Falling through the Looking Glass

{November 18, 2012}   Saving Money: Kitchen Style!

I find that as I grow older, I enjoy cooking and being in the kitchen more and more. But in order to do this, I have to make the jobs in the kitchen more accessible and comfortable. The kitchen is one of the most expensive rooms in the house so here are a few ways I try and make that expense a little more bearable.

1) If you buy food, you have already bought Tupperware.

  • Butter dishes, cottage cheese containers, spaghetti jars, peanut butter jars, and what not is how I store my foods. Frosting containers are excellent as well. If you have problems discerning what is what, a piece of clear tape with a dry erase marker acts as a reusable label.
  • Empty store-bought juice bottles just need their labels removed and washed out and can be refilled as needed with teas or water.
  • Bread bags or any plastic baggie is reused for food storage. Cereal box bags are saved and cleaned and can be used just like wax paper. Yes, I even reuse my aluminum foil unless it’s had raw meat in it. Bottles are great to make self serve juice boxes or teas (without sugar) that I can grab on the go or throw in my boy’s lunchbox.
  • The only time I have bought specific food storage containers was for my son’s lunchbox. I got him matching Spiderman containers from the Dollar Store. This is mainly because I didn’t want him teased at school. So making a good lunch in cool containers helps compensate for not being able to afford the name brand sneakers or the fancy toys. (He’s only in Kindergarten and this has already started…grr.)
  • Food containers also make good storage containers in general. My empty oatmeal canister is an awesome papertowel/napkin holder. A mini crate that used to hold clementine oranges now holds my recipe cards. I use a giant baggie to cover my knife block to protect against splashes and dust.

2) Why buy name brand?

  • I never buy name brand foods unless I have no other choice. Both Walmart and Kroger’s store brands have healthy knock offs of almost any food out there from whole grain noodles to preserves to juice. When I do buy name brands, like Mrs. Baird’s bread, it isn’t too bad because of the great difference I have saved buying the store brand on everything else.
  • If it’s not in a store brand, it’s amazing how I learned to do without. Spices are big like this. Different thrift or dollar store chains have different spices available, so there is every reason to know where you need to go for certain things. But most of what is restricted to a name brand can be made with a combination of store brand ingredients.

3) No paper in my kitchen!

  • One pack of basic washcloths is enough to handle all the needs of the kitchen from drying hands, mopping up messes, acting as a grease catcher, or a makeshift potholder. The only time I have paper in my kitchen is the paper napkins that I have brought home from the few moments that I actually work out. I have one roll of paper towels I got when I moved into my apartment back in March of 2012. It’s still not empty.

4) Make your own cleaners, and use them!

  • I make my own stuff. I make the citrus/vinegar mix that everyone seems to know. I use a paste of baking soda and lemon juice for more severe things like colored stains or heavier grease. But the key is to clean your kitchen and keep it clean as much as possible. As I am waiting for supper to simmer or cook, I’ll be putting away other dishes or loading the washer again.
  • If you keep your kitchen clean or clean as you go, you’ll not only save time but you’ll save money in wasted food, not having to fight set in stains, or having to fight possible pests that can be attracted like fruit flies or even mice.

5) Make from scratch as much as possible.

  • Not only will you have to keep basic staples that will allow for more variety in your cooking options, you will also save money on your grocery budget. A box of raw noodles has more flexibility in tastes then a box of premixed mac and cheese. You get more bang for your buck twice with not just the multi-tasking, but also with the fact most base staples are cheaper by the serving than a premixed store item.

6) Buy second hand or thrift items for some jobs.

  • The Dollar Tree has awesome utensils for cheap.that work brilliant. Why pay five dollars for one fancy wooden spoon when you can get a pack of 3-5 for a $1 at the local store? Do you really need ceramic mixing bowls or can that butter tub or a metal set at the local flea market be just as effective? Chances are you don’t need that expensive Pampered Chef spatula when there is a dollar version that will do the job. Now are these items nice? Yes. Do they work? Yes. But unless you are a semiprofessional, you probably don’t need a $20 cheese grater.

7) Know when you do need to spend money, lest you keep buying replacements.

  • I may have a whisk that was a dollar but my pots and pans set is a Faberware $80 set. That is cheap for some, but that’s expensive for me. It has all the pieces I need and it was worth it because it has held up far better than the previous aluminum set that fell apart on me.
  • I cannot speak from experience, but my friends say items like blenders or food processors are worth the extra expense if you use those items at least once a week average. If it’s only once a month or less, you can probably go without that extra level. But if it’s something you know you will use, invest in something that can handle the mileage.

8) Be open to creative compensations or adaptations.

  • I don’t have a rolling pin, and I don’t see the sense in buying one when an empty glass jelly jar works far more easily for me. I don’t have a steamer, but I do have a saucepan and a mesh strainer. Pour water in the pan, set it to boil, and put your veggies in the mesh strainer. Works brilliant on fresh or frozen! I don’t need a giant slow cooker when it’s just my son and myself. A simple, $9 gallon model is the perfect size for us. I don’t need a heavy duty drain rack when I have a oven where I can just set my heavy dishes. (Just don’t forget they’re in there before you preheat.) My toaster oven is a more practical tool then just buying a plain toaster.
  • I’m not opposed to buying a real rolling pin or a potato masher. But as it stands, I have other financial priorities that are more important. So if I come across a really good deal on something like that at a yard sale or something, I’ll get it. But it’s not worth worrying about because I have a suitable adaptation already. Something like that is what I will normally ask for on a birthday or Christmas request.

Feel free to leave your suggestions on how you save money in the kitchen below!

Shared with Frugally Sustainable


This is interestingly just the thing I’ve been looking for! Great and cheers!

Thank you! Is there a specific problem you would like to see me tackle next? I’m still working on a room by room issue but I am more than happy to see if I can help for anything else!

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