Friday, May 31, 2013

Essential Tools & Accessories Wish List

Sometimes we get so focused on the food items we would want our family to have in an emergency situation, we fail to think about how we would use any of it without electricity, refrigeration or other of the modern conveniences we so take for granted everyday. Other times, we're not getting the most bang for our (for most of us) limited budget, because we don't have the equipment necessary to properly preserve or store the foods we would like to. In this light, I've put together a list of some of the items that I would consider essential, (or very helpful) in addressing these issues. Since we've been married, we have an ever-changing wish list of items we would like to have "someday."

Wish lists can be powerful things. Just as they say that a goal is only a wish until you write it down, a wish list, once written down, can become a roadmap towards reaching your goals. This especially applies to Family Home Storage and Preparedness. Writing down all your "wish list" items, then prioritizing them in order of importance and usefulness, then setting specific, realistic and attainable goals as to how and when you plan to acquire each item, can go a long way to making these things possible.

For us, it was as simple as creating the list, in priority, and then committing to purchase one item from the list every year. Sometimes this has been a mutual Christmas gift to each other; other times when we've had some extra or unexpected cash, we've known where we wanted to spend it. Sometimes you'll be lucky enough to "inherit" some of the items on the list. I'm always searching the local thrift stores, and once in awhile garage sales for these items. We've also been able to find deals on the internet, (an invaluable tool for pricing and researching this stuff,) on sites like, and through various search engines.

Following are some of the "tools" that I think could be important to any family's FHS plan. This includes stuff for home production, preservation, storage and emergency preparedness items. This should at least get you thinking. Many of these are big ticket items, but a few of them cost next to nothing and can even be made at home. I've included pictures and ballpark prices of what you can expect to pay, (from the cheapest available to top-of-the-line) as well as basic info and what each is used for. The prices would be for new, or like new items...garage sales & thrift stores are wonderful for finding amazing deals on these items, so don't forget to look there!

A Wheat Grinder/Grain Mill: $180-$300 & up

This is perhaps one of the most overlooked items that is essential to food storage. If you are LDS, you should know that in a survey done by the church, 90% of people that actually store wheat in their homes DO NOT OWN a wheat grinder. If you're storing wheat and don't have a grinder, should you find it necessary to use your food storage, you'll still be able to eat it, you'll just be limited in your options: boiled or sprouted wheat. With a wheat grinder, you'll be able to make FLOUR. And obviously, flour gives you a whole lotta options. NOTE: many are not aware that wheat has a 30+ year shelf life. When it's ground down into flour the shelf life becomes 10 years. This is the reason for storing wheat over flour, although there are practical reasons for storing both.

Most wheat grinders can also double as grain mills and can grind corn meal, rice flour, baby cereal, etc. This is an item that you will want to go for quality on. The higher end, more versatile models can grind dry grains, spices, and beans. If you're wondering what you can grind, WonderMill has set up an interesting blog called Will It Grind? that gives an extensive list as well as demonstrations for both their electric and hand models. Look into WonderMill, BlendTec and NutriMill among other brands. The WonderMill Electric Grain Mill is on my wish list for many reasons. Here is a comparison review between the two that I thought was helpful.

A Hand Wheat Grinder/Grain Mill: $70-$300 & up

A hand grinder is essential to an emergency plan in the event that there is no power. The WonderMill Junior Deluxe is on my wish list because it has no plastic parts (that will melt or break with regular, extended use) and it will grind dry grains, beans, legumes, spices, oily grains, (like flax seed or coffee) and even makes various nut butters. This hand mill also comes with a pulley that can be attached to a stationary bike...nothing like getting a good workout in while you grind your wheat!

A Pressure Canner - $70-$300 & up

This piece of canning equipment is necessary to safely process low acid foods such as meats, vegetables and seafood. A pressure canner uses heat and pressure to bring the internal temperature of foods to 250 degrees or more for a specified period of time. Being able to can our own meat has saved us a lot of money, allowing us to take advantage of sales, and has greatly increased the variety of meals we can make exclusively from our food storage.

On the lower end, pressure canners have gaskets, which will need to be replaced over time. On the higher end, pressure canners have metal on metal seals. I've opted for a higher end All American Pressure Canner, since I had borrowed one for awhile and was using it frequently. We knew that we would be getting lots of use out of ours, so it was worth the investment to us. Either will do the job for you, so research and decide what makes the most sense.

A Water Bath Canner: $20-$50

A Water Bath Canner is what most people think about when they talk about "canning." It's a really large pot, with a rack inside, allowing you to lower your jars into and out of, a boiling water bath. This canning process is acceptable for fruits and tomatoes, because of their high acid content. NEVER can vegetables or meats in a water bath canner, since the temperature will not get hot enough to kill bacteria, which can lead to botulism, which can be deadly. These guidelines were changed in 1988, so recipes for meat or veggies from prior to 1988 calling for water bath canning should always be processed in a pressure canner for the appropriate amount of time. Time tables are readily available online. In my experience most water bath canners are very similar, so go for the best deal you can find. Be sure to check out garage sales and thrift shops, since there are many people who get these and then never use them. Don't worry...with your self-sufficiency mindset, you'll be getting plenty of use out of it!

A Vacuum Sealer w/port, tubing & jar sealer attachments: $40-$175

 A vacuum sealer is a great appliance for helping to effectively store all your dry foodstuffs. With the tube and jar sealer attachments, (both regular and wide mouth) you can vacuum seal mason jars, extending the life of your dry goods by up to five times. Nuts, raisins, chocolate chips, chow mein noodles, dehydrated fruits and veggies, brown rice and other items particularly sensitive to spoilage in your short-term pantry supplies are perfect for this. NOTE: a vacuum sealer does not replace heat canning or refrigeration for preserving food. It is a suitable means of extending the shelf-life of already shelf-stable dry goods, ONLY.  The model pictured is quite a slick, stainless steel, newer model. An older model in white or ecru will also work just as well. Be sure to check garage sales and thrift stores. I've found two food savers in the last month at our local DI thrift store for $5 a piece.

The main thing you're looking for in a food saver is that it has an accessories port, which you can hook a tube into. This is because you'll want to also get the tubing and mason jar sealers, pictured here (I would recommend getting both the regular and wide-mouth sizes) so you have the capability of sealing your jars. The jar sealer attachments can be found on or for about $6-$10 each. I wouldn't pay over $10.

A Food Dehydrator: $90-$350

Be careful in selecting one of these, as the old adage really applies here: you get what you pay for! Make sure you find one that has a fan, not just a heating element, and preferably a temperature gauge. Drying your foods at temps no less than 100*F and no more than 125*F will ensure you maintain the highest content of vitamins, nutrients and enzymes. A quality mandolin, or electric meat slicer will assist you in slicing fruits and veggies more quickly (which is always nice,) but more importantly more evenly, ensuring a more even drying time, (your entire batch should be done around the same time) and also a prettier finished product. Who doesn't like pretty things? I aspire to an Excalibur, by most accounts to be the Cadillac of the dehydrating world. For right now, we found an eight tray GardenMaster by Nesco on Amazon for $93 including shipping. It is working wonderfully well for all my projects, and was much more in our price range for this stage in our lives. The Excalibur will do more, a bit more conveniently and quickly, so eventually I would like to get one. The GardenMaster has a fan and a temperature control, and we've been very happy with it.

A Solar Oven: $229 - $400

We just took our Solar Oven out for it's maiden voyage at a week-long camping trip, and we FELL. IN. LOVE. It works AMAZINGLY well, and heated to 350* all on the simple power provided by the sun. We baked fresh, warm, lovely brownies, coffee cake, and blueberry shortcake out in the middle of the forest. The solar oven will also bake bread, cook a turkey, pasteurize water and bake, cook, steam or boil anything else you would cook in your oven at home. We have a Global Sun Oven, because they got the best reviews of the ones we researched. The company now has a newer model, released in March 2013, called the All American Sun Oven, which has a few more bells-and-whistles and is supposed to be able to get even hotter, (between 360*-400*F.) If we were buying one now, this would be the model we would get. It is a big ticket item at $345, but keep your eyes peeled for a aware that there will be a price for having the newest model. We got our oven with the "Preparedness & Dehydrating" package, which includes all the racks, pots and pans at Christmastime for less than $250. It's also the older model, but if you're willing to put up with a dinosaur to save $100 bucks, the Global Sun Oven gets high reviews from us and lots of others!

We have small children as well as dogs, so I was nervous about how hot it would get. The actual outside surface of the box and the wood edge (on the outside of the reflectors) never even got warm to the touch. The glass door (inside the reflectors) and the inside of the oven got very hot...350 degrees IS a real oven, so you'll want to be sure to also pack your oven mitts! My husband learned this the hard way, and as we both laughed, he quipped about it being hard to take a little box seriously as a real oven, until you touch it. :) The external surface of the box is fully insulated so it removed any worry I had of the kids accidentally bumping up against it. The oven door latches completely closed, and is sealed by a rubber gasket, so while the dogs loved their warm naps right next to it, (it was always in the sunniest spot in our camp) they never tried to disturb it in anyway.

A Wonder Box Cooker: DIY for around $20 - $30

The Wonder Box Cooker is an amazing little contraption that utilizes insulation as a means for conserving fuel, and cooking food by maintaining the heat for an extended period of time. The general method is to use your fuel to bring your food to a boil, then transfer it into the cooker, where it maintains it's temperature and continues to finish cooking using no fuel at all! It takes a few yards of fabric, access to a sewing machine, minimal sewing skills and stuffing. You can find a tutorial, additional information and recipes here.

A Rocket Stove: DIY for FREE!

This is another amazing invention that utilizes proper airflow and ventilation to cook foods with minimal fuel at maximum efficiency. You can make one yourself using a #10 can, (like a large coffee can or LDS cannery can) and four other smaller soup cans, along with some sand. You'll need tin snips and a sturdy pair of gloves. This stove will cook HOT on only a handful of very small twigs at a time. You can find tutorials online and on YouTube, and I found this video, along with the follow-up videos extremely helpful: Build a Rocket Stove, Step-by-Step.

A Double Burner Propane Camp Stove: $85 - $150

This is a must for canning in the summer time, in my opinion. Then all that lovely heat can stay outside and doesn't have to congregate inside my home! Also great for avid campers, (like us,) and for obvious reasons, this would be handy to have in the event of an emergency.

1 comment:

  1. Love this list Candy. We still need to get together and have a canning day!