4 Sort-of Small Kitchen Gadgets that Equal Big Savings!
Here they are: Four nifty appliances for the kitchen. Read on to get an idea of how they can keep things cheap and simple at your home. Then learn how to get some of them for way below retail value.
Number One: The bread machine
Remember when I told you how I enjoyed making my own bread? Eventually, I really grew tired of kneading dough, waiting around for it to rise, and then using plenty of good oven juice to bake it. To get the same delicious results as a conventional oven, try a mid-range bread machine. For the absolute best savings:
- Buy supplies in bulk. Get the largest flour bag and yeast package you can find. (Check your warehouse stores for deals.)
- Package your mixes ahead of time. My mom and I had a marathon event of packaging up do-ahead baggies with all the dry ingredients. We even used up all of those dried potato flakes I had hanging around.
- Plan bread making into your week. It takes no time at all the dump in the ingredients and push the button. You just have to plan for it. Most bread machines have a delay option to bake while you are at work. Use this to have a nice hot loaf waiting when you get home, and plan a meal around it!
Purchase Tip: Bread makers are cluttering up Goodwill stores and consignment shops across the country. Take one home for cheap, and search for the user’s manual online. Snag one off of Ebay, or check Craigslist. If you’re determined to buy one new, I got this Sunbeam 2 lb beauty from Buy.com for under $50 shipped. (Get extra savings by using the RetailmeNot tool. I saved an extra 5% this way!)
Number Two: The slow-cooker (Crockpot)
Nearly everyone I know calls their slow-cooker a “crockpot” (although that name is actually one of many brands that make them.) Whether you go brand-name or not, the final product is a savory way to enjoy lower-quality meats and vegetables. Go ahead and buy that tough roast – no one may be the wiser. Tips that can help you maximize savings and give you additional ideas for using the cooker include:
- Get some inspiration. I visit this blog regularly. She is brutally honest about which recipes work, and the full-color photos will make you wish it didn’t take 6-8 to reach that final product. (But what will I do when her 365 days are up?)
- Plan, Plan, Plan. 4:30 pm is too late to decide you want to slow-cook some ribs. Sorry.
- Think outside the box. Yes, you can cook just about everything in your slow-cooker, including dog food. Some home-decorating enthusiasts swear by the crock-pot method of stripping hardware. (Just keep a separate cooker on hand for any non-food tasks.)
Purchase Tip: When it comes to slow cookers, most any brand will do. I have had great success from the small cookers sold at the Black Friday sales at Wal-Mart for under $4. They work well for side dishes and small cuts of meat. If you plan on buying second hand, be on the lookout for chips in the crock, discoloration on the interior of the cooking surface, and frayed electrical cords. (These are signs of future problems – so stay away!) Flea marts and garage sales are a great place to find older but functioning slow-cookers for a fraction of the new price. I own several!
Number Three: The veggie/rice steamer
I had this sitting in my cupboard for years after our wedding. I just didn’t know how handy it could be. Now that I’ve had a chance to really try this puppy out, we are inseparable! What’s not to like? It cooks veggies, meats, and rice without any stirring or tending. It uses much less juice than a stove top, and for those of us who are a bit rice-impaired (Translation: Sticky-rice bandits), it’s an easy way to impress guests. (Plus it’s a really healthy way to eat.)
- Forgo the bells and whistles. Rice and veggie steamers have come a long way. Too bad much of the “extras” are pointlessly expensive. I’ve never used the “flavor infuser” on my steamer. If the thing can steam veggies and cook rice, you’re golden. Pay less by getting just what you’ll be sure to need.
- Follow the directions. This is a no-brainer that I’m surprised I couldn’t figure out on my own. Only add water to the steam well. Be super careful when removing the lid. If you follow the basic instructions, you’ll have awesomely tender veggies and extra-fluffy rice. (If you don’t, you’ll look like an idiot in front of your spouse and will be nursing a scalded wrist for a week.)
- Use the recipe book. Each new steamer comes with a few recipes to get you started. Yes, they are simple, but they make an excellent jumping-off point for more daring meals.
Purchase Tip: These also come up at used outlets fairly often. To be sure you really are getting a good deal, make sure the heating element works BEFORE you buy. (If this means you may have to add some water from the store sink and plug it in, do so.) Also, you will need to be sure you have the basic heating component, a drip pan, rice tray, veggie steamer basket, and a lid to do everything you will need it for. (My used one didn’t have the drip pan, and I did fine – but I don’t plan on cooking meat in it.)
Number Four: The chopper/processor
Most of the time I use the world’s oldest food chopper (i.e., my knife.) There are times where I really do go to town with my tiny food processor, however. These are instances where a knife just wouldn’t cut it, and it is worth the time cleaning components to get a good consistent chop going.
- Making baby food – There’s really no need to buy baby food, if you have access to fresh or high-quality fruits, veggies, rice, and meat. A food chopper can get it to the right consistency in no time (adding water can make it smoother.) For excellent baby food tips, see Dr. Sears’ article.
- Freezing for later. Looking to use up all of those tomatoes from your garden? How about whipping up some salsa, pasta sauce, or bruschetta topping? The food chopper can save so much time – you’ll be proud of all of the produce you can use up and eat later in the year.
Purchase Tip: This is a product that I prefer to buy small. Since I’m not mass-producing much these days, I have found satisfaction with a cheapo, off-brand food processor from the Black Friday deals at Wal-Mart (under $4.) Mine has lasted over 4 years. If you want something bigger or name-brand, look for one with as few components as necessary. (Remember, you’ll be taking it apart and cleaning it after each use!)
Everyone will have their “favorite” kitchen doohickeys. I also love my George Foreman Grill and my Utilitea Electric Tea Kettle. Things I don’t use much are gone…. I don’t have room in my life for useless appliances.
What kitchen gear can you not live without? How do you use your favorites to save time and money?