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Are off-grid, manual kitchen appliances more thrifty than electrically powered ones? In this article, I am going to make the argument that they have many benefits over electrical ones. What am I basing my opinions on? For five years, I lived completely off-grid in my tiny house on wheels (8 by 24 feet) without running water. During that time, I was designing and building my permanent eco-cabin on a foundation (18 by 24 feet). My off-grid system was minimal: only two standard panels powered my little house.
Especially in the winter, there was little electricity for any extras, unless I wanted to go out in the snow and start the generator. (No, didn’t feel like doing that unless required. In addition, the generator burns premium fuel – an expensive habit!) As a result, during those five years, I used only manual kitchen appliances.
I passed my occupancy inspection on my eco-cabin around six months ago and moved in immediately. My eco-cabin is designed to function well if the grid is down. However, I do have it connected to the grid right now. Regardless, I have still kept all of my off-grid appliances and use all of them regularly. I will discuss each one in turn and reflect on the benefits it offers, especially in relation to frugal living!
Hand-Crank Food Processor
I found my food processor in a local thrift shop as I was preparing to move off-grid. It likely cost me around $4.00 brand new. It holds around 2.5 cups of food in it and has a very sharp blade. Instead of an electric motor to run it, the lid has a handle on it and connects to a mechanism to turn the blade. If you hold the lid down, you can turn it very quickly (I call that high speed). Also, you also don’t have to crank forever to get the effect you want. Here’s a hand crank food processor you might like.
The main reason I bought this is to puree soups. I have pureed different kinds of soup using my food processor, including a green tomato and garlic soup and a cold minty cantaloupe soup. It works quite well. I don’t mind if the puree isn’t perfect. Some chunks are ok. For my purpose, this off-grid item is a great value. A three-cup Cuisinart food processor is around $78.00. In addition, I am not adding to my electricity bill with my own hand crank version. Win win! Save save!
Gave up the Bread Machine
At the time I went off-grid, I owned a bread machine. I gave it to my cousins. The tiny house didn’t have an oven, so I wasn’t planning on baking a lot of bread. It was an experiment to see if I could live well without an oven. When I made the move to my eco-cabin, I bought an off-grid gas range WITH an oven.
I am now my own bread machine – I occasionally make yeast bread and knead it myself. I also make pancakes to use as breakfast bread. Here are some great tips on creative bread substitutes you can use in a pinch. The average two-pound bread maker is around $110.00 new. They also run quite a long time as they make the bread (3-4 hours), so they use a fair amount of electricity. According to an off-grid resource, the average bread maker uses around 330 Watt-Hours to complete a loaf. In the winter, I bake my bread in my gas range, and it helps heat my eco-cabin. In addition, the baking time for my go-to bread recipe is only 30 minutes. So, I would say being my own bread maker is a winner in savings compared to buying an electric bread maker on all counts.
Hand-Operated Coffee Grinder
Every morning, I grind my coffee beans fresh in my hand grinder just before I make my coffee. The smell alone is delicious. My hand grinder is a stylish model with a stained wooden body and cute drawer where the ground coffee falls into. It cost less than $15.00 at my local thrift shop. I can set the grind on my hand grinder by adjusting a nut on top of where the handle attaches. An electric grinder where you can adjust the grind (a burr grinder) will set you back at least $78.00. Here’s an excellent quality, adjustable manual coffee grinder.
In addition, think about this: what if the power went out? Could you make coffee??? This is very important!!! No power, no problem for me: I just take my hand-ground coffee and put it in my French Press coffee maker. For more info on making a great cup of coffee, check this article out.
I like my toast pretty dark. When I first moved off-grid, I started using a camping toaster on my gas range. The toaster was like a metal stand with wires you could lean your bread on. You may have seen this kind of toaster before. The problem: it was taking forever to toast my bread! I just ripped off the wires and threw my bread on the metal base. Voila! Well toasted bread in no time. This camping toaster cost me a whopping $8.00. Even though I’m on the grid now, I still use it. Why not? It works, and a new toaster would cost me on average, around $50.00. In addition, my off-grid “toaster” will never wear out or break. Win…win….win! Save….save….save! These are very inexpensive to buy – check this one out.
The Matter in Hand: Manual Kitchen Appliances or Electrical???
Manual kitchen appliances offer savings both in initial cost and because they don’t need electricity to power them. Could you see yourself trying your hand with any of the off-grid appliances discussed here? Do you have one of your own you can share with us? Please tell us in the comments below.