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Cooking from scratch is one of the main ways I stay within my grocery budget. Yes, it takes time, but along with saving money I'm also feeding my family healthier food. I can control the ingredients, add nutrients (by adding veggies, flax seed for fiber, etc.) and avoid processed foods and chemicals.
With my small galley-style kitchen (where I can't open the refrigerator door all the way since it hits the counter on the other side), I don't have room for clutter. Everything I store in my kitchen has a purpose and is used regularly with all the cooking I do.
Here are my top 5 best buys for a frugal kitchen that I use every single week:
Air Popcorn Popper
With a gaggle of kids here most days after school and our frequent game nights, our air popcorn popper is used several times a week. Popcorn is a frugal, whole grain snack, and we enjoy experimenting with different spice combinations to jazz it up without adding calories. We like these Popcorn Seasoning Recipes.
Large Fry Pan
Instead of storing multiple skillets, I have one large fry pan. This is the main pan that I use to cook everything from Pumpkin Pancakes to Turkey Spinach Burgers, and it's big enough for cooking in bulk, like when I cook 5-10 pounds of ground beef for the freezer. It's hard to find a large skillet with a lid, so I've been really happy with this purchase.
I purchased this Single-Serve Smoothie Maker in early 2012 and use it the same way I'd use a blender, but it takes up a lot less space. I can make 2-3 servings of smoothie in the cups (as it's intended), but I also use it to grind oatmeal for baking, like in my Healthier Chocolate Chip Cookies.
For my family of five, a 6-quart size Slow Cooker is just the right size. For a smaller family, try a 4-quart capacity, since it's important to fill your slow cooker 1/2 – 2/3 of the way when you're cooking. Check Target, Walmart, and warehouse stores for good deals on brand-name slow cookers. To learn more about how using a slow cooker saves money, watch my video Cooking with a Slow Cooker. Then give our favorite 5 Beginner Crockpot Meals a try.
Making our own waffles in the waffle maker saves us tons of money over buying boxed frozen waffles, plus I use whole wheat flour for fiber and avoid preservatives. Our last one is barely hanging on after 4 1/2 years, so I'm in the market for a new one. I'd love your recommendation if you love your waffle maker! We use this every weekend to make a double-batch of Homemade Whole Wheat Waffles to get the kids through breakfasts.
What are your favorites from your frugal kitchen?