Our family spends a lot of time in the kitchen and we definitely have accumulated our fair share of gadgets over the years. My husband and I, pre-child, spent many hours whipping up elaborate seafood dinners, sauces, long roasts, and even making ice cream. Fast forward to the present with a 4 year old and busy full time jobs, we still love to cook, but need to save those valuable minutes and dollars when we can. I love all of our gadgets and tools, but the ones that get the most use these days are ones that provide money and time savings (and have definitely paid for themselves by now!). If you cook in the kitchen, you might already have some of these tools.
1. Food Saver
Our Food Saver is probably our top tool for saving money in the kitchen. Over a decade ago, my aunt and uncle were using one and frequently put the bags on their Christmas lists. At the time I thought nothing of it…what use could I possibly get out of it? These days we frequent Costco and are able to portion out those large quantities of meat easily. Not only can we save money on buying in bulk, but food stays fresh in the freezer until we are ready to use it because it’s vacuum packed. No freezer burn ever! Also, a wonderful side benefit of being able to repackage is that we can lay everything as flat as possible. This allows us to optimize the space in the freezer and make thawing out go quicker. This is especially helpful when we forget to pull something out of the freezer the night before!
Hand graters can serve many purposes in the kitchen from grating cheese to zesting lemons and oranges and even grating cold butter for scones (yes, some of my past pre-child baking life). These days, though, our graters get the most use out of grating cheese on everything from pasta to veggies. We can buy a block of cheese in bulk, usually some Romano and Cheddar, and with little effort create whatever shredded cheese is needed for a recipe. It stays fresher longer than the store bought shredded cheese and is considerably cheaper than paying for someone to grate it for you.
3. Meat Grinder
The meat grinder attachment for our Kitchen Aid may seem like an odd item to add to the list, but I assure you it’s definitely paid for itself and more. We love our Kitchen Aid for mixing and beating, but finding an attachment or two that adds value can really help justify the space on the counter it takes up. Because we can grind our own pork, beef, chicken or lamb, we almost never buy ground anything which saves a ton of money per pound. It also gives us more flexibility to switch from pork chops to ground pork on a moments notice.
Our food processors (we have a 3 cup and an 11 cup) work overtime in the kitchen saving both time and money. In food prep, they quickly chop veggies and mince garlic. We make marinades and dressings from scratch rather than expensive store bought ones with help from the smaller one. I can even quickly whip up a pie crust or biscuits dough with practically no effort and a fraction of the cost of a store bought one. Each one comes with several attachments, like a grater and slicer, so there is definitely more versatility than just chopping. We’ve had ours for more than a decade and they’re still going strong.
We are a fan of salads as long as they are quick to pull together these days. Prewashed lettuce is definitely one quick option, but can cost a small fortune. This is where our salad spinner comes in handy! Take any head or loose leaf lettuce. Give it a quick chop or break it up with your fingers and throw it in the spinner. You can wash the lettuce right in the spinner and use the basket inside to strain out the water. A few quick spins and you have washed lettuce that can even be stored in the spinner until consumed. Tons of savings for very little work. This tool is also wonderful for washing herbs, especially the ones from the garden with some extra dirt on them.
BONUS: Spring-Loaded Scoop
These lovely tools (also called ice cream or cookies scoops) have more uses than just scooping out ice cream. In fact, I don’t think I’ve actually ever used ours with ice cream. If you’ve ever watched a cooking show you’ll notice that chefs use them to quickly form meatballs, fill up cupcake tins, and even lay out cookies. The purpose is two fold, to quickly create uniform sizes for even cooking and not make a huge mess while doing so (thank you spring loading). I have three different sizes, a small, medium, and a large one. The small and large are great for my mini and regular size cupcake tins and the medium is perfect for meatballs. All of the sizes also work great for cookies and pancakes.