11 October 2012

Homemaking appliances and equipment - enough but not too much

It's a fine line we walk sometimes - that line between having enough and having too much. One of the things that confuses many of us when we come to this way of life is this question: what can I use that will help me with my work and what it too much?  You would have to look back a long way to find women who commonly did the work many of us do now. I guess it would have to be pre-1950 because from then on, new appliances made a big impact on our society. So when you think about it, pre-1940s women usually worked full-time in the home, and generally they had large families. Large families = a few helpers.

But what if you're a single person, a couple, a small family or a larger family with children who are busy studying or working, or refuse to help in the home? How can you still carry out the work many of us do? You buy the equipment and appliances to help to do what you need to do. Now let me get this out quickly before there's a riot here: I hate having to buy new equipment when I already have something that can be modified or will do a good-enough job.  But I also see the wise economy and the good sense of buying quality appliances and equipment that will help you live the life you want to live doing the increased amount of work many of us do.  For example, I don't think you need a dish washer, but I think you need a washing machine. You don't need a dryer if you're living in a good climate but you might have to buy a clothes line and clothes racks for good and bad weather. We have an outdoor clothes line as well as one under cover that Hanno made using recycled materials.

So what do you need? These are my choices, my guess is that there will be different opinions about what is useful and what isn't based on family size and whether the homemaker also works outside the home. With everything you buy, buy the best quality you can afford. It is not a bargain if you have to replace it every second year.

Solar panels - we have the smallest size - 1.6kW and since they were installed in April last year, we have not paid a single electricity bill. We are very thrifty with the power switches here but if you're on the grid and you use electricity, I think it's a good investment to have solar panels, even if it's only the smallest size.

Washing machine - we have a front loader and have had a front loader for the past 25 years. They're easy, economical and very efficient with water, electricity and soap/detergent usage.

Electric mixer - Hanno bought me a Kenwood Chef last Christmas and I've used it every week since. It has a meat mincer attachment and several different beaters, whisks and paddles.

Stick blender - I use mine for making soap and, after a good wash, for various jobs in the kitchen.

Bread maker - I use mine to knead the dough but not for baking. Those of you who make bread by hand every day will know that the kneading takes only ten minutes, but when I was busy, having to put aside ten minutes every day for fresh bread just sent me to the bakery instead of making my own. I want to make my own bread because I want to know what's in the food I eat. It's also a cost saver. A nutritious loaf of bread at the bakery costs around five dollars. My loaves are a fraction of that, I know what's in them and I can modify the size of them according to who is here. The bread maker is the one thing many people have a problem with, I've heard it so many times. Some homemakers seem to think it is "cheating", that the bread is somehow not quite right if it's made in a bread maker. It's just an appliance like the others. Is it cheating to use a washing machine to clean your clothes?

Electric kettle - If you're a tea or coffee drinker, you might like to invest in a kettle that will quickly heat water for your hot drinks. An electric kettle is more efficient and faster than a stove top kettle. I prefer the old-fashioned appeal of the stove top but for energy efficiency, nothing beats a good quality electric kettle.

Chest freezer - I save a lot of money buying in bulk. Here dry foods like flour and rice, or meat, fish and chicken is stored in the freezer. The meat, fish and chicken is stored until it's used, the dry goods are placed in the freezer for a couple of days when they're brought into the home to kill off any bugs or bug eggs that may be in the packs. I also use the freezer to store excess vegetables that I blanche and seal for later use.

Refrigerator - If you can afford it, a good quality fridge is a good investment. The newer fridges are more efficient users of electricity so they'll save money in the long run.

Slow cooker - I think these are essential, particularly if you live in a cold climate or if you work for a living.

Heavy based sauce pans, and stockpot. If you're a jam and sauce maker, maybe a Maslin pan for the jam, relish and chutneys. 

Cast iron or ceramic frying pans and Dutch oven. I try not to use Teflon coated pans.

Water bath processor/canner or pressure canner - if you've got a garden and intend to preserve a lot of your excess, one of these would be handy. However, if you only do small amounts, a large stock pot would make a good stand-in water bath processor.

Dehydrator - if you intend to dry a lot of your food, go ahead, for small amounts it's better to do them outside in the sun or in a warm oven or microwave, if you have one. A microwave doesn't make my list. I have one that is now 12 years old. When it dies I won't replace it.

Water filter fitted to the sink - if you can afford it, these are a good investment. We drink a lot of water here and without the filter I can sometimes smell the chemicals they use to purify our water. Having a good supply of sweet tasting water is a big encouragement to drink water rather than milk, soft drinks or juice.

Sewing machine - I have a Janome Quilters Companion that I bought second-hand on eBay for less than half the new price. I've had it for about eight years now and never had a moment's problem with it. If you're a sewer, mender or have a small family, a sewing machine would probably serve you well. You don't have to buy the top of the range, just a good quality second hand one that is in good condition should do.

And that's it. I know there are yoghurt makers, pie makers, cup cake makers and a hundred other appliances but I think if you have the essentials, it helps you get through the heavier work load of simple living without stepping over the line of too much. But we're all different, we all work according to our circumstances and I have no doubt some of you would see the list as too meagre and others too extravagant. Whatever you decide, buy the best quality and don't feel guilty for your choices. Guilt should play no part in this. If you're anything like me, you'll need some appliances to help you get through the sheer volume of work this way of living brings.

But this is only my opinion - it's what works for me at this stage of life when I'm trying to cut back on power usage and purchases. What is essential in your home that isn't on my list?



  1. Lovely post and food for thought too have a nice weekend

  2. Mmmh running through your list I have to say that we do not have dehydrater or solar panels or canner and instead of a water filter we have a distiller. In my home the other essential essential (twin word on purpose) is our coffee machine. I know you are a tea drinker but I cannot do without my coooffffeeeee!

  3. Looking at your appliances is like looking into my kitchen - same brands and models! We do have a dishwasher as we have a large family but only use it once per day for plates, cups and cutlery as I find it more hygienic for those things and the pots and pans are washed by hand.The rest of the list just about sums up what is in my home except for an electric ice-cream machine. We have had one for about 5 years and it makes the best homemade ice-cream in about 3o minutes. Have you tried kneading your dough with the Kenwood Chef? I have been doing that for years now and find it to be very satisfactory.

    1. What Icecream maker do you have? I'm looking for one at the moment!

  4. Its funny what people see as essential. When we moved to the country 2 years ago we had 4 large boxes of kitchen things. We unpacked half a box of crockery, cutlery and cups. And half a box with a few basics like pots, pans and some baking trays. 2 years later the rest has since gone to the salvage shop. I make everything by hand and realise how little equipment you need to do that. Our electric kettle blew up a year ago, and whilst the stove top kettle isnt as energy efficient its doing us just fine. We live in southern Tasmania but cant fit our dryer in the house, and as a result we have only used it twice. The other great bonus of having less appliances is the massive power savings!

  5. I don't have a slow cooker, filter, dehydrator, chest freezer, or pressure canner, pie maker, donut maker, deep fryer, etc. nor do I feel the need for them. I also don't have but would like solar panels. I do have a pressure cooker though which I couldn't live without in winter. Great for soups, stews and one pot meals. Washing machine, vaccuum cleaner and fridge would be no. 1 electrics for me.

  6. Before I had a baby, I would've listed a microwave as non-essential, but I have to admit I find it very convenient now. Not for heating up fast meals or anything like that, but for warming up small bowls of soup and leftovers - It's nice to heat something up for her without dirtying another pan and waiting for the stove to come to temperature. I've also found it helpful for defrosting meat if I'm in a pinch come dinnertime! I received a "baby yogurt maker" as a gift and have grown quite fond of that as well. No dishwasher here, though - I'd always just used it as a drying rack anyway ;)

  7. As a mum to 3 boys who all did various sports a good quality washing machine and tumble dryer were essential in our Scottish climate. Now it's just me and my youngest son (and 2 dogs!!) I try to limit my dryer use by drying over the Aga and on a clothes dryer. And now I use my 10 year old and still going strong washing machine to felt tartan for my Etsy shop items.

    My stick blender is my favourite kitchen item. It's something I would go straight out to replace when it breaks. I use it all the time to blend veggie packed sauces and soups to hide the veggies ;-)

    I also have a breadmaker and a food mixer that are used almost daily. I don't have a microwave but have a slow cooker. I only have 1 freezer atm as my other one broke but am saving to buy a small chest freezer.

    I have a modern sewing machine that I use a lot but also have an old treadle Singer.

  8. I don't use many appliances, but I do have a stick bender for soups, a small handheld electric whisk for whipping cream, egg whites etc and a small miele chopping/ blending machine for whizzing up breadcrumbs, nuts and homemade pestos. I confess to giving away my kitchen machine with all it's attachments as it took so long to assemble, clean after use and reassemble that it was quicker by hand! However if you're at home and preparing food every day I can see how that could be invaluable.

  9. Hi Rhonda.

    Your list very much mirrors mine, no solar panels unfortunately. The other machine we have is a toasted sandwich maker. They are reasonably inexpensive to buy but are fantastic for quick weekend lunches. You can use a variety of fillings as well as using up the ends of loaves that might otherwise be thrown out. Hope you have a lovely day.

    New Zealand

  10. I always find the different appliances that people use interesting. My MIL gave me a bread maker maybe 15 years ago (since she knew I liked making bread) and I tried it for a while, but I didn't like it. My Kitchen Aide mixer (given to me for my wedding 28 years ago, and still works great - thank you Charlotte, it has probably been one of my most used wedding gifts) kneaded the dough just as well and I hated the shape of bread if you cooked it in the maker. So I gave it away. Also given to me then given away was a sandwich maker, deep frier, and waffle maker (OK my son begged me for that last one and I rarely made waffles). Why couldn't people give me a pressure canner, or a dehydrator. I had to buy those myself.

    A line to dry things outside is not an option for me. I have really bad allergies and asthma. After I go outside to work in the garden I come in and take a shower and change my clothes to get away from it. I do have one indoors (an actual line well five lines, not a rack), but I can't dry cotton on it and I mostly wear cotton. It just mildews too much in our climate. We use it for anything synthetic. So a dryer is a must for me.

    I do have a stick blender. I don't find it to be a requirement, but it is very nice for making soups in the winter. Mostly it sits in the drawer.

    However I do find a few things useful that you don't have.

    A mini food processor. I use it to make pie crusts, biscuits, grind nuts, finely mince herbs, and the like. I don't like the large one that I got for my wedding (actually we got three!! and returned two of them) and still have. I might use it once every two years. It is more of a pain than a help.

    A mandolin. I think I use this when others would use a larger food processor. I think it works better and is almost as fast and much easier to clean. One of those metallic gloves that will keep you from taking off your fingers is a must for me too so I can use all of the vegetable when slicing/julienning and no blood. I got the glove first for my really sharp graters. I kept getting myself when grating carrots.

    A rice cooker. I find the quality of rice so much better. And you can just put it in and forget about it until dinner.

    I do love my microwave. I'm a terrible planner when it comes to dinner (something I should work on). I buy my meats directly from the farmers and keep in in my chest freezer. So if I want meat for dinner I usually need a microwave. I prefer to remember, but it doesn't always happen. I also make some of my meals in large quantities and freeze them in meal sized portions for my husband and I. That way I always have something fast if I need it. It is rare that some kind of soup isn't frozen.

    Weirdly I love a very nice plug in tiny oven I have. I'd say toaster oven, but it is more than that. It bakes as well as my oven and is fabulous. It is just big enough for a pie. It even has a setting for bagels that my husband eats on the weekends. My real oven is huge. I cook for two and usually just need the tiny oven. In the summer the big oven heats up the house like crazy, so the little oven is a godsend.

    The rest of our list is pretty much the same. We don't have solar panels yet. We signed the contract to get them in August. It takes a while to get through all the paperwork here. In our fairly cloudy climate it wasn't really cost effective until our state (Massachusetts in the USA) put in a program a couple of years ago. Now the pay back time is quick (four year for our house) so it was a really easy decision.

    1. Oh and I do have a dishwasher. I don't think it would be a requirement for me, but my husband does the dishes - well the dinner dishes at least. And since the house came with it, I use it. All the research says it uses less energy and water to use a dishwasher than to hand wash. Sometimes I hand wash anyway. As long as things aren't burnt on U don't mind the chore. My OCD family would disagree with me.

  11. We have a spin on the electric kettle: electric coffee maker. It's a small moka, so it only makes one cup at a time. My husband uses it every day while he's getting ready, and it is small enough to hide away when necessary.

    We also have a toaster oven that I use extensively. It's great for the summer when I don't want to heat up the kitchen.

  12. One thing I have that I find most useful for tasty meals at a small energy cost is my Thermo pot which cooks a casserole or corned silverside just using residual heat. Most tender meat ever comes from this device.

  13. I love my slowcooker and the washing machine seems pretty essential right now as it uses less water than I would if I had to wash by hand (not to mention the time spent washing clothes for seven). I still use the dryer for rainy periods but I do have indoor and outdoor lines that usually work well. The one I can't figure out is the dishwasher. Ours recently broke and I'm determined to make do without one, but it seems like I use so much more water and energy (for the well pump and water heater). Adding the energy use and the time used up washing by hand and I'm feeling pretty frustrated.

  14. I have most of the above and probably a few extras. I do have a bread maker but no longer use it as I recently purchased a new mixer which has a dough hook. I love it. It kneads beautifully and saves me the hard work of kneading. My wrists were no longer strong enough to properly knead bread. The mixer cost a bit but its a quality appliance which performs multiple tasks and should last many years.

    I did a big clean out a few years ago and gave away lots of gadgets and haven't really missed any of them and now I have room in the cupboards.

  15. We are a largish family living on a small farm and somedays we are outside from dawn till dust with animals and gardens so the slow cooker is FABULOUS..just set the food in and come home to a cooked meal...

    we bake alot ..I have an old kenwood mixer that I love and we use at least 4 to 5 times a week.

    we have a microwave that I HATE but hubby LOVES he uses it for defrosting and reheating.. he promises me when it dies we won;t get a new one..

    all this talk about stick blenders makes me think I need one..when we make soup we strain out the vege and put it in the blender..it would save that.. i will look at one..what is a good brand?

    1. I have a Cuisinart that I LOVE - I use it for smoothies and it's strong enough to blend frozen bananas smoothly. I also use it for maing baby food, and it's working well there too.

  16. Hi Rhonda,
    I agree with all your list, although I don't have all of it (some are on my wish list) eg dehydrator etc.
    I do also have a rice cooker and sandwich press that we use constantly.
    I have the same model Kenwood and definitely think it was worth the money. I haven't used the mincer and sausage attachment yet, but its on my "to do list"..
    Now that I have started baking weekly bread to slice & freeze, I use the bread maker to prepare the dough. I have tried it in the Kenwood too but was worried it may strain the motor. Have you used your Kenwood to make bread dough?

    Sarah from Jimboomba

  17. Rhonda,
    I'm also wondering why you don't use Teflon coated pans? Is there a health danger or something?
    Sarah from Jimboomba

    1. Hi Sarah, here is some information: http://www.ewg.org/healthyhometips/dangersofteflon

    2. Thanks Rhonda, I'll check it out

    3. I read a book called "Slow Death by Rubber Duck" that was about toxins in our regular environment. They had a whole chapter on Teflon that scared the begeezus out of me! Apparently if you heat a Teflon pan too hot it will emit enough toxic gas to kill any bird who happens to be unfortunate enough to be in the same room. That was the end of Teflon in my home!

  18. I love my kitchen aid and have the ice cream attachment and use it to make ice cream once a week, so we can eat a healthy sugar free ice cream. I also love my V-slicer for small jobs, but would also use my blender and food processor several times a week as well as my slow cooker.

  19. My favorite appliance is my big toaster oven. It saves on electricity, keeps the house cooler, bakes 12-inch pizza, 6-muffins, cookies, toasts our rolls for sandwiches, baked french fries, handles a large casserole, pie,, biscuits, and all my homemade breads, comes with a rotisserie, and convection. Just purchased top of the line KoMo grain grinder and flaker combo. Love my bread machine for just kneading and first rise, it saves me so much time, especially with such easy cleanup. Bread done in the machine is ugly and mediocre. Love my blender stick for making cold processed soaps. I also purchased a blender this year and love it for making iced coffee drinks, and am planning on using it for the soaking of whole grains overnight and then making waffles, pancakes etc. to make healthier breakfasts.

    My most favorite "appliances" are my sharp kitchen knife and trusty mixing spoon. They are quiet, give me time to think and make me feel closer to the generations of women who cooked without electricity.

  20. With a large family of 8 I find the fridge, chest freezer, washing machine (am eager to get a front loader but am waiting till my old top loader dies first), microwave, mixer and electric kettle are my number 1 must haves. The microwave is a blessing when all the kids are wanting last night's leftovers for lunch during the school holidays :). I also have a dryer which since moving to Victoria has been getting more of a workout but that is in part because our clothes line has just about had it and needs replacing lol (high priority now the weather is fining up a bit!). I have a bread maker and a food processor/blender but they have yet to be unpacked from our move and I have survived without them. I adored my mixer but it blew up not long ago and I have had to resort to my little hand held mixer which has been doing a great job. Hubby recently bought me a Ninja food processor/blender type set which I find great for quickly chopping up veggies but as yet I haven't used it for much else......it was one of those spur of the moment buys by hubby and honestly I would have rather he had saved the money lol, but it was sweet of him to think of me and try to make life easier :)
    We have just had 16 solar panels installed and am eagerly awaiting them to be turned on. We had 6 on our old house and we managed to knock our bill down by about $200/quarter so I can't wait to see what 16 will do!!

  21. Hi Rhonda, I agree with buying quality appliances, I have burnt out a cheap stick blender, making soap, so now have a Bodum, which has much better motor strength.
    I make my own peanut butter and almond butter....and burnt out the motor on a normal blender/food processer combo, so just bought a Sunbeam Cafe Series blender with a 2000 watt motor, which is more than twice the power of normal brands, it is so fast, so less power use for soups, smoothies, pancake batter etc. Always shop around and get the best price, there is often quite a difference.

  22. Good morning Rhonda,

    Thank you for your post today, I agree with your sentiments. We are planning to get a chest freezer in the future, but I'm concerned with size. Not too small to be useful, but not too large to be economical. Could I ask what size you have? We like you, are only two in the household normally but with fairly frequent visitors also. I'd be grateful for any advice.

    Kind regards,

    1. Barb, ours is 160 litres and just the right size for us. It gives m enough room for my frozen food but also enough room to store grain and flour.

  23. what about a toaster for making the toast you eat for brekky rhonda? we can't live without a toaster here!
    i also love my dishwasher... an essential for a busy mum with small children... hmmm i use my food processor almost every time i cook... it saves me so much time! my yoghurt maker saves us quite a bit of money as well...
    i have quite a few kitchen gadgets but those would some of my top ones!

  24. Hi Rhonda
    I recently bought the same mixer, talk about a life saver. I've bought a few extra attachments but boy do they clean the clutter from the cupboard and speed up dinner prep.

    Thank you for the wonderful blog and the lovely, gentle inspiration you provide.
    regards Tane

  25. I have a breadmaker but I use it differently than most people I think! I make the dough and knead it by hand and let it rise outside the machine. I only use the machine to bake it because my regular oven does not work. I think it is probably more energy efficient than baking in the oven anyway since I only make one loaf at a time. Whenever I have used the breadmachine to do everything it always rises too much and then falls while baking. I also very much like my crockpots. We have a microwave but don't really use it much. I have a blender but don't use that a lot either. I do not have a big mixer or food processor. I do have a pressure canner that I use regularly. Clothes washing machine and dryer, but I also hang up clothes quite a bit. Otherwise, I do not have a lot of these newfangled machines:) I do it by hand:)

    1. If your dough is rising too much and then falling in the breadmachine then you either have too much yeast or your dough is too wet. After my machine has the dough all kneaded together and into a ball I open the lid and touch the dough. It should just be tacky and not sticky. No dough should come away on your finger. If it is sticky then it is too wet and a tablespoon or two of flour should be added. Hope this helps.

  26. Hi Rhonda,

    The appliance I would probably hate to do without the most is my George Foreman grill. I have an iron skillet that I use to fry bacon and sometimes grilled cheese sandwiches, but far and away, I use the George Foreman grill most of the time. All the fat drips away from chicken, pork chops, hamburgers, etc. It's so easy to clean. My mom even uses hers for frozen french fries...I don't do that as I make my own fries from fresh potatoes and "oven fry" them. I have a dishwasher, but use it only to store large bowls, etc. - never actually wash dishes in it any more. I have a dryer, but I prefer to hang out our clothes. I use the dryer to store out of season blankets, etc. I have a Kitchenaid mixer, but for most things, I use either a potato masher or whisk. No heavy mixer to put away and I don't mind a few lumps in the potatoes. I did splurge on a set of good knives and I've never regretted it. I love my Magic Bullet for fruit smoothies...yummy.

    Diane in North Carolina

  27. Although not a necessity at all, I wouldn't be without my little vacuum packer machine. It's wonderful and I love it. Yesterday, I bought bacon and ham on special and divided it up and vacuum packed it. It will last us for well over a month. I also bought a piece of corned beef on special and cooked it for dinner last night. I'm about to go and slice up the rest of it(with my other much loved appliance, a meat slicer) and vacuum pack it as well.

    I am known as the gadget queen but I love and use everything I have. Quite a few items bit the dust when I decluttered and even though I still have quite a few, as I say, I love and use them.

    And thank you Rhonda for your post yesterday. I was having a moochy day till I read it but you galvanized me into action and I made bread and a date, banana and orange loaf, juiced a heap of oranges from my son's tree, planted some sprouting potatoes, did two loads of wash and mended a pair of hubby's work pants. A very productive day, thanks entirely to your own good self!

  28. A vacuum cleaner to add to your list. While we use a broom and a dustpan and brush a lot of the time, I couldn't get by without a vacuum cleaner.

  29. I try to cram so much into my days that I will use anything that saves me time or helps prepare from scratch. I have a blend of old (eg.cast iron grain grinders), vintage (eg. kenwood mixer), new (eg. steam fruit juicer on it's way from the US as I type) and unusual (eg. a full size butchers bandsaw and mincer). There is nothing in my home that I don't use, some only seasonally, but I'd miss them if they weren't there. A few things I have because I need them due to a disability, I have a dishwasher as standing at the sink for long periods of time can be really painfull for me. There are still a few things I'm trying to hunt down, looking for a cherry pitter for instance (old cast iron type), I'll only use it once a year but it'll save me a lot of time. Last year I processed 30kgs and by the end of the process my hands were red raw from the hand pitter I have and it took me hours.
    To gve you a bit of an idea of my collection, here's what I can see (not in cupboards, just the open shelves) on one wall of my kitchen....fowlers water bath, commercial foccacia press, commercial meat slicer, commercial deep fryer, icecream machine, toaster, sodastream, ball water bath, microwave, convection oven/microwave, apple peeler slicer, 2 x 25 litre pots, 2 x glass convection ovens, kenwood mixer, balance scales, electronic scales, wood stove, vintage toaster, commercial oven (large bakery type), 3 cast iron frying pans, 2 dozen baking trays and assorted oven pans, electric pressure cooker, 2 x 15 litre pots, electric fowlers water bath, vinegar crock, gas ring for pressure canner, 20 mixing bowls, utensils etc. Every thing I have I've bought cheap or second hand and cheap, it's taken me 30 years to put everything together. Once a year or so I go through the house and clear away all I don't use and either pack it away as spare or give it to my daughters nothing stays that isn't used, there just isn't room, lol.

  30. We have dishwasher, but consider it a luxury not an essential. We priced solar panels here in New Jersey, but in the end, the price was too high so that went on hold for now.
    We have had a lot of power outages in our area so we invested in a home generator that runs off a propane tank. Basically, when the grid shuts down, it kicks on and the house runs as if nothing is wrong, very awesome and necessary with bad weather, especially with an infant in the house.
    I adore my electric kettle which was a gift from some friends after I commented on theirs. The rice cooker is a favorite because it has tiers in it so I can steam tofu and vegetables above the rice and so the rice soaks up the veggie juice, very tasty! You can make soup in it too, but I have not tried that. We have a seltzer maker, SodaStream, which we were going to get rid of, but my husband decided to see how many bottles one can of CO2 got us as opposed to buying it cheaply at the market and in the end, it worked out better so we still have it.
    No microwave and I will always have a washer and dryer :)

    1. I'm in sunny Colorado and have thought about solar too, but it's still WAY too expensive. I wonder if it's cheaper in Australia. Last time I ran the numbers the pay-back time was something absurd like 75 years!

    2. I'm getting some on my roof this year. I live in Massachusetts. The payback time is four years. The reason is because Massachusetts is committed to PV (not sure why PV as we are a cloudy state) so they have a really good SREC (solar renewable energy credit) program plus some other good programs. From the feds you get 30% back as a tax credit. But I did a calculation about three years ago. Then it would cost me about $10/watt after calculating in federal credit and a state credit of $1000. My current contract has me at under $3.50/watt without any of the credits factored in. The price has come down enormously.

      EcoCatLady you might want to run the numbers again and look into programs in Colorado that help with the cost. This year both Massachusetts and Colorado were listed as one of the top fives states that were leading in clean energy. It usually happens because the states put in some initiatives. Though Colorado does have a lot of sun and does have a lot of people with an off the grid mindset. I could have sworn my mom telling me that Colorado has PV initiatives now. I grew up in the mountains there and my parents have had solar since the 80s (though not PV, solar heat which might have a quicker payback time, certainly solar hot water is a no brainer in CO).

    3. Thanks Daphne - I'll check it out and run the numbers again. I haven't looked into solar heat because of the installation costs - my dad was really excited about getting a solar hot water heater but then discovered that there was some regulation requiring the parts to be welded instead of soldered, which meant that it would cost something ridiculous like $10K for installation. Dad does sometimes exaggerate, so perhaps I should check for myself.

      I'll have to look at the tax credits. In the past the problem for me has been that I didn't make enough money to be able to take the credit - same thing happened with the high efficiency furnace. If you're not making enough money to have to pay much in taxes, then you can't take the tax break. Sometimes they give you an actual credit though - where they'll pay you money back even if you don't have a tax bill to deduct it from. I'll check into it.

    4. Maybe that is why it was cost effective for my dad to put in solar heat. He installed it himself. Talk about appliances. He has a tig welder, a lathe, and a mill. He can make anything or could when he was younger at least. I wouldn't be surprised if he had made the tank that holds the water.

  31. I did a post a while ago about "My Kitchen Stuff". I was thinking about the whole Masterchef phenomenon of boom sales in kitchen appliances, and thinking, there are very few appliances that I actually think worth the bench space or the power. I work outside the home very much full time at the moment (overtime in fact!) and I actually find the busier I am, the simpler the kitchen gear I treasure and the more reluctant I am to get out and wash up some specialist bit of equipment.

    We have stand alone solar power = no power bills at all, but the flipside is being aware and choosy about spending power. Double sink I love, and no dishwasher. Twin tub washing machine that is so frugal with water I never need to worry about running out. No canning equipment or dehydrator, no freezer and a very tiny fridge and the habit of eating nearly all fresh. Love my pressure cooker and use it most days one way or another.

    I make sourdough and knead by hand, for a lot less than 10 minutes. I knead more for the benefit of avoiding "tuck shop lady arms" than for the benefit of the bread! These days, with more and more "brain" work, I take every chance I get to use muscles.

    1. I dream about eating things fresh. But I live in the cold north. I freeze tons from the garden, and stock up on the farmers market meats in the fall (I have to go 7 1/2 months before they open again). So I can't get by without a freezer. I'm getting solar (probably in November, but there is a lot of paper work that has to be done with the state, city, and power company so it takes time). They claim we will have 90% of our energy (my husband has a plug in car too). I just know we will try to make it 100%. It might work.

  32. This is a great list/resource for us as we are preparing to move and start from scratch (and I do mean NOTHING that won't fit in a suitcase) and I've been giving some thought as to how to really minimalize the appliances. We used to have a front loader when there were six of us, but I don't want another one as the load size was a great deal smaller and took at least twice as long to wash. It would take all day just to do a few loads, and with 8 people that won't fly. My top loader does loads twice the size in half the time. You are right about the slow cooker; that's the first small appliance I'll be obtaining, and a sewing machine the second. :) Thanks!

  33. I have a Kenwood chef too. It's fifteen years old and I love it dearly. I have bought a few attachments for it - blender, citrus juicer, pasta extruder, etc - and they are cheaper and smaller to store than the equivalent full-sized machines and work wonderfully.

    My very favourite is the stick blender though. I use it to make batter for pancakes, yorkshire puddings, blend soup, mix cakes and especially to make mayonnaise which takes less than a minute and can be done right in the jar! Most of the minute is spent throwing in the ingredients and then ten seconds of whizzing it all together and we have perfect, can't-fail, real mayonnaise - I'm hopelessly addicted to it! And none of that curdling, dribbling and whisking nonsense either.

  34. g'day
    i have an electric kettle, front loader washing machine, electric oven & gas stove top. am looking at getting one of those 'stick blenders' & not much else, bought myself a scanpan years ago cos I got fed up with replacing my cheap non stick frypans every 3-6 months.
    am waiting on a reply from the solar people for my solar panels, going with a 2.6 size.
    other than that i don't use alot of appliances as i don't do alot of cooking atm either.

    selina from kilkivan qld

  35. I have to admit that kitchen appliances are my weakness. I just love them! But it makes me happy to see that you have some that I don't...phew!! I don't have a mixer but I would like one that kneads bread because my wrists give me trouble. But the two that you didn't mention (that I feel are essential in my kitchen) are a blender and a fuzzy logic rice cooker. I use these almost daily, sometimes more than once a day. I guess it just depends on how you cook and eat. I make a lot of green smoothies. The rice cooker was given to me and it saves me so much time.

  36. Like Lynda we have stand alone solar power and it does make you conscious always of what amount of power you are using. But I also enjoy doing a lot of things by hand. All baking is done with mixing bowl and spoon. Was given a breadmaker but since it broke down, I make bread by hand. I have a stick blender for soapmaking and soup. And a small blender that I use 2 or 3 times in summer for chunky tomato sauce. A non-electric yoghurt maker and a vintage toaster that only uses 600watts of power. I have a Vacola unit for preserving that sits on top of the wood stove. There's a small gas ring to boil the kettle when the stove isn't going.

    Because we are 50 klms from town, I have a good-sized freezer and a small spare one for excess summer produce, plus a fridge of course.

    I use a twin-tub washing machine but mostly ignore the spin dryer, instead I rinse and wring clothes by hand. Good arm exercise! No clothes dryer as we have no shortage of sunshine. I use the sun to dry food too, mostly tomatoes and apricots.

    Then we have a vacuum cleaner which is used to clean the car and not much else (no carpets in my house) and my sewing machine which I would hate to be without.

    Great news!! It is raining here!! So far we've had an inch and a half (40ml) and still it comes. Thank you, Lord.

    Lyn in Northern New South Wales.

  37. Isn't it interesting on what people view as essential.

    From Rhonda's list, I see many non essentials....for me. A mixer is a useless item. My Mum bought me one about 2 years ago. I've never used it yet I make cakes and muffins frequently. I do have an electric beater that I use every so often.

    I do love my stick blender. Its only used for soup but that is enough to justify its existence for me.

    The rental I live in has a dishwasher and I use it. I'm not sure if I'd add one to a kitchen if I had my own home. It does help me enormously with the washing up and it saves on fights with the teen about how much washing up there is too do. I'm mindful of how I use it. I buy Earth Choice tablets and run it at night, turning it off immediately after the rinse cycle so everything air dries rather than uses the heater.

    I like my dehydrator but I suspect its not cost effective. It takes over 12 hours depending on the produce. Perhaps if I had a garden producing lots, I might feel its more economical. I'm not getting rid of it, but its not used often.I dream of a FV preserving kit but at this stage, I can't justify it purchase because I don't have enough food to preserve.

    Rice cooker is an essential to me. It cooks rice perfectly every since time. Its a time saver and its easy to clean. Switch it on and forget about it for 15-20 minutes.

    An electric frypan is also on my must have list.

    Earlier in the year, the microwave died. I decided not to replace it. Then I realised how much I use it. I could adapt most things except when it came to the children. They know how to make noodles in it while I sleep (I'm a night shift worker) and they used it every night to heat their wheat packs. I thought about hot water bottles but that was another cost and then the hot water usage. I'd just bought new wheat packs too. A hot water bottle, while nice, isn't as good as a wheat pack. So the next pay day I bought a microwave and have resolved that its on my must have list.

    1. We use our microwave for the same thing in the winter. I've made ones of rice though. The bedrooms are cold and it is so nice to have something warm to start or I'd be shivering all night.

  38. one thing I couldnt live without is the rice cooker, as it allows me to concentrate on making a specail sauce while the rice cooks itself, and there is no mess and the rice always comes out perfect!

  39. I find it so interesting to read about what things different people find essential and what things they could do without. I guess it really depends on your lifestyle as well as which tasks you like & dislike.

    I actually went without a washing machine for about 6 months when my 40 year old washer finally bit the dust... and it really wasn't a big deal. Of course, I only do laundry for myself. But I got one of those 19th century plunger agitators and I could do a small load in about 20 minutes - and that's about all I can dirty over the course of a week or two - and if I washed things a bit at a time as they got dirty (usually just tossing them in the bathwater when I was done, adding a bit of soap and agitating a bit) then it was totally painless. Alas, I did finally break down and get a super huge top loading high efficiency machine so I wouldn't have to haul the bedding to the laundr-o-mat. I'm still not sure that it isn't easier to just do the regular stuff by hand though.

    BUT... I used to have a love/hate relationship with my dishwasher... loved the idea, hated how I practically had to wash things by hand before I put them in there. But then... I got one that actually works, and WOW! I got a Bosch, and you have to use the right detergent (Finish Powerball Tabs) but it's really rather incredible. I don't have to pre-rinse anything - and most things I don't even bother scraping. I just toss it all in there and it comes out perfectly clean. And I mean you can toss pretty much ANYTHING in there... even casseroles with baked on cheese. Certainly made life MUCH easier with 12 catfood dishes to wash every day! I never really thought that an appliance could be life-altering, but this one absolutely was.

  40. I have a champion juicer that I bought second hand ...and I use it all the time . You have already mentioned it but I use my bread maker constantly , to make jam ,pasta and bread - I couldn't be a 'simple living 'mum without it . I went through a stage where i tried to be the perfect mother and tried to do many things by hand because I thought that was simple living. But I got really tired!
    Now I am kind to myself and I do love my 'gadgets' for allowing our family to have fresh wholesome food everyday.

  41. We use our vegetable juicer every single day, and I use a coffee grinder to grind up nuts and seeds in our breakfasts.
    I try not to have too much in the way of electrical appliances for the kitchen - and honestly, unless you've got a HUGE kitchen, where do people store these things?
    Great post, Rhonda. Thank you!

  42. I'm with you but would add an iron, although I'm not much of an ironer I do use one when I'm sewing.

  43. I couldn't be without my Mum's Kenwood Chef, it even went through the 1974 floods in Brisbane and still going strong. Also very attached to my rice cooker. My other must have is a slow cooker.

  44. I wouldn't have thought I'd ever want an iron but I'm using one more and more because I'm sewing more. I can live without a sewing machine since I love to sew by hand, but I have a 1950s Singer right now and love it.

    My appliance dream list would have to be a solar oven, a blender with a glass carafe (not a hand blender), an electric kettle, a washing machine, fans for staying cool (but I detest ceiling fans). I don't really use anything else.

    I consider a hair dryer a nice luxury only for winter as I get cold easily. I also can easily live without refrigeration, but can live with a small fridge too. DH does like his ice cream in summer.

    I consider my antique egg beater and hot water bottle two of my most important non-electric appliances. And when possible I would trade everything for central heating which I'm happy to spend the money for and DH agrees.

  45. Thermomix, fridge, freezer, preserving kit, sewing machine, slow cooker, washing machine. Those are the can't-live-withouts. The rest are extras.

  46. Rhonda, I love seeing your list - and the lists here in the comments, too. I don't have many gadgets since my kitchen is quite cozy, but I do love my kitchen machine and all its attachments. It kneads 6 loaves of bread at a time, and since I bake bread for our large family a few times a week I really appreciate it! It also has a blender, food processor, and grain mill attachment. I wouldn't want to be without it.

    Besides that, I love my cast iron pans. They are heavy, but I like that I can cook on the stove top, oven, or wood stove in the same pan.

    Great post - a fun and informative read, as usual. :)

  47. Most used appliance is my Kitchen Aid Mixer. It kneads bread dough and comes with attachments to shread, slice and grind. I also adore my rice cooker that always makes perfect rice, while I'm preparing the rest of the meal. I use my food processor several times a week. After the latest food recall here in the states, I started makeing my own peanut butter. I also make hummus and pasta dough in it.


  48. Yes, it certainly varies on what people feel is essential to them. I liked everything on the list: I do not use a stick blender or slow cooker, however. Nor do I use a breadmaker. Any bread I make at home I do by hand.
    The loaves sit in the warm kitchen with a clean tea towel over them until they go into the oven. Nor do I use a rice cooker. I do have a dishwasher; it is tops and really gets things clean, as water is precious and it is a cost efficient one. I do not use a chest freezer: there's only two of us.

  49. I am a funny blend of old & new. But I love love love reading about what others like...I will look into a stick blender and a Kitchen Aide I think!! :-)

    Lovely post. Always thoughtful !! Lynne in central NY

  50. It's interesting when you think of all the gadgets out there, designed for many things, how some of them totally take away from the whole cooking process....in fact some of the new machines seem to make it not even like cooking at all....I enjoy the cooking process, my essential item is my large mortor and pestle...one day I hope to get a bread machine, but like you that is how I would be using it (I used to love making by hand but with a body that doesn't co-operate anymore the 10 minute kneading process will never happen. I go into some kitchens and see so many gadgets, I do wonder if they get used or just part of a new decorating program for kitchens.

  51. Solar panels - Not cost effective yet here in the rainy Pacific Northwest but we still want to eventually invest in them; if the grid goes down long-term, we need something to run the freezer and some other "essential" machines.

    Washing machine & dryer - with a family of 6 I think these are a must. As a health-care worker, sanitizing my clothing is imperative and the other 5 are grubby males with grubby jobs.

    Electric mixer - I use my kitchen aid about 5 times a week. I *could live without it but it would be a big strain!

    Stick blender - loved it when I had one and I still want to replace the broken one but I consider it a luxury.

    Bread maker - I have 2, bought for $7 & $10 at the Thrift store. They don't make great bread but it is better than (and cheaper than) store bought and a loaf doesn't require a trip to the store. I make 'bread kits' with all the dry ingredients in a zipper bag and the wet ingredients listed on the bag. Any one of the guys here can get a loaf of bread started in about 2 minutes - easy-peasy. I would never buy a brand new machine but have found these used ones make it all cost effective and a nice compromise between buy-it-done and all-human-powered.

    Electric kettle - I use this every day, 2-3 times. Not just for hot drinks but to add hot water as I cook, make Jello, soak dry fruits and seeds, etc. While it's not essential, I think it pays its way. 3 of the guys are coffee fiends and think the electric coffee maker is essential; I think a stove top or press coffee maker (using hot water from my lovely kettle) along with a thermal carafe would work just as well and be cheaper in the long-run.

    Chest freezer - I haven't been without a deep freeze for the last 24 years. So very valuable!

    Refrigerator - don't want to even think of living without one!

    Slow cooker - I have 4 and use them a lot, often at the same time for big batches of beans or broth, etc.

    Heavy based sauce pans, and stockpot cast, iron frying pans and Dutch oven - Now these are truly the essentials. If you don't have good equipment like this, you certainly cannot do without the rest of the list.

    Water bath processor/canner or pressure canner - with this equipment and about 300 assorted jars, there isn't much in the way of foods preservation we can't do.

    Dehydrator - my Jenair stove have this feature but it is inconvenient to tie up the oven that long. I usually just put racks in the car (rarely used, we mostly use the truck) that is parked in the sun. It gets good and hot in there usually and does a fair job of drying and also keeps the insects and birds out of the trays.

    Water filter fitted to the sink - our well is very nice so we, luckily, don't need this

    Sewing machine - having a sewing machine makes such a difference, I hate being without one even though I can manage doing it all by hand. I may not sew for 3 weeks at a time but the one night a month I sew with my buddies, I get so much done and the savings are genuine.

    Rice Cooker - not quite essential but a very frequently used tool. The guys can easily load it and get it going without having to be there to "watch" it. It re-heats rice dishes nicely. We make our dog's food in it every 5-6 days as well as rice for our meals at least 2x a week. We also use it to steam large amounts of veggies when we have company. So, not essential but it really does earn its keep. When it dies, we will replace it as soon as reasonable.

  52. Not essential but I like my pie maker to make a quick meal and to also freeze some pies for later use.

  53. There have been several appliances that I have tried but I am quick to pass along if I find they do not work for me so someone else can get use out of them. A few items I have for health reasons the rest for convenience. I am thankful that we do live in an age where we have appliances that aid us when our health makes doing things "the old fashioned way" hard on our body.

    front loading washer/dryer; I use the clothes line in good weather
    vacuum; reduced pet hair/dander and reduces asthma problems
    dishwasher; saves my hands from overexposure to soap and water
    stand mixer; LOVE use all the time
    steam cleaner; another hand saver
    panini grill
    blender; breakfast smoothies
    microwave; re heat and defrost
    one cup coffee machine; very energy efficient for tea coffee and hot water

  54. Appliances in daily use: kettle, fridge-freezer, washing machine, toaster, radio
    Summer only: bread-maker
    Very useful: food processor (for hummous), stick blender (for soups)
    Luxury: dishwasher (came with the house), raclette pan (melts squares of French mountain cheese to eat with plain boiled potatoes, cold meats and pickles - a real winter treat for the family)
    Won't replace: microwave (24 yrs old), water filter machine (our tap water is heavily chlorinated but I hate the constant humming noise)

    We went on holiday to a very basic cottage out in the country. The things I missed most were a decent mug, a teapot and my rolling pin.

  55. Great post!
    I use daily: food processor (Thermomix) for almost everything: soups, rice, seitan, soy milk, doughs; toaster; fridge; small freezer; washing machine, vacuum cleaner, solar panel (just for heating water)
    Broken - bread machine, kettle (hope to buy again)
    Not using: stick blender, juicer, hand mixer (substituted by Thermomix), microwave (only when mum is here)
    Using rarely but love it - Kenwood Chef (40 years old, still works...), Sewing machine

  56. NOT PAID AN ELECTRIC BILL SINCE! We're most definitely going to have to look into getting a solar panel or two.

  57. Best investment I made was my Le Creuset cast iron casserole. Solid, retains heat so uses less gas, and so easy to clean. Works equally well on the hob or in the oven. Gets used 2 - 3 times a week, most of the year.

    We've gone back to using a stovetop kettle. We bought an electric kettle to keep upstairs when I was laid up with my broken ankle, and it packed up last week after less than a year. Can't see the point in replacing it.

    But there is one gadget I use daily, and could never be without - the cheesegrater.

  58. A dishwasher is a big YES for me. I dislike washing dishes and find it difficult to keep on top of it without the dishwasher. The most used appliances in our house are the kettle, toaster, microwave, dishwasher, breadmaker, and stove/oven. We use our washing machine daily but our drier only get used when we have a long run of wet days. Other appliances in regular rotation are the slow cooker, rice cooker, stick blender and vacuum. Rarely used but still useful appliance is the food processor. Waste of money: benchtop mixer and juicer! Most loved appliance: sewing machine

  59. This is the first time I have come across this blog, and I haven't had a chance to read all the previous comments but I had to add my spin on your essential electric kettle. About 3 months ago I got so fed up with our kettle (Russell Hobbs, so a reasonable brand) because it was SO NOISY! I looked for a quieter alternative. I came across a stovetop kettle and did some research (just what I could find online) - somewhere I read that every time you boil a kettle from cold it is the equivalent of running a fridge for a day (although I can't remember where I read that). I ended up buying the stovetop kettle (we have a gas cooktop) simply for the noise factor and have just received our first electricity bill since the swap - it is $100 cheaper than every other bill and that is the only change we have made. Considering the kettle cost less than $100 and gas is considerably cheaper than electricity I think it was a worthwhile swap. Incidental, it may be mind-over-matter but I swear the tea and coffee taste better than the element heated kettle too. I realise you have "free" electricity with the solar, but for those who don't it may be worth investigating.
    As for appliances - I have a heap, the majority of which get stored in cupboards and used occasionally but they are handy when needed.

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