Must-haves for a frugal kitchen
For every cooking job there is a perfect tool -- and an affordable way to obtain it.
Nor should you pay retail if you can help it.
Meg Favreau, a senior editor at Wise Bread, a personal-finance blog, suggests shopping at thrift stores, discount emporiums such as Marshalls and TJ Maxx, and restaurant supply stores.
Recently she posted "10 things you need to stock a frugal kitchen" on My Money, the personal-finance blog of U.S. News & World Report. Those items are just the basics; as you step up your culinary game, you can add more tools.
Among Favreau's picks:
- A good chef's knife.
- Pots and pans, an oven-safe pan and food-storage containers.
- Measuring cups and spoons, and mixing bowls.
- Food processor and/or hand mixer.
Building a cheaper kitchen
"Almost everything you need to do, from peeling vegetables to hacking up roasts, can be accomplished with a good chef's knife," according to Favreau.
I don't have a chef's knife; in fact, I don't know anyone who has one. What I do have is a partial block of knives my sister had quit using; she gave them to me when I moved to Seattle. I also have a 25-cent vegetable peeler from a yard sale. (Post continues after video.)
Some other things I got from yard sales: a 9- by 13-inch baking pan, measuring cups, a hand mixer, serving utensils and a couple of food-storage containers. Much of my storage, however, is done with bread bags, pickle or peanut butter jars and old yogurt or sour-cream containers. (Favreau does this, too.)
Tips: Let it be known you're furnishing a kitchen, since some people have items they no longer use. Check yard sales, including the "free" box. Repurpose bags, jars and containers.
A trio of Tupperware storage bowls had been languishing, unused, in my sister's garage. I use them as mixing bowls as well as for storage. If I need a really big bowl, I use my Dutch oven.
Speaking of which: You'll find pots and pans at thrift stores and yard sales, too; my indispensable cast-iron skillet came from a yard-sale free box. I actually went the retail route for a 6-piece set of saucepans, skillets and Dutch oven -- but they were on sale and I paid with a discounted gift card. (See "Get gift cards below face value.")
Tips: Pay for kitchen items with discounted gift cards bought online, or obtained free from rewards programs. (See "Free gift cards -- yes, really!" to learn more.)
More frugal shopping tips
Don't rule out dollar stores. I bought my measuring spoons and some spices there. However, most of my spices come from Walgreens when they go on sale two for a buck, or from the ethnic market (which is what Favreau suggests). Mine is a proletarian palate; pricey spice would be wasted on me.
Here's where I think Favreau missed the boat: not recommending the slow cooker. It's indispensable for cooking dried beans, soup stock and all sorts of one-pot meals. I inherited a very basic model from my daughter when she got a super-deluxe one as a wedding gift. They go on sale regularly (best deals around Black Friday) and I frequently see them at thrift stores (plug in and test before buying).
Three final suggestions for outfitting the frugal kitchen:
- Check out The Freecycle Network -- You never know what you're going to find.
- Use a cash-back shopping site -- These include online coupons and free shipping codes along with a rebate. (For the how-to, see "Get paid to buy stuff.")
- Stage a swap session with friends -- The pal who used the pizza stone exactly twice might be really interested in your sushi mat.
More on MSN Money:
I agree a crock pot is a must have. Guys out there, I know what you you're thinking - "I'm a guy and guys in general don't cook". I'm a bachelor paying child support with a modest income, it's essential I save as much as I can where I can and cooking at home is a money saver.
My grocery budget is about $130 / month and that includes everything (food, dogfood / treats for my dog, cleaning supplies, razors, shampoo, soap, etc.) and I don't use coupons. The only way to really pull that off as a single person is to cook in bulk and learn to use leftovers. I can cook a whole chicken in a crock pot and literally have 10-12 different things I can make just off the top of my head. Lasagna is cheap and goes a long way, etc...
Kitchen = Crock Pot
Get one if you don't have one. A cheap one that does the job is $20.
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WHAT IS FRUGAL NATION?
Donna Freedman's Frugal Nation blog is for readers who want to live cheaply -- whether due to necessity or a lifestyle choice. It explores living sustainably and making life more meaningful at the same time.
ABOUT DONNA FREEDMAN
Donna Freedman, a writer based in Anchorage, Alaska, writes the Frugal Nation blog for MSN Money. She won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. Donna also writes about the frugal life for her own site, Surviving and Thriving.
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VIDEO ON MSN MONEY
Even those who don't like to shop are probably hitting the stores this month. Here's what to be on the lookout for and here's what to avoid.