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 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.
2. Mini chopper
Cuisinart 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.
3. Reusable 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.
4. Coffee machine
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
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 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.
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.
8. Spaghetti measurer
Kikkerland 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.
9. Stainless steel saucepans
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.
10. Food containers
Lakeland 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.
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