need when medical help may not be accessible. Learn how to sharpen different types of blades and keep them in good shape; you’ll need a honing steel and a Whetstone.
3. Manual Coffee Grinder
If you’re a coffee drinker, you may already be stocking up on coffee beans- which will need grinding. Even if you aren’t a coffee drinker, you never know when a grinder might come in handy. A good ceramic burr coffee grinder will grind spices as well, though you might not want to use the same grinder for coffee beans and stronger spices.
Let me also just point out that even if you don’t typically drink coffee, there may come a time when you need that caffeine (or somebody else you’re hunkering down with needs it) to keep late hours. It also makes a great bartering item. If you don’t have some coffee beans in your food storage, get a little and a little more.
Having a backup to your electric coffee maker could mean the difference between being alert or being a zombie. Some mornings, you just need coffee. A percolator is a coffee maker you can use straight over a fire or wood stove. Currently, we’ve ditched our plug-in coffee maker and are using a percolator to brew our coffee on the electric stove top. When our wood cook stove is installed, that’ll be where the coffee making magic is gonna happen.
5. Hand Grain Mill
I have a Wonder Junior Deluxe Hand Grain Mill, and absolutely love it. Not only can you grind grains either super fine or course cracked, you can also make nut butters, grind coffee (which would eliminate the need for #3), grind herbs and spices, and even beans and legumes, all with the crank of a handle. Yes, it can be slow going, but it doesn’t require any electricity and would be essential for making baked goods from those wheat berries you’ve got stored up. You do have wheat berries stored, don’t you?
6. Manual Food Processor
Is it absolutely necessary? Well, no. A good set of knives would suffice. However, I’ve found that a manual food processor has been a huge help in the kitchen. Especially when chopping onions, garlic, hot peppers and tomatoes. And making salsa. Yum. It’s nice to be able to chop fruits and vegetables finely with a few stokes of the hand. If an electric food processor or a blender is something you use often, a manual food processor is a must-have for you.
7. Cast Iron Cookware
Why cast iron? Because it’s durable, won’t warp or disfigure, and will last for generations if you take care of it. Plus, you can cook with it directly over a fire or other hot surface. I would suggest that you at least have a 12″ skillet, and a 4 quart camp dutch oven (the kind with legs on the bottom and a flat lid). You want a camp dutch oven so that you can place it over coals, and heap coals on the lid for even cooking. They can also be used in an oven. Once you have these two essential pieces, you might also want to get a few more skillets, a loaf pan, and a pizza pan for baking breads, cookies, pizzas, etc.
Sometimes you can find really good deals on rusty old cast iron at yard sales or second-hand venues. As long as it isn’t rusted through, cast iron is easy to restore so keep your eyes open for a steal.
8. A Large Stew Pot and Ladle
As I’ve worked on collecting my off-grid kitchen tools, I’ve done a lot of research on what the pioneers took with them in their covered wagons. I think there’s a lot we can glean from looking at the tools they chose as essentials for their survival. One of the items they almost exclusively had was a large stew pot. Sometimes they were cast iron, sometimes they were copper. Not only did they use these pots for stoups and stews, but they also rendered fats in them, made soap, scalded carcasses, and boiled water for laundry and baths.
What size you get depends on what you want to do with it. We decided a 25 gallon cast iron stew pot was sufficient for us. With it we can boil enough water for several loads of laundry or a decent bath, or we could use it to feed a small army of people.
I watched Craigslist for a long time, trying to find a good deal on old cast iron pots. But in the end, I found that it was cheaper to buy a new one at a local agri-supply store than an “antique” at auction. New ones are obviously in better condition, too. Don’t forget to get a large wooden stirring paddle and/or ladle for the deep pot.
9. Canning Equipment
Food preservation might be key to your survival in an uncertain future. Gather the supplies you’ll need now, while they’re still available and affordable. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Water Bath Canner (See Also: Canning Without A Canner)
- Pressure Canner
- Canning Jars (pints, quarts, and half-gallons; wide mouth is more versatile)
- Tattler Reusable Canning Lids
- Tools: wide mouth funnel, jar lifter, tongs
10. Water Filter
A water filter will be super important for ensuring clean and sanitary drinking water. Berkey Filtration Systems are highly recommended. If you’re the handy type, a DIY Berkey Water Filter can save you some money. Whatever route you choose, you definitely want a way to purify water for drinking and cooking.
11. Solar Sun Oven/Dehydrator
I’ve recently acquired a Sun Oven, and have had a lot of fun cooking with it. You can cook anything in it that you would bake in an oven, including corn on the cob, whole chickens and bread. It also makes a great crockpot alternative. And of course, it’s heated completely by the sun’s rays.
Another awesome use of a Sun Oven is it’s ability to dehydrate food. Being able to dry fruits, veggies, and meats will be a huge asset to your pantry. Be sure to purchase the additional drying racks and an enamel pot to make the most of your solar cooker.
12. Rocket Stove
I have an EcoZoom Stove and wouldn’t want to be without it. The great thing about rocket stoves is that you can cook with very little fuel. They’ll burn any kind of biomass (sticks, dried dung, leaves, dried grass, pine cones, corn cobs, charcoal, etc), they put off very little smoke, and are way more efficient than a campfire. At a time when wood/fuel could become a limited resource, having a rocket stove will help you make the most of any natural fuels around you.
13. Deep Mortar and Pestle
The simple, primitive look of them reminds me of Native American women grinding spices and grains for their meals. If you can find a well used Mortar and Pestle, it’ll be good and seasoned for you. If you buy one new, you’ll need to break it in by grinding rice in the bowl until the surface is smooth (which, believe me, takes forever). Once it’s prepared, it’ll be the perfect tool for making pastes, crushing nuts, grinding spices, salsas, hummus, guacamole, etc. I actually find that I use it a lot to crush vitamins for my children to take with honey when they’re sick. There are a lot of ways to use this simple stone tool.
14. Meat Grinder
If you’re processing all of your own food it’s nice to have different options for serving meat. Sometimes you just need it ground, like for tacos, burritos, meatloaf, spaghetti, and chili. If you can find a good quality dual purpose grinder, you’ll get more bang for your buck. The meat grinder I picked up also minces and makes pasta. I haven’t tried it on meat yet, but it has promising reviews. I always recommend that you buy the best quality affordable so that it lasts you a long, long time. Broken or non-working tools will be useless to you.
15. Food Strainer/Sauce Maker
The easiest way to process a bunch of tomatoes or apples is with a food strainer. This is what I use to make tomato juice, tomato sauce and paste, applesauce and jelly, pear sauce and peach sauce. You can use it for small batches to be used right away, or larger batches for canning.
16. Wooden French Rolling Pin
In a time when you’ll be doing all of your baking from scratch, a good quality rolling pin will be priceless. My favorite style is a French Rolling Pin, because of its weighted center and tapered ends. This particular style makes rolling dough into circles much easier. Plus, you can get the dough super thin for crackers and noodles. It would also make a handy weapon if somebody sneaks up on you in the kitchen. Just sayin’.
17. Large Stainless Steel Bowls
I’ve found that you can never have enough oversized bowls when processing garden produce. A good set of stainless steel bowls should last you a long time.
18. Nut Cracker
I’m not talking about one of those little hand nut crackers, but something more heavy duty meant for crushing the hardest of shells. We have a Black Walnut tree on our property, and I’m telling you from experience those are the hardest shells to crack. It takes nothing short of a hammer to break them apart, but then the meat goes flying and the effort is pretty much in vain. A really good nut cracker will net more food for your nut foraging efforts.
19. Unbreakable Dishes
Your standard tableware likely won’t stand up to the beating it’s going to take in an off-grid kitchen. Especially if you have children helping you with clean-up. It’s a good idea to invest in a set of enamelware, melamine, wood, or some other type of BPA-free unbreakable plates, bowls, and cups. Remember, we’re prepping for a time when what we have is all we get- there won’t be stores to run to for new supplies if something breaks.
20. Extra Vegetable Peelers
You may already have one in your kitchen utensils drawer, but I would strongly recommend that you buy a good quality vegetable peeler for every member of your family, or at least four of them. This is coming from somebody who has had to process hundreds of pounds of vegetables for canning. The work goes MUCH more quickly when everybody is involved in the food prep. When our survival depends on the food we collect and preserve, it’ll be vital that you get it all put up before it spoils. Be prepared with enough tools for everyone to pitch in and help.
21. Glass 4-cup Measuring Cup
Having a larger measuring cup such as this has been a huge help to me in the kitchen. It’ll be the only measuring cup you ever need. If you don’t already have one, it would be nice to get. Especially when measuring out ingredients to make hearty soups and stews, which will likely become staple survival meals.
22. Wooden Spoons
I love wooden spoons because they’re so sturdy and long lasting. They also don’t get hot when using them over a fire (just don’t let them get too close to the flames). These are another good item to stock up on, even if you already have a couple.
23. Cherry Pitter
If you have a cherry tree on your homestead or if they grow locally, a cherry pitter is an excellent tool to have handy. They can make processing cherries a much more pleasant (and much less messy) task. If you don’t have cherries in your area, you probably won’t have much of a need for this tool.
24. Manual Citrus Juicer
If you have citrus fruits growing in your area, a manual juicer is something that you’d be wise to have. Juicing is a great way to enjoy the vitamins that come from these fruits. For people like me who live in an area where citrus come only from the grocery store, a juicer probably won’t do much good in a survival situation. Still, it’s nice to have for now in our off-grid kitchen.
25. Manual Kitchen Scale
This is an absolute must if you’re going to be doing canning- which I would highly recommend for food preservation. Canning recipes almost always measure ingredients by the pound instead of by the cup, so you’ll need a way of weighing your produce. Make sure you get a “dial” or “manual” non-digital scale so that you don’t rely on battery power or electricity.
26. Potato Scrubbers
If you’ve ever dug root crops, you can appreciate the importance of a stiff scrub brush. These are key to getting your carrots, potatoes, and other produce dirt free. The same principle applies here as with the vegetable peelers- buy several of them. Scrubbing veggies gets tiring after a while. Having extra brushes on hand for others to help with will be a blessing when the crops are coming in.
As a side note… you may be thinking, “I’ll just peel my carrots instead of scrubbing them. Then I can skip that step.” Maybe you prefer the flavor of peeled carrots to unpeeled. However, in a survival situation (or even if it’s just a money-saving-step) you’ll want to keep those carrot peels for making hearty broths and stocks for your soup. As a matter of fact, you should be eating those skins for the vitamins they contain. Regardless, scrubbing the carrots before peeling them will ensure clean scraps that can later be used for other meals. It would be a shame to throw such a valuable food item away.
27. Pastry Cutter
If you foresee yourself making biscuits, pies, or other pastries in the future, you’ll need a pastry cutter (sometimes called a dough blender). I have one made by OXO Good Grips, which has held up quite well to heavy use. Don’t worry about getting a biscuit cutter… I just use an inverted glass to cut out the rounds of dough I need.
28. Apple Peeler
This is a great tool to have for making apple rings and slices for dehydrating and for canning apple pie filling. It makes the work of peeling and slicing SO much quicker. Plus, kids love to help turn the handle so by all means let them help!
I can’t tell you how important baskets have become to us. I use them for collecting eggs, gathering garden produce, storing food in the pantry, and for foraging in the woods and fields. Large baskets, baskets with handles, small baskets that can be attached to your belt… all of these are incredibly handy to have. Buckets would also work well for collecting food, however they don’t allow air circulation like baskets do which can lead to food spoiling if left to sit for too long. I’m always keeping my eye out for good baskets at yard sales.
30. Cloth Napkins
Forget about storing up dozens of rolls of Vivas, invest in a few good packs of absorbent cloth napkins instead. Don’t buy the fancy dinner-party style linens. These don’t work well for soaking up liquids at all. What you want is 100% cotton napkins. I prefer either white or natural colored for the simple fact that in a SHTF scenario you’ll be hang drying your laundry; the sun will bleach out white napkins, but will fade colored ones. A trivial matter, but worth mentioning. Anything is better than nothing though. Even if you just cut up some old cotton t-shirts, have a few stacks of cloth handy for quick kitchen clean-ups.
31. Jelly Strainer Bags
Jelly bags have so many uses. Use them to strain juice from fruits and berries, to hold loose herbs for teas or broths, straining nut milks, filtering fresh dairy, straining pulp from a juicer, making syrups and jellies, etc. It’s much easier to wash than cheese cloth. As an alternative, you can also use sheer curtain fabric or scraps of thin bed sheets for the same purpose. Jelly bags are the perfect reusable solution for straining liquids.
A Few Additional Suggestions…
A couple of other things come to mind as I think of prepping your kitchen, which I wanted to mention quickly.
Garden: Obviously, it’s prudent that you start a garden now and have all of the tools and seeds you’ll need to grow enough food to sustain your family, at least for a time.
Root Cellar: You’ll want to have a way to keep foods cooler when your fridge isn’t working, so digging a root cellar (whether it’s a walk-in style or a simple hole in the ground) can really help to extend your harvest.
Greenhouse: Having a way to extend the garden season will also be very important. If you don’t have the room or money to build a walk-in greenhouse, you would still benefit from building cold frames or installing row covers in the garden to keep your food protected from frost.
Culturing Dairy: If you plan on having a milk goat or cow, you’ll want to stock up on dairying supplies. Include plenty of cheese cloth, cheese wax, and rennet, along with a cheese press for making hard cheeses.
There are a lot of things to consider when planning to cook and prepare foods without electricity. What are you going to heat your food with? Do you have a wood stove? Do you have a wood cook stove? Is there somewhere you can put a fire pit? Do you have a charcoal grill that could also burn logs? How will you keep your neighbors from knowing that you’re cooking… or do you want to invite them to join you? Is there an area nearby where you can forage? Do you know what wild edibles grow in your area, how to identify them and how to prepare them? These are things you need to be thinking about and answering for yourself.
I think it’s a good idea to have several backup plans in place. For us, our primary cooking source will be a wood cook stove. The solar oven will be our warm-weather backup. The EcoZoom rocket stove is portable, in case we have to leave our home. Plus, we’re learning wild edibles in case we have to survive simply on what we can find growing around us.
Every family’s eating habits are unique. As you go about your week, think about how you would prepare the meals you make if you didn’t have electricity. No oven. No stovetop. No toaster. No microwave. No coffee maker. No blender. No fridge. What would you do? Then research non-electric alternatives to fill in the blanks.
Which kitchen item(s) would you say is/are most essential to your preps? Can you think of something important that you would add to the list?