Which Kitchen Appliances Can Help You Stick to a Food Budget?


Did you know that there’s an appliance whose sole purpose is making quesadillas? Ever heard of a specialized breakfast sandwich warmer? That exists too. You can actually buy an appliance that is made specifically to create and keep breakfast sandwiches warm.

There’s an overwhelming number of kitchen appliances on the market place. With that comes the ever-present opportunity to overspend on appliances you probably don’t really need. While there’s no doubt that some can streamline the process of cooking, there are others that don’t necessarily warrant the cost.

To help decide what’s worthy of a purchase, we’ve compiled tips that break down the process of choosing and also highlighted some of the best appliances to have in a frugal foodie’s kitchen.

To avoid overspending on kitchen appliances, ask these 5 questions before making the big buy:

1. What’s the return on value?

The answer to this question is the biggest deciding factor in whether an appliance is worth the purchase. To get worth out of a purchase you want to earn back value that meets and – ideally – exceeds what you spent on the item. There’s a reason that refrigerators are standard in a kitchen. They have a consistent benefit to anyone storing perishables. Since that applies to most people, they have a high return on value.

Best bet for return on value appliance: Slow Cooker

Expected Price: $50 – $100

What makes it so cost effective: It’s not so much the slow cooker itself that’s valuable, it’s value lies in the time that it frees up for a busy cook. While cost effective ingredients (like beans and end cut meats) simmer in the crock pot, you’re free to go about focusing on other tasks in your life. 

2. How frequently will you use the item?

You could own an electric ice cream maker that churns out the best ice cream that you’ve ever had but if you only use it a handful of times during the summer then it might never reach it’s return on value. In that case, it doesn’t make sense to buy an appliance that will be used infrequently.

Another way to look at the impact of buying something that won’t be regularly utilized is to break down the cost per use. For the ice cream maker example above, if you use this appliance three times a year and the price of the appliance is $60.00, that means each use comes at a $20 cost – before adding ingredients. If you had an appliance that cost $60.00 and you used it every week, the price per use would be around $1.15 in the first year.

Best bet for frequently used appliance: Microwave

Expected cost: $60 – $150

What makes it more frequently used than other appliances: It speeds up the cooking and reheating process. This efficiency alone is useful in most kitchens. And while it’s not necessarily going to churn out a gourmet feast on its own, it did revolutionize the way that we utilize our cooking time. 

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3. Could you make do without the appliance?

This is the best question to help you distinguish if an appliance supports your needs or your wants. Many kitchen tasks can be completed without an appliance but we’ve come to rely on the convenience of having something perform an action for us. What kind of hard-line you draw between needing and wanting an appliance comes down to your preferences, but if you’re really looking to pare down or save, then challenging your reason for buying an appliance will help you to avoid purchases that might not be useful long term. It’s most effective if you take a hard look at your motives. Even things you might have considered indispensable aren’t always necessary.

Best bet for useful and specialized performance category: Countertop Blender

Expected cost: $40 – $500 for the highest end (the range here is incredible)

What makes it so useful: Even the best of knife skills won’t break down ice the way that blender blades can. Beyond smoothies, blenders also combine ingredients efficiently and quickly and is a smart addition for mixing and blending needs. A good blender can blend ingredients into pesto, hummus, peanut butter etc. and does so in a way that chopping and grinding by hand won’t achieve.

4. Will having to clean the appliance deter you from using it?

The number one example of a difficult to clean appliance is the food processor. While a valuable appliance in some people’s kitchens, the amount of work spent disassembling and cleaning the blades can deter others. Think about the time from beginning to end, and whether you find the timeline reasonable.

The fussier an appliance, the less likely you are to take full advantage of it on a regular basis. When choosing something, keep ease of use in mind.

The easy to clean and useful appliance winner goes to: Hand Mixer

Expected Cost: $30 – $60

What makes it the best easy to clean appliance: For an avid baker, there’s the coveted (and pricey) Kitchenaid stand-up mixer but most baking needs can be met quickly with a hand mixer. The best part about clean up with this appliance is that once you pop out the metal beaters, they’re as easy to clean as a piece of silverware. It’s a huge advantage when the “messy” part of an appliance detaches itself.

5. Do you want it just for the novelty?

Some appliances fall into the “specialty appliance” category. Though fun, they’re not generally considered necessary. You can file things like a quesadilla maker and a breakfast sandwich maker here. So before buying any appliance (or any home purchase) take the time to understand if you’re just being dazzled the packaging, the marketing or just the general idea of it.

Best bet for a novelty appliance that still outperforms others: George Foreman Grill (or similar type of double heated electric grill)

Expected Price: $30 – $50

Why the novelty could be worth it: Electric grills aren’t completely necessary when you consider that most of the same results can be achieved with a pan and a stove-top, however they have their shining moments. Grilling meats and vegetables quickly and evenly is the biggest pro of this appliance.

Finally… if you’re still in the market for an appliance but looking to save money, consider these alternatives to buying a brand new kitchen appliance:

Share appliances or borrow from a neighbor or friend

Yup, sharing appliances is a completely feasible thing for certain appliances. Obviously ones that have been installed into your kitchen can’t be moved, but other small appliances can be shared among friends and family. Ask around and plan ahead, and you may have access to all sorts of appliances without having to buy each one.

Buy Used

Buying used is a great option if you’re eyeing a pricy appliance but want to save money. Two stipulations to this suggestion, though: check for quality and don’t discount the above questions. If you really want to see what kinds of things have a low return on value or at the very least seem to be more expendable, visit the appliance section of your local Goodwill or second hand store. There, you’ll probably find an assortment of mini espresso machines, waffle makers and breakfast sandwich makers. Just because they’re there at a discount doesn’t mean that they need a new home in your kitchen!

Above all, make sure you take your personal needs into account. If you buy a refrigerator but store nothing in it, your lifestyle will not benefit from the purchase. This goes for any appliance. Even though a slow cooker can be an excellent tool to turn low-cost ingredients into a meal, if it will remain in your cupboard then it doesn’t make sense to buy one. Know your limits and preferences and include them as a factor in your decision. Though appliances can be beneficial on paper, they’re only beneficial if you take advantage of their function.

Image Credit eatmorechips

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  • erica o

    Great article Claire, I like the way you focused on the added benefits of each appliance. I lvoe my crock pot- especially now as the weather gets cooler here in Toronto!

    • Claire Murdough

      Thanks Erica!

      My crock pot was in full swing as I was writing this article 🙂

  • bookishheather

    I’d like to defend the ice cream maker that was slightly pooh-poohed in the article.

    Despite tending toward simplicity and less stuff, I bought an ice cream maker in 2007 and have never regretted it. No more are you limited to the boring ice cream flavors at the store—you can find recipes online for particular dietary concerns or develop your own! The quality will be better too—plain vanilla will actually taste like something when you make it at home. You can be the coworker who brings homemade ice cream to the company picnic yet manage to not spend very much for your contribution. Friends also love it when you share your awesome ice cream skillz with them. Also, the amortization in the article assumes one year of use, when mine has been going strong for six years now.

    Yes, it’s all very personal which gadgets make sense to us, but I felt the need to defend my little appliance friend. : )

    (Also, I think in the heading for #3 you mean “do” rather than “due,” and the heading for #4 is the size of a sub-head [smaller than the heads].)

    • Claire Murdough

      You’re completely right – on all accounts!! Thank you so much for pointing out the errors, I went ahead and corrected them. It also makes me happy to hear you’ve found good use from your ice cream maker! If you love and use something, it’s absolutely a smart purchase. As a COMPLETE ice cream fiend I think it’s awesome that it’s been a valuable addition to your kitchen.

      What’s a favorite flavor that you’ve made so far??

  • East Coast Applaince

    Great article! Very informative.

    • Claire Murdough

      Thanks for reading!!

  • Space!

    Nice, but we need links with best proposals !)

  • No mention of a rice cooker?

  • How do you find kitchen gear for yoru blog?