Here at The Debt Shrink we write a lot about all the things you don’t need to buy. But when you are preparing meals at home everyday, there are some kitchen gadgets that make life so much easier. Here is our list of must-have kitchen gadgets, all of which we use multiple times a week.
I’m well-known for not buying stuff. In truth, if there’s something I use on a regular basis I don’t worry about the cost (i.e., I’m frugal, not cheap). Preparing meals at home has helped keep our grocery bill down and my family healthy.
Today’s Food Finances Friday Feature is about the gadgets that I (i.e., my husband) swear by and use regularly.
I had always heard about how great the Instant Pot was, and I had always thought “Why would I need one?” Then I got one and was bowled over by how easy it was to use. Now I couldn’t live without it.
I make everything from tomato sauce for pasta and pizza to homemade vegetable broth (from scraps), beans, soups, and hard-boiled eggs in a fraction of the time it used to take. I use it at least 3 times a week!
There are very few limits to what a cast iron skillet can do. I have had my 12 inch skillet for so many years that it is now my only non-stick pan. It has no special coating that will chip off and enter your food. The only thing it will leach out is iron (which we all could use a little more of).
It heats evenly and doesn’t have any hot spots. I have used it to fry chicken, french fries, cook an egg, and it is excellent for stir fry.
Hold the laughter please, it’s a different kind of Dutch oven. A nice heavy Dutch oven is a must have for those low and slow soups, stews, and roasts. It can be used on the stove top, in the oven, or over a campfire. It is perfect for any one pot meal!
I had never had any success cooking rice before I started using my Dutch oven. Now I can save money by not having to buy the par-boiled rice in a bag anymore!
We eat a lot of popcorn. I used to use the Alton Brown method by popping it in a stainless steel bowl on the stove top with oil. This took too long and also required the use of cooking oils. We wanted a quicker and healthier way to make popcorn.
We recently purchased an air popper. It uses hot air to pop the kernels instead of cooking them in oil. This makes the popcorn so much better for you! It takes less than half the time too. Now, we eat popcorn nearly everyday.
I take an apple and nuts to work for lunch nearly every day. I once used an apple slicer so much that the handles broke off! (You guessed it, the handles were made of plastic.) I made sure that my next one was all one piece and made of stainless steel. I still use it almost daily and haven’t even begun to bend the handles yet.
You don’t need to buy mason jars. Upcycle salsa, pickle, or other glass jars. To remove the label, make a mixture of equal parts baking soda and oil (any cooking will do). Rub it on, let it sit approximately 10 minutes, wipe off, then wash.
Every chef needs a good knife. We received a knife set as a wedding present. It was one of those that come in a big butcher block base. They were okay when I wasn’t doing much cooking at home. But when switched to preparing homemade meals, I needed a better knife.
I was always scared to use a really good knife that was sharp. I was afraid that I would cut myself. It wasn’t until I actually started to use a new sharp (non serrated) chef’s knife that I learn that I was cutting myself with previous knives because they weren’t sharp enough. A good knife will almost do the work for you. A dull knife will bounce or slip off the food rather than slice through it. I learned not to cut corners with a cheap knife.
Bamboo makes a great cutting board due to its hard density. It doesn’t warp or crack like other woods. Plastic cutting boards can be scarred by your knife, which allows pockets of moisture or food to invade and grow bacteria.
In addition to being durable, bamboo is also very sustainable. A normal bamboo shoot will grow to maturity within 3 – 6 years, while other woods can take up to 30 years to mature.
Some people love their take-out coffee. For me, it’s not worth the time, money, or calories. I save thousands of dollars a year by making coffee at home with my simple $20 coffee maker.
We used to buy reusable but disposable plastic containers to store food. They sound like a good idea. But they would get warped in the microwave and dishwasher. Not to mention the discoloration and build-up that they would develop (gross!). I found myself needing to replace them every few months. What a waste of my money and the earth’s resources!
Glasslock containers can be used in the microwave, freezer, oven, and are easily transportable for potlucks or lunches. I’ve had my set for two years now. I use them daily and they are all still in great condition.
Blenders are good for liquifying. But food processors are good for meal prep. I use my food processor for many things. It makes the best consistency for salsa. I also use it to process my vegetables for soups and chili. I think that processing beforehand rather than blending the final product has a better texture. I also use it to sneak in a few extra veggies into just about anything for the kiddos!
Toasters are unitaskers, but toaster ovens can make pizza! You know that pizza is my weakness. After overextending my food budget (and waistline) on take-out pizza, we have gone back to making pizzas at home.
I am also now eating meatless meals and quickly learned that veggie burgers are best made in a toaster oven.
Preparing meals at home daily, it’s easy to wear out your pots and pans. We’ve gone through multiple sets in the past few years. This year, we got a good quality set for Christmas (thanks Mom!). It’s the same brand she has had for over 20 years. I expect these should last us a while.
What items do you consider must haves in your kitchen?