One of the major aspects of being prepared is not only having a good stockpile but being able to function in the event that power goes down. And let’s face it, even in non-catastrophic events, the power can always just simply go down. Back in 2011, I was “lucky” enough to be living in the town of Williston, North Dakota when a freak snowstorm hit. The storm knocked down several power lines and eventually left the town without power for nearly a week. Being prepared we of course, had a generator, but the lines at the gas station were over 2 hours long, and for long term solutions to a no power problem, sometimes it is simply best to turn to a non-electric solution.
We are so used to the way appliances make our lives so much easier, that thinking about living without them is hard to do. So why live without them, when you can create an alternative that will give you a similar outcome? I say, DON’T! Here are my favorite ideas for creating power free alternatives to your most important household appliances.
Even if the power goes down for a short period of time, one of the first areas of concern is the refrigerator. Much of our food needs to be kept at a cold temperature, especially fresher items. Now I store a lot of food, MREs and dehydrated food, but that doesn’t mean that having a place to keep items cool isn’t necessary.
Root Cellar – Root cellars are great because they provide you with a cool, dry place for items like your long lasting produce and other more perishable foods. You don’t need a lot of space though, or even to be that skilled at construction. One of my favorite quick fix root cellars is to find an old refrigerator or freezer… you can sometimes acquire these for extremely cheap, or even free, if you catch someone who is remodeling at the right time. Once you have something (you can even use a large ice chest), simply bury it in the ground where you can easily access the doors or opening and you’ve got yourself an excellent (and hidden!) storage place for your food items and more.
Desert Refrigerator – Think about it, we’ve been needing to eat food since the beginning of our existence but electricity only came around a little over a hundred years ago. Still, even today there are millions of people that live in places without electricity and they still manage to keep foods safe and cool. How do they do that? There are many ways, but one of the most ingenious methods has been around for thousands of years and it is insanely easy and complete power free.
Simply buy two large pots (terra cotta and other planting pots work well), one must easily nest inside the other. You don’t want them to be right up against each other when you nest it though, allow for at least an inch difference in diameter (more is actually better) of the top of the pot. Fill the area between the two pots with sand. When you add water to the sand it will begin the evaporation process. This process will pull the heat away from the inner pot, meaning you can store your food in the smaller pot and keep things nice and cool. Cover the top of the pot with a wet cloth and you have a great refrigerator that can keep things cool as long as you can add water to it, even in the warmest climates.
Stoves & Ovens
I doubt there is a prepper out there that is not sufficient at cooking over an open flame, but it is not the only way to cook off the grid.
Solar Ovens – A great solar oven is an excellent way to use the resources that you have. You can make simplistic models at home out of aluminum foil and an old cardboard box, but when cooking for a family a large size, professional solar oven might be the way to go. I love solar cooking because it is safe around the kids. You can use it like an oven and walk away from it, unlike some methods of cooking over an open flame where you have to be right on top of it. As a mom of a young toddler, I simply can’t always be around an open flame just to cook dinner, which is why solar is such a great option for busy, survival situations.
Camp and Rocket Stoves – Camp stoves keep the fire more contained, and therefore, offer a little more safety for your food and any young ones that might be around. Rocket stoves are incredibly efficient and a great option for survival cooking. For those of you not familiar with a rocket stove, it is a great method for efficient, high-temperature cooking. The heat comes from a wood burning fire that is placed in a simple combustion chamber that extends into a chimney. The cooking surface is on top of the chimney, ensuring your cooking surface gets heat at the highest possible temperature.
Rocket stoves are a great item for any prepper to have in their arsenal, a few extra for barter is not a bad idea either!
I am a big fan of dehydrating my own food. It is simple, it is fun, and even more important than collecting it for my stockpile, my family loves to munch on it too. I have always had an electrical powered dehydrator, just to save time, but most preppers know you can dehydrate your food simply with sun and time.
One of the nice things with the dehydrator I already have is it pretty much has all that I need to dehydrate without power too. Taking the shelves out of an electrical dehydrator, you can simply place them in a safe, warm place and wait for a few days (the time depends on the food you are dehydrating, so play with it). You can also buy non-powered air dehydrators already made, which are a great option, as well.
We are all so used to the luxury of washing machines, that even a simple washboard has become more of a decorator’s item or a musical instrument than a useful tool. That being said, having a simple washboard is an excellent idea just in case. However, I have to admit I just don’t see myself as a washboard kind of person. I want a simpler solution.
To make your own man powered washer you only need two items: a bucket with a lid and a plunger. Simply cut a hole in the bucket lid to fit the handle of the plunger. Fill the bucket with water, soap and clothes, leaving some room for movement. Place the lid on the bucket with the head of the plunger in the bucket with the water, clothes and soap. When closed you can move the plunger in a churning motion to wash the clothes. After they are good and washed, you can pour the water out through the hole in the bucket lid (if you use biodegradable, natural soap this water can be re-purposed to water your garden) and use the plunger again to squeeze out the excess water.
There are several powerless washing machine systems as well, which may be the right fit for you and your family instead. Either way, washing clothes in a power down situation, could be a lot easier with a little bit of proper planning.
With all the modern conveniences we are used to, we have to admit that we would be in trouble without the electricity we are used to. A few simple tricks to make life a little easier in an off the grid situation will go a long way in making survival easier and safer for you and your family.