Editor’s Note: This piece is part of an ongoing series called “Get It for Less” that will appear every week on MainStreet, so check back for more shopping tips on your favorite products.
NEW YORK (MainStreet) – Stocking a kitchen doesn’t have to mean spending $1,000 on a 10-piece cookware set and buying a bunch of fine china. While it’s easy to get dazzled by celebrity chef branded cookware, expensive dinner sets and dozens of task-specific appliances, it’s quite possible to minimize how much stuff you buy for your kitchen – as well as how much you spend on each item.
Retailers will often offer a single item from a larger cookware set at a big discount, a tactic known as the “try-me piece.” The idea is that you’ll buy the pan at the discount and love it so much that you’ll come back and drop a grand on the full set.
Our advice? Grab the try-me piece if you think the price is right and it fills a need in your kitchen, but don’t bother coming back for the full set.
Many chefs and cooking experts advocate minimalist kitchens. Instead of a 10-piece pot-and-pan set, for instance, they advise just getting a frying pan, a small saucepan and big pot for spaghetti. Instead of getting a block full of different-sized knives, just get a chef’s knife, a paring knife and a bread knife.
And do your best to cut down on appliances that only serve a single purpose and thus get used only a few times a year.
“There are so many gimmicky kitchen gadgets out there,” says Andrea Woroch, a consumer savings expert with Kinoli, a network of personal finance websites. “If you make Belgian every weekend, OK, get a waffle maker. But if you don’t make waffles that often, you don’t need one.”
That goes for smaller items, too: Skip the rolling pin and just use a wine bottle, for instance, or skip the oven mitts in favor of cheap towels. I’ve personally gone the past six months without a strainer for pasta, instead using a splatter guard (which I also use to sift flour).
Remember: Just because a store sells something, doesn’t mean you need it.
We listed kitchen supplies as one of the things you should try to buy used, noting that you can save a lot of money by purchasing plates, cutlery and pans via Craigslist and at consignment shops. It’s usually easy to see whether there are any cracks or other damage, and it should be easy to wash away any grime from the previous owner.
I’ve personally had great success buying used kitchen goods – a free frying pan from a friend, a set of plates for $10 from Craigslist, a $1 pint glass at the local consignment shop, and so on. You might not wind up with a pretty matching set of plates or a set of pans that look nice hanging from a rack over your counter, but you’ll spend a lot less money.