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The kitchen is the heart of any home. It’s where you cook, congregate, drink, and talk. How many times have you found yourself with family and friends hovering around a kitchen island or kitchen table to enjoy each other’s company while nibbling on snacks? Its gravitational pull is undeniable. Because of this and the fact you also cook in the kitchen, it’s important to have all of the necessary tools and items.
When it comes to the bathroom or living room, you can wait on certain purchases, but your kitchen needs to be complete as quickly as possible. You want to make sure yours is well-stocked so it can handle any dinner party or late-night craving that comes up. However, you can’t just walk into Williams Sonoma and buy every single kitchen item you might ever need. Technically you can if you have that kind of money, but most twenty-somethings do NOT have that much money to spend on cheese graters.
Instead of doing this — or going to Walmart to grab every single kitchen utensil and appliance on the discount shelves — plan out which items you’re going to save on and which you’re going to invest in. Not all kitchen items are created equal, and while there are some you can spend $3 on with no problem, there are others you want to make sure are of the highest quality.
Here’s a list of kitchen appliances, utensils, and tools you can spend extra on — and ones you can afford to save on.
A Good Blender: Splurge
Blenders are possibly the most important appliance in the kitchen. They can do pretty much everything. A good blender will see you through margarita night with the girls, an experimental soup recipe, and your daily green smoothies (or milkshakes!), so you want to make sure you’re spending money on one that will last you for years. Spend a little more for one that’s durable, easy to use (because you don’t want to wrestle with it simply to wash the various parts), and has multiple settings for you to choose from. My personal fave is the NutriBullet.
Coffee Pots: Save
Keurigs are cool and all. So are fancy espresso machines. That being said, they aren’t exactly the most economical purchase you can make. Keurigs are expensive on their own, but when you add in the constant cost of K-cups it becomes ridiculous, especially if you’re the kind of person who requires more than one cup of coffee in order to function. Espresso machines are super cool, and yes, you wouldn’t have to run down to the coffee shop for a $5 cup anymore. But it’s so much more affordable to just spend $40 on a nice Coffee Mate and then buy fancier coffee grounds.
Coffee Cups: Save
Everyone loves coffee cups, and if you love a cup then go for it. Don’t feel like you need to spend more than $10 on one mug though. It doesn’t matter how nice or pretty it is. All coffee mugs end up with the same coffee stains, and are just as likely to be dropped and broken.
High-Quality Knives: Splurge
You might use spoons and forks more, but a good knife set is irreplaceable in a kitchen. You want a knife that will last for years without losing its sharpness or falling apart. This isn’t the item to hit up Walmart or Target for. Go to a high-end kitchen store to find a set that’s known for its high-quality. With a good knife, you can cut, chop, and slice anything for any recipe. Just make sure you always hand-wash them. The dishwasher is not a safe place for good knives.
You need silverware that will last, but you don’t need to spend $100 to buy a good set. A regular $30-40 set from Target will last just as long and do just as good of a job. You can wait to buy the fancy silver silverware when you’re older, okay?
A Cast-Iron Skillet: Splurge
These are a little pricey, so most people opt for a regular stainless steel skillet. Those people are making huge mistakes. There’s nothing quite like cooking in a cast-iron skillet. It adds a deepness of flavor you can’t get with stainless steel, and will last your for decades. Just ask your grandparents how much they value cast-iron skillets, and you’ll realize what a sound investment they are. Like high-quality knives, cast-iron skillets require special care. Never place them in the dishwasher, wash them immediately after use, and towel dry rather than air dry. Otherwise they will rust, and you’ll have to go buy a new one (hence, take extra care of the things you splurge on).
Glass Baking Dishes: Save
You can spend more on glass baking dishes, that’s totally fine. They’ll last you for years. However, the cheap ones will last pretty long too. If you simply can’t afford to pay for the high-end ones, don’t worry about it. The $3 pie dish will do just as good of a job.
Metal Cooking Sheets: Save
It doesn’t matter what the company says, even expensive cooking sheets will end up with burnt pieces of cookie cemented on and a little rust from the dishwasher. It’s unavoidable, so you might as well save yourself some Washingtons by buying cheap ones from the grocery store.
Nice Plates: Splurge
Sure, plastic plates from Target will get you by, but they won’t last forever and they break down easily. The problem with plastic plates is they easily disintegrate in the microwave and through daily use. Instead, just go buy a nice set of glass or ceramic plates that can be microwaved safely and will look formal when you have guests over. Corelle is a great place to find beautiful plates at an affordable price, and they’ll last you for as long as you want them.
(Editor Tip: Use code CORELLE15 for 15% off your order.)
Wine Glasses: Save
Wine is amazing. You need wine glasses. You don’t need super expensive ones. When you’re in your twenties, you can purchase the cheap wine glasses from Target and TJ Maxx instead of heading to the department stores. Don’t go big with these because there’s a good chance you’ll get wine drunk on a Wednesday night and end up shattering the glass on the floor.
There is nothing more irritating than a cheap spatula (be it wood, metal, plastic, or rubber) that falls apart from the most basic of use. Spatulas are like the king of all cooking utensils. They can used for pretty much everything, so you don’t want to buy a cheap one from the Dollar Store. Cheap spatulas are prone to falling apart, melting, splintering, and rusting. It’s in the best interest of your cooking to spend more on quality spatulas – especially the rubber ones.
Rarely Used Utensils: Save
I’m talking pizza cutters, ice cream scoops, and cheese graters here. Unless you truly use these fancy cooking utensils on a daily basis, there’s no need for purchasing expensive ones. A cheap pizza cutter will handle your Red Baron pepperoni pizza with as much grace as the expensive one from Pampered Chef. And ice cream scoops? As long as they get the ice cream out of the carton and into your bowl, they’re doing their job.
Are you really going to use that tea pitcher often? No, you’re probably not. You can save on these and no one will care or notice.
If baking is your thing, then you definitely want to spend the money for a good mixer, like a KitchenAid stand mixer. Hand mixers can get the rest of us through, but a standing mixer is a better option if you find yourself constantly baking or cooking with a mixer. Yes, they cost a pretty penny, but they do last for a very long time and come with so many attachments they can do anything you’ve ever dreamed. Go big here, and then share the delicious results.
Plastic Food Containers: Save
Plastic food containers are a lifesaver, there’s no denying it. Sadly, even the high-end containers can fall victim to staining and melting. It’s in the best interest of your wallet and sanity to stick to the cheaper brands. You’ll be significantly less exasperated at the first spotting of a grease stain if you know you only spent about $1 on that container.
Toasters/Toaster Ovens: Save
Even the nicest toasters and toaster ovens are prone to shorting out. It’s best to go on the cheap end here (particularly with toaster ovens) because it’s just a toaster. It won’t hurt as much to throw away one that cost you $20, but boy will you want to cry if you have to throw away one that cost $100.
Fancy Appliances That Only Cook One Thing: Save
Pasta makers, juicers, spiralizers, countertop grills — these types of appliances are like fashion trends. You’ll use them for a little while, then get bored or exasperated and move on to the classics. By all means, feel free to purchase one if you really want it, but don’t break the bank over it. The chances of you using that $200 juicer every day for the rest of your life? Slim to none, my friend.