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30 Kitchen Items that Work When the Power is Out

Many preppers worry about what they will do in a survival situation, be it long-term or short-term, when the power is out.

We are so dependent upon electricity for so much that things will start to go sideways fast when it is unavailable. When the light switches don’t produce any light and the outlets don’t get our gadgets and appliances going, trouble is always near.

kitchen items and basket with veggies

Beyond the immediate term effects of a loss of power, we should also consider the intermediate and long-term effects, particularly the degraded or near total loss of capability in the kitchen.

Life must go on, and that means meal time must go on. The kitchen is, in many ways, the nerve center of an operational household, and if your kitchen is out of action, life and tempers will begin to unravel in short order.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. As it turns out there is a huge variety of kitchen gadgetry, tools, appliances and implements that don’t require electricity at all in order to function.

These items are the perfect hedge against a long-term loss of power in a survival scenario, and with just a little bit of adaptation can keep your kitchen up and running. Today we are bringing you a huge list of kitchen gadgets that will work when the power is out.

Low-Tech Lasts

There is no disputing that modern, electric appliances and kitchen gadgets are marvelous enhancements to our efficiency and workflow in the kitchen. They can help us do everything faster and to a high, consistent standard.

I don’t think it is a stretch to assert that most of us are so completely used to working with electric gadgetry it almost feels like we are giving up a limb to go back to manual power.

You might be surprised to learn, then, just how effective manual kitchen tools can be when it comes to preparing food the way we always have.

Some ubiquitous tools you use everyday even now, things like mixing bowls, kitchen knives and the like, but other mechanical contraptions that were the predecessors to the electric gadgets we use like stand mixers, food processors and so forth are becoming increasingly rare but can still be impressively efficient.

What is important to our purposes is that these manual tools, whatever they are, give us a hedge against the loss of power that would cripple a modern kitchen.

By making the transition now or keeping a few select items in reserve just in case you can guarantee that your kitchen will keep on cranking out homemade meals more or less the way it always has even under less than ideal circumstances.

It might sound quaint or even like an affectation when so much of our survival food can be pre-made or ready to eat as is, but you shouldn’t underestimate the nutritional and morale benefits of a proper home cooked meal.

Kitchen Items that Work When the Power is Out

Quick disclosure: If you visit a link in this article and then you buy something, I may earn a commission. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. You can read my full disclosure here.

Cast Iron Skillet

There is a reason that many families so covet the cast iron cookware owned by their grandparents and great-grandparents. It just plain works, and has gotten the job done for going on a couple of centuries now. The quintessential piece of any cast iron cookware collection is the large skillet.

Any chef will tell you that cast iron has much to recommend it as far as heat control is concerned, but for our purposes a cast iron skillet is just as much at home on a stove top as it is in an oven or outside on a grill or even directly over a campfire.

This versatility is unrivaled by any other cookware, and you can’t say your post-SHTF kitchen is truly ready without one. The one your grandma had has probably already lasted 80 years, and if you give it even a little bit of care it’ll last another 80.

Dutch Oven

The Dutch oven is another piece of cast iron cookware that is supremely versatile, and these are greatly beloved by campers, overlanders or anyone else who might have to cook and cook well even in an austere environment.

You can make everything from bread and casseroles to stews and steaks in a Dutch oven thanks mostly to the design which allows you to cover the oven with hot coals after placing it directly in or near a fire.

For even more versatility, you can get a combo cooker Dutch oven which turns the lid into a skillet of its own complete with a handle.


There is a reason we are front loading this list with cast iron cookware. It is just that good, and affords you maximum versatility in cooking what you need to cook under control when the power is out.

For feeding a larger group or taking care of the largest cuts of meat, a large cast iron griddle that spans two or even four burners is the right option.

Usually consisting of a flat side and a ridged grill side on the opposite, you can easily whip up a course that will feed four to six adults using this alone.

Highly versatile like all of its cast iron cousins, the only downside to the griddle is its massive size and weight. This is not something you want the kids or the infirm handling lest they drop it and break their feet while bashing a hole in the floor!


No one can really get by in the kitchen without tongs unless they are using nothing but the microwave, and the need for tongs will be even more pressing in the post-electricity kitchen since you are far more likely to be working with open flames.

Tongs allow you to flip and manipulate food when it is directly on the heat, or reposition cookware and other vessels without getting too close to a roaring, crackling fire.

There are all kinds of tongs out on the market, but you would be wise to invest in all-steel models that have long handles sans any rubber or plastic grip inserts.

If you make a mistake and leave your tongs too close to a heat source, those can melt whereas all metal ones won’t.

Heat-Resistant Gloves

Cooking, in the kitchen or out, entails handling hot pots and pans around blazing heat sources, and in the post-electric kitchen you’ll need something to protect your hands more than ever.

Sure, a folded towel, potholder or oven mitts might be okay, but for maximum protection and control consider investing in heat resistant gloves with gauntlets that cover the wrist and part of your forearm.

They will afford you maximum dexterity while protecting you from hot metal and the errant spill or spatter of grease.

There are plenty to choose from on the market, but if you want to save a few bucks you can use conventional welding gloves from the hardware store in this role.

Drain Board

Aside from food, hopefully, all of your kitchen cooking forays are going to generate dirty dishes, dishes that will need to be washed manually since your dishwasher is going to be offline. To boost efficiency, speed drying and keep your counters clear invest in a drain board.

You might already have one, but if you don’t, a drainboard is exactly what it says: a plastic holder or rack that will allow your washed dishes to drip dry while preventing puddling on your countertop.

It’s not glamorous, and it is a particularly fun, but it will definitely help keep your kitchen operating after the electricity is no more.

Kitchen Timer

So much of what we do when cooking revolves around precise measurement of time, particularly when applying high heat during searing or frying and baking.

Chances are you use your stove top or microwave timer for the purpose or any of the innumerable timer apps built into modern smartphones.

Sure, the timer on your phone will still work at least for a time once the power is out but you can wave goodbye to the ones built into your stove top and microwave.

Thankfully, reliable, accurate mechanical timers are plentiful, affordable and a breeze to use. Pick up a couple of these mechanical egg timers and you won’t have to worry about guessing whether or not you had that bacon frying in the oven for five minutes or only four.

Water Pump

Another thing we take completely for granted in our modern era is the reliability of water on demand. For washing, cooking and drinking alike, water issues for readily and endlessly from any tap in our house.

Though your house may or may not be entirely dependent upon public water supplies, no matter where you get your water from, be it a well or the civic supply, widespread loss of electricity is going to interrupt that flow sooner rather than later.

A working kitchen without access to water on demand won’t be a working kitchen for long, so you’ll need a solution.

And you can have a solution if you have a classic, manually operated water pump, and sometimes called a pitcher pump.

Long before public water was a thing, these small and easy to use pumps would draw water from rain barrels or other large reservoirs into the sinks and basins inside kitchens.

Mixing Bowls

Mixing bowls are one of those basic kitchen items that you’ll need day in and day out.

You likely won’t even be using them for proper mixing much of the time, but instead for holding various ingredients in the correct proportions, disposing of scraps out of your workspace or even themselves as a vessel for cooking.

Big and small you’ll need them all, so make sure you stock up while you can.

As always, a simpler, streamlined, all metal design will provide you with the very best versatility and completely eliminate any concerns about melting or scorched coatings, handles that can’t handle the heat and other mishaps attendant with cheap, modern interpretations.


A colander, or strainer, is your go-to tool for draining the water off of freshly steamed or boiled food like pasta and also for washing any produce prior to processing.

This is another kitchen gadget that requires no electricity and one that is also virtually unchanged over the many long decades of use.

Trying to get by without one of these will quickly prove frustrating, maybe even a little dangerous if you are handling hot liquids.

Here you have more options in use since it won’t be enduring any applied heat in cooking. As always I prefer metal but you can make a good case for high impact, heat resistant plastic here as they are easier to handle and it less prone to denting or breaking when being taken in and out of the pantry and placed in the sink.


As time goes on in any long duration survival situation, you’ll be able to rely on preprocessed, prepackaged food less and less as stocks get consumed. Soon you’ll be switching over to fresh, whole produce that you’ll need to process yourself.

Save yourself a ton of grief, speed up the process and make it a little safer by using a vegetable and fruit peeler. Simple, a cinch to use and highly versatile this ingenious little tool will save you a ton of time whether you are appealing potatoes or apples, no electricity required.

Do keep in mind the blades on peelers can dull over time, just like any other cutting edge, and you’ll need to be prepared with the right kit to sharpen them and restore them to service.


For that perfect cup of tea, hot cocoa or even coffee, a kettle is what you need to quickly and safely bring water to a roaring boil, and once the electricity is out you’ll need something that is strong enough to withstand substantial application of direct heat.

Almost any conventional tea kettle is up to the task, and the shrill, built-in whistle ensures that you’ll know when your water is ready.

Although there are various so-called electric kettles on the market, as you have doubtless figured out you want a traditional, no frills tea kettle without any such accoutrement.

Can Opener

I’m pretty sure there’s a law somewhere that says you’re not even allowed to call yourself a prepper if you don’t have a huge stash of canned good somewhere.

Okay, I may or may not be exaggerating but the truth of the matter is that most preppers do have canned goods as part of their survival food stash.

That means if you want to avoid being the subject of an ironic comedy, you’ll need a good can opener to allow you easy, timely access to those goods.

You probably already have an electric can opener on your countertop or stashed in a cabinet nearby, but that is a no-go for our purposes.

What you want is a sturdy manually operated model, the kind with heavy duty handles and an oversized knob or crank to afford you maximum leverage for getting through tough lids.


Maybe you aren’t a tea drinker. Maybe you are a bean juice fanatic who cannot contemplate life on Earth without that morning and evening cup of joe.

If this describes your outlook, you’ll want to add an alternative way to brew coffee to your kitchen readiness arsenal, one besides your tried and true electric drip machine or K-Cup. Time to kick it old school like your grandparents and great grandparents did with a percolator.

Still the choice of some coffee aficionados, a classic percolator can easily turn water and grounds into a strong, hearty pot of coffee in no time flat, and can do it just as easily on a stove top as it can over a campfire or on a grill. This is the coffee worshipers’ survival gadget, right here!


A grater is another awesome, multi-purpose kitchen implement that doesn’t require any electricity whatsoever.

You can obviously use it for grating cheese, like normal, but it is also useful for such things as garlic, ginger and a variety of herbs and spices.

The standard box grater that has multiple surfaces for a variety of sizes and textures is your best bet and will easily stand up to constant, rigorous use.


The slicer is another kitchen gadget that requires no electricity and will still dramatically speed up your meal prep, especially when processing fruits and veggies.

Although a good chef’s or paring knife can do everything the slicer can do and potentially just as quickly in the hands of a master, for us normal, “Earth people” a slicer gives us speed and consistency in equal measure.

Consider this a must-have tool if you make a lot of dishes with root vegetables or firm fruits, and it is also essential for processing both for dehydration if you are into that sort of thing.


There are quite a few of us who couldn’t live without our food processors, but that is exactly what we will have to do if the power goes out for a long time.

Not to worry, though, because no matter what you are processing and what the desired result is you can probably do much the same thing using a handheld chopper.

These old fashioned devices are very much out of style right now, again owing to the abundance of electric replacements, but they worked well for a long time and still work well today.

Consisting of a handle with a grid made from sharp, thin metal panels intersecting at right angles, a chopper can reduce larger slices of fruits, veggies and even meats into consistent, convenient morsels.

Crank Mixer

For the bakers and bread makers in the audience, the thought of giving up our stand mixers is tantamount to asking us to give up a limb.

How will we ever go on without it? Well, go on we can and go on we must, but luckily we won’t have to mix everything by hand or using a spatula.

You might be surprised, and I hope happily so, to learn that there are stand mixer equivalents that are manually cranked and surprisingly effective.

You’ll have to use a little more muscle power, but these old fashioned mixers utilize impressive gearing ratios that can generate plenty of power and speed for any mixing application without wearing you out.

Kitchen Shears

Kitchen shears are a little more than heavy duty, Stout scissors, and though they can be used for many of the same tasks you would use common scissors for, they are designed for processing meat, particularly meat on the bone, and other intensive cutting tasks.

Compared to using your kitchen knife or a significantly clumsier cleaver, kitchen shears will still provide you plenty of control and all the power you need for anything but the most demanding of chores.

Mortar and Pestle

For hardcore grinding or reducing certain items into a paste-like consistency, you’ll need a mortar and pestle in place of your trusty standby food processor.

The mortar and pestle combo has been around since basically forever, and it nearly every culture around the world has an equivalent other ubiquitous version.

Consisting of a domed stick for crushing and a gently sloping bowl for holding the item being crushed, working it over for a few minutes will reduce almost anything to a fine powder or paste. This is just the thing for making your own seasoning and spice blends.

Meat Grinder

Hopefully you’ll have planned accordingly so you can acquire a steady influx of fresh meat in the aftermath of some major disaster or society toppling event.

But assuming that is the case you won’t necessarily be cooking huge, whole cuts all the time. Ground meat in particular is a vital component of sausages and those ever tasty burgers, so you’ll want to be ready for the occasion with a manual, crank operated meat grinder.

These used to be a fixture in every kitchen throughout the land, whether they were huge, heavy countertop models or the somewhat more compact versions that would clamp on the edge of a counter or the ubiquitous kitchen work table that was a popular piece of furniture in the day.

You’ll have to take pains to keep these clean after use, but most of them are easy to disassemble.

Rolling Pin

When making any kind of dough or crust, a rolling pin is a must. You don’t need anything fancy. A classic wooden rolling pin can work just as well as one of the fancy, rich stone versions that are becoming popular.

Keep it clean, keep it lightly oiled and flour your work surface and you’ll be cranking out pastries, pizza crust and more in no time.

Grain Mill

Peppers who live on a farm or have access to local, farm grown grains can expect a bounty of cereals they can put to use in a variety of ways.

Most people naturally think flour when they think of whole grain, but before you can make use of it in that way you’ll need to process it, and that means you need a grain mill.

A grain mill will reduce whole, intact grains into flour far easier than you could with any other method, at least on the small scale.

They take time and a little bit of muscle to operate, but for families who are just wanting to bake their daily bread they are more than adequate and very convenient.

Meat Thermometer

A good meat thermometer is a chronically overlooked kitchen gadget that is going to be even more important once you are deprived of your typical cooktop and microwave arrangement.

Temperature control is the other major element of cooking skill, and even though you likely have not ever taken the time to figure out exactly what temperature a certain burner on a certain setting produces, you probably have enough experience to know about where you need to be on the dial.

Deprived of this intuitiveness, you’ll need to carefully assess the temperature of your food to ensure it is done. A good thermometer will help you do that.

Fermenting Crock

A fermenting crock is a relatively unknown kitchen gadget to most people. As you’d expect from the name, a fermenting crock is used to produce fermented foods, items like sauerkraut, kimchi and similar items.

Consisting of a little more than an earthenware pot with a lid that nestles inside a trough at the top, water is poured into the trough so that the lid produces an airtight seal, allowing anaerobic bacteria to do its work and ferment the food.

Used by a variety of cultures in one way or another around the world for centuries, fermentation produces notably iconic cultural dishes, but is also a critical method of preservation for certain foods. No refrigeration, and thusly no electricity required!

Chef’s Knife

Probably the most ubiquitous and important tool in any kitchen. The kitchen knife, chef’s knife, or just the knife, this large blade is the cutting implement with which you will handle the vast majority of your kitchen chores when it comes to food prep, both big and small.

Keep it sharp, learn to use it well and you’ll rarely need to reach for anything else when tackling the basics.

Butter Churn

If you want to make your own butter you’ll need a butter churn. Hard to imagine getting by without butter today, and it is available so freely, so cheaply and virtually everywhere that we take for granted will always have access to it.

Obviously, that won’t be the case when the power is out and the manufacturers, shippers and groceries that sell it will likewise not be keeping their refrigerated stocks cool for very long.

You can make your own butter if you have access to the appropriate dairy components but you’ll need to supply a lot of elbow grease in the bargain if you want to get that creamy goodness.

Dough Mixer

For the hardcore bread makers, an electric dough mixer might as well be a heaven sent boon. Sadly, it too will go the way of the dodo along with our stand mixers, microwaves and other electric kitchen gadgets.

As you can probably guess by now, there is happily a non-electric equivalent in the form of a manually operated dough mixer.

Purists may scoff at the idea of not kneading their dough themselves, but a manually cranked dough mixer is less messy and generally more consistent than a human being.

This is one of those tools that has long been out of fashion, and there are very few new versions produced today so you might need to go antiquing or yard saling if you want to come up with one and then you’ll be facing the task of restoring it. Even so, they are generally worth it.

Zeer Pot

A zeer pot might be just the thing for replacing your refrigerator. This ingenious and ancient device is nothing more than two clay jars, one smaller than the other and capable of nesting inside it, with a layer of wet sand packed in between them.

For the power of condensation, this keeps the interior of the innermost pot significantly cooler than the outside air, and can make the difference for preserving certain perishable goods.

These are easy enough to make yourself using common pots and sand, but bespoke models are available if you need something larger or for a specific size application.

Ice Cream Maker

It might be a luxury, but if you have access to ice, milk, and sugar, you can crank out some delectable homemade ice cream with absolutely no power needed except muscle power.

You can imagine how refreshing and morale-boosting a treat like that would be in the middle of a paradigm-altering situation.

You’d need to eat it fast lacking any other means of refrigeration, but you should not underestimate the value of a little dash of normalcy in tough times.


The post-electric SHTF survival-ready kitchen remains surprisingly productive if you have the right gadgets and equipment on hand.

Humans were turning out marvelous dishes and wholesome feasts for generation upon generation well before the advent of electricity, and you can do the same thing.

Use this list of non-electric kitchen gadgets as a guide and you’ll be ready to go on cooking as normal even in the worst of times!

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10 Survival Items to Get at Garage Sales

Being prepared means acquiring a certain amount of gear. But all of this gear that we buy as preppers gets expensive, and quickly!

Tools, weapons, equipment, shelter supplies, clothing- it adds up fast and you could be looking at a small mountain of debt if you are buying high-end gear brand new from your local big-box outdoor or camping store.

garage sale

So what is a prepper to do, caught between this financial rock and budgetary hard place? You don’t want to forgo essential supplies or equipment, but taking care of your finances is a necessary prep all unto itself.

You might be tempted to put it all on a credit card and brace yourself for that first payment or even pawn a lesser used organ. You could try a gun show or swap meet, but too many owners are too proud of their stuff and price it accordingly. It seems to be a dilemma.

But I have a solution, one that has worked for me time and time again. Check out garage sales. chances are you haven’t thought to investigate garage sales in and around your town for survival gear, but you would be surprised what kind of gear you can pick up for pennies on the dollar. This article will show you my top 10 picks for garage sale survival gear finds.

Not New, But New to You!

Garage sales are a great way to pick up new gear. Well, not new new, but new to you! You might be wary of snagging any equipment or supplies that you plan on using in a life or death context in used condition, but don’t be.

Most of the things being sold at a garage sale are items that people barely used and no longer care to see accumulate dust in their garages, attics or closets, not stuff that has been beat the crap and they are trying to throw away while getting paid in the bargain.

This means that your typical garage sale find will likely be a little dusty and musty, but otherwise in good repair, or at least good enough repair that you can gain valuable capability while saving a bundle over a new item.

Furthermore, many of the things that we are searching for happened to have very long service lives if they have been given even a modicum of care.

That means you can usually buy with confidence so long as something isn’t obviously defective. A little TLC and it will be as good as new!

However, for certain items it definitely pays to know a little bit about what you are dealing with. Naturally, you shouldn’t expect any kind of return policy on anything you buy at a garage sale and though most people will inform you of any glaring defects, there’s always one or two Slick Willys out there who will try to dupe unwitting buyers. Caveat emptor!

With all that out of the way, let us get to our list.

10 Survival Items to Get at a Garage Sale

Hiking Packs and Rucksacks

Backpacks and other survival- or camping-centric luggage are some of my favorite items to nab from garage sales. Don’t be afraid to ask if the owners have any they are looking to get rid of aside from the usual assortment of moldy old gym bags and kids’ book bags.

It is easy to find quality army surplus, or even serious technical hiking packs with frames and all at garage sales. I once picked up an osprey backpack in mint condition for pennies on the dollar.

This is a great item to look for at garage sales because, like so many other things, the seller or even the entire family might decide to go whole hog into a hobby before giving it the old try and see.

Much of this gear will be in gently used or even like new condition as mentioned because, as it turns out, they just weren’t as into it as they were hoping. Their loss is your gain, and you can save hundreds of dollars on your luggage by acquiring it in this way.


If you have been out shopping for quality, rugged outdoor capable footwear here lately then you might still be suffering from a case of sticker shock.

Technical hiking boots and even lightweight trail shoes seem to have experienced precipitously climbing prices in these past few years and that means grabbing a pair for yourself could set you back several hundred dollars.

Even worse, depending on where and how you acquire them there might not be any recourse if it turns out they just don’t get along with your feet after you wear them a couple of times. That is money down the drain!

Happily, it is easy to find rugged, high quality boots at garage sales. Many folks will have hunting, hiking or camping boots that only have a little seasoning on them before they were resigned to the closet to live ever after.

So long as you can find a size that works for you and try them on you shouldn’t be afraid to get some used boots, assuming they aren’t too battered.

Even if they look a little worse for the wear, look closer. Many traditional boots that have replaceable soles or lugs can be refreshed by a skilled cobbler very cheaply, making them effectively like new for you!


Another one of my favorite buys at a garage sale are blankets, specifically wool blankets like our great grandparents used to use and that many militaries still issue to their troops for keeping warm in the field.

We aren’t looking for traditional comforters or thin, wimpy blankets that women are so fond of draping artistically and haphazardly over one arm of the couch. We want heavy, thick genuine wool!

Though these blankets used to be a dime a dozen back when more textiles used wool for a variety of purposes, they have started to go the way of the dodo and are turning into what is basically a bespoke item with prices to match.

I don’t much like the idea of shelling out a couple hundred dollars on a wool blanket, even though I will if I have to. That’s because wool is incredibly insulating and will keep you warm even when it is soaking wet.

You’ll be thrilled to get this kind of performance far cheaper if you cruise the garage sales in your town looking for these old fashioned but still eminently useful blankets


Living, working and surviving outdoors or in the aftermath of any event that takes away our climate control systems means that protecting yourself from the effects of exposure is Paramount.

If you are fortunate enough to live in one of the relatively few places that enjoys balmy warm weather around the clock year in and year out, I’m happy for you.

But for the rest of us regular Earth people we probably live in a place that is either cold or a place that gets cold in the appropriate seasons. Adding some wind and wet weather and the stage is set for rapid onset hypothermia.

Your first line of defense against exposure is warm clothing. There is no shortage of frankly miraculous technical garments that are incredibly light, durable and very warm in all sorts of weather conditions but they cost a pretty penny.

Large, warm parkas, weatherproof shells, sweaters and more are commonly up for grabs at garage sales and will work just as well when purchased used for a quarter of the price as they will fresh out of the package with that weird factory smell.

As always, try it on before you take it home but if you can grab some quality cold weather clothing at a garage sale, rejoice!

Tents and Camping Gear

Tense and other associated camping items are perennial offerings at garage sales from coast to coast.

Plenty of folks by tents and other camping gear with big, pie in the sky dreams of idyllic family outings at various parks and beautiful wilderness vistas. Trips full of storytelling, roasting marshmallows and bird watching.

After the first few miserable forays full of frayed nerves, mysterious sounds, terrible sleep and legions of biting insects the romance is stone, cold dead and the tent goes up for sale.

Modern tents specially are one of those items that is an excellent option for snagging at a garage sale since quality examples are getting so gosh darn expensive at retailers.

Whatever tent you have available, it pays to give it a thorough going over to make sure it is not moldy, suffering from torn or pop stitching or missing those ever critical components of the frame.

So long as you know a little bit about these systems in general, you should be able to grab your new tent for a song and the owner will thank you for it.

Cast Iron Cookware

Surviving isn’t all about shelter and weaponry. Other basic needs must be met, like procuring and preparing food.

Preparing food especially can be challenging since most survival situations will not allow you the use of a fully equipped and energized modern kitchen. However, many of your kitchen tools that don’t rely on electricity will still be useful, and perhaps none more than any cast iron cookware you might have.

Cast iron cookware is durable, adaptable and supremely versatile, capable of being used in the oven, on the stove top, on the grill or over a campfire with equal ease.

One of the best sources of high quality, used cast iron cookware is garage and yard sales. most folks, even folks who don’t do a lot of their own cooking or disdain the use of these heavy, brutish implements will still have a supply of it, usually handed down lovingly from grandparent, to parent and finally to child.

Cast iron is surprisingly expensive when purchased new, and obtaining it from antique stores means you’ll be paying prices according to what the proprietor knows it is worth, but you can get it for a song at a garage sale.

Fishing Poles and Tackle

Fishing is a time-honored recreational activity and a useful survival skill in equal measure. It is unfortunate, then, that so much fishing tackle and especially reels and rods have gotten so expensive and oftentimes don’t measure up against older stuff that your granddad used.

Also, like so many hobbies, many people jump in with both feet only to lose enthusiasm or discover that it just isn’t for them.

Many more have to regretfully give up the hobby when other responsibilities take precedence and they don’t have as much time to get out on the shore or out on the water like they used to.

Naturally, fishing rods, reels and entire crates full of lures and other tackle will be up for sale at the neighborhood garage sale. This is the perfect time to completely get yourself out for a fraction of the cost that you could expect at a direct retailer.

Fishing is not that complicated on the equipment side, but it definitely pays to know what you are looking at and understand the condition of the rod and reel.

You don’t want to buy a piece of junk on its last legs at any price, so bring someone with you who knows their stuff if you are uncertain.


Battery powered personal light sources are great, but they are limited by your ability to recharge them. This necessitates access to a functioning electrical grid or the use of slow, cumbersome solar chargers in the case of a rechargeable.

If you want dependable, on demand lighting that is free from dependence upon electricity, it is time to look into liquid fueled lanterns. kerosene and alcohol fueled lanterns have been around for a very long time, and are indeed the primary light source in many places around the world to this very day.

You can buy modern iterations for a pretty penny, or save yourself a bundle by picking up vintage but still entirely useful models by the cart load at your average garage sale.

Especially prevalent in the American South and Midwest, many such lanterns are family heirlooms, handed down from generation to generation until somebody gets tired of watching them collect dust in the garage.

A little bit of sprucing up, a new wick or element and a load of fuel and they are ready to push back the shadows once again.


Another one of my favorite garage sale finds are tools of all description. It is funny how people accumulate tools over time.

Hardcore tool users will completely festoon their garages and personal workshops with them for professional or hobby related reasons, while the rest of us slowly, surely seem to acquire a collection over time that fills up that one junk drawer in our kitchen or a toolbox placed haphazardly under the sink.

Eventually, there must be a reckoning and these surplus tools are invariably laid out for sale in garages and on driveways across America.

Lucky for you it is possible to score some real bargains on high quality options. Especially hand tools like axes, hatchets, hammers and saws can be found as antique contrivances that are really high performance implements in waiting.

Compared to buying modern, mass produced options made from pig iron out of such places as china, you’d be far better off getting an heirloom quality version and doing a little restoration.

Bows and Crossbows

Conventional bows and crossbows are excellent weapons for discreetly procuring big game, and can even be handy for self-defense in a pinch when firearms are unavailable or just too loud.

Modern examples of either are especially effective at impressive ranges and crossbows in particular can produce genuinely frightening penetration and accuracy. Trust me when I say these are survival tools that everyone should embrace and learn to use.

As you might expect, this performance comes at a price tag, at least it does if you buy new. But like so many other recreational and outdoor items that are on this list many such weapons will wind up looking for a new home at a local garage sale once the spell woven by the “Good Idea fairy” wears off.

Similar to fishing rods and other tackle, it is beneficial if you know at least a little bit about what you are shopping for and what you are looking at before acquiring a garage sale bow or crossbow. Be sure to bring an expert friend or relative with you if you don’t!


Buying survival gear can get really expensive, really fast. But you don’t have to drop a fortune and you don’t have to settle for cheap, inadequate equipment if you know how to find bargains at your local garage and yard sales.

Quite a few survival centric tools and other items can be had at these sales and for pennies on the dollar compared to the cost of new items.

Next time you see one of those tacky little signs on the corner, take the time to spin by and browse the selection. You’ll probably be glad you did.

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