We’re nearly through with our month long real food journey, and you may be thinking that baby steps we’ve taken so far are fine, but you’re certain that pretty quick here you’re gonna have to shell out some serious cash to get yourself the equipment you need to continue to make progress.
I’ve got good news.
Your kitchen does not depend on expensive appliances to produce real food. Yes, you’ve probably seen some fancy equipment in the photos of my kitchen, but I didn’t always have a Vita-mix, a grain mill, and a Professional KitchenAid, and I still don’t have an Excalibur Dehydrator. Before I acquired the appliances I do have (mostly through Christmas gifts, one year at a time) I made do with what I had, and you can, too!
Here’s what to do if you don’t have a fancy…
Many real foodies swear by their Vita-Mix, Blend-Tech, or Ninja blenders, and I admit that I adore my Vita-mix and use it every. single. day. But here’s the truth: the things I use it for most often can all be made in a regular blender.
Although capable of making nut butters and flour and chopping veggies, my blender gets used most often for smoothies and homemade mayonnaise, challenges even a cheapo thrift store find could handle with aplomb. So, can’t afford a $400 blender? Don’t freak out. If your blender can manage a frozen banana and some flax seed, you’re fine for lots of good real food.
2. Kitchen Aid/Bread Mixer
I’m quite fond of my KitchenAid (even named her–Julia) but I consider her a luxury. See,I learned to cook when my family lived off the electric grid for 9 years, and I did most things in the kitchen by hand because we didn’t have any appliances. I beat egg yolks into stiff mirangues for our annual strawberry torte with a vintage egg-beater, I kneaded bread dough, grated cheese, chopped veggies, and stirred cookie dough all by hand. And it didn’t kill me. Now, I use my KitchenAid every day, but I also know I can live without it.
The one thing I find I really appreciate a machine for is kneading bread dough–I just can’t develop the gluten well kneading by hand without eventually adding so much flour the bread becomes dry. So, back before I had my KitchenAid to knead my dough, I found a bread machine at the thrift store and used the kneading cycle on that to knead my weekly bread dough. This can be a very affordable option because bread machines were such a fad for a while and I see them all the time at thrift stores for as little as $10. Also, even if the heating element is shot, it still kneads dough well. So, can’t afford a fancy mixer? Head to the thrift store for a bread machine!
3. Grain Mill
Now, this one’s a little trickier, because, in my opinion there’s nothing like fresh ground flour, and you are just not gonna love your whole wheat baked goods as much with the rancid flour you’ll get at the store. BUT grain mills are expensive, and you don’t want to miss out on the joy and nutrition of fresh ground grains, so here’s a couple ideas to get around the expense.
- Use your blender. Even a cheap blender can grind grain fairly well when combined with enough liquid ingredients as for pancakes or waffle batter. (Our favorite blender pancake recipe is in my book!)
- Learn to soak. Baked goods made from store-bought flour are denser and less flavorful. Lighten your loaves and boost the nutrition of those grains by using a recipe that incorporates soaking your grains.
- Borrow or Co-op on a grain mill. A grain mill is one of those appliances you don’t actually have to use very day, so you could realistically purchase one with a couple of friends and share it, grinding the flour your family needs for a week or a month and storing it in the freezer to keep it fresh.
My grain mill is an old hand-powered model my clever husband rigged a motor to. I love it, but it doesn’t travel with us–too big and heavy. So, I make do with the above options when we’re living on the bus. Eventually I’d love a Whisper Mill for when we’re on the road.
I don’t have a fancy-shmancy dehydrator. Mine was rescued from an abandoned house, heats unevenly, and requires babying. But there are lots of ways to dry grain or fruit or nuts that don’t require a machine. Simply spread whatever you’re dehydrating on some clean window screen over a cookie sheet, and set in a toasty place like:
- in your oven on its lowest setting
- over a heat vent from your furnace in the winter
- under an old window pane in the sun in the summer
5. Food Processor
Two words, people: Sharp Knife. This is another lesson the homestead taught me. Anything a food processor can do, a good knife can accomplish. Yes, it can take a little longer, and maybe your onion won’t be as finely and uniformly sliced, but a good knife is a fraction of the cost of an appliance, and it take you far if you keep it sharp. I like my Pampered Chef Pro one with about a 7 inch blade–use it for everything from deboning chicken to dicing cabbage for sauerkraut. I don’t actually get out the chopper attachments for my Kitchen Aid unless I’m preparing large quantities of food. That’s because I hate doing extra dishes. 😉
A Few More Appliances I Love for Real Food
So, those are my appliance hacks for the real food kitchen–it’s not as expensive and intimidating as you thought, is it? In fact, if you save money by using one of the above ideas, you may have the cash to pick up one of these:
- Crockpot–wonderful because it allows you to prepare real food while you’re sleeping (like bone broth!) I like them plain and simple–this is the model I have. Hamilton Beach 7 Quart Stay Or Go Slow Cooker
Tortilla Press–homemade tortillas are a mainstay around here, but I don’t roll them by hand. Oh, no–I make ’em by the dozen in minutes with this baby. CucinaPro 1443 Flatbread and Tortilla Maker
- Ice Cream Maker–there is nothing like homemade ice cream, and this toy means I rarely (like twice a year?) buy store bought ice cream. Cuisinart ICE-21 Frozen Yogurt-Ice Cream & Sorbet Maker, White
Those are my favorite real food appliances–what are yours? Do you have a clever appliance hack that helps you get by with spending less?