The Must Have Kitchen Items You Need to More Easily Cook with No Power

Some of the links in this post may contain affiliate links for your convenience. As an Amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Regardless of how many #10 cans of “just-add-water-ready-to-eat” stuff you have, at some point, you’ll have to learn to use a kitchen in much the same way as your granny or your great-granny did. To help you better prepare and be more successful, we’ve put together this list of must-have kitchen items for any survivalist or prepper.

image: must have survivalist kitchen items spatulas, ladles, and meat fork

Why You Should Acquire Manually Operated Kitchen Tools

That’s easy.

No electricity.

Especially long-term.

This list likely includes things some of you use already for everyday cooking. That’s great!

However, the idea here is that these tools will still function in a long-term situation where you don’t have power or need to ration your power. Under those circumstances, your favorite electric kitchen gadgets like the instant pot miracle meal maker may not be an option, or at least not for long. Therefore, even though you may consider it a must-have kitchen item, it’s not included on this list.

Also, suppose you don’t already know how to cook from scratch. In that case, you should prioritize learning now, when stakes are lower, and you can order pizza delivered if your efforts on any given evening are not entirely edible.

Let’s get to this list now, shall we?

First, we’ll cover the basics. Then, we’ve got some suggestions if you want to take off-grid cooking up a notch.

Basic Must-Have Kitchen Items

These manual kitchen tools allow you to perform most common cooking and baking tasks in an off-grid, short or long-term situation.


If you’re going to learn to cook like granny, you’ll need matches. Preparing meals this way will probably include cooking on top of a wood heat stove or a wood cook stove with an oven. I know there are ways to start a fire with a magnifying glass, some straw, and some kindling, but matches are easier. Much easier.

If you’re good at starting and keeping a fire throughout the three daily meals, you could use as little as one match a day. If you’re not, 20 may not be enough.

We’ve found that the most economical matches are book matches like you get with a pack of cigarettes. They come in a box of 50 books, 20 matches per book, for about $1.50 in many stores. That’s a lot of lights for cheap. On the other hand, wooden kitchen matches go for about $3.50 for 250 matches. See the difference? When you’re living off the grid, every penny counts.

Can Opener

As an off-gridder, I’m definitely not talking about the can opener that plugs into a wall. Have at least two good, sturdy hand-operated can-openers. The newer ones from China do wear out. We’ve worn out quite a few.

We also have an Army C-Ration P-38 can-opener. Using this device takes a little practice, but once you get the groove going, you can open a #10 can in a few seconds.

Also, if you carry a Swiss army knife, you’ve got yet another version.

Back-ups for your back-ups, my friends!

Hand Grain Mill

You’ll need a hand grain mill to grind wheat, rice, barley, oats, rye, and lentils into flour. We personally like the Wondermill Junior Deluxe Hand Grain Mill. (Read The Survival Mom’s review here.) For the money, it’s the best we have found.

It can also make nut butter, like pinion butter, walnut butter, and chestnut butter. Oh, and cornmeal. The uses are virtually endless, especially if you eat a lot of whole, natural foods.

However, not all grain mills can be used for this many purposes. Read your manual or research before buying to understand the limitations of the unit in question.

Cast Iron/Stainless Steel Cookware

If you are cooking over a wood stove of any kind, you need durable stainless steel or cast iron cookware. Aluminum (besides not being good for your health) tends to warp on wood cook stoves.

Black cast iron pans heat evenly, hold the heat for a long time, and do not warp – not to mention giving you a little dose of iron in your food. You’ll definitely want skillets and a dutch oven. A griddle is also helpful.

A lot of people love cast iron. A few don’t. Some were forced to give it up because of its weight.

I get that.

Still, it’s hard to beat cast iron for off-grid cooking over campfires or with charcoal.

Roasting Pans

Enamelware is best, and so is stainless steel. Make sure the roasting pan will fit into your oven! Wood cook stoves don’t have the same huge ovens as gas or electric stoves.

Tea Kettle

Stainless steel or copper works best for this archaic kitchen appliance. In the winter, a steaming tea kettle on the wood stove not only serves as an at-the-ready for tea or coffee, but the steam also warms and moisturizes the air. Just don’t let it boil down before refilling it.


Metal (stainless steel) is best. However, if you have or want some plastic colanders, understand that they will break over time, and most of them are made with BPA in the plastic.

These versatile sheets can be used for breads, biscuits, cookies, and drying fruits or veggies. Avoid Teflon coatings or aluminum cookie sheets – get stainless steel.

Hand Utensils

Again, my recommendation is metal (stainless steel). It’s much better than plastic, and with stainless steel and cast iron cookware, you don’t have to worry about scratches.

  • Spatulas
  • Ladles
  • Serving spoons
  • Serving forks
  • Slotted spoons
  • Pastry cutter (easier than two knives, in my opinion, but those work, too)
  • Rolling pin
  • Sharpening steel
  • Cheese grater/slicer
  • Whisk
  • Potato/vegetable peeler
  • Meat tenderizing hammer

Measuring Cups and Spoons

Once again, stainless steel is the best choice for these. A 4-cup glass measuring cup with a pour-spout would be a nice addition, too.

Pay attention to the measuring spoons and cups you use most and have at least one or two backups. Those also come in handy on days when you’re doing a lot of cooking and/or baking and repeatedly reach for the same measuring tools.

Good Knives

Good knives keep a sharp edge for a reasonable amount of time and won’t go dull instantly upon use. If you can find old, carbon-steel knives in yard sales or flea markets, they are best. Old Hickory, Old Timers, and Imperial are some brands to look for.

Hand Crank Grinder and Coffee Press or Percolator

The best part of waking up when there’s no power is remembering that you can still make coffee. With a tool to grind the coffee beans and another to coax a mind-altering beverage from them, you’re set.

The grinder gets you the ground coffee from those magical beans you’ve stored, while the coffee press and percolator permit a more modern java-sipping experience.

However, if you prefer good, old-fashioned cowboy-style coffee, stock up on a good supply of coffee filters. Or grit your teeth and drink. Literally. That’s cowboy humor. Maybe.

Mechanical Timer

You don’t know how much you use something until you don’t have it. I use the timer on my oven or my microwave every. single. day. Multiple times. It can at least ease the pain of learning how to “read” the food as I cook.

Next-Level Must-Have Kitchen Tools

These next-level must-have kitchen items would provide more variety and nutrition to the foods you can make.

This division is personal and arbitrary. You may disagree. That’s okay.

Hand Crank Meat Grinder

You’ll appreciate a hand-crank meat grinder if you have livestock or access to someone who does. You’ll be able to grind meat any meat–beef, chicken, rabbit, venison, etc. If you have the grinder and someone else has the meat, you might even be able to barter.

Mortar and Pestle

When the ease and convenience of store-bought herbs and spices is not an option, you’ll appreciate the help of a mortar and pestle to grind homegrown ones. It’ll also crush other dried goods like nuts.

Outside of the kitchen, the mortar and pestle also have pharmacological uses.

Fermenting Crock

I’m still wondering if a fermenting crock should go on the basic must-have kitchen items list since staying healthy is even more critical when the power goes out. After all, during outages, especially long-term ones, the usual avenues of care may not be available.

Fermenting foods increases the nutritional value and shelf life of foods. And, with its probiotics, it’s good for gut health. Plus, it both prepares and preserves your food. That’s a win-win.

Definitely get this ahead of time and practice, though, so you’ve got the hang of it.

Hand Crank Dough Maker and/or Dough Hook

If you currently use a bread machine or a stand mixer to do the kneading and mixing for you, then you might want to make a hand crank dough maker part of your basic must-have kitchen items. But, for the rest of us, a dough hook is a game changer. Use it for bread dough or mixing just about anything else.

Butter Churn

If folks are tuckered out after cranking the ice cream machine, have them step over to the butter churn. Here’s another kind of sweet, creamy goodness worth the effort required to produce.

You could purchase the old-fashioned butter churn or handheld mason jar version. The size needed may depend on your access to cream.

Zeer Pot

A Zeer pot is a refrigeration method. A terracotta pot holding a small amount of food and surrounded by wet sand nests inside a larger one. Using the principle of evaporative cooling, it cools:

  • produce
  • meat
  • dairy
  • medications
  • water
A relaxing video showing how to make and use a Zeer pot.

Manual Hand Mixer

Yes, a heavy-duty whisk performs a similar function, but a manual hand mixer, or egg beater, does it faster and with less effort. So I’d consider it another layer.

Solar Dehydrator

Dehydrating requires heat and airflow to remove moisture from the food. There are many plans for building DIY solar dehydrator units available in various sizes. Some designs use rising heat to compensate for the lack of a fan. You can also buy a hanging dehydrator for herbs.


Off-grid living requires a level of wisdom and ingenuity not unlike during the Great Depression. Prepare in advance with tools AND skills, and when disaster strikes and you’re without power, these must-have kitchen tools will give you the means to continue to provide healthy, nutritious foods to your loved ones.

What kitchen tool do you consider essential if you don’t have power?

Updated article originally authored by Sheila at SurvivingSurvivalism.

25 thoughts on “The Must Have Kitchen Items You Need to More Easily Cook with No Power”

  1. Re: matches… I find the wooden ones more economical as I am much less likely to burn my fingers and much more likely to start my fire with just one match. The simple math doesnt tell all. Though I have taken to just lighting a taper candle stub with a cheap lighter and using that to light my woodstove. That reduced my burnt fingers to none.

    1. I keep a long strand of spaghetti [uncooked, obviously] to light things far from my hand (pilot light, cake candles, oil lamps etc.) and it works beautifully. One lone strand does me a year’s worth of various little lightings. It also burns VERY slowly, unlike even wood matches.

    2. I also got the bigger wooden matches in a box. Agree with all the stuff, except the grain mill. Sold mine after the y2k farce, will not replace. I don’t eat much grain anyway except whole rice, plain cheerios, or millet. get xtra knife sharpeners, wire wisks for eggs, drinks, etc. extra other kitchen utensils. some of items can be used for bartering so watch the sales.

  2. What is a pastry cutter and what does one use it for? I’ve been the primary cook for myself and my family for more than 15 years and don’t know that I’ve laid eyes on one. Maybe not all that necessary.

    For my money I’d rather have a good pressure cooker and a good wide mouth thermos and/or straw box to get more cooking done with less time and fuel.

    Thanks for the nice list.

  3. personal opinion….everyone should have the makings of a zeer pot handy. Especially if you have meds that need to be kept cold. Should the electricity go out for any length of time it will at least keep what you have on hand chilled.

  4. I’ll second the pressure cooker: cooks faster less fuel. If you use the same one you use for canning you can cook more than one thing at a time. Put water in the bottom and the different foods in seperate pans inside. Pressure cooking meat will tenderize even venison. Two butter knives are all my grandmother ever used to cut shortening into flour for a nice flakey pie crust, pastry cutter not needed, IMHO.

    I would also make a rocket stove to save on fuel and get heat into the pot quicker.

    You will need a sharpening STONE and the skill to use it. A steel is for straightening the edge and will not sharpen a really dull knife.

    Remember there were at least three reasons for seperate kitchens from the main house, keeping excess heat out of the living area during the seasons it wasn’t needed, keep the mess of burning wood out of the house and FIRE! Much easier to rebuild a small kitchen that your entire house and replace all of your posessions. Especially in a SHTF world even a temporaary one like a major storm.

  5. Aren’t these just basic kitchen items for ANYONE? Off the grid or on-the-grid, you need most of these things to cook. This was a decent list though. In general, I find prepper articles to often be far too materialistic- as if their main thrust is just to get people to buy more crap (This article excepted, of course)- whereas a prepper (or anyone) would be better served learning to be a minimalist- Make do with the basics- the less crap you have to deal with, the better. I’ve lived in the city (NYC to be exact; the suburbs, and now on acreage in a very rural place- and I’ve always been a minimalist, and am more-so now. You learn what is essential, and learn to improvise/do without, and life is just a lot smoother without all the excess baggage; and more-so for “prpeppers”. [David Naughton sings: I’m a prepper; He’s a prepper; She’s a prepper; Wouldn’t you like to be a prepper too?]

  6. Man Prepper in FL

    Here is my breakdown of your items. Being at my Off Grid BOL for nearly a year, I speak from hands on experience.

    1. Matches are Obsolete and dangerous and are ruined if they get wet. Any wind and they blow out. They invented this neat gadget called a cigarette lighter which you can buy 50 lighters on Amazon for only $10. I purchased 400 lighters which are all good for bartering and for the cost of only .20 cents each. I also can resell them for a dollar out in the public, netting me .80 cents profit per lighter. You can also adjust the flame and makes for a great torch for campfires in windy conditions. So for $80 you can buy 400 lighters which will last me a lifetime.

    2. The P-38 are small and rust. Use a regular can opener or go with the P-52 can opener which seems to not rust and is larger than the P-38.

    4. Cast Iron cook ware is good but I found ceramic surface cook ware cleans up fast, Just wipe the pan clean and use a little hot water to break up the grease. Cast Iron uses a lot of water to get them clean. Water is made for drinking not waster dishes clean up.

    Spot on with the rest of your items, Use Stainless steal everything if possible and avoid wooded spoons etc as they tent to get moldy in high humidity climate like Florida. They are basically useless.

    Handsome Man Prepper in FL

    1. Florida does not have the problem we in the Northern part of the country can face; extreme cold. In extreme weather they won’t light. Lots of sparks, no flame!
      Altitude and temperature can leave you cold so to speak.
      In colder climates it would be wise the keep a couple “Zippo” type lighters around with plenty of fuel.


    2. I’m from a small rural town. EVERYONE uses cast iron. Washing it with water is rare. My most used skillet lives in my oven when I’m not using the oven. I couldn’t guess the last time water touched it. And no, it is not poison. It does an incredible job of cooking our eggs, bacon, sausage, pork chops, cornbread, tortillas, etc. Excess ‘grease’ is poured off into my grease mug and stored for later use. The remaining grease is left in the pan.

  7. It always amazes me how many people don’t cook and don’t have good cooking equipment. I guess I am spoiled because I learned how to cook when I was young and I have great cooking tools. Not only is it a great investment in being prepared but also for good health.

  8. I sharpen knives and scissor as an added a service in my business. What I have found is most people do not know the first thing about and edge. The sharpening steel is a tool that needs to be used properly and takes some coordination and practice.
    A far better and easier tool is made in Texas and is known as the Accu-sharp. It retails for about ten bucks which is cheaper than a quality steel and it lasts longer.
    While it is not what I use for the majority of my customers cutlery it is the best tool I have found for Joe or Jane Average.
    BTW I am 67 and grew up in a hardware store. I have been watching the survival/preparedness movement grow for several years.
    It would appear many people become too narrowly focused.
    Being able to do and adapt to a variety of circumstances is the key.
    We really do not know exactly what is going to transpire we can only guess.
    The more skills you have the greater your abilities will be.
    Tools are great but making full use of them will be greater and may be even make crucial differences.

  9. I have been collecting the “old-fashioned” tools that I grew up with. Like a small manual deli meat slicer (my grandmother had one), one of my coworkers found in the house she is renting from the children of the previous owner who had passed. The children had cleaned the house out but had missed a few things in a basement cupboard. Guess their mother did a lot of canning so there was a quite few things left over that were in good condition in the cupboard. She kept a lot of it as the children said they didn’t want it, she could keep all of it. She didn’t want the slicer so I took it. I have to replace one of the the suction cup feet on it but other than that it is in great shape, works great too.

  10. The Zeer pot was designed for use in deserts and similar arid climates, where it works great. Evaporative cooling does not work as well in humid climates. Doesn’t mean it won’t work at all, but the cooling effect will be reduced. If you live in a humid area, be aware of this.

    1. Oh, and just a thought…those trick birthday candles that don’t blow out easily might be useful for windy situations.

    2. The Survival Mom

      When we lived in Phoenix, our evaporative cooler was amazing! Here in the Houston area, there’s no way it would be effective on days with high humidity.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *