Best Kitchen Appliances on a Budget

October 15, 2014 by: Donna Parshall

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Kitchen appliances are meant to save you time and give you access to a wider variety of culinary adventures. Not all kitchen appliances are a great investment, though. Take your finances and kitchen habits into account before purchasing any appliance.

Consider Your Kitchen Appliance an Investment

Always consider what a kitchen appliance will allow you to do. If it opens up possibilities for healthier meals or helps motivate you to cook at home, a kitchen appliance may be a good investment. But consider the cost wisely: Will you save money in the long run because the appliance makes your time in the kitchen more efficient? An electric can opener might be novelty, but will it save you $30 of time and effort?

When considering a kitchen appliance, take into account how much you’ll really use it. For example, you might use a microwave every day to heat up food. The same goes for a toaster or a coffee maker. But an ice cream maker? You might only use it on a few particularly hot days during the summer.

Appliance Overview

1. Slow Cooker
When it comes to making meals without expending much effort, the slow cooker is an ideal appliance. It cooks meals over the course of the day — sometimes up to 10 hours — without requiring any attention. Meals such as roasts, whole chickens, chili, and lentil soup are easy to make in a slow cooker: Just add the ingredients and let the meal simmer all day. Prices range from $30 to $100 for an average-sized, 6-quart slow cooker.

2. Coffee Maker
If you love to wake up to a cup of joe, consider investing in a programmable coffee maker. For as low as $20, you can wake up to pre-made coffee every morning — as long you set up the coffee maker the night before. Prices on some programmable coffee makers can be well over $100, so be aware that there is a wide range of options to choose from.

3. Microwave
Perfect for heating up leftovers, cooking a frozen meal, or zapping some popcorn, microwaves are all about speed: your food can be piping hot and ready minutes after putting it in the microwave. When it comes to preparing tasty from-scratch meals, the microwave may not be a great alternative for the stovetop or oven. But if you heat a lot of leftovers and convenience meals, it can be a timesaver.

A quick word about safety: In her article, “To Nuke or Not to Nuke? Should You Microwave Your Food?” on the Dr.Oz blog, Kate Geagan, MS, RD, highlights how important it is to use microwave-safe containers. She advises steering clear of metals, particularly aluminum, and plastics. When heated in microwaves metals can catch fire, and some plastics can cause chemicals to seep into your food. Glass or ceramic containers are much safer materials to use in the microwave.

4. Blender/Food Processor
Blenders give us the power to do what knives can’t: make smoothies. You can also use a blender to make savory foods, like hummus and broccoli soup. Blenders are fast, and they open up a host of culinary and beverage options. There are traditionally-sized blenders, which will run you anywhere from $20 to $100. But there are also personal, or single-serving blenders, which cost between $14 and $60. Be sure to consider a blender that comes with a food processor attachment. Food processors also allow you to make a variety of recipes, including peanut butter, coleslaw, breakfast sausage, pie crust, and cheesecake.

5. Electric Grill
If you’ve been yearning for an outside grill but don’t have the space, consider an electric grill. They come in two main types, both of which can be used indoors. Grills that cook on one side produce a taste closer to food cooked on an outdoor grill. On the other hand, two-sided grills require less attention. Both types of grills cook meat and vegetables quickly. They range in price from $30 to around $80.

When shopping for appliances, be sure to consider their real value. Think about how many times you’ll use them: Weekly? Monthly? Yearly? Weigh the cost of the appliance against how frequently you think you’ll use it. Sometimes, kitchen appliances are incredibly useful tools, and sometimes they just take up counter space. Consider your appliance selections carefully to make your money go further.

Rachel Schramm contributed to this article