Kitchen Tools for the Frugal Chef
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Saving money on groceries is a favorite frugal focus recommended by most personal finance bloggers. And for good reason I may add! Over the past four years we have reduced our grocery bill by over 50%. But the other part of saving money on groceries is learning how to cook healthy meals at home. We have assembled a well stocked kitchen full of frugal kitchen tools that help make cooking quick and fun or slow and methodical, depending on our mood!
I like to have a running list of kitchen items for gift giving times (Christmas and birthdays). Also kitchen items go on great sales around the holidays!
I’ve already written about how to overcome your fear of the kitchen! But I didn’t elaborate on the detail that having the correct tools will help you conquer any remaining doubts about your abilities to assemble a delicious dish! Mr. Kiwi and I both grew up eating lots of take-out, and we delight in all of the home cooked meals we consume now since we know they are healthy, cheaper, and taste better than the majority of restaurant meals.
So here’s my list of kitchen tools for the frugal chef that will help make cooking quicker, more fun, and your food taste better! Don’t forget to check garage/yard sales, thrift stores, ebay, dumpsters, or ask family/friends before buying new! You may be able to snag these for free/cheap. But I’ve also included affiliate links for our specific items. You won’t pay anything extra if you buy an item using my link, and I may receive a small commission (see my disclosures). Thanks for your support!
We own four cast iron pans/pots (probably overkill), they are nice and versatile. Plus, all but one was a gift. All were obtained in our spendy days, and while I love my Le Creuset pots for making broth, soups, and stews, I’d probably go for a less expensive variety if I was buying now. Here’s some great recipes to use your cast iron pan:
Cast Iron Pan/Pot Recipes:
- Homemade Falafel Recipe from Minimalist Baker
- Cast Iron Dry Bean Recipe
- Dutch Oven Crusty Bread
- Homemade Vegetable Broth
And from my omnivore days:
- Potted Chicken
- The only way to cook a steak (But, did you know that if you swap your beef for beans we’ll meet the Paris Climate Accord goals?)
As a frugal cook, who despises food waste, the rubber spatula is used almost daily in my kitchen. It can handle high temperature cooking and gets pots and pans nice an clean. (I’m not washing the food I bought down the sink!) At one point we owned nine…definitely overkill. So we’ve donated our spares as an #actofkindness, and now have three.
Plus, rubber spatulas are great for baking holiday treats (like our Thanksgiving pie):
This is my favorite kitchen splurge! We paid $70 for our food processor in 2010, and it is running great today! We use it to shred potatoes for perfect hash browns and to chop up veggies in a hurry. We love cooing giant batches of food to either freeze or eat on repeat (we don’t mind eating the same lunch all week). If you plan to cook a lot I highly recommend getting a food processor. Here’s our hash brown recipe:
- To make our half sweet/half white potato hash browns, wash 1 sweet and 1 white potato.
- Then cut each in half lengthwise and shred using large shred blade of food processor.
- Place clean no lint dish towel or paper towel on plate and place shredded potatoes on top of towel. Top with another towel and microwave for 4 minutes (to cook potatoes).
- Meanwhile, melt 3T coconut oil in cast iron pan.
- Chop 1 onion, 2 cloves garlic, 1 head broccoli, 1/2 bunch dinosaur kale.
- Sauté onion and garlic 1 minute, then add cooked potatoes and desired seasonings (we normally do turmeric, garlic powder, salt, and pepper). Mix to coat in oil, then press flat (this will get the crispy sear on the hash browns. Cook for 3 minutes.
- Flip hash browns and add broccoli. Press flat to get sear on the other side.
- Cook for 2 minutes then top with chopped kale.
- Finish cooking (about 1 minute) and enjoy!
I would never hand shred potatoes, and the frozen bagged potatoes are so expensive. The food processor is my sous-chef! If ours ever breaks, I’d love to own this larger 11 cup food processor.
You don’t need a whole block of knives, you just need 1-4 good knives. We were given this awesome knife set as a wedding present. (They are so expensive, we didn’t even use them for the first year we had them. They sat neglected in the guest room closet, since I was scared I’d damage them. But knives like this are meant to be used, and the gifters picked these out with us in mind (we absolutely did not register for them).) We use the chef knife the most.
They slice through fall squash, sweet potatoes, and other feisty foods with no struggle. A sharp knife is a safe knife, and I have only nicked a nail once with these (and I definitely blame my distracted self for the error, fortunately my nail protected my finger, so I didn’t even lose any blood).
We were handed down bad knives, then bought two pitiful blocks of knives (do not buy this set) in our quest for decent knives that could stand the test of daily cooking. I had a hard time dealing with the fact that a single knife costs the same as an entire block of knives! But after then handles cracked or broke off of 75% of the knives in the bad block, I knew it was time to retire those knives, and use the knives in the closet.
Our stockpot, happens to be enameled cast iron, which makes it versatile (oven and stove). We also have a large anodized stock pot, which we use when I don’t want to pick up the hefty cast iron pot. During August and September, when the garden is producing in bulk, I like having two or three around. We are whipping up sauces galore and it is nice to have multiple pots boiling down/stewing at once.
Frugal Pack Homemade Tomato Sauce:
- Sauté two onions and four cloves of garlic in olive oil for five minutes.
- Add 1 diced green bell pepper and 1 diced red bell pepper.
- Add chunky tomatoes (processed using the pulse button on our food processor) and 2 sliced carrots (yep, using the food processor slice blade) to fill pot. Bring to a boil.
- Add dried bail, oregano, garlic powder, and a dash of salt.
- Cover (leaving room to vent) and reduce heat.
- Let cook for 1-4 hours. Then can or freeze for storage and use throughout the year.
The Oxo brand makes really good kitchen products. (When prices are similar we always choose Oxo.) Having sturdy kitchen utensils means less annoyance while cooking, so you’ll cook more! We have this 17-piece set and have gifted it to friends when we see it on their wedding registries since it is great! (The measuring tools are the only thing we really don’t like from the set, but they work. The labels have washed off after seven years of use.)
The can opener, tongs, and large spoons are my favorites in that set. We also have the more attractive looking Joseph and Joseph set, which is great, but I prefer my Oxo tools. (Hmm, I’m definitely not a minimalist as you can see from all this stuff.
We bring our lunch to work every day and almost always cook to make leftovers. We have assembled quite an array of storage containers:
- Pyrex Simply Store Set
- Rubbermaid Easy Find Lid Storage Container Set
- Lock & Lock Airtight Set
- Pyrex Snapware (our favorite)
Our favorites are the glass snapware, since they don’t leak, are sturdy, and microwave great. But we are slowly getting these a our older containers wear out.
The Right Tools
Having the right tools for the job, makes cooking a lot easier. When I was in college I cooked, but I didn’t own nice quality tools, so I didn’t enjoy cooking very much.
Now, I am adventurous in the kitchen and can whip up dinner in 30 minutes most nights. I save the fancy complicated meals for when I want to spend that much time in the kitchen. And of course a bottle of wine or beer to help make the cooking experience more fun.
We are spending $225/month on groceries to feed our family of two, and having a well stocked kitchen is key! While they might cost a bit of money up front, you can slowly build your arsenal, and save money in the long run by craving home cooked meals.
What’s your favorite frugal kitchen tool?