A few items to invest in…NOW

It’s no secret that arms and ammo get the bulk of attention in survivalist circles. The reality is, as usual, different from perception. The first reality is that while arms and cool guy stuff may be a fun fantasy, being able to eat is a genuine force multiplier.

Growing food is tough business and if you’re new to it, will take a couple seasons to get right. It’s not certain we have a few seasons for newbies to learn; and we’re well into the current growing season. If you’re behind the power curve or are still camped out in suburbia, there’s a few items you may want to invest in and become familiar with soon.

Even if you’re not actively raising your own food, having the ability to process resources from others is critically important. The ability to do it off the grid is even better, and largely a lost art.


The Universal Food Chopper is an extremely versatile item, found in every kitchen pre-electricity era, and still common all the way up to the early 90’s in some areas. With this, one can grind up all kinds of items for salads, crushing items for easier storage or carrying snacks on the go, and simply taking fresh foods and making a more workable form.

I use one for grinding fresh coffee. Mine was found at one of the local thrift stores for $10. After re-seasoning it the same way I would cast iron, it works well, outlived its previous owners and will likely outlive me as well. I listed it first because it is the most versatile of the hand crank grinders, being able to grind both meat, grains, and veggies, and also is the easiest and cheapest to find second hand due to many not really knowing what they’re for.


The Corona Grain Mill. Like the food chopper, the grain mill used to have a place on every farm, grinding both corn and wheat into flour to be made into bread. As we’ve become more dependant on the grid, the utility of these have fallen by the wayside, but those with them will once more learn their utility in the future.

These can be as cheap or as expensive as you want them to be, with varying levels of quality and features. The lower end models are less than $40 online, maybe just a tad more at any local Ag supply store. The higher end models have stone grinders and more precise grain grinding settings, but the cheaper models work with a few trail runs to work the kinks out, like you should do with all of your equipment.

meatgrinder The Hand Powered Meat Grinder. Making your own sausage is more than just a pastime- in the old days, it was an easy way of processing tougher cuts and making meat easier to smoke, thereby preserving it for long periods of time. Lots of people, myself included, make deer sausage every winter using cow or pig fat from the local butcher. If you can find one used, get it, wash it thoroughly, and re-season it for use. I have one that was inherited and another I purchased, along with the food chopper. They’re not expensive and although having a messy learning curve, can become a fun and very rewarding activity.

sheller.jpeg The Hand Crank Corn Sheller. These are invaluable especially in the South, where most farmers grow abundances of corn every summer. Allowing the ears to dry out then shelling with this machine, you’ll be able to always efficiently shell large numbers of corn kernels for corn meal.

These used to be found on every rural farm, but seem to have disappeared faster than the other tools listed. A couple of companies make them currently, and while imported, they work.

There you have it. Four items that collectively, even if bought new, will cost less than $250. So even if you’re behind the power curve or just now woke up, instead of going into full blown panic mode and buying freeze dried junk, make friends with the folks at the local farmer’s market and invest in these items, letting them know you have them and have a common interest. You may make a friend and at the same time grow your network. These items are completely off grid and if cared for will last forever. It doesn’t get more “Survivalist” than that.

Local, Local, Local.


27 thoughts on “A few items to invest in…NOW

  1. That right man! Great post. It is all good stuff, got it, use it, couldn’t imagine not having these tools. There is another item that we found I believe fits within this food toolset, one of the very fine American Pressure Canners, US made too. They are designed with no gasket, uses a tapered seat sealing surface, manufactured from very robust cast aluminum, beautifully machined. Nothing to wear out or break. They have a gauge, and weight system. Come in a variety of sizes. They make for a superlative autoclave also, so you can sterilize cloth for bandages, or sterilize anything you can fit into one. We have the 7 quart jar model, I think you can fit 21 pints in a double stack. We can most of our deer meat, when we get a side of beef can most of that also, been experimenting with canning pork and pork sausage too. Aside from canning veggies, chicken and beef stock etc. Nothing like stone soup to keep you healthy with all that bone marrow, minerals and connective tissue, and talk about making tasty stock for anything, mmmm! Utilize so much more from your meat critters. Saves on freezer space, if the power goes down you got no worries. Life is pretty good since we got it, it is so handy and a labor saver. We can up stews, soups, really meals in a mason jar. If I had to boogie out the backdoor, my carbine would be in my hands, and this canner would be slung on my back.

    1. I have a manual pressure canner too, along with several other things like this. I only included this stuff for the moment because they’re all kinda in the same category.

      But yes, a canner is critical and a dying art as well.

      1. Oh man, nothing like opening a jar of deer meat you canned up with taters and carrots, some ramps, some salt and pepper, instant beef stew just warm it up. Oh Lord that is good stuff. We been canning our sausage we make too. Make patties, fry them a only couple minutes a side, stack the patties in a wide mouth and pressure can. They fry up almost like fresh. Been curing our own bacon, give it a good cold smoke, slice it on the thick side, take a 3 foot piece of parchment paper, lay the bacon out edge to edge across the width, don’t overlap, place another piece of parchment over the bacon strips, press smooth as possible, fold the bacon in half onto itself, and roll up the long way like a jelly roll tight as possible. You have to experiment with the first roll to figure how many strips to use to fit into the wide mouth jar. Pressure can for 60 mins min.
        The more smoked the bacon the better. This bacon fries just like fresh, you get some water and very clear rendered fat in bottom of jar, great for cooking. The bacon looks almost like before canned, you can eat it right out of the jar, mighty tasty too. Really good in a pot of fresh green beans and taters or pinto beans. And no freezer required! I have jars 6 years old, bacon is perfect.

        These guys have some excellent open pollinated heirloom corn seed stock, quite a few strains from colonial era developed in the mid atlantic.

        Here’s a basic cornbread, no wheat flour. I make it with bloody butcher or white old timey dent, grind medium course flour. But if courser, if you like, you can let the batter set and it will cream out kinda like cornpone.
        2 cups corn meal
        teaspoon salt
        1/2 tsp baking soda
        teaspoon baking powder
        1/14 cup of buttermilk, fresh milk, soured milk, sour cream/water, don’t matter
        all the butter, lard, bacon grease you like, at least 2 tablespoons, melted
        2 eggs
        mix the dry, add the wet, whisk it till smooth, grease a pan with extra lard, bacon grease, whatever you have, so there is a sloppy amount, put the grease and pan in a hot 450 degree oven, till its almost smoking, have your batter ready, pull the pan out, dump in the batter real quick, even it out and slam it back in. Bake till a knife comes out clean. 15 to 25 minutes depends on type of pan. I’ve used cast iron fry pans to canteen cups set into wood coals.

        If I want sweet bread, use all the sweetener you like. 1/2 cup of molasses or sourgum is a start. This bread is great with hot milk or cream poured over it and some brown sugar. Super easy to make, all corn types and grinds have worked so far. Makes a great meat pie cover crust too. Holds together real well, firm crumb, moist.

  2. Pingback: Brushbeater: A few items to invest in…NOW | Western Rifle Shooters Association

  3. Quietus

    I like the way that you (necessarily) direct those who have arrived late to the party, to the idea that their best recourse may be found in processing rather than producing. Everybody’s got to be able to do something, and having a green thumb for garden-to-table is a lifestyle that is too complex to master in a short time. Having some hardware and people skills can put food on the table for those who can trade processing for raw materials.

    My house doesn’t have a grain grinder or corn stripper. But we use a Czech hand crank meat grinder, and our coffee grinder, used not real often, has a make date of May 5, 1888 on it. Apparently folks in those days were fairly proud of what they produced, in terms of their little coffee grinder’s life expectancy. Make date is real prominent on the little machine.

    1. Well, with all of the “prepper” nonsense I see and hear, I hold a serious concern for sustainability and I don’t think many folks get that part of it. A lot of folks are gonna be left wondering what to do when the canned food runs out.

      As for the old coffee grinders, stuff used to be made to last generations. One day it will again.

      1. Like you said NCScout, it is hard work to produce, instead of consume, but it is work that produces so much it is true wealth, but in reality it isn’t “hard” work, as it is self sufficiency and self determination, which I believe is prosperity and happiness.
        Ever time we add to our repertoire of sustainable and self sufficient way of living, we become richer, materially, and spiritually, because these simple tools, and the practices of utilizing them are investments with compound paybacks far exceeding their basic humble and simple techniques and proceedures.
        It is that whole holistic thing.
        That corn shucker for instance, you grow open pollinated corn, dry it on the stock, it is now in a preserved state, only requiring it be protected from vermin, you have next years seed corn, no electricity required, no fiat money involved, no outside industrial, corporate, or commercial influence or participation required, and so now you can grind it into a very wholesome food, make bread, porridge, distill it, feed it to your livestock, you have composting materials to use in your garden from the remains of the inedible parts of the plant, you can pick the corn fresh, trade it, can it, eat it, feed your livestock, distill it, use it for silage, compost it. All those things, because of a little hand cranked cast iron tool.

        (Verses being captive of a industrialized food stream that sells basically biologically engineered poison, takes your fiat money, and leaves you with nothing but an empty bank account. A cycle that is an endless loop.)

        Add in a meat grinder, a flour mill, a pressure canner, a fruit/vegetable mill, a dehydrator, cure and smoke, a collection of proper hand powered garden implements, open pollinated seeds and root stocks, 5 acres or less of land, a water source like a roof water or spring fed cistern and you have independence. Put up a few solar panels, a wind turbine, and now you have an energy source independent of industrial monopolization. Barter, trade, share crop, make things with your hands, trap, hunt, fish, forage wild edibles. All these things begin to combine into something much greater than the sum of their contributions taken in isolation. And you can still benefit from strategic and tactical use of what’s beneficial of current industrial society to augment and fortify your self determination and self sufficiency. Once you get into the spirit of it, the freedom is uplifting, it inspires, it frees a person from so many hidden constraints, and really slavery to the state/corporate power.

  4. Frank & Ernist

    In addition to the grinders shown in the article there are drills, sharpeners and carpentry hand tools. Many people buy these items are flee markets and tag sales for their unique look and old time feel. Many times these antique items are sold as junk for as low as 50 cents if you look in the junk section.

  5. Centurion_Cornelius

    As usual: WELL-SAID and WELL-PUT. For those of us in-the-know, raising eatables takes skills that “book learning” can only go so far with. DO IT. NOW!

    Just like your fire-stick: PRACTICE, PRACTICE. Once the harvest is in, use these valuable tools to transform corn, oats, rye, even critters into wholesome basic food which can be put up on the shelf or smokehouse.

    Can you get by without these? Well,sure; but, you plan to use a hole in a sandstone outcrop and a rock a la mortar/pestle, like our early Native American brothers did? THAT is doable, but ya better get out the old green and yellow bottle of “Corn Huskers Lotion” for the paws.

    Like my dear friend Rudy Mancke in SC keeps preaching: “you have to change greenery, grainery and critters into yourself in order to ‘just keep makin’ a living each day.”

    GROW IT.
    HUNT IT.
    EAT IT.

  6. Penny Pincher

    If you don’t have a grain grinder you can soak your grain and make Ezekiel bread. You can make a corn sheller out of an old tin can. Cut a hole in the bottom that is a little jagged, a little smaller than the diameter of the ear with the corn on it still. You can push the corn through this and get the kernels off that way. I just use my bare hands; once the first few kernels are off at one end, I wring the ear sort of like a washcloth and the rest come off pretty easy, but it would make your hands sore if you did that all day.

    I saw an idea for a grain cracker where you take three lengths of black pipe and duct tape them together, and then use them as a kind of ram against your grain (which is in a cylindrical container, maybe a tin can, in small quantities at a time). That seemed like a lot of work to me, but I suppose it would work better than nothing.

    1. This wonderful fellow, Herrick Kimball, has some great practical agrarian techniques, methods, tool designs, and he sells some nifty things he has invented.

      His website where he sells tools and components, along with books is http://www.PlanetWhizbang.com

      I’m using his trellis connector system, super design. Ingenious. Building his Planet Whizbang apple grinder/cider press right now for this falls apples.

      The whole Agrarian way of life has everything to be said for it, this guy is a great proponent, has developed an extensive community and growing. The Jeffersonian solution in modern practice. Great stuff.

  7. Pingback: Caring for Cast Iron – brushbeater

  8. Gardening Gal

    As for garden fertilizing, rock dust ground from local sources of mixed rock works wonders. We use what is found in our local gravel pit, they have glacial deposits that have a vast array of nutrient minerals, the dust is a waste product that has great growing properties and if put on 10 tons per the acre will give fertility benefits for 10 years [approx 1 ton per yr per acre]. There is a book called Bread from stones that was the initial idea written by Julius Hensel, you can find it for free on line. Also the book by John Hamaker the Survival of Civilization that discussed finely ground stone and its use on crops and for helping animals thrive. One report from a research study was from cement kiln dust [finely ground gravel] the beef cattle grew 25% more meat on 23% less feed and this was repeated with other animals. This is the way nature does it, glaciers came across the lands and grind up rock that was pulverized into clay with fresh minerals that the microbes turned into food for plants and animals and people. Check out remineralize.org and see how there are countries getting rid of the NPK model (replacing only 3 to as many as 20 minerals vs using the 67+ mineral model using mixed rock). Pile up the rock sometimes at $25 per ton, it will last literally forever, and a 10 ton per acre will give fertility benefits for years, improving as time goes on. Clays soften and become more porous, and weeds are easier to pull out. We also found that putting on microbes that you can wild catch (dig dirt from well looking plants around roots and soak in water a few hours, agitating frequently and put on soil) or use raw milk and molasses/sugar to stimulate them to grow and start acting on the rock dust. Its all good and following the way nature does it, its simple and cheap and it works. You can check out rockdustlocal.com as well to find potential sources in your area and more testimonials as to how it is working for people around the world./

    1. That is a fantastic post! Thank you for sharing it.

      I’ll have to check out those books. We have mostly clay soil in this region, but many of the organic farmers (myself included) use ash from burning brush. Alternative sources are always welcome.

    2. That’s really cool! Makes sense, because in my experience just the simple proper application and use of lime has awesome soil amending benefits.

  9. Pingback: This Is The Practical Side Of Survivalism – Mason Dixon Tactical

  10. Pingback: This Is The Practical Side Of Survivalism | Prepper's Survival Homestead

  11. Gardening Gal

    You are very welcome! Lime or Calcium is the most required nutrient of all, it has a tendency to migrate to lower levels of the soil with rains and so becomes out of reach for the roots. However if you get a good crop of aerobic microbes growing you will have them create sticky substances that attach to soil and roots and create pores for aeration and water flow (none sitting on top) and the humus they create stores the calcium instead of letting it percolate to the subsoil. The calcium/magnesium ratio is key to soil compaction/aeration.

    If you are interested in learning more about specific soil balancing I can give references to that too, it is just much more involved and expensive, but it is a way to fine tune the soil for optimal performance. There is a whole art to it, but now with what is coming I am trying to simplify, simplify simplify and have something that might not need to be purchased each year and can have a multi-year payout.

    One good way to check if the dust is good is the fineness of it, at least 20% 200 mesh or smaller (like dust) and put some in a pot, about a tsp with your rapidly growing radish seed and compare it to an untreated one, to see if you will for sure notice a difference. I added some to my seedling starter mix and the seedlings have come up faster (sooner or at the optimum temp germination days)..

    The raw milk can be used at 3 gals in 20 gals of water per acre with about 1/4c of molasses, you can just omit the molasses since there is natural sugars in the milk already (raw). Too much molasses will overstimulate growth and they will use up all the oxygen and become anaerobic (which are not the ones that optimize soil health). Be sure you put it on right away it grows!

    Ash is a good source of potassium to be certain, I know many who use it, including the native Americans in the care for the land, usually it doesn’t, but it can be overdone and unbalance the other minerals. Just like everything else in nature there is a balance to it, that is why I love the rock dust, it is as it is balanced in nature, stimulates biology and supplies nutrition to all life.

    You can also use a refractometer (it is a glass prism) to measure “brix” which is calibrated in sugar, but correlates to total dissolved solids as a measure of quality (total of minerals, vitamins, essential oils, etc.) for your crops, there is scale found at the website below for different crops (corn can be different since they used gm to increase sugar in ears and not all over plant), and you can check the leaves of plants while growing to see how healthy the plant is before harvest so you can help it if it needs extra potassium etc.. You can read brixman he has a great book (free on line) and articles on food quality http://www.crossroads.ws/ and he explains the qualities of good mineral rich food; it tastes great and sweet (not bitter or bland), it lasts in the fridge without rotting or developing mold (Dr. Reams entered the SAME watermelon in a state fair 3 years in a row and it did not rot),, you eat less of it to be satisfied (once you have good mineral density built up) and your taste buds know the difference. If you have ever tasted an awesome apple or something that made you say wow! that was nature telling you this food is jam packed with minerals and is very good for you. Unfortunately that “sweet” that we crave is mineral sweet and we feed it sugar. It’s natures way of helping you find good food to eat, in the same way animals do.

    Also healthy plants resist pests and disease naturally;, because bugs can’t digest complex proteins, carbs and fats that healthy plants create [with necessary mineral keys to build them] and so without a food source they leave the plant alone. Nutrition is the key to good health for all of us, but we can eat all the broccoli we want, if it is grown on depleted soil we will never get enough nutrients from it to be healthy, hence remineralization!

    Great article! I did enjoy it!.

  12. Steve

    Great article and thank you for posting it. I do have a question though; how would one “re season” something like this? I have an article about how to re season an old cast iron pan involving easy off and some other things, but that process is for an object that is relatively easy to clean IE: flat, no hard to reach places. The above items have lots of small nooks and crannies. Any pointers?

    1. The process in seasoning grinders is the same. Disassemble it, grease it up with crisco, and bake it. Do the process a few times placing it into different positions the apply seasoning to different areas.

      The biggest point is to prevent as much metal-on-metal contact as possible. Other higher end corn grinders avoid this by using grind stones. The lesser expensive ones work just fine, but even after curing/seasoning, do a coarse grind first and successively get finer to avoid damage.

Comments are closed.