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Gadgets that you don't need -but that save you money to own

 
gardener
Posts: 587
Location: Ontario - Gardening in zone 3b, 4b, or 6b, depending on the day
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I love convenience gadgets that make it easier/faster to make healthier or cheaper choices. I have good intentions, but  if it's not easy, it unlikely to get done :)

The best example I can think of is a rice cooker. i *can* cook rice without one. But, if I don't own a rice cooker, I cook rice maybe once a month, and/or buy mostly instant rice, at a ridiculous markup to normal rice. I replace rice, which is dirt cheap, with gluten free bread, potatos, pasta, etc - all of which are NOT dirt cheap. With a rice cooker, I basically have rice cooked at all times. A $20 gadget can easily save me $5 per week, if it replaces one loaf of gluten free bread per week.

What are your favourite gadgets that you don't strictly need, but make living a more frugal or healthy life way easier?
 
gardener
Posts: 3306
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
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Chest freezer.
We buy foods  in bulk and  when they are cheap.
We preserve surplus.
 
pollinator
Posts: 1521
Location: Denmark 57N
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A Kenwood (or knock off) kitchen machine. I use mine for mixing bread, last time I kneaded bread by hand i damaged my shoulder and 2 years later I am still in physio and will probably have to have an operation. Since I make all my own bread a machine very useful. A hand electric whisk, sure the kitchen machine can do it, but it struggles with small amounts and takes a lot of space on the side. I could whip things by hand but the machine is much faster, which of course makes me more likely to do it since it belonged to his grandmother I don't feel guilty about that one.

In general I don't have many electronic kitchen gadgets, I have the kenwood, a hand whisk, a toaster, a krumkaker Iron (a weak moment at a flea market) and a meat slicer (siemens DO NOT EVER buy this brand it is truly terrible and requires 3 hands to operate.)
 
pollinator
Posts: 166
Location: Ohio 5b6a
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I like the vacuum machine.  Meat doesn't get freezer burned.  The reusable containers are nice for many food items.  I wish I could figure out an edible vacuum bag.

Edit: I looked on the web and found biodegradable vacuum bag made from corn.  Has anybody used these and are they really harmless to the environment?  
 
gardener
Posts: 1899
Location: South of Capricorn
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similarly, for me they are a rice cooker (I could use a pot for rice and steaming, but prefer not to), a kitchen-aid for kneading my bread, and also my Omega juicer, which I use mostly to remove seeds from jam and to make masa harina and tomato sauce/passata (never thought, when I bought it, that those would be the main uses). The amount of money we save by not buying these things is impressive, and we get to skip all sorts of additives and sugar as well.
 
Posts: 46
Location: Rural North Texas
5
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A good mandoline.  Not the musical instrument but the bladed slicer.  Just watch your fingers.  Good ones are frighteningly sharp.  You can adjust the blade to make the thickness of the slice you want.  Good for everything from home made potato chips to salad veggies.  Cut proof gloves for use with it are probably in order.  Did I mention that they are scary sharp?  Because they are.  Be very wary of the blade.

The other kitchen must haves for me are the crock pot and the programmable pressure cooker aka instapot.  The crock pot you can use for everything from stew to making soap.  The instapot is good for making quick hot dishes when I forgot to put anything in crockpot to simmer all day.  

If you get a crock pot get one that has better controls than just high and low.  Some of the better ones even have a temp probe for making sure that whole chicken or rabbit is braised correctly.    I prefer the oval ones over the round ones since I can get a whole chicken in them.  

The instapot pressure cookers seem to only come in round but if you get one big enough, you can program it to do your canning for tiny batches.  

If you want to can things, I recommend getting a good size 20q or above pressure cooker that has an adjustable pressure so you can hit your target temp for whatever you may be canning.  Done correctly, food will keep all winter.  
 
Posts: 84
Location: 6.b.
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I do enjoy having my 3D printer as it allows me to print replacement parts or customized pieces for other objects. It's almost always cheaper to design and make a part myself as opposed to buying replacement pieces.

Food grade screw top buckets are also really convenient. We could keep flour in their paper bags, but with the buckets on hand we can store more in the basement and stock up in case of another run on staple goods. We also have buckets for sugar and rice.

+1 to vacuum sealer, those things are very useful.
 
pollinator
Posts: 412
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A countertop pizza maker has come in surprisingly handy. Specifically this one (although it must have been on sale at the time, because I'm pretty sure I paid a lot less for it).  I bought it for my dad because he was experimenting with homemade pizza recipes, just as the weather got too hot to run the oven. He kept trying to make pizza using the outdoor grill, but every attempt was a disaster. His pizza kick ended shortly after the Masterchef arrived, but that's ok. It still gets used for other things like cookies, and *I* like making pizzas in it :)

Another money-saving gadget has been a small, hand-cranked ice cream churn. The kind that's usually marketed as a toy, and only makes 1 serving at a time. Many years ago I was on a homemade ice cream kick, and bought 2 of these at a garage sale for 25 cents each. I made ice cream in them a couple times, then put them away and forgot about them. In the years since I've developed a shoulder problem that makes it painful to knead dough. I spent a long time noodling over ideas for a miniature dough-bucket, since my family doesn't eat enough bread to be worth making a full-sized loaf. At some point it occurred to me that the little ice cream churn was exactly what I needed. It had to be strong enough to turn when full of ice cream, so it was probably strong enough to handle bread dough, too. It took some tinkering with the recipes to get them small enough, but I've been able to make single-serving bread loaves, and mid-sized pizza crusts, by kneading the dough in an ice cream churn :)
 
pollinator
Posts: 319
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This isn't a gadget idea, but a rice cooking method that I was reminded of when hearing about the rice cooker. Bake the rice, instead!
Two recipes:
https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/230901/easy-oven-brown-rice/
https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/230894/baked-brown-rice/

I tried a combination of the two and the rice was amazing!
 
Posts: 39
Location: 5000' Albuquerque, NM
22
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Sump pump system for bathtub, cost: $120

We don’t have a basement. We have eleven inches of rain water per year. Our water comes from a 200ft well that taps into the ground water. I mostly take sponge baths.

Yet despite the fact that water is very precious, I like to take a hot bath every few days. The bathtub takes about 45 gallons of water. This seems very wasteful to me and fills me with a sense of guilt and shame. To lessen my feeling of wastefulness, I drilled a little hole in the wall, plumbed a hose-bib on the outer wall and installed a short pipe and nipple on the interior wall by the tub ($20). A water hose ($5) attaches to the pump. After my bath, I submerge the pump, attach the hose to the wall, plug in the pump, then siphon the bathwater into my garden where I grow a Chinese pistache tree. Total cost for this gadget: $120.

Thinking about the savings, I realize how this thrice weekly bath is very soothing for my hardworking body and saves me the cost of a massage once a week ($50) plus wear and tear on the car to get there (travel $10): $240 per month. The calming alone-time saves me the price of seeing a psychotherapist 2x per month ($100ea) plus travel ($10ea): $220 per month. These baths contribute to my ability to sleep soundly, thus saving me the cost of a prescription sleep aid co-pay: $20/month. I also find that, as a prolific garlic grower and eater, the hot baths diffuse the garlic odor and enable me to have meaningful friendships without feeling self-conscious ($ ++).  The leaf mulch from the healthy pistache has enabled me to feed worms and other soil life in 300 square feet of vegetable gardens and provide the household with at least $50 per week in veg ($ 400/ month) without chemical fertilizers ($10 per month). The trade value of the extra produce is at least $100 per month. The total savings is, conservatively, $990 per month or $ 11, 800 (++) per year.
 
Posts: 54
Location: North Thomas Lake, Manitoba
3
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Two dough kneading shoulder injuries in one short thread. Skandi and Ellendra, I don't take delight in your misfortunes, but I'm amazed by this coincidence. Maybe if I ever tried making bread I'd feel how physical it really is.
 
pollinator
Posts: 416
Location: Southern Germany
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A pricey tool that I didn't buy myself (but my generous grand aunt when she was still living) is my Kenwood with many accessories (pasta maker, grinder, grater, food processor/blender etc.).
I use it mainly for making bread (sourdough bread about twice a week, a double batch of sandwich loaves once a week). While I don't really save money on the sandwich bread (it is cheap in the supermarket, but at least I omit the plastic bagging) I certainly do save on the sourdough bread. And I can grind the wheat or spelt berries on the spot.

Second investment that saves a lot is my freezer.
Before that I only had two and a half drawers under my fridge. But with vegetables from the garden and home baking this was never enough. Strange why it took me so long to decide to buy a normal freezer.
Now I have veggies, bread, cake, muffins and things like ground meat from the organic farm nearby and also freeze leftovers for quick meals.
 
Posts: 167
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Roomba.  Yes, I could vacuum myself, and no, it doesn't work well on floors.  BUT, push one button and it vacuums all the rooms on that floor.  The time it saves is wonderful because it requires little of me other than emptying the trash container.  Works great on cat hair, too.
 
gardener
Posts: 803
Location: Durham, NC
286
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Although I do love the roomba, I have gone through two roomba.  They have not been mistreated.  They just stop working for no reason I can determine.  If I go through a third I could make a cute little end table.  If yours works I am jealous.
 
pollinator
Posts: 575
Location: BC Interior, Zone 6-7
140
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We dont have an electrical system that allows for something like a crockpot, so for me it's my thermoses.

We cook outside on propane and I'm really stingy with fuel and don't like to cook anything that takes more than a few minutes. I'm also really busy and might skip cooking to save time. Standing outside in the rain and snow isn't great either, so we'll often skip cooking to avoid that.

Now that I've discovered I can bring something like soup or beans to a boil and dump it in a Thermos to finish cooking, I'm way more likely to cook. It's so easy to make yoghurt in a Thermos, so I always have that on hand now. Instead of eating dinner leftovers for lunch at work, I often whip up something quick in the morning, stick it in a Thermos, and by lunchtime it's cooked.

We're saving money on propane (although the amount we spent before was already almost unbelievably low for most people), saving money on food, eating more variety.  It's actually been a huge improvement for us.
 
William Bronson
gardener
Posts: 3306
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
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There's a lot of food related items in this thread,  but that's not really a surprise.
Permies are by and large,  pretty preoccupied with food.

In that vein, I refer you to my propane grill.
Salvaged,  but hardly green or efficient especially compared to my highly insulated Chambers oven, it saves me from my worst food impulses.
Chicken thighs on the grill beat most take out or eat in meals by a long shot.
I dont even know where I could go to get a grilled pork steak,and my wife can make a cheap beef roast into pure grilled deliciousness.
Back in the day,  when I was more social,  I would show up at friends houses with a portable grill and a tub of meat, and feed everyone for less than buying pizza for myself.

The propane is dirty and an expense,  but it's also  is key to making the process easy.
I  have a TLUD / rocket stove grill  in the project  pipeline, but it really needs to be easy to use to supplant the propane grill.
 
William Bronson
gardener
Posts: 3306
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
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Another gadget occurred to me, also (very tenuously) related to food.
In the plumbing trade it's often called a tub gun.
Mine came from when I worked at Rotor Rooter, patched together from parts discarded in the dumpster.
It is only good for soft clogs,  but it has saved me and mine thousands of dollars compared to calling a plumbing service.
cutaway.jpg
Same model I have.
Same model I have.
 
pollinator
Posts: 1047
Location: Pac Northwest, east of the Cascades
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Lisa Sampson wrote:A good mandoline.  Not the musical instrument but the bladed slicer.  Just watch your fingers.  Good ones are frighteningly sharp.



Just an fyi there is a safe mandoline, here it is on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07XZYZF6S/

* edit to add I got this last year for my Mom who gave up on the dangerous kind, she loves it
 
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A multi-purpose painters tool... I use it for way too many things besides painting... Everyone should have one.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5IGDokUJebw

 
Posts: 98
Location: Fort Worth, TX
22
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Instant pot! Saves me so much time.
Vitamix. A good blender vs fighting with cheap blender chunks...no thanks!
That's all I have. I'm pretty cheap. haha.
 
Posts: 238
Location: New England
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My biggest expensive thing that saved us a ton is my convertible fridge/freezer. I don’t can. In spring and summer my fridge was awash with produce and green slime from rotting produce. The food I wanted to freeze always was more than our tiny freezer could handle.

Answer? A convertible. Fridge in spring and early summer. Freezer the rest of the time. Fall to early spring we mostly eat out of the freezer....
 
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An electric air popcorn maker.  Stops me from buying less healthy salty snacks in all that plastic packaging.  So saves us (family of 4) about $6 per week which is $312 per year, well maybe $300 as it does use electricity.

We can then control the amount of salt we use too. Grinding the salt up really fine by using the back of a spoon or a mortar and pestle spreads the salt more evenly so you can use less.

We buy a bulk bag of organic popcorn kernels that last us for 6 months or so. Picked it up free at our dump's freecycle area - it is probably from the 70's but works great.  I see them all the time in thrift stores.  
 
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Bigger green house, wood cook stove.
 
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My daughter gave us an egg cooker and I immediately groaned “Oh no, not another countertop appliance that does something I can already do on the stove And where will I store it?”Boy was I wrong!
  The best, easiest peeling, hard boiled eggs I’ve ever seen. Peel SO easily, every single egg!  And instead of using all the energy to boil a big pot of water for 5 minutes, it uses a thimble full (actually just a couple ounces) of water and steams the eggs, 6 at a time in about 5 minutes. So, less energy, less water, and less aggravation trying to peel hard boiled eggs. And available for $10 or so at general stores at big box stores.
 
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I have a bread machine and love the healthy recipe for it.  If I run out of an ingredient, I can delay a trip to town with the popcorn maker, much repaired.  I cook rice on the stove so that I can also steam my veggies on top - it is not a hassle.  I have a single "eggbeater" tool that I chuck in a power drill for mixing the hummus.  I sharpen the knives with a belt sander.  I once went for months cooking on a single electric element clamped in my bench vise.  By using two extension cords, I could supply it with either 110 or 220 volts.  
 
Posts: 251
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Not exactly a "don't need", its essential to me. -- 1/2" variable speed electric drill. There is all the normal uses of course, then some more unusual uses:

* Small batch cement mixing.
* Eratz lathe for small wood turnings.
* Paint mixer for 5gal loads.
* Cleaning bottom of steel pans using a brass wire cup wheel.
* Driving an apple peeler/corer.

And last but not least....

* Crushing 200# of tomatoes. I have a dedicated mortar paddle to which I have sharpened the paddle edges. Its my 'Tool Time' industrial stick blender.
 
Posts: 121
Location: Saskatchewan
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My sausage stuffer and meat mixer falls under this category, I used to use the grinder to stuff sausage and just mixed by hand but I now get a much more uniform sausage at the end by using these gadgets.
 
Posts: 89
Location: Zone 9, CA
18
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I have a Zojirushi bread maker, and love it. I've had about 4 different bread makers, a Breadman, and one or two very "off brand", but I love my Zo. I'll definitely buy another one at the end of its life.

It makes a horizontal loaf that not only tastes good, but it's pretty, as well. I guess that it costs 50 cents a loaf, and is better than anything I've bought. It also gets rave reviews when I offer bread as a gift.
 
pollinator
Posts: 161
Location: Sierra Nevada Foothills, Zone 8b
34
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The multi-purpose painter's tool! Hahahaha! I was trying to peel an ancient gasket off an oil pan and it just wasn't happening. My buddy brought his MPPT over to my house. He had put a razor sharp edge on all the different angles and I was like, "ok super-tweaker" but daaammn... It was like that gasket never even existed a few minutes later.

I bought one of my own and sharpened it. Use it all the time. Maybe 3 bucks?
 
pollinator
Posts: 559
Location: Boston, Massachusetts
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Okay, first word that comes to mind when you hear "gadget"? Kitchen. No wonder the responses are 90% kitchen appliances, or kitchen tools. (Second word? {among a certain age set...} Inspector. {and you just heard the theme music in your head. }

So my "kitchen gadget" is an espresso maker. We've got a fancy Breville machine now, but I also used (and on my second) AeroPress before that for years. Home brew vs. coffee shop, the cost savings is ENORMOUS, even using the fancy beans. It's even quicker than the stop, wait in line, wait for coffee, get back on the road... Oh, and you get your order right.
The AeroPress is only about $40, it practically pays for itself on your first pound of coffee, The espresso machine was probably more like a year payback period. (just the $$$, not counting the time savings)
 
gardener
Posts: 3259
Location: Southern Illinois
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For my part, I like a good, quality 1/2 inch chuck cordless drill.  This does not have to be a hammer drill though most cordless 1/2 inch drill are hammer drills.  It also does not have to be the most expensive brand out there but should be a quality brand.  I have bought factory refurbished before and not regretted it.

Eric
 
Kenneth Elwell
pollinator
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Location: Boston, Massachusetts
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For a "non-kitchen gadget": a digital multi-meter. Super useful for troubleshooting electric/electronic devices... and I'm a novice at it. The continuity function gets a lot of use figuring out why/where a device isn't working by checking for open/closed circuits. Voltage meter is good for testing batteries (dead or alive), and home wiring (especially for staying alive, by NOT working on energized circuits). Lots of expensive things fail to function because of loose wires, or inexpensive components breaking. Who knows how much you can save on repairs versus replacements!
 
john mcginnis
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Kenneth Elwell wrote:For a "non-kitchen gadget": a digital multi-meter. Super useful for troubleshooting electric/electronic devices... and I'm a novice at it. The continuity function gets a lot of use figuring out why/where a device isn't working by checking for open/closed circuits. Voltage meter is good for testing batteries (dead or alive), and home wiring (especially for staying alive, by NOT working on energized circuits). Lots of expensive things fail to function because of loose wires, or inexpensive components breaking. Who knows how much you can save on repairs versus replacements!



I can vouch for the multimeter suggestion. I would add an clamp on ampmeter and you can probably repair 90% of the problems in the home with those two tools.
gift
 
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