Saving money and time on the food you cook can be a challenge. I have a love of gadgets, but because I don’t have unlimited funds (or cupboard space), I’ve found that I have about 10 gadgets I like to have around. These gadgets consistently make my life easier and cooking more enjoyable. See if you don’t agree.
- Slow Cooker. I cannot live without my slow cooker. The possibilities are endless – from breakfast to desserts and everything in between. Slow cooking tenderizes the toughest (cheapest) cuts of meat, meaning you can really save time and money with this tool.
- Food Processor. The first Christmas I was married, I asked my husband for a food processor. Twelve years later, that gadget has made everything from salsa to homemade baby food. Buy a model that comes with a grating and slicing attachment, and you can shred your own cheeses. People think it’s horrible that my hubby gave me a food processor for Christmas, but it has been an excellent gift that has made my life easier.
- FoodSaver Vaccuum Sealer. The FoodSaver Vacuum Sealer is an indispensable tool for preserving garden harvests, storing freezer meals, and bulk buys of meat. The bags aren’t cheap (unless you find a good coupon), but you can even get an FoodSaver attachment that allows you to vaccuum pack a wide-mouth glass canning jar. The FoodSaver is also handy outside the kitchen. I’ve used it to protect clean baby clothes in a diaper bag (the FoodSaver makes the package of clothing tiny!). You could also use it to keep camping gear dry.
- Food Dehydrator. I have a food dehydrator that I’ve borrowed from my Dad months ago. I use it to dry fruit, make homemade fruit rollups, and jerky. You could also use it to dehydrate garden veggies to use in soups and stews during the winter months.
- Rice Cooker. Rice seems so simple to make when you look at the instructions on the bag or box. Yet I always had my rice boil over and make a giant mess. The rice cooker changed all that! I no longer have big messes to clean and the rice turns out perfect every time. I got a cheap 3-cup model at Walgreens for less than $5 years ago, but someday I’d love to get a programmable one.
- Blender. Perfect for making homemade smoothies, shakes, and other beverages. It can also be used to make baby food.
- Bread Machine. There is nothing like fresh-baked bread, and having a bread machine makes this task so simple. You can also use the bread machine to make pizza dough, and buns and rolls. And since you control the ingredients, you know exactly what your family is eating.
- Pressure Canner. Confession: I don’t have one yet – but it is on my wish list. My Dad currently has one that he uses to make canned smoked fish. I’d love to make my own pasta sauces and salsas with ingredients from my garden.
- George Foremann Grill. I have the George Foreman Next Grilleration Electric Nonstick Grill which has interchangeable plates that are washable. It’s great to be able to grill up a large batch of chicken breasts or burgers when the weather is too cold to grill outside. And with the different plates that are available, I’ve made everything from omelets to panninis to desserts!
- Computer. Your computer is probably the most important gadget you can use to save money and time in the kitchen. From finding inspiration on Pinterest to searching for recipes, you won’t need to buy a cookbook ever again. Use the internet to find alternatives for missing ingredients, help with dinner details (how long does a turkey need to thaw anyway?) and plan your dinner menus and shopping lists. And don’t forget about printing coupons!
Now I know (as well as you) that the items on this list are not frugal to buy. Some of them are downright spendy, but there are plenty of cheap alternatives to popular kitchen gadgets available. You could borrow some of these gadgets from family and friends. You can also find them for cheap at garage sales, estate sales and thrift stores.
I share this list because I find that these items have added a great deal of value to my experience as a home economist. They’ve made my life easier. They’ve made making meals for my family more convenient.
Consider this to be a list of suggested investments you can make. Every item on this list can help you save money and time in the kitchen. And when you can save money and time in the kitchen, you are less likely to blow your money eating out at restaurants or loading up on preservative-laden convenience meals.
What kitchen gadgets do you have that help you save money or time?
Christina Brown is the founder and editor-in chief at Northern Cheapskate. She writes her blog from the woods of northern Minnesota, where she clips coupons, pinch pennies and chase three boys (a 6-year old and twin 4-year olds) as a stay-at-home mom. In a “past life” she’s been an assistant newspaper editor, a college admissions representative, and a community college instructor and academic adviser.