13 Must-Have Kitchen Purchases Under $10

By Marla Walters on 5 January 2015 1 comment

My kitchen is well-stocked with the basics, but there are some items that I just absolutely love. Several of them get used every day. Most aren't fancy — they just work really well. (See also: 9 Ways to Make Your Kitchen Look Great for Under $100)

The best part? They are under $10.

1. Knife

I absolutely hate the look of my knives. The colors just repulse me. They look like something that belong in a preschool, and for goodness sakes, that would be so wrong. But… I found them on eBay for under $10! I have beautiful knives in a lovely knife-block; they work very nicely. However, the hideous fuschia knife (pictured in the link) is my go-to for serious slicing. It's so ugly, I keep it in a drawer so I don't have to look at it. The Kai Knife and I clearly have a love-hate relationship.

2. Glass Measuring Cup

I own two Pyrex measuring cups, because one is always in use, or dirty. I'm not sure I could cook without them. They are, of course, microwavable. Talk about sturdy! Mine have been dropped on the floor; they survive. I have dropped them in the sink, and they live on. They are ridiculously easy to clean. I used them as sauce or gravy boats until recently, when a friend decided I needed to class up my act and bought me a real gravy boat. My mother used hers so long the red measuring lines had faded — but still kept it in use. After 20 years, she had a good idea of where ⅓ and ½ cup were on the cup.

3. Candy Thermometer

Granted, if you don't make candy, you can get by without one. But think of it this way: If you own a candy thermometer, you can make candy. Let that sink in a little. You can also use it for deep-frying. Yup. At under $6, you now understand why I consider this to be an essential kitchen gadget.

4. A Mallet

You know when you've had a really crummy day at work, and you come home, feeling grumpy, and need to make dinner? Here is the perfect thing (and I really and truly do this). Get out your meat mallet and some thick chicken breasts. Pound those things. Not only is use of a mallet cathartic, but it's a money-saver (and results are delicious). Sale on chuck steak? Pound it. I recommend you buy this stellar equipment in a store, where you can pick the mallets up and feel how much heft they have.

5. The Ove Glove

I have sung the praises of the Ove Glove here before, but it's worth mentioning again. I now consider it an essential for candy-making. When you have boiling-hot candy bubbling on a stove, your new BFF is the Ove Glove. It takes getting used to, because unless you are stupid, the natural inclination is not to grab a pan of cookies right out of the oven. Mine has been washed many times and still works perfectly. It contains Kevlar, making it a pretty serious piece of equipment.

6. Kitchen Shears

Does a day go by when I don't use my kitchen shears? I don't think so. I chiffonade. I snip. My favorite use of the shears is for cutting a game hen in half. It takes about two minutes to divide, season, and toss into the oven. What else are they good for? I have used them to cut up tough stew meat and skinny sausages. I have scissored chickens, pasta dough, slices of bread for croutons, and leafy greens. They have been washed hundreds of times, and they're still sharp.

7. The Pot Watcher

Have you ever put a pot of water on the stove to boil, then forgotten about it? In extreme cases of forgetfulness, this could be a fire hazard. But at the very least, it's a terrible waste of energy. And as expensive as energy costs have gotten to be, I highly recommend The Glass Boil Alert Pot Watcher. (We just call ours the Pot Watcher.) I just will not stand at the stove, watching and waiting for the water to boil, to add pasta, or begin timing the hard-boiled eggs. With this gadget, I don't have to.

8. Quiche Dish

How often do I make a quiche? Oh, maybe three or four times a year. You wouldn't think that would justify needing to own a quiche dish, but that's where you'd be wrong. Check out this beautiful vegetable tian, which works perfectly in a quiche dish. Heck, you can make a pie in it, roast chicken pieces, or serve a Dutch baby for breakfast. If you are feeling 50s, it's a pretty container for a Jell-O salad. It is also a practical piece, due to its shallow stature — great for dredging fish or chicken in bread crumbs. But we're not done! Its shape also lends itself to dips.

9. Custard Cups

Funny thing, but I didn't own a single one of these great little cups until a couple of years ago. How did I exist without them? We are now up to two sets, because they are so handy. Of course, they are great for their intended purpose (custard, pudding, flans). However, they also get used at breakfast to scramble or poach individual eggs (cups are microwavable). They hold a nice amount of cereal or oatmeal. At lunch, they are perfect for a little cup of soup or a small salad. Their best use, though? Leftovers.

I just surveyed the refrigerator. There is one cup of leftover spaghetti, and another of beets. We just save those little bits and put them into a custard cup, with saran or waxed paper, and out they come again. Taco night is another great way to use them — one cup for tomatoes, one for shredded cheese, another for olives, etc. In the morning, I often throw the cups of leftovers into scrambled eggs. Because they are clear, it's easy to see what the leftover is, which reduces waste, and, of course, saves money.

10. Roasting Pan

Do you like rotisserie chickens? How about pot roasts? I'll bet your grandmother has one of these sturdy roasters in her garage. Ask her if you can have it, or order your own roasting pan.

These have been around forever, and I don't know why they fell out of favor, except that they are kind of big. I have mine on a pantry cart and I keep other stuff inside it, for storage. If you can possibly find room, buy one. Why? The best roasted chicken, ever, a pork roast, or a big bunch of roasted vegetables. I have even used it to make this no-knead bread; it worked great. This is a very basic, versatile piece of cooking equipment. Mine is too small for a turkey, but I can fit two chickens at a time. This is wonderful when chicken goes on sale. I buy two and cook them both. One we eat right away. The second I cut up and put into freezer bags. We then have chicken on hand to add to casseroles, soups, etc.

11. Timer

I love my "chicken" kitchen timer because it's cute, but for accuracy, this AcuRite digital timer is great. It's loud enough to hear if I'm outside yakking with the neighbors, easy to operate, and I've had it for years. It has been dropped, and it still works. It's magnetic, and hangs on the refrigerator, so it's very handy. My favorite use for it, though, involves food safety. When I read this article about food poisoning which occurred on a neighbor island, it was a good reminder to pay attention. We are very careful about cooling food (and reheating). We package up our leftovers, and then set the timer so that we don't forget to put food away.

12. Salt Mill

A salt mill is just a "must" if you live in a tropical climate, as I do. We tried everything before this — rice in the salt, some fancy Swedish container, something else that had a cap, you name it. The bottom of this one will still get clumped up with salt, but it can easily be wiped away.

13. Covered Storage Container

Again, I own two of these Pyrex covered dishes (what is it with me?). They are awesome. The lids haven't warped with time. They clean up easily. They can go from refrigerator to microwave, although I do not put the lid into the microwave. They fit nicely into my insulated lunch bag, so leftovers can easily become office lunch. I like how they stack either in the refrigerator or the dish cupboard.

What are your favorite inexpensive kitchen "essentials?" Please share in comments!

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Guest's picture

I love these posts, it gives me ideas for gifts for my wife "just because". She loves to cook, and her kitchen is her favorite place in the world. Getting her things that she'll love and use is fantastic. Thank you for the great finds!