I can’t believe it’s already the middle of December! I was unable to share out my favorite Black Friday deals for 2016 because I was traveling. Who here got an Instant Pot this year? 😉 I know they’re quickly approaching, but before it’s too late for shipping I figured I would still share a few gift ideas for the holidays, and this year all of them are centered around kitchen tools that I use regularly and cost under $25. I hope this gives you a few good ideas for a fellow cooking enthusiast, a little treat for yourself, or something to forward to your partner as a *hint hint*.
If you’re looking for even more inspiration, you can also check out my little vegan gift guide from last year! And if you’re thinking of growing your or someone else’s cookbook collection this year, check out my huge collection of vegan cookbook mini-reviews!
All-Silicone Spatula Set
I didn’t know how much I needed all-silicone spatulas until I had them. Seriously. I had a couple of old spatulas floating around my kitchen – the type with a plastic handle and removable silicone head – and would be constantly frustrated with how annoying they were to clean. But the final straw was when I was using one to stir my cashew mozzarella, accidentally left it in the pan after stirring, and found that the plastic handle had started to melt.
These di Oro spatulas are heat-safe up to 600 degrees Fahrenheit, have a stainless steel core and also come with a lifetime guarantee. (They also come in black). If this set doesn’t meet your particular needs there are plenty of other highly-rated options with different color and style choices, all under $25, available on Amazon.
As I tend to tell you ad nauseam when sharing recipes that call for whole spices, my coffee grinder is a kitchen tool commanding valuable countertop space. It’s perfect for grinding up individual recipe-sized spice blends. If you want to make sure your coffee doesn’t get infused with spice flavor, just grind up a little bit of stale bread or toasted rice to absorb the spices before using it with coffee.
Food Processor (yes, really!)
Dang, I bet you weren’t expecting to see a food processor on my list of kitchen tools under $25! But you better believe your eyes! Now, I would never blindly endorse something that appears to be the ‘cheapo’ option. However, I personally own this exact food processor, and have been using it for over 6 months now. (I may have mentioned last year that my former boyfriend got the Cuisinart in the breakup). I have been more than pleasantly surprised at how powerful and effective it is. I use it for blending sauces, soups, cookies, and more – though I have not yet tried it for smoothies. It is even able to successfully, in many cases, break down raw cashews into a smooth cashew cream. (I used it for the lusciously creamy vegan baked mac and cheese recipe that I shared just the other day!) By the way, feel free to email me or comment if you’re wondering whether a food processor will work for a specific recipe or type of dish. I’m happy to help!
P.S. It’s not just me, either. Thousands of reviews on Amazon agreed with me that this budget food processor is actually pretty amazing, and for a fraction of the price of what the “quality” food processors will cost you. Go forth!
Cast Iron Skillet
Even if cast iron skillets were expensive, they’d still be worth buying, since if you take care of them properly (and really, even if you don’t…) they can last a lifetime. If you maintain the seasoning properly, cast iron skillets take on an almost nonstick quality, but with much more even heating and better searing and browning. I use mine for everything from hashbrowns, to tofu, to naan. It’s an incredibly good investment! Cast iron skillets are available in a variety of shapes and sizes.
Nonstick Baking Sheet Liners
For general-purpose baking, Silpat (or other brand) reusable nonstick baking sheet liners are amazing. I have had mine for going-on 3 years now and still use them regularly. They’re fairly easy to clean, you create less waste, and you never find yourself nixing a recipe or rushing to the store at the last minute because you forgot that you used your last sheet of parchment.
The best way to wash leafy greens is to submerge them completely in water, so that dirt and dust can get out of all of the little nooks and crannies. However, then you’re left with sopping wet greens, and that’s where the salad spinner come in. The design allows you to quickly spin the greens while excess liquid is pulled to the outside and drained away. This is important in recipes like my vegan spinach artichoke dip where added liquid can mess up the texture. It works amazingly well and uses no electricity/gas/waste. I actually almost never prepare salads at home, at least not the traditional kind. But I use various leafy greens in cooked dishes all the time – from wilting a handful of arugula into my pasta, to adding a bit of spinach to my smoothies, to sauteeing some collards to have alongside dinner. Plus, if you ever make your own kale chips, a salad spinner is the way to go. You can clean your kale thoroughly but also get it completely dry in seconds, which results in the crispiest and fastest-cooking kale chips.
I actually own a supercheap salad spinner that I bought at IKEA on an impulse. I’ve had it since around 2013 and it continues to serve its purpose. I believe it was either $5 or $10. That said, this one from OXO that I’ve linked to appears to be a lot higher quality, highly rated, more aesthetic, and still comes in below the $25 mark.
When it comes to kitchen storage and organization, I tend toward low-maintenance. I’ve seen many beautiful examples of bloggers’ picture-perfect pantries and I’m never going to be a part of that group. I prefer to keep things in the original packaging whenever appropriate. I also prefer to try to stop myself from eating entire bags of Kettle Chips all at once, and instead hide them in the back of a drawer somewhere for a pleasant surprise later. That’s where the clothespins come in. I’ve seen the chip clips, and I reject them. My grocery store was seriously selling a pack of 5 chip clips for $7. Buy a 50-pack of clothespins for like 25 cents and you’ll never have to worry about it again.
P.S. clothespins aren’t just helpful for closing bags! Have you ever struggled to get a piece of parchment or wax paper to lie flat on a baking sheet before you’ve put anything on top of it? Clothespins to the rescue!
Where baking is concerned, the kitchen scale is queen, especially if you’re making something like my vegan sugar cookies. Even in non-baked recipes, measuring your ingredients by weight is how you get the most consistent results. As a bonus, you actually dirty fewer dishes when cooking this way because you don’t need to use 10 different measuring cups – just add things one-by-one to the same bowl and zero the scale in between each addition. Quality kitchen scales can be found for well under $20, and take up very little room in your kitchen, making them (in my opinion) well worth the investment.
I believe that everyone should have a fabulous chef’s knife, and a high quality one at that. But a chef’s knife is not the perfect tool for every job. A petite, easy-to-handle paring knife is so useful to keep in your kitchen, whether it’s used for opening a package of tofu; removing eyes from potatoes without losing much potatoey goodness along with them; slicing berries; or perfectly mincing garlic (small knives for small objects!). Because they are so small, excellent paring knives are available at a quite reasonable price point.
Nut Milk Bag
I don’t actually make nut milk that often but I still use my nut milk bag (note: it’s not just you, I don’t like the name either :)) frequently. It’s handy for squeezing extra liquid out of everything from cauliflower to cashew cream cheese. It gives you the world’s easiest way to rinse quinoa (quinoa falls right through a normal strainer). And if you don’t have a high-powered blender (since they certainly cost more than $25), you can use this with cashew cream/cashew sauces to get out any cashew bits that didn’t blend all the way.
I’ve linked here to the exact one that I use, but there are tons of great options. This one is made of nylon but I’ve also seen versions made from 100% organic hemp.
Refillable oil sprayer
I do a lot of oil-free cooking. (Check out my oil-free vegan recipe archives)! (But never fear, I do a lot of oil-ful cooking too). Sometimes, a recipe doesn’t *really* need oil except that otherwise, it would stick to the pan, or not brown, or something along those lines. That’s where oil spray comes in, and I’m sure you’re all familiar with Pam, what with its “interesting additives”. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never tried to be perfect and I don’t care about consuming some Pam once in a while. But in the long run, a more economical and more wholesome alternative is to get a refillable oil sprayer. You can fill it with the type of oil that you prefer and know exactly what is going in your food.
Note: for oil misters it is worth buying a very quality one at the top end of your price range. Very cheap models (like the $10 one you find at the grocery store) tend to clog easily. This one is highly-rated on Amazon.