For a couple that attempts to live a fairly minimalist lifestyle, my husband is a true maximalist when it comes to our kitchen. We own every silly gadget under the sun. And while my eyes roll as each Amazon package arrives at our door, I have to admit we make use of a solid 75% of them. We have an amazing pizza oven and new pasta maker we bring out on a bi-monthly basis. And while I was very, very skeptical when the coffee roaster showed up, I will not complain about the freshly roasted coffee I’ve been enjoying these last few months.
But I’m not here to talk about all that nonsense.
I started cooking—well, really cooking—about four years ago. It’s a nice way to wind down at night, and I’m now good enough I can follow almost any recipe and come up with a solid result. People find cooking to be intimidating, and I totally understand why. A lot of recipes are written in nonsensical ways using fancy terms for “cut” or “slice” when really they just want you to take that piece of garlic and smash it to pieces. And in addition to the new vocabulary, cooking can also be intimidatingly expensive.
I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be.
You don’t need fourteen knives or a breakfast sandwich maker (yes, we have that) to get you through a cookbook. Get yourself a nice chef’s knife, a paring knife, a blender or food processor, some cheap cutting boards, and mixing bowls and you’re pretty much set.
That’s where I come in. The below items, while not necessary for everyday cooking, will improve the process for very little money. These small tools make chopping easier, dirty fewer dishes, and will make you look like you really know what you’re doing in that kitchen of yours.
The best news? All of them cost less than $30.
Herb Scissors | $6.95
Chopping herbs is the worst. They stick to your knife and cutting board and get bruised in the process. This scissors solves all of your problems! Simply snip the herbs right off the stems and these five-blade miracle workers will create perfectly sized pieces of just about any fresh herb you could ever need.
Straight-Edged Wooden Spoon | $25.95
Serious Eats’ Kenji Alt-Lopez turned us on to this spoon, and it is by far the most used kitchen tool in our home. Using a wooden spoon with a straight-edged top not only allows you the benefits of a normal wooden spoon but is also useful for scraping off all the delicious bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. It also helps cut things like meat and vegetables as you cook. I promise it’s worth the extra money.
Spider Strainer | $8.99
This spider strainer arrived in my life with my husband, and I’m not sure which I love more. It’s such a simple tool but allows you to scoop up pasta and other items from boiling water or oil without needing to dump the whole pot through a big strainer. Plus, it takes up way less space in the dishwasher. Win-win!
Restaurant-Style Stainless Steel Mixing Bowls | $30 or Less for a Set
People, it’s time to throw out your heavy ceramic mixing bowls and head to your nearest restaurant supply store or Costco Business Center. There is a reason you find generic stainless steel mixing bowls in restaurant kitchens across the country. They are super lightweight, big enough that they hold whatever you’re making, and easy to clean. They are also great for tossing salads. We bought one, then bought three more. My pretty mixing bowls haven’t seen the light of day since.
And while you’re there, take a look around! Grab some squeeze bottles for oils or simple syrup dispensing, sheet pans at a price cheaper than you’ll find them in any big box store, and some plastic cutting boards. (Repeat after me: “I do not need expensive cutting boards!”)
Swedish Dishcloths | $10.99 for 2
Not only are Swedish dishcloths beautiful but they also clean up a mess like no other. Made from super-absorbent cotton and plant-based fibers that make the cloths stiff when dry, simply add water and these become the perfect alternative to paper towels or regular dishcloths—just toss them in the laundry and they clean right up. Plus, they are compostable and come in all kinds of patterns and colors. They also make great wedding gifts!
Swedish Dishbrush | $10
It’s almost like the Swedes know what they’re doing! My husband and I lived in a one-bedroom apartment with no dishwasher for three and a half years, and this scrubber may have saved our relationship. The brush has a wooden handle to keep your hands at least semidry, and horsehair fibers that can get into little crevices in your pots and pans. And bonus! This little guy NEVER gives off that awful musty sponge smell that I hate more than anything. The heads swap in and out easily, and for just $10 it will last months longer than any scrubber out there.
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BY Maggie LaMaack - January 10, 2020
Thank you for being here. For being open to enjoying life’s simple pleasures and looking inward to understand yourself, your neighbors, and your fellow humans! I’m looking forward to chatting with you.