Melissa Eboli is a busy cook. She caters, teaches classes and works as a personal chef. To help her stay on time and on budget, she relies on some versatile countertop appliances that are proven time- and money-savers.
Armed with the right tools and know-how, Eboli—and home cooks like you—can create a wide variety of high-quality dishes and beverages on the spot and in just the quantities you need. Increased efficiency? Check. Reduced food waste? Check. Lowered bills? You bet—especially for things you prepare regularly.
Here are seven of Eboli’s go-to tools that can do all of the above.
Sure, investing in a stand mixer means you won’t have to buy a hand mixer, but that’s just the beginning. These kitchen workhorses can perform such a wide variety of tasks that you can also skip graters, whiskers, strainers, rolling pins and more. With 40-plus attachments, the stand mixer can be your one-stop shop for cooking dishes like homemade pasta and sausage or having a glass of fresh juice each morning.
If your family goes through bottle after bottle of soda pop, seltzer or other carbonated drinks, a soda machine could spell big savings. It can also help you revive flat soda, adding bubbles as needed. “It’s like having a fresh glass of pop every time,” Eboli says. As a bonus, using fewer plastic bottles is good for the environment, and some manufacturers offer credit when you return empty CO2 canisters.
Cost: $35 to $200
If rice is one of your staples, using a rice cooker means you won’t be paying extra for premade or instant rice. Instead, buying it in bulk and preparing it yourself can add up to sizable savings over time. “Plus,” says Eboli, “a rice cooker can cook (non-instant) rice in half the time,” compared with making it on the stovetop. You can even add meat, fish and vegetables, and steam them along with your rice. Or you can invest in a pricier rice cooker that has settings for grains like quinoa and millet.
Cost: $40 to $200
Like to prep meals in advance? Lose the aluminum foil and try this handy tool that lets you store food in your freezer three to five times longer than with conventional storage. Make soups, sauces and even whole meals, then seal and freeze them for easy reheating. Or buy meat, fruit, vegetables and cheese in bulk, and freeze them for later use. Because air is removed, there’s no freezer burn and very little moisture loss, so it tastes better when it’s defrosted, says Eboli. “Vacuum sealers can add weeks to food freshness,” she adds.
Cost: $25 to $500
Whatever kitchen task you need done, the mighty food processor can likely do it: crush ice, chop vegetables, dice fruit, shred cheese, blend soup, knead dough … and save countless hours of exhausting prep work. “It also blends dipping sauces like hummus or peanut sauce in seconds,” Eboli says. Miniature and basic models can cost as little as $20, while the more powerful and versatile food processors can go for as much as $500 or more. But considering that the best of them can last decades—and replace a blender, a juicer and a whole cupboard full of chopping tools—a high-end model might be worth the investment.
Cost: $20 to $500
A caffeine habit can be expensive, especially if you’re buying a gourmet cup every morning. Fortunately, you can save money and make great-tasting coffee at home by investing in a grinder. According to Eboli, whole beans stay fresh longer than ground coffee, allowing you to buy in bulk. Plus, coffee made from freshly ground beans tastes better, she says. And don’t stop with coffee—use your grinder on fresh spices as well.
Cost: $20 to $230
Knife Sharpener And Honing Steel
Even the best knives will dull eventually, making them riskier to use, because dull knives require more force and are more likely to slip. Rather than replacing them or paying to have them professionally sharpened, keep a sharpener on hand and put a fresh edge on your knives twice a year. To keep the knife’s edge defined and aligned between sharpenings, use a honing steel before each use.
Cost: $6 to $50 for sharpener; $10 to $45 for honing steel.