Frugal Tips for Kitchen Gadgets

by Jamie Simmerman · 15 comments

I have a minimalist kitchen. I own a toaster, microwave, food processor, crock pot, and a coffee maker. I don’t own a blender, a mixer, a bread machine, a George Foreman grill, or waffle iron.

Multi-Functionality Equals Multi-Frugality
I don’t like clutter and I don’t believe in collecting kitchen gadget that do specialty functions. Instead, I want a quality machine that can perform multiple functions when possible. My toaster does waffles and bagels, while my food processor serves as a blender, mixer, food slicer/shredder, and also mixes bread dough. When it came time to replace my beloved coffee maker last week, I did some research online before heading to the store. What I brought home was a $89 Cuisinart Programable On-Demand Coffee Maker.

Saving Money With Kitchen Gadgets

I liked the Cuisinart because there’s no carafe to wash or replace, it included a wire coffee filter basket (no need to buy paper filters or pods), and it keeps my coffee warm for four hours, so there’s less waste if I get caught up in work and forget to return to the coffee pot in a reasonable amount of time. The price was a little higher than I wanted to pay, but I did find it in a Kitchen Collections Store locally for the same price as on Amazon, so I saved on shipping and got to take it home the same day. It does pay to shop around, because I found the same coffee maker at four different stores, with as high a price as $200!

Look to the Future

When looking to replace a kitchen gadget, it’s important to keep the future in mind. In five years, I will likely be serving coffee to my teen son, my retired father-in-law, and myself on a daily basis. But for now, it’s just me consuming the Joe. I wanted to find a gadget that was flexible and had features such as programmable brewing and self-cleaning for a longer gadget life.

Avoid the Bling

I’m a fairly practical person, but I have to admit I occasionally get bit by the Bling Bug when shopping for gadgets. I love gadgets that do unexpected things, and ones that look appealing, and ones that light up… you get the idea. Being frugal in the kitchen appliances section means thinking through your purchase. While it’s very cool that the gadget has 9,000 functions and settings, is it practical if I’ll never use most of them? Remember, you pay for the bling, so if you never bake your own bread or make waffles from scratch, you don’t need gadgets designed for those functions. A lesser-priced (lower blingage) product might suit your needs better.

Consider the Upkeep

Like every other purchase you make, bringing home a new item will require a certain amount of upkeep. In the case of the coffee maker, I had to factor in items such as the caraffe, coffee filters, water filters, and replacing the machine when it eventually goes to the Big Appliance Heaven in the sky. In ten years, will it be frugal for me to spend $150-$200 (factoring in inflation and model upgrades) to replace my beloved Cuisinart?

What affects your decision to purchase or reject a kitchen gadget? Have you found a particular multi-function kitchen tool that was a good investment?

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • lisa says:

    AWESOME! I’m going to cooking school right now, and my knife kit has a purple pairing knife and line green zester in it. I love them dearly, but the moment I can get them, I’m buying all of these! I love making cooking fun and that shark pairing knife looks like a great gift for a microwaver friend of mine I’ll be teaching to cook over summer.

  • Bonny says:

    I have and utilize just about the same gadgets as Jamie, except since I’m the only one drinking one cup of coffee I don’t use an electric pot to brew it. I steep it in a small carafe with hot water from my hot water machine, then pour it through a filter. Maybe it’s wasteful but I like the taste filtered through a paper filter vs the metal one.

    Also, since my kitchen was not outfitted with an oven, I invested in a toaster oven early on and a few years ago added an oven that can handle a small pizza.

    I feel mixed about using the microwave. Nice for the occasional thin, like I use it to cook rice, but I saw a student’s science experiment a few years ago which compared seeds grown in tap water, bottled water and water that had been microwaved. The microwaved water was the only batch that did not grow.

    My favorite tool though is not exactly a gadget but my cast iron skillet. It takes a tiny bit more upkeep than a nonstick pan but I have never liked a single nonstick pan and have tried several. The cast iron heats beautifully, makes the food taste wonderfully and if it’s oiled after use it acts like a nonstick pan anyway.

  • Lily Sheng says:

    I think it’s important to buy metal ones than plastic, one time investment, if you know what I mean

  • Vyanjan says:

    It is important to use what you have vs. buying new. Also learning to use the complete functionality vs. scratching the surface of what you have at your disposal.

  • Icarus says:

    I love how everyone comments as if we all have the same size & style kitchen and cook the same way. YMMV (look it up people). While you’re googling that, google Stand Mixer lifts or cabinets and you can find very reasonable priced options for storing the mixer when you don’ t need it.

  • Jules says:

    I’m just baffled at the “multifunctional” kitchen appliances most people seem to have. A coffee maker…makes coffee. A staff blender blends stuff. A stand mixer mixes things. The sole multifunctional thing in most kitchens in a food processor–and I go to great lengths to avoid using it because it’s that much of a pain to clean when I’m finished–and I have a dishwasher!

    I think the better question is “what do you use most” and get an appliance of reasonable quality that does whatever it is that you need most. To whit: our electric kettle boils water. That’s all it does–it brings 1.7 L of water, to a boil, in 5 minutes (smaller quantities in less time). But it’s by far the most-used appliance in our kitchen.

  • Julie @ Freedom 48 says:

    I agree that multi functioning gadgets are key. The number of kitchen gadgets out there is crazy – nobody has enough cupboard space to own them all! I’d love to have a stand mixer, but I’d have to store it on the ounter… and it’d take up a fair chunk of room.

  • Icarus says:

    Alternatively, you could just get a bigger kitchen or better storage. okay, maybe not.

  • KM says:

    The only standalone gadget I have (my microwave is built in into the cabinets and came with the kitchen) is a hand mixer – I used it for pureeing my baby’s food when he was younger and now use it for making cream for cakes mostly. I use my oven as a toaster and no one in this house drinks coffee. Well, I suppose then you will want to count my electric kettle as a gadget since I use it to heat up water for tea. I also like making things from scratch and myself (kneading dough is awesome and I don’t know why anyone would want a bread machine to do it for them).

  • Bethy @ Credit Karma says:

    I think it’s also smart to choose your few appliances based on your kitchen habits. For instance, I own an expensive Kitchen Aid mixer (not frugal), but I use it often because I love to bake. The cost-per-use has come down considerably. Plus, I bought it on sale. The sale meant I didn’t get to choose my favorite color (red), but I did get a white one for a super low price. Thanks for the tips!

  • Liz says:

    It all depends on what you do most often in your kitchen. If you bake regularly like I do, a food processor is not a great substitute for a mixer. The mechanics are very different, and the wrong mixing method (too much air, too high mixing speed, etc.) can be the difference between good results and something inedible. Baking ingredients are too expensive for me to risk it. Instead of a big stand mixer (at min of $250) though, I read reviews and tests carefully and bought a Cuisinart hand mixer; it was tested to be nearly as powerful as a stand mixer. At $50 (on sale and free shipping), I saved at least $200 over buying one of its bigger, stationary cousins. The only thing my Cuisinart hand-mixer can’t do is knead bread dough, but I do that by hand anyway.

    But I don’t drink coffee so don’t even have an electric coffee maker. When coffee-drinking company comes, I have a glass french press style coffee pot which works just fine. Keep it warm with a glass stand and a tea light candle. Much less expensive for me. So know what’s important to you, and spend accordingly.

  • Stephanie says:

    I had the same thought about the toaster as Icarus.

    For the food processor, what brand and model do you have? How do you make sure the bread dough doesn’t get too “tough”? Also, when I used a food processor to blend food, it came out… too “whipped.”

    Does anyone else have examples of pared down kitchen appliances? It’s true that they take up a lot of space, so it will require careful thought and planning to decide exactly which appliances are needed.

  • Marbella says:

    My coffee machine is an English espresso pot, no filter and you dont use to much coffee. It’s perfect and cheap.

  • Icarus says:

    When you say your “toaster does waffles” I assume you mean the frozen kind, instead of doubling as a waffle maker? Because if you have a toaster that can also make waffles from scratch, I’d love to see a picture of that.

  • Jean says:

    I’m the same way, going for multipurpose application wherever possible. And the fact that my kitchen is quite small provides even more reason for that.


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