Top 10 gadgets to save you money in the kitchen

The right tools can help you to save a lot of money in the kitchen. BBC Good Food recommends top 10 gadgets for the budget-conscious cook.

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1. Slow cooker

Lakeland silver slow cooker on white background

Lakeland 3.5-litre slow cooker 

Possibly the most talked about cost-saving gadget of all, the slow cooker gets rave reviews because it uses a small amount of energy over a long period of time and therefore much less electricity than a traditional oven.

But it saves money in other ways too. Slow cooking means you can use cheaper cuts of meat (which become meltingly tender after a full day of cooking at a low temperature) and you'll relinquish that takeaway as you have a lovely home-cooked meal waiting when you arrive home.

This budget-friendly Lakeland slow cooker was the best we tested, outperforming models with far higher price tags. It's easy to use and cooks evenly, resulting in tender meat and a glossy, rich sauce. 


Buy from Lakeland (£29.99)

2. Mini chopper

Cuisinart compact mini food processorCuisinart compact mini food processor

You might be surprised when we suggest that a mini chopper is also a great thrifty buy. But it allows you to grind your own spice mixes (so much cheaper and nicer than anything bought) and whizz up the ends of bread to make crumbs to freeze.

Mini choppers are great for making pastes too. You could say that buying all the ingredients is more expensive, but if you're anything like me you'll have six different half-used jars of ready-made pastes at the back of the fridge at any one time. 

We like this Cuisinart compact food processor as it has one of the largest capacities of the 'mini' food processors we tested, yet it barely takes up any space on your worktop.

 

 

3. Reusable cake cases

Silicone casesWilko silicone cake cases

Do you bake a lot of cupcakes or muffins? Then consider buying a set of silicone baking cups. Since they can be washed and reused again and again, it'll do away with the need for paper liners.

We've tried lots over the years and this set is a real bargain. The silicone is thick enough so you get a sturdy case; you get even heat retention (a problem with some I've tested) and when your bake is done, turn the case upside down and the muffins will just drop out.


Buy from Wilko (£2.50)

4. Coffee machine

Krups coffee machine on white background
Krups Citiz coffee machine

If you drink two cups of chain shop coffee each day, you'll spend around £110 a month. For that amount you can kit yourself out with some serious coffee apparel. You can buy a coffee machine for as little as £24.99 (namely Curry's Logik coffee maker) or as much as £500, but there are lots of options in between, including cafetières, stovetop pots, drippers, grinders and much more. 

This Krups coffee machine is compatible with Nespresso pods. It's a big outlay, but one of the more reasonable coffee machines out there.

 

 
5. Bread machine

Russell Hobbs bread machine on white background
Russell Hobbs compact fast bake bread maker

We concede it's better to make it entirely from scratch, but if you don't have time to bake bread by hand, a machine can save a lot of hassle.

There have been studies on how much it actually costs to make a loaf in a machine and generally it works out at around 40p for a 10-slice loaf. It takes no time at all to pop the ingredients in and push the button. You just have to plan for it.

This Russell Hobbs compact bread maker is simple to use and produces 1kg of bread with ease. Like a coffee machine, the upfront cost is high but it will pay off with regular use.

 

 
6. Hand blender

Kenwood Triblade hand blenderKenwood Triblade HDP406WH hand blender

Soups are a brilliant way of using up all those bendy carrots and past-it potatoes. But sometimes the thought of having to wash up the food processor as well as everything else might put you off. Hence why a handheld blender is a good option as it involves relatively little washing up and you can stand over the pan and do it, which saves time too.

When we tested hand blenders, we found paying a little more was worth it with this Kenwood blender set. Included is a standard blade, plus attachments for soup-making, chopping, whisking and mashing.

 

 

7. Dehydrator

Dehydrators

Andrew James rectangular digital food dehydrator

Like dried fruits or jerky? Then buy a food dehydrator and you can make your own bargain-priced fruits and meats. It may take hours to dry, but it only takes a few minutes of hands-on time to get a batch going.

This is the gadget to go for if you grow your own and have a glut. You can use them to create things like 'freeze' dried strawberries (great to grind up and use to flavour butter icing), 'sundried' tomatoes, dried herbs, candied peel and fruit leather.

It's a little bit trial and error to begin with on what to dry and for how long, but once you get going you'll be completely hooked on 'drying out' various creations! This Andrew James dehydrator is a good option if you're new to the world of dehydrating and don't want to spend too much on your first machine. 


Buy from Andrew James (£46.49)

8. Spaghetti measurer

Spaghetti measurer book on white backgroundKikkerland spaghetti measuring book

It's easy to cook too much pasta, but not only is it wasteful, if you eat a lot of the stuff you suddenly realise how much money in non-eaten pasta you're throwing away too. Controlling your portion also has added health benefits.

You can buy cheaper measurers (Sous Chef does a wooden one for £3.95) but we like the version from Kikkerland that's shaped as a little booklet.


Buy from Amazon (£10.95)

9. Stainless steel saucepans

Best saucepans
Wilko five-piece stainless steel saucepan set

Energy saving is key to frugal cooking. Wasted heat means wasted energy, which is why cheap stainless steel pans aren't my first choice, as they don't conduct heat as well as copper or aluminum. However both of these options are really expensive. A good compromise is to go for stainless steel, sandwiched with an aluminum layer.

This super thrifty five-piece set from Wilko is excellent value for money. The pans are lightweight and heat very quickly. 


Buy from Wilko (£22)

 

10. Food containers

Lakeland food containers on white backgroundLakeland 10-piece stack-a-box set

Resuable plastic food containers are more economical than tin foil and cling film, and if you're not fussed about looks they can work out really cheap too. This stackable set from Lakeland works out at a pound a pot. They can be stacked when full or nested when empty, come with colour-coded lids and are just the right size for a lunchtime portion of soup or salad. 


Buy from Lakeland (£9.99)

More product reviews... 

The best saucepans
The best spice grinders
The best chopping boards
Visit our review section

More on budgeting... 

10 budget food buys
12 ways to cut your food costs
How to use cheap cuts of meat
Visit our budget section

This review was last updated in March 2019. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability please get in touch at goodfoodwebsite@immediate.co.uk.

What's your favourite money-saving piece of kitchen kit? Share your thoughts with us below...

Comments, questions and tips

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montrealcat
7th Jul, 2016
Also, plastic containers are not great for you. I found glass containers with snap on lids in my local dollar store (not sure what that would be called in the UK) for 2$ cdn (about 1 pound). These are great because they can be frozen and thawed directly in the microwave and brought to the table. I've also baked cakes in them, but they are not tempered glass so that's really pushing luck. Cheers!
montrealcat
7th Jul, 2016
Not sure about the pasta measures. Here's what do do with leftover pasta... Throw it back in the pasta water, use the hand-held blender to gush the mess up and use this in place of water in your bread recipe, either for the machine or by hand. The extra gluten in the pasta and pasta water makes the bread rise incredibly high and makes the texture really really airy. I always save pasta water for soups, sauce and for making bread and for thickening pasta sauces.
TangaToto
5th Jul, 2016
Um... Slow cookers sound like a good idea , but in reality everything cooked in them has the same taste as the way your granny used to cook veggies ..I.e. Cooked to death and .. Tasteless . And as for bread makers , you'll soon join the ranks of the millions around the world who have realised that they are just too much hard work , the only good thing about them is the smell , which is always pleasant even when you stuff up the bread . Borrow one from someone first , there will be plenty lurking unused in friends kitchens , they'll probably welcome the space !
newittpeter
7th Jul, 2016
Someone seems to need to be a bit more positive I would suggest. Slow cookers are absolutely fantastic for creating sauces and stews with depth of flavour for very little cost. Slow roasted meats even from cheaper cuts give amazing natural taste and texture and just melt in your mouth. Bread makers are not a hassle at all and a basic recipe can take all of 5 minutes to prepare. So yes, these are two great recommendations, it's just about one's attitude to cooking, and life I guess.
gerrard23
26th Oct, 2014
Bit skeptical but had to go to homebase anyway and bought it. five days later I've already used it three times. Made a really nice hummous. a bit tight but it took a full 800g tin chickpeas plus ingredients from other recipes in here. Takes up minimal room on the work surface. No more struggling to get out and wash up the huge food processor. onion blitzed in seconds. Great find. many thanks.
gerrard23
22nd Oct, 2014
The mini chopper looks great. I was looking for tips on food processors but seems you don't think they're essential.
p200906
2nd May, 2014
I bought the Kenwood minichopper two years ago, and it is def worth the money. Very good for currypastes, but also for fresh herbes, dressings and the like. The knife is supersharp.
Daisy@Cheaperseeker's picture
Daisy@Cheaperseeker
17th Apr, 2014
Great collections.Thank you for sharing!
1966tinahiscott
16th Mar, 2014
I am looking for some good saucepans in which can also be used in the oven I have about 200 to 250 to spend do you have any that you can recommend many thanks Tina
goodfoodteam's picture
goodfoodteam
24th Mar, 2014
Hi there. This guide to saute pans might be helpful - most of them are ovenproof. If it's a deeper saucepan you're looking for, it might be worth searching the company's website as there might be an alternative shaped pan in the collection.http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/content/top-five-saute-pans
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Ssilvrhair
7th Jul, 2016
I save the plastic containers that things like cottage cheese and sour cream come in. They work every bit as well as purpose built storage containers, can be used over and over, and are virtually free.
mogsy2014
2nd Jul, 2016
Lakeland do some good quality pans and what's more is they have a lifetime guarantee! A bit more pricey than the Asda ones but I have had cheap pans in the past and they don't last. Check out Lakeland those looking for pans.