April 21, 2020
When I was in the financial services industry, I did a lot of work helping my clients with their budgets. It is probably no surprise to anyone, but we live in a consumption-focused society, and have a reallllllyyyy hard time budgeting.
I learned that many people blow their budgets in one main area: food.
And not just food, but specifically, dining out.
I get it. We spend our whole days working and grinding, and going, going, going, that by the time we think about eating we don’t want to prepare anything. It’s easier to just grab breakfast at the drive-thru, or order lunch delivered to the office, or grab chinese take-out on our way home from work. Dining out every once in a while is all fine and dandy, but over time, these habits can really bust a budget.
I used to challenge my clients (and I challenge you, my beautiful reader) to go through their bank statements from the previous month, and tally up just how much they actually spent on dining out. Almost ALWAYS, people were spending way more than they realized.
I’m just like everyone else, and I’ve struggled with blowing my food budget. I’ve had to sit down with my own bank statements and have the “come to Jesus,” meeting when it comes to ordering from restaurants out of convenience instead of planning ahead.
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When I moved out on my own, I made a conscious effort to cook and plan instead of run around and order to go. I decided I wasn’t going to eat at home as much as possible to really buckle down on my budget.
Guess what? It worked. My grocery budget increased, but that was nothing compared to what I was spending on dining out.
The biggest thing that helped me stay on budget and want to cook at home, was having good, quality kitchen tools and utensils. I had some things that I brought from my previous kitchen, but since then added some pieces to my kitchen that allow me to cook really good food, store the leftovers and not overspend.
These kitchen items might seem pricier than other items on the market, but I found that purchasing good, quality items, ended up saving me more money in the long run because I was not replacing items as frequently.
Here are some of my go-to kitchen essentials that help me want to (and enjoy) cooking for myself.
1. Rada Knives: Every kitchen needs two types of knives: a paring knife and a utility knife. I use these paring knives to slice veggies like peppers and cucumbers and even tomatoes, or cut a piece of cooked meat, or cut into a dessert. It can be used for absolutely anything. The same goes for this utility knife. I use that to cut meat before I cook it, or dicing onions, celery or carrots. I like having one of each of these knives because I get all my knife needs covered by just a few main knives. Eventually I will expand my knife collection, but for now this is all I need.
I really like Rada Knives because they are really well made. All of the knives I own are Rada stainless steel and they are extremely durable. I also like using Rada Knives because they are American made, specifically Eastern Iowa made, which fun fact: is my homeland. (“Is this heaven? No it’s Iowa.” Name that movie.)
2. Epicurean Cutting Board: This durable cutting board is great for multiple reasons (and uses). Epicurean cutting boards are made of a non-porous wood fiber that doesn’t absorb juices or germs and it doesn’t stain. It’s about half an inch thick and doesn’t slide around on my counter, and both sides of the board are usable. When I’m cutting meats, I like to use the side with the well because it collects all the juices and keeps them off my counter. Also, like the Rada Knives, Epicurean cutting boards are American made.
3. OXO Wooden Spoons: I prefer to use wooden utensils in my kitchen to plastic. I really like this OXO multi-use spoon because I can use it to not only scoop and stir, but the corner function can get into tight corners and really scoop my ingredients in the cracks and crevices of my pots and pans or casserole dishes. I like a good wood slotted spoon too for draining excess juices in my dishes.
4. Pyrex Containers with Lids: I NEVER buy plastic leftover containers for a handful of reasons: 1) I don’t like to reheat food in plastic. Many studies have shown that heating plastic releases toxins into food, and ain’t nobody got time for that. If I’m going to transfer my leftovers to a glass dish to reheat it, why wouldn’t I just store my food in said glass dish? 2) Plastic leftover containers are like socks: they always lose their mate. I found when I did buy plastic containers I often lost the lid or lost the container but still had the lid. With these glass Pyrex dishes I am always storing them with the lid on the container and have not yet lost a lid. I bought this set about three years ago and have not bought any more containers since.
While this set cost me around $30 which may seem high, I would have probably spent more money replacing lost plastic containers over that same amount of time.
5. Lodge Cast Iron Skillet: I used to be intimidated by cast iron, “you gotta season that shit? What does that even mean!?” Now, however, it’s the only skillet I use. It actually just sits on my stove everyday after I wash it because I use it so much.My favorite thing about using cast iron is that I can use it on my stove top or in my oven. Or, I can start a dish on my stove top, and transfer it to my oven. One dish means less dishes to wash when I’m done cooking.
Cast iron has so many benefits: it lasts forever, it’s non-stick, it’s non-toxic,and it’s so affordable. I spent less than $40 on this skillet and I use it EVERY. DAMN. DAY. If you aren’t using cast iron yet, I strongly encourage you to to invest in your own skillet today.
6. Lodge Cast Iron Enameled Dutch Oven: I present you, my absolute favorite thing in my kitchen. This beauty has made me so many amazing dishes. It’s seriously so versatile. Just like my skillet I can use it on my stove and in my oven. I boil water in it, I can bake bread in it, I can make a stew in it. I’ve used it to make soups, or brown ground beef. This dutch oven is the tool that makes my pulled pork taste oh so tasty. I’ve used this dutch oven, OKAY!?. Legit, this dutch oven does alllllll the things. There are other enameled cast iron dutch ovens out there–some cost more, some cost less, but this one has served me so so well, and it’s at a reasonable price point.
So those are my kitchen essentials. Buying quality tools has been my best investment for my budget. What are your kitchen essentials?