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Buying the Right Stuff for the Kitchen

Updated on July 6, 2013
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A retired single guy that likes to cook and bake and respects the value of quality tools in the kitchen or barbecue on the balcony.

Cooking for One – Anytime Meal

At the risk of repeating myself (something you do a lot more of when you get older), I thought it would be useful to maybe create a hub on ideas for the right equipment and food ingredients that you could consider for your kitchen setup. These are just the things that work for me so you decide what works best for you and build your plan around that theme.

Utility

Everything should be only considered if it has a longer shelf-life, is easy to clean (dishwasher-safe is good if you have one), can go in the microwave, and is the right size or quantity for a person who is cooking for one.

So we like stainless steel, non-stick, one-colour (no gold leaf trim, no fancy patterns), silicone, nylon, wood (to a lesser degree), Pyrex, corning ware, cotton, etc. for the materials that go into making up our cooking utensils. As an example, gold-leaf trimmed plates will cause arcing in the microwave, cheap plastics melt, and non-stick pans are hard to clean and anything with crevices just trap burnt on grease so we avoid these things. Regular dinner plates are OK but we prefer simple 8” side plates and that size is good for oven trays or pans.

Quality

Buy the best that you can possibly afford. I was fortunate to have been given a set of 4 rather substantial drinking glasses as a gift for taking pictures at my friends’ wedding just after university. A professional photographer was not in there budget. Those glasses live in the freezer for when I have the urge for an ice-cold liquid beverage including the adult version. After 40 years, I still have 3 and the only reason I broke one was my own stupidity. (Left it in the sink and dropped a jar of bulk sugar on one from the cupboard above. I just moved those jars to a shelf to the left and below the sink just now realizing that my stupidity continues. I’ll work on the dishes in the sink thing).

Quality is much cheaper than two average products in the long run. I learned this concept when I was buying equipment for my woodworking projects (sold it all since it is difficult to do that stuff in an apartment without getting complaints). When I first started out doing woodworking projects I would burn out sanders and drills at an alarming rate. I learned that top quality products like Bosch stood up for an extremely long time. The only problem is the rechargeable batteries now since they don’t have a long shelf life.

So you will consider names like Oxo, Cuisinart, Kitchen-Aid, J A Henckels, Anchor Hocking, Pyrex, Corning Ware that are sold in better home outfitting stores. I buy a lot of it online now since most of them usually pay the freight or it is cheaper than driving to those stores which you often find in the big box community sprawling shopping centre. I’m not afraid of the strange stares I get from the female customers since I’m usually the only guy in the store. “No thank you, I’m not married and no I don’t think your friend would be interested.”

The Right Size

This goes for both utensils and food ingredients. There isn’t much point in having stuff that you use to cook for a family of six and buy food that is packaged for that same family unless it keeps well or can be frozen in smaller proportions.

We talked about that a little already in the selection of suitable dinner plates, and it goes further into things like a bread maker, coffee maker, food processor, pots and pans. I use my bread maker to make pizza dough only now. The bread was good but I always produced the larger loaf. I might try using it again to make the smallest loaf size once I find a store that sells bread flour where I live now. Regular flour doesn’t work out as well.

I make coffee one cup at a time. Keep the ground coffee in the freezer, boil the water in the microwave and put the filter in a stainless steel funnel that sits in one of those stainless steel travel mugs with the black plastic handle and lid with the drinking holes.

I use a Cuisinart Smart Stick to do food processing and immersible blending and will probably use the whisk attachment to make whipped cream before the oversized carton of whipping cream gets too close to its expiry date. Bad buying decision there but I don’t like the price and quality of artificial whipped cream.

I have some bigger pots and pans but all are stainless steel Paderno brand with the exception of my J A Henckels 10” skillet with the environmentally-friendly non-stick coating that only gets touched by silicon, nylon or wood utensils.

All of my other utensils including flatware are all stainless steel. They all survived years of abuse in the dishwasher and I only wash everything by hand simply because there really isn’t any room for a dishwasher in my kitchen. If it were more practical I would have one in a heartbeat. The only thing I would never wash in one is kitchen knives. What a great way to ruin those great tools!!

I sharpen them with a tool I got from my woodworking supply place that you use on chisels and router bits. It’s all there in the “sharpen” link.

Ok enough about utensils. Let’s talk about foodstuff now.

Foodstuffs

The only reason you buy larger quantities of anything is that you can use it up quickly; you can store it well before it goes bad, or you can separate it down into smaller portions easily. Just because it is on sale doesn’t mean you are actually going to save anything in the long run. You will just be making more trips to the garbage can or chute.

I buy tomato sauce and put it into a re-sealable glass container and store the rest in refrigerator as I do with pineapple chunks or slices, creamed soup (1/2 in the storage container, the other half for your meal) and other stuff.

I usually make soup in my crockpot with vegetables that are about to go bad since it is hard to buy smaller quantities of fresh vegetables. I stopped buying “baby” carrots and packaged salad mixes because they use bleach to keep them looking fresher in the bag and they really aren’t small carrots, they are just the broken pieces of bigger ones or naturally deformed shaped things that they run through a machine to make them look like that. Bagged salad mixes taste awful which probably has something to do with the bleach.

I buy the fancy smanshy hamburger buns when they are on sale or the bakery fresh sliced bread and freeze portions of it instead of trying to use it all up before it goes bad. Too much bread has a way of converting you into a Pillsbury doughboy look-alike.

OK I think you get the idea now so go do what works best for you but continue to enjoy tasty meals and maybe save a few bucks by buying smarter.

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