5 Essential Kitchen Tools That Will Save You Money
These handy items -- every one of them under $21 -- can help you get the most out of the ingredients you're already cooking with.
Restaurant-Style Cheese Grater
Pregrated cheese may be convenient, but if you aren't going to use the entire container within a week, it will probably start to go bad. The solution: a quality cheese grater (about $17) and a block of cheese. How it'll save you: If you buy a half-pound block of, say, imported Parmigiano-Reggiano, aged two years (about $9), it'll keep in your fridge for up to three months, and you can grate however much you want as you need it. (Bonus: You'll score points in the authenticity department, since we've yet to meet an Italian who doesn't sprinkle his or her pasta with just-grated cheese.)
You probably know that buying a whole chicken is significantly cheaper than purchasing separate breasts, legs and thighs (to be specific, the average cost of a whole chicken is about $1.50 per pound; while boneless, skinless chicken breasts cost about $3.50 per pound). If you're thinking, "Yes, but cutting up a chicken is such a pain in the neck," then you haven't tried doing it with poultry shears ($10 to $20). How they'll save you: You won't hesitate to take on the whole bird if you have shears. Their tapered, serrated blades will make you feel like an accomplished surgeon when trimming, cutting and dividing any type of poultry, from chicken to turkey. Plus, you can make stock with the unused parts, such as the backbone.
It's all in the pour. While many bottles of olive oil do have some sort of spout (so the oil doesn't just glug out in huge amounts), oil dispensers ($3 to $10) -- which you can use for any oil, from olive to grape-seed to sesame -- allow for precision pouring. How it'll save you: They're outfitted with nozzles that carefully control the flow of liquid, so you can drizzle the "sunlight in a bottle" on salads and other dishes, or easily use exact amounts, minimizing overpouring and drips. The other reason these bottles are economical: You can purchase olive oil in a large tin can (a 3-liter container can cost around $56, so you pay about 55 cents an ounce, versus, say, a 17-ounce glass bottle that costs $13.50, which comes out to 80 cents an ounce). Then, decant the oil into your dispenser as needed. Just store it in a cabinet to keep it away from sunlight.
Pineapple Slicer & Dicer
We're sometimes skeptical of single-use tools, but there are times when they're worth it. The cost difference between buying a whole pineapple and cutting it yourself and paying for precut rings or chunks is significant enough to qualify: an 8-ounce container of pineapple chunks costs about $3, while you can get five times that amount—about 40 ounces of the fruit—for $5, or even less if you buy a whole fruit (it's a difference of 38 cents an ounce versus 13 cents an ounce). A pineapple slicer and dicer ($20) makes quick work of the prickly-skinned produce. (As with the other tools, you'll want to make sure you're going to use this more than once to make the savings worth it.) How it'll save you: There won't be nearly as much waste as there is when you attempt the job with a knife. You insert a shaft into the top of a trimmed pineapple, press down lightly and twist; the flesh will come right out of the peel, and then you can slide the dicer down the stack of rings (or leave them whole).
The glass jar with a lid (about $1.50) is one versatile item in the kitchen. And not because it makes everything from salads to soups look better (a trend we hope sticks around). How it'll save you: Beyond canning and storing food, these containers are ideal for making and storing your own salad dressing. Load the ingredients in, screw the lid on and shake; when you've used it all up, the oil-slicked glass jar is much easier to clean and reuse than a plastic container would be, and you'll have spent much less to dress your salad than you would have if you'd gone the premade route. Plus, they're also great for whipping warm milk for a homemade latte, so you can make a $4 coffee for a fraction of the cost.
5 Essential Kitchen Tools That Will Save You Money
4 Tips From Restaurant Chefs
They Like Cheap Mushrooms
Perhaps because white button mushrooms are plain-looking, or maybe even because they're inexpensive, home cooks tend to pooh-pooh them, says Adam Halberg, executive chef of the <a href="http://www.barcelonawinebar.com/" target="_blank">Barcelona Restaurant Group</a>, instead paying top dollar for porcini or chanterelles. And while those varieties are delicious, Halberg says basic white mushrooms can taste just as incredible -- and are one of the best deals in your supermarket. (Plus, fancy mushrooms are often harder to clean and require more complicated cooking methods.) Halberg likes to eat them grilled on bread, with a glass of wine; try them <a href="http://www.oprah.com/food/Mushroom-Crostini-with-Thyme-and-Truffle-Oil" target="_blank">in this recipe with crostini</a> or <a href="http://www.oprah.com/food/Garlic-Sherry-Mushroom-Recipe-Chef-Jason-McClure" target="_blank">in this classic Spanish preparation</a>.