Celebrity chef Alton Brown makes the case that single-use gadgets in the kitchen are wasteful and unnecessary. If you agree with that sentiment, you’re probably already well on your way to a more sustainable lifestyle.
While it’s great to think about protecting the environment, limiting kitchen product waste also saves you space, reduces stressful clutter, and saves you money.
In the modern era of easy Amazon purchasing, quick consumption, and disposable waste, it’s often difficult to break out of the bad habits we’ve developed.
But when it comes to kitchen conveniences, there’s more than one way to butter bread, so we’ve put together alternatives for some of those gadgets you may be inclined to buy, and habits it’s time to let fly.
1. Rice Cooker
We’ll start with a controversial one. Rice cookers have a redeeming value in that they perfectly cook rice without taking up a burner on the stove. If your meal needs the rice to be out of the way, and you do it often, there might be a case here.
Otherwise, there’s no reason to keep a bulky rice cooker in the pantry when you can go old school with a pot and a lid. One tip is to always rinse your rice before cooking.
Use a ratio of two parts water to one part rice, although you can adjust the water by ¼ cup in either direction depending on your preferences.
2. Garlic Press
Skip it, if only for the very obvious reason that it’s a pain to clean. Also, though, it’s just unnecessary.
Admittedly, the kind of garlic press that works without removing the skin from the garlic is a bit of magic, but most don’t work that way, and they’re still a pain to clean.
If you have to take the skin off anyway, the job is half done. Plus, the press wastes a lot of each clove.
To easily chop or mince garlic, lay the flat blade of a large knife on a single garlic clove. Press down on the knife or give it a quick smack with your hand to slightly crush it.
The skin will peel right off, and it just takes a few seconds to chop it up from there.
3. Popcorn Maker
While there is the microwavable option, we’re talking about saving money here, and buying individual popcorn bags is wasteful to the budget as well as the garbage stream.
Get the most out of your budget, popcorn, and pantry space by making popcorn in a pot. Just make sure you have a lid ready before you begin.
Add around three tablespoons of your favorite oil and ⅓ cup of kernels. Allow the mixture to heat. Once you hear the popping start, turn down the heat a bit to avoid burning and shake constantly.
When there is a second or two between pops, pull the pan off the heat, leaving the lid slightly ajar for steam to escape. Then pour the popcorn into a bowl.
Add melted butter and salt. For a cheesy flavor, sprinkle with nutritional yeast.
4. Yogurt Maker
Again, just unnecessary. If you know how easy it is to make yogurt…well, we’ll tell you. At the most basic level, you really only need your favorite milk product and a bit of plain yogurt as a starter.
The thicker the milk, the thicker the yogurt. Optional ingredients include gelatin, sugar, and vanilla. It’s a forgiving process so play around with it until you achieve the results you want.
Turn your oven on to a low setting (150-175) and allow it to heat for 5-10 minutes. Then turn it off. You just want to take the chill off and create a warm environment. Leave your oven light on.
To make your yogurt, pour two quarts of milk into a pan and warm to 180-190 degrees. Then allow the milk to cool to 115-130 degrees.
When the milk is at the right temperature, remove about a cup and stir two heaping tablespoons of plain yogurt with active cultures into the milk. Stir together and add back into the milk mixture.
Then place the yogurt in two glass jars with lids. Place them into the oven overnight. You can turn your yogurt into Greek yogurt by straining out the whey using cheesecloth.
You can then use the whey for a variety of recipes too! Dress up your plain yogurt with honey, jam, fruit, or your favorite additions.
5. Tortilla Press and Warmer
It seems like a good idea, but once you master the art of the very-simple-to-make tortilla dough, it’s just as easy (and actually more effective) to use a rolling pin.
You don’t need a tortilla warmer either. Just place cooked tortillas in a pot with a lid. The steam keeps them soft and pliable.
5. Any Type of Slicer
You already have the right tool for eggs, avocados, bananas, bread, apples, onions, and pineapples. It’s called a sharp knife. Invest in a quality sharpener instead.
6. Quesadilla Maker
Nope. Just nope. Warm a pan over medium heat. Place a tortilla inside. Sprinkle it with a layer of your favorite cheese. Place another tortilla on top.
Flip when the cheese begins to melt and the bottom of the tortilla is browned. Cook on the other side for a few minutes. Remove from the pan. Done. No additional cost and or shelf space.
7. Crepe Pan
A crepe is a thin pancake created from a thin batter. Crepe makers make lovely thin crepes. So does a pan. Skip the crepe pan and use a quality non-stick or well-seasoned cast iron pan instead.
The key is to use a touch of pan coating and get your pan to the right temperature. It should be hot, but not sizzling hot.
Pour a few tablespoons of batter into the pan and immediately rotate the pan, spreading out the batter into a very thin layer.
Allow it to cook a minute or two until no longer moist in the middle. You can flip it over for 30-60 seconds but it’s not necessary.
8. Scoop and Spread
These are gadgets marketed to get the last bits out of peanut butter and similar jars, yet they offer nothing over a regular rubber spatula.
Save yourself the money and space by investing in a quality set of rubber spatulas in varying sizes instead.
9. Single-use Servingware
Although paper, plastic, and foam plates, disposable silverware, and the ubiquitous Solo cups are now prolific, it wasn’t that long ago these items were a rare occurrence.
At home, you’ll save a bunch by using real dishware instead of disposable items. Even for a formal event, nice paper plates can run you $.80 each, while renting real plates is about the same or less.
10. Paper Products
You’re doing laundry anyway, so why not use fabric tablecloths, napkins, and washcloths? Save money and cut down on garbage by doing without paper napkins and paper towels.
You can wipe up messes with a rag instead of a paper towel. Similarly, a cloth napkin serves the purpose well.
Since a quality cloth napkin can last decades, the savings add up, even if you calculate the drop of water and drip of detergent required to clean it alongside your other laundry.
11. Single-use Cleaners
Beneath the typical American sink, you’re likely to find an array of cleaners. There’s one for glass and one for countertops and another for the floor, plus one just for the cooktop.
Most of these cleaners aren’t needed in the first place, costing you money and resulting in a lot of unnecessary trash. You can easily, and effectively, make your own cleaners for most tasks in your kitchen.
Simple and natural ingredients like lemon juice, baking soda, and white vinegar do a lot of the work for you. Plus, they leave the air cleaner and are void of potential toxins.
But if you decide to buy your cleaner, go with a condensed mixture. Since most of what you buy in a spray bottle is water anyway, you’ll get a lot more bang for your buck. Plus, the environment will thank you with fewer bottles in the trash.
12. Disposable Plastics
Cut back on your plastic addiction with some quality glass storage containers and lids that cut out the need for plastic wrap. You can also make or purchase a few fabric bowl covers to meet additional needs.
While you’re at it, eliminate sandwich bags by using small bowls or jars. Replace freezer bags with glass as well.
If you do use plastic bags, wash and reuse them as long as they didn't contain raw meat, seafood, or eggs.
While we’re talking about plastic, cut plastic shopping bags out of your life. Instead, rely on reusable bags, paper bags, and produce bags.
You can upcycle fabric to make shopping and produce bags rather than buying them. If you find a design you like, you can give them as gifts to like-minded friends too.
It goes without saying that single-use plastic water bottles are a pricey and mostly unnecessary purchase. Use the tap. If you have an issue with your municipal or well water, buy a simple water filter.
Even with filter replacements, you’ll save substantially compared to the price of buying bottled water.
If your situation requires it, buy the largest bottle you can. One gallon is cheaper than packages of 20-ounce bottles. Five gallons are cheaper yet. Get a refillable bottle and you’ll really boost savings.
13. Keurig Machines
For the love of the planet, do not buy a single cup coffee maker, followed by the endless purchase of plastic coffee pods.
If you already own a Keurig, or similar type machine, get a reusable coffee pod. Press your own coffee into it with zero waste.
The same holds true for a traditional drip pot. Instead of disposable paper filters, grab a reusable filter instead. They are easy to clean and offer a long lifespan.
Better yet, skip the larger appliances in favor of a ceramic drip (pour over) or a French press, each of which have zero waste, take up a small space, and are inexpensive.
If you buy your coffee on the go, you can still reduce waste by bringing your own refillable cup along with you.
A Few More Tips
Keep It Clean
Few people love to clean, but regular maintenance, including cleaning, can lengthen the lifespan of your appliances, flooring, and other surfaces.
Keep a regular maintenance schedule. Clean the filter in the dishwasher, the inside of the oven, beneath burners on the stove, and the coils on the bottom or back of the fridge.
Invest in Quality Cookware
Buying a discount pan every few years will cost you more than investing in a quality pot or skillet that will last your lifetime and beyond.
For example, a single cast iron skillet can last many lifetimes when properly cared for, at a cost of less than $50.
Cook Food Yourself
The single best way to save money in your kitchen is to cook your own food. It’s much cheaper than eating out and less expensive than grabbing pre-packaged foods.
Plus, making food from raw ingredients is healthier and results in less packaging waste.
Make a meal plan. Start by looking at the activity calendar to see when you’ll be home.
Incorporate one or two leftover nights into the week. If you schedule food for every night, you’ll overbuy and have too many uneaten leftovers.
Leave some voids on the calendar so you are encouraged to dig into the depths of the refrigerator.
Freeze It Before You Lose it
Once or twice a week, check the fridge for foods that are likely to go bad before you eat them. If you’re leaving town, throw the berries on a tray and drop them into the freezer. Move them into a jar when you return.
Instead of letting the herbs you used for a recipe a few nights ago wilt in the fridge, turn them into ice cubes and use them for soups and drinks down the road.
Cook up meats in casseroles, soups, and stews, then put them in freezer-safe containers.
Once items are in the freezer, make your efforts worthwhile by cooking them up on leftover night.
Being organized saves you money too, by negating the need to repurchase things you already have. Check out our Pantry Organization Hacks.
If you’re in the market for a kitchen upgrade, consider How to Save Money on Appliances before you start shopping.