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Four Non-Electric Appliances for Every Kitchen

As our family prepares to move off-grid later this year, I am slowly switching from cooking techniques that require electricity to those that don’t. This does require me to change the way I view meal preparations, but our reasons for this transition go beyond what makes my life easier.

It occurs to me that many a cook has lived without electrical appliances so we need only look back a few generations to see how things were done. That, along with some modern ingenuity, has provided me with a few items that can replace all of my old electrical appliances.

Manual Coffee Grinder

Replaces: electric coffee grinder

I actually quit drinking coffee a few months ago, but still use this for grinding decaf coffee. It can also be used for grinding whole spices or even some grains. Mine looks a lot like this.

Mortar & Pestle

Replaces: electric spice grinder, mini food processor

I use this almost every day for grinding whole spices like peppercorns, cumin seeds, or coriander. The larger ones can be used easily to make everything from spice rubs to pestos to aioli. I have a very small one, but hope to get a larger one like this.

Food Mill

Replaces: food processor or blender

This one is at the top of my to-buy list. It is the food processor of old. You can use this to puree soups or sauces or in food preservation such as grinding apple or tomato sauce. From what I understand it also does a great job of straining out peels, seeds, and cores.

Hand-Crank Blender

Replaces: electric blender

This is less of a necessity for us, but I could see how it would be useful for those who use the blender a lot. I am thinking it will be great for smoothies and other blended items or to achieve a thinner consistency than a food mill can produce.

Do you use any non-electric kitchen appliances I haven’t listed?

Show Comments


  • I own (but rarely use) something called (I think) the Salsa Machine. It has a wickedly sharp rotating blade turned by a hand crank on top. I bought it from a fairground vendor but it is also one of those “As seen on TV” items.

    My mother used to use a hand-crank food grinder that clamped onto her cutting board to grind up the ingredients for a cranberry relish; also, more rarely, for meat.

    Elizabeth July 9, 2011 AT 10:01 pm
  • I think a hand-cranked grain mill would be great. The food mill can’t quite do grains well.

    Solar oven? I’d love to have this just to replace our oven for the summers, even though our goal isn’t off-grid, yet, but preparedness. And because of where we live, it’s useful almost all year long.

    Darcy@Somewhatmuddledmusings July 12, 2011 AT 7:29 am
    • Darcy – I didn’t list it, but we actually own a hand-crank grain mill and love it. Good exercise and so durable!

      Shannon July 12, 2011 AT 6:24 pm
      • What grain mill do you have? I have been looking at them, but was hoping whatever one I purchase could do coffee beans also? Wondermill Jr Deluxe is in the running for me…

        Mellissa Dawn July 12, 2011 AT 7:39 pm
  • I’ve been thinking on this as well. I thought this would be really handy, as I use my stick blender just about every day for things like grain free banana pancakes-

    Barb July 12, 2011 AT 7:56 am
  • A hand cranked grain mill would be at the top of my list. It’s quite the workout, compared to my beloved Nutrimill, but I wouldn’t be happy without my grains.

    Barefeet In The Kitchen July 12, 2011 AT 8:53 am
    • Barefeet in the Kitchen – I didn’t list it, but we actually own a hand-crank grain mill and love it. Good exercise and so durable!

      Shannon July 12, 2011 AT 6:24 pm
  • I have a food mill and love it. It’s actually the only way I make mashed potatoes. It took some time to figure out which blade size worked best for them, but now it is a breeze.

    A mortar and pestle is on my list of things that I drool over and want.

    Michelle July 12, 2011 AT 10:24 am
  • I actually use the pestle and mortar to grind my coffee–works great for coarse grinds for a press.

    Joe Mohr July 12, 2011 AT 10:39 am
  • I love the fact that you and your family are moving off grid. I have always said that I was born a century too late, however, at 63 and 69, we just cannot make a move like that now. I love your blog. What will you do with the blog with no electricity?

    Willie Mitchell July 12, 2011 AT 12:38 pm
    • Willie – We plan to setup a small solar system mainly for the laptop. My husband will be doing some work using his computer and I will continue to blog, write, contribute, etc. as we can.

      Shannon July 12, 2011 AT 6:26 pm
      • I had also been wondering how you can use the internet without electricity. I’m very interested in how this will work out. I keep saying I want to go off grid, but I’m not sure how off grid I can really go. Right now I want to lessen our use of electricity.Very interested in your off grid life.

        Linda July 13, 2011 AT 5:51 am
    • just a comment on age. at 62 I decided to pack in the job and head for the country. the property had a raintank but no toilet, running water or electricity. Its taken 3 years but I have managed to setup some batteries and solar panels (with help from younger friends), installed a gas powered shower, and got a bore in place. I am having the best time of my life rediscovering how to live

      alyce February 26, 2015 AT 11:41 pm
  • I didn’t realize how useful a food mill could be until we used it last summer – I hated having to wash and put it away when we were using it so often to process tomatoes, apples, berries, etc, so I just left it bolted to the table. It came in SO handy. I second the mashed potatoes – it did great!

    Also, the grain mill… I know you are mostly grain free, but we really love our Magic Mill that converts to a hand crank. My next purchase would be an oat roller – we eat SO much oatmeal, it would be a good idea for our family.

    And a good dehydrator – so many of the “sun drying” ones have really cheap plastic frames, and those just don’t withstand the sun well. My father built some excellent ones from wood when we were growing up, but for someone who doesn’t have the skills or supplies, at least 2 good quality drying trays are helpful.

    How big is your mortar & pestle, Shannon? I have really been looking for one that will hold 3-4 cups that doesn’t break the bank… yet to find one though. :-)

    Meg July 12, 2011 AT 12:51 pm
    • Meg – As I said above I forgot to mention that we have owned the Country Living Grain Mill for years now and love it. Our 5 year old can crack grains like oats for porridge.

      My mortar and pestle is probably the smallest you can get and I plan to purchase one the size you mentioned when I can. I watched Jamie Oliver make mayonnaise with a large one once and I figure if he can do it, so can we!

      Shannon July 12, 2011 AT 6:28 pm
      • I plan on trying to make a large stone mortar and pestle…I found a pin that talks about making stone bowls for the garden that I think will be fabulous for the mortar…Im thinking maybe a sand mold for a pestle. Do you have or need a meat grinder? I think in lean times, grinding meat into sausages etc will allow for stretching the product with other things…grains/oats,onions,seasons…

        Faye Thompson October 29, 2012 AT 9:49 am
        • Faye – We do not have one and haven’t really thought about getting one yet. My ultimate goal is to preserve meat sustainably through smoking, salting, curing, drying, pickling, etc. Sausage making could definitely be a part of that, though, so I will have to look into that. For now, we’re still in the canning meat stage since we are currently focused more on food-production than preservation.

          Shannon @ Nourishing Days October 30, 2012 AT 10:17 am
          • A meat grinder is good for so much more than sausage & ground beef(?). I use it to grind dry bread (yeast or quick) into crumbs for meatloaf/balls & breading chops, etc. (I save up to do a big batch at a time & keep a sealed tray ready to use in the freezer); also, I grind up pesto and salsa ingredients & even onions if a bagful starts molding in storage.

            Ma Kettle March 12, 2014 AT 11:49 pm
  • A good set of kitchen knives (professional quality) and good quality cutting boards to replace the food processor. I have both but find myself reaching for the knives because cleanup is easier.

    Beverly July 12, 2011 AT 1:59 pm
    • Beverly,

      Absolutely! Shortly after we married I did just that. My knife is not top of the line, but pretty good and I hope to use it for years to come with continued sharpening.

      Shannon July 12, 2011 AT 6:29 pm

    This is an excellent list of electrical appliances and their non-electric counterparts. I printed this out to keep for a reference list.

    Beverly July 12, 2011 AT 2:06 pm
    • Beverly – What a great list, thanks!

      Shannon July 12, 2011 AT 6:29 pm
  • My mom always used a food mill to make homemade spaghetti sauce. I always helped her because I don’t like seeds in the sauce and this strains both seeds and peels wonderfully. I also remember her using it to make mashed potatoes (without the lumps).

    I highly recommend a small food chopper. My mom had one years ago and I have seen more recent versions. It is a jar with a lid and a blade inside. When you hit the handle on top, it chops the food inside. More work, but much better in terms of guaging how coarse or fine you would like the food diced.

    Leslie July 12, 2011 AT 3:09 pm
    • Pampered Chef has a new item…it’s a no-electricity food processor! Tried it out at a show, and it works as well as my Cuisinart!

      Sharon July 28, 2011 AT 3:49 pm
  • What can you use in place of a refrigerator and freezer?

    Erica July 13, 2011 AT 5:54 am
    • erica,

      I have a 12v fridge freezer (easycool) that is hooked up to 2 100amh batteries hooked up in paralell. I keep them charged with a 200watt solar panel. but if you want to go less techie, 2 earthenware containers, one large, one smaller. Put the smaller one in the larger and put wet sand between the two.

      alyce February 26, 2015 AT 11:43 pm
  • Can anyone recommend an excellent food mill? The Foley, while considered a “classic” left me quite disappointed. Price is not important; endurance is.
    Thank you.

    Julie-Ann July 13, 2011 AT 6:15 am
    • I have 2 Foley food mills. One I was given in the early 80’s and one I picked up last year (2012). By far, the early 80’s model (although they look exactly alike) is the best. The newer one I use only in a pinch and only for very soft fruits and veggies. I also was disappointed in the new model. I will always keep the older one though as it works great.

      Leanne August 20, 2013 AT 1:32 pm
  • Do you have plans on your house? I am looking for some simple plans, or a book that we can read that shows you how.

    Anne July 13, 2011 AT 6:41 am
    • Anne,

      We are still in the planning phases, but once things are underway we hope to document it at Nourishing Days, Lord willing.

      Shannon July 14, 2011 AT 8:26 am
  • I would also add to that list a small hand grater for grated peel & grated ginger, a garlic press & a a glass juicer for citrus juice.

    Nicole July 13, 2011 AT 8:20 am
  • I am so in love with your blog(s) and have just put the food mill in my shopping basket!
    I agree about the good set of knives (and a sharpener) – I don’t have them but they are next on my list – not a complete set but enough for me to cook my simple meals.
    I’d also like to get a mortar & pedstle, the 2cupper is perfect for what I’d do with it. But definitely the food mill – I can see the possibilities and they excite me!

    PatsyAnne July 13, 2011 AT 8:56 am
  • Thanks for sharing these great resources! I love our Vortex Blender. We use it at least once a day. It did take a couple times of use to figure out what order to put things into the blender to make for the best blending experience, but now it is very quick and easy to use.

    Have a joyful day!

    Carrie Smyth July 13, 2011 AT 3:46 pm
    • Thanks for letting us know, Carrie. It’s always nice to hear from those with experience.

      Shannon July 14, 2011 AT 8:27 am
  • For those who really must have their coffee-when friends invited me to dinner in the early 70s, believe it or not, I’d never had not: made in a coffeemaker,eletric pot (most common), or boiled on the stove. They had a glass drip pot (old fashioned then) that actually did what the coffee makers/electric pots do. You boiled your water on the cook top and poured it back through a glass funnel on top. I was amazed! Of course, in many countries coffee is still made this way!
    Plus my grandmother was Austrian and always had a meat grinder and one that was used to make nut fillings for pastry, etc.

    Valerie July 13, 2011 AT 4:17 pm
  • How about a non-electric can opener? That is the only kind we have used for years. I also have a crank ice crusher too.

    Cindy July 13, 2011 AT 7:38 pm
    • Yes, we definitely use the manual can opener a lot. The crank ice crusher sounds neat as well!

      Shannon July 14, 2011 AT 8:28 am
  • How about a kitchen scale? I don’t mine much for cooking but do use it for soapmaking and lotionmaking and that sort of thing.

    Cathy July 14, 2011 AT 2:35 pm
    • Cathy – Yes! I use that one too and plan on keeping it too :).

      Shannon July 14, 2011 AT 5:10 pm
  • I also have the coffee maker Valerie mentions above. We don’t use it regularly but like to know it’s there “just in case”.

    Cathy July 14, 2011 AT 2:36 pm
  • Oh, you forgot egg beaters! Replaces a mixer for cakes, batters, etc. And I wouldn’t have even thought to list a can opener- I’ve only ever had a manual one my entire life, LOL!

    Milehimama July 14, 2011 AT 10:13 pm
  • And.. maybe a coffee press to go with that manual coffee grinder? ::grin::

    Milehimama July 14, 2011 AT 10:14 pm
  • A knife sharpener!!! We bought one about a yr ago, and now when I visit friends and have to use their knives….I just want to cry. And buy them a knife sharpener. I can’t believe I went so long w/o one! It makes ALL the difference! BTW–the sharpeners w/ the pampered chef knives–not very good. I finally stopped messing with that one, and used my reg knife sharpener–ahhhh, now I can cut my tomatoes!

    jfred July 15, 2011 AT 11:07 am
  • One of my favorite non-electric food gadgets is the food chopper. It is like a food processor in that it slices, shreds and grates. I got mine on ebay for a quarter of the list price. There are a few brands I know of: Saladdco, Saladmaster and Kingcutter. I use this tool constantly, especially when preserving (fermenting or dehydrating) because it cuts the chopping time down tremendously. Best part is, all you have to clean is the cone!

    Tamara July 15, 2011 AT 9:28 pm
  • My husband and I switched over to a French press coffee maker. We still have to boil the water on our electric stove but I feel like less electricity may be used in this method because we’re not keeping an electric coffee pot plugged in for hours keeping the coffee warm. The French Press makes piping hot coffee that we then put into stainless steel to go mugs which can keep it hot for hours throughout the day. We also discovered making coffee this way tastes even better than the drip method!

    Carrie July 16, 2011 AT 12:57 pm
  • I have an old manual grater. It has three round cannister blades and will slice as well as grate. I’d never used a tool like this but I love it to pieces. I use it all the time for grating cheese. I’ve also used one of the other blades to thin grate carrots for coleslaw. The slicer part doesn’t do a bad job with cabbage.

    Teri Pittman July 18, 2011 AT 11:56 am
  • Can you recommend an alternate energy source other than electricity that could use heat products e.g. like a microwave if it was not electric?

    Kady October 29, 2012 AT 12:33 pm
    • Kady – I’m not sure if you’re asking for a way to power a microwave or an alternate way to cook/heat food. I don’t know that I can answer the former, but I’ll give the latter a shot:

      Solar panels. If you’re really interested in having power then this is the way to go. It’s definitely more pricey up front, but would pay off in the end I believe.
      Wood stove. During the winter I cook a lot on our wood stove. Because we’re in the south we don’t use it as much as I’d like, but as it cools off I try to use it for long-simmering soups, stocks, etc. If I was still in Minnesota then this would absolutely be my #1 heating/cooking source since there is so much wood resource there.
      Solar oven. This is our ultimate goal, again because we’re in the south. You can do everything from cook, bake bread, roast coffee, and more in a solar oven if it is made properly.

      I hope this answers your question :).

      Shannon @ Nourishing Days October 30, 2012 AT 10:14 am
    • i live in outback australia where there is plenty of sunshine so for baking i use my solar oven. On cloudy days, I heat one burner on the bbq and back on the opposite side. I use bottle gas for another stove indoors, so when cooking stews I start the process on the stove then wrap the hot soup pan in a thick towel, place it in the sink and let it slow cook for a few more hours

      alyce February 26, 2015 AT 11:49 pm
  • An egg beater (in place of a hand mixer), a sifter, a manual grain mill, a mandolin (slices, etc.), food chopper, mortor and pestle, grater, food mill. I’m sure there are many more. I try to stay manual as opposed to electric as much as possible. I plan to move into my RV and full time at some point and the fewer electrical applicances I own, the better.
    I have build solar ovens in the past and they are truly wonderful!
    I would love to build a clay bread oven!
    Of course, we have a bbq grill, but I also plan to add a double-burner propane stove (it looks like a turkey fryer?) so that I can do my canning outside.
    I do not own a clothes dryer. I use a clothesline and a folding clothes rack. I have plans to build a hand-washer with a bucket and modified plunger — for emergencies.
    Honestly, many of these changes have been forced on me … our home was destroyed in a tornado with no insurance and no desire to get back into a mortgage, we have been building it back as we can afford it. It’s liveable, and we only have replaced what we NEED. I want to keep it simple and preach emergency preparedness at every opportunity!

    Sabrina August 19, 2013 AT 9:19 pm
  • Has anyone lived without refrigeration? Do antique ice boxes work, I need it for milk mostly

    J9 August 30, 2013 AT 6:25 pm
    • Horizon Organics makes shelf stable milk in small 8oz boxes like juice boxes. My sons tried it for camping and they said it tasted fine. Powdered milk tastes funny to me, but it’s fine for cooking.

      Cindy January 5, 2014 AT 7:54 pm
    • 12v fridge works for me. i have it hooked up to 2 100amh batterir that are charged with a 200w solar panel.

      alyce February 26, 2015 AT 11:47 pm
  • I just bought a stove top percolator, which I didn’t even realize they made anymore– I just remembered how good my grandmother’s coffee always was and thought “Why not?” I’ve used a hand masher instead of a mixer for years– nothing quite duplicates the good texture that a hand masher gives mashed potatoes and other veggies! Sometimes the old ways are the best… :)

    Jon Treadway September 29, 2013 AT 6:51 am
  • I absolutely love the mortar and pestal. Not only does it look great in the kitchen, it has a great purpose as well. I also love the wide variety of colors and sizes they come in!

    Michelle October 1, 2013 AT 7:18 pm
  • I love the traditional coffee grinding even if a use a machine i like to see this old grinding in my kitchen I also use it for coffee and for preparation of other home recipes.

    johnson March 16, 2014 AT 3:32 pm
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