Off The Grid Kitchen Essentials

Off the grid kitchen
Off the grid kitchen

Essentials of the off the grid kitchen are not numerous. In fact the simpler you keep it, the easier it is to live with. Just because you are living without out grid power does not mean you can’t have any conveniences. Besides the more time you save by your tasks being easier and quicker, the more you will stick with it. These are items I use on my homestead almost daily. For the most part, they are not expensive or hard to find. I have a number of pieces of cast iron cookware, but the ones on this list are the ones I use more often.

the power grid
The Power Grid

By the way, when I refer to “off the grid” I am referring to living without the power utility grid. Some people seem to think it means no links to or life outside your home. No, that is not what I am talking about. I do not wish to live like that and don’t. The grid is the electric company that runs the big power lines that create a grid through out their area. Like in the picture above. That is what I mean when I say the grid. No power lines, no grid! Easy as that.

Now my list of off the grid kitchen essentials begins:

Cast Iron Cookware
My Cast Iron Cookware

1. Cast Iron Large Skillet

I have a number of pieces of cast iron cookware, but these are the ones I use more often. A large skillet is good for frying up some meat and adding vegetables or pasta to it on top of the stove. It can also be used in the oven for casseroles or for making biscuits. My skillet has a little handle on the edge so I can use two hands to move it or to pour something out of it. It is made by Lodge and even though I have a few Griswold skillets, this is my preferred one. It can be used on top or or in an outside fire pit or on your grill.

2. Cast Iron 7” Frying Pan

I actually have 3 of these and use at least one every day when I make our breakfast. Keeping them seasoned makes it easy to fry eggs in one pan and have home fries cooking in the other one. All three of these were thrift store finds. They can be used in the oven or on the outside fire pit or grill also.

3. Cast Iron Griddle

I would be lost without this! I use it for frying any kind of meat on the stove, but it can be put in the oven just as easily. It can also be used for making grilled cheese sandwiches, pancakes or French toast. I use it so much that I keep it in the oven instead of in a cupboard. Just make sure you keep it well seasoned.

4. Cast Iron Dutch Oven

The Dutch oven can be used for so many things. I can bake with it on top of our wood heating stove or on a campfire outside. For years I have called it my crock pot or slow cooker, it works the same. Simmering a roast, stew, soup, chili or whatever type of casserole on your stove in it will have your whole family waiting anxiously for mealtime. If you are using it on a campfire, just invert the lid and put hot coals on top to brown whatever you baking inside. Works great!

 

Pyramid Toaster
Pyramid Toaster

5. Pyramid Toaster

The camping toaster is pretty well known, but the one I use is called the “pyramid” toaster. The other type that is sort of rounded did not work so well for us here. The pyramid one is the one we have used for 18 years now. It will work great on a gas stove as well as over a wood stove burner or outside fire pit. You just have to keep your eye on it or your toast will be cinders before you know it. This is the second I one I have had to buy because it wears out if you use it a lot and I did.

6. Water Storage Tank

A water storage tank is needed in your kitchen if you do not have running water. My grandmother kept a milk can of water in her kitchen. It really is an off grid kitchen essential in that water is constantly needed as you cook. I bought a water storage tank and it can have a permanent table or counter in your kitchen that is close to your sink (if you have one, I do). I also have water in pails next to the stove and the sink. I really use a lot of water on a daily basis and I am very conservative with it. You learn to be if you have to go outside to pump it or get it some other way and carry it in.

7. Ice Chest Or Refrigeration

Refrigeration of some kind is needed even if most of your foods do not need to be refrigerated. Storing leftovers or an ingredient you needed that had be kept cold. An ice chest will work and that is what I used for over six years. We had a styrofoam ice chest that we kept in our vehicle and every time we went to town we bought ice to put in the ice chest that we kept in the pantry. That ice chest was a regular Coleman type. Everything got wet and the labels came off jars of condiments and made the water in the chest get slippery and I hated it. But I did it till I could afford solar refrigeration.

Coffee Percolator
Coffee Percolator

8. Coffee Percolator

Coffee making is essential here! We love our coffee! Even now that we have more solar power than we did before, we still use a percolator that does not use electric. We can make coffee on our outside fire pit or on our wood heating stove. In cases of power outages people haul their percolators out and try to figure out how to make coffee in it. If you have a gas stove, gas grill, outside fire or wood heating stove you could still make your coffee. It makes better coffee than any coffee machine you can buy anywhere. So why change?

9. Stock Pots

Stock pots are always on my wood stove full of water. It seems like I always need some hot water for something and instead of having to wait for it, I usually have some ready. In summer, I heat one pot of it on the propane stove and just let it sit there. If I notice that it has cooled off too much, I will reheat it. In winter we have at least two on the big wood heating stove in the living room. That is how we heat water for laundry or showers or baths too.

10. Pressure Cookers

Pressure cookers (not pressure canners, there is a difference) are great for cooking a meal that would take a long time in just a few minutes. Mine is used when I am in a hurry to get a meal on the table. I can never believe how tender everything turns out in such a short time.

This is my list of off the grid kitchen essentials based on my personal choices. Your list could be completely different from mine. I am no expert and don’t claim to be one either.


katlupe

Copyright © 2017 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 201
7 Kathleen G. Lupole

I write this blog based on my experience living an off-the-grid life as a modern homesteader. Some of the links you may click or products I recommend may or may not compensate me for including them in my post. Be sure to read my disclosure page if you are concerned about that.

 

Moving Off The Grid

Off Grid House
Our house in 1999

Moving off the grid in 1999 was an experience for me. I had never really thought about it or what it would be like. The scariest part of it for me was being in the middle of the state forest. At that time my husband worked at night and I would be alone here. Yes, I would be lying if I said I was not afraid. I had our dog, Nikita, with me and she was a good watch dog. Only sometimes she would get scared herself! That did not help me. She was a young puppy and outgrew that phase pretty quickly. The bears and mountain lions I pictured forcing their way into my house at night never materialized in all these years.

Eventually I found that there was nothing to be afraid of. It was all in my head! In fact, living in the forest especially now in 2017, feels much more safer than living in residential areas. If it wasn’t for the hunters and the party people, I would say it was the best place to live. In all the years we have been here, we have only seen evidence of bears twice near our home. The property up the road used to have a rental trailer and the man who lived there said he had seen a really big bear. Not us down here though. Mountain lions or bobcats…….none of them either. We had a tomcat hang around here who looked like he had some bobcat in him.

Woods and House
Woods around the house in 1999 with outhouse in back.

The actual day we moved here it was raining. We had to try to move our stuff in and move the stuff the previous owners left behind out. Most of it went to the local landfill. It cost us some money to do so, especially because there were several mattresses and box springs. Since this property had been a hunting camp, there was a number of beds scattered about the house. We managed to get rid of them and make room for our furniture and belongings in a short time. We were still not considering electric power in any way. Moving off the grid for us meant that we just lived here the way it was. Not having electric is not really a hardship unless you need computers and the internet connection equipment.

Servel refrigerator
Propane Refrigeration works well for off the grid living.

The house had propane lights and refrigerator, though we brought our own collection of kerosene lamps and used them. There was a gas cooking stove and I used that. We changed the downstairs bedroom into a bathroom and installed our claw foot bathtub that my husband, Larry had found at a junk shop. I had located a SunMar composting toilet for $200. that a family had used while living in a school bus. It was like new. So we had all that we needed at that time. It didn’t cost much to move into an off the grid house. Using a propane refrigerator made the transition to this lifestyle much easier. We were fortunate that it came with the house, otherwise they can be quite pricey. Finding a used one for someone starting out would be the best option.

Exhaust Pipe for SunMar composting toilet
Exhaust Pipe for SunMar composting toilet being installed.

The very first thing Larry did was to install drains to the sink in the kitchen and to the bathroom for the tub. That way we were able to use them by filling them with water and letting it go down the drain. Made my life much easier as soon as that was done! At first I had to wash the dishes in a dishpan and then carry it outside to empty it. Kind of scary when I had to go outside to do that in the dark and I was home alone! I really appreciated the drains and still do.

Ditch for Drains
Ditch for the drains from the kitchen sink and bathtub.

Moving off the grid is not for everyone. No way would I say it is. It can be hard on you as you get older and don’t have everything done yet. It can be difficult to buy the equipment for an alternative energy system. My question is do you really need all that electrical stuff? I have had this on my mind for awhile now, as our batteries for our system are in need of replacing, and they are VERY expensive. If we did not want to be on the computer or use our electric refrigerator, it would not matter if we had a system or not. Those are things to think to think about. If you want to move off the grid, do you want a regular house with all the conveniences? If so, that will cost some money. I am not saying it cannot be done. It can be but you will need to spend some money to do so. The big question is how big of a system do you want or need?

 

katlupe

Copyright © 2017 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 201
7 Kathleen G. Lupole

 

 

 

Welcome to Solar Baby!

solar and wind on Solar Baby
The alternative energy system at Peaceful Forest homestead in April 2017.

Welcome to Solar Baby and take a peek at my husband’s and my life of living off the grid in this day of fast paced living centered around easy convenience. Larry and I have been living this way since 1999. It has not always been easy and I am not saying it is, even today. I previously began this blog back in 2008, but it was attacked and I lost all those previous posts. I believe the people who destroyed it are web designers, SEO people and hosting sites. I just don’t need them. And I am going to rebuild this site, but now with more information than before.

I have been trying over the years to share how to live with a small system. It is more affordable that way. So here I am attempting to teach the average people about solar energy. To the average person the thought of solar or wind power is way beyond their world. Yet they think nothing of throwing their hard earned money to the grid powered systems daily. Most people think you have to be making a six figure income to put one in their modest homes. I am here on Solar Baby to tell you that is not so. I know because I live with it….every day and have since July of 1999. Yes, it is a learning experience over time, but it is VERY affordable for the simple living folks like us.

3 solar panels on Solar Baby
Three solar panels powered our system for many years.

Back when I started this blog, in 2008, we lived with 185 watts of power coming from three solar panels. In the dark days of winter, we had to use our generator more often. In the summer, it was a very different story. We only had to run our generator about once a week. In case you didn’t know, we have to run the generator to charge our batteries if the sun doesn’t shine enough to do it. I call our system a “add as you can system”. Meaning that we add a component as we can afford it. It is best to buy good equipment so you have to spend some money on each one. That is better than buying cheaper equipment that doesn’t last.

Right now we have 24 used locomotive batteries that we replaced our original fork-lift truck batteries with. A charge controller is essential to any alternative system as it controls how much of a charge is going into your batteries. Our controller is the Xantrex C-60 charge controller (60 amps, 12 volt) and back in 2004 it sold for $245. at Backwoods Solar. We have never had any problem with it at all. I would highly recommend it to anyone just building their system. A meter comes in handy for letting you know how much power you have going into the system and how much is going out or what you are using. The meter we have is the Tri-Metric meter made by Bogart Engineering.

generator wagon on Solar Baby
A generator powers the system when there is no sun.

The generator we use is made especially for off the grid systems and is sold at Backwoods Solar. It is a DC only generator and has made the biggest difference in our system. When we started out we used an old car for charging the batteries and not only did the exhaust stink, the car was noisy and the gas was expensive. The generator is not as loud as most generators, but you can definitely hear it. Works great and uses less gas than a regular generator. Some day when our system is built bigger, we will use our generator less and less.

My thought is that anybody can do this. How many people complain about the cost of their electric bill every month? Just start small. Hook up one 50 watt solar panel with a small charge controller and pick up a couple of the golf cart batteries. Then hook up an automotive inverter that can be bought at Walmart or any truck stop store to your system. Now you can run your lights and television without adding to your electric bill. Do you know what the best part is? You will not be without them during a power outage! Everyone else will be in the dark, and your house will be all lit up.

Be sure to check back here on Solar Baby as I rebuild my site. I hope to cover everything needed for anyone starting a new alternative energy system with a low budget. Thanks for reading!

katlupe

 

Copyright © 2017 Kathleen G. Lupole, including all photographs