While we love to
save money in the kitchen whenever possible, we also know that sometimes, you gotta invest or splurge. And while we all know the common advice to avoid single-use or dust-gathering items like avocado pitters and panini presses, there's also a group of so-called kitchen staples that are meant to make our lives easier, but may keep costing you long after you pony up the money. In other words, you pay upfront — and they keep costing you down the line namely because they can lead to wasted food.
And no, we're not suggesting shredded cheese or pretty coffee storage containers are taking money out of your wallet as you sleep. Instead, these items, whether they're edible or functional, are ultimately unnecessary and could contribute to food spoiling faster, which can slowly eats away at your budget in the long run.
Ahead, eight common kitchen investments that are designed to simplify your life but may actually be costing you. We'll leave it up to you to decide!
Photo: Courtesy of Amazon.
Olive Oil Containers The appeal of a nice olive oil container is obvious — it's both an easy and attractive way to store a near-constant kitchen staple at hand. The appeal stops at ease, however. Olive oil should ideally be stored in a dark, airtight container that minimizes light and air exposure. It's best to buy it in small quantities both to ensure freshness and quality.
Photographed by Eric Helga.
Thawed Seafood Most shrimp (and plenty of other seafood) likely arrived at your grocery store frozen, before being thawed and put on display. If you are buying seafood to cook that same day, it might not make a difference. But, if you're buying with plans of cooking in the next few days, buying already frozen (not thawed) seafood will give you more flexibility should your plans change. Plus, most frozen seafood, especially shrimp, thaws incredibly fast— you'll just be adding a few minutes to your prep time while getting a fresher product that you won't have to toss when you forget to cook it up in a few days. Talk about a win/win.
Photographed by Will Styler.
Shredded Cheese Yes, shredded (or crumbled) cheeses are convenient, but if you're buying it to keep on hand, you may find mold will beat you to the bag before you finish it off. Block of cheese with hunks of mold can be sliced off safely, but mold in shredded cheese is harder to deal with. Even low-moisture cheeses, like Parmesan, will eventually get fuzzy growths that can have deep roots. And that's before you consider the mark-up you're already paying for the work of having the cheese sliced for you. If you really want to save yourself the work and know you'll be able to go through the entire bag, go for it, but a little slicing/shredding could save you money in the long run.
Egg Trays Trays seem like an attractive way to store eggs, especially if you get multicolored ones from a farmer's market. But, the carton is almost always the best place for them. Shells aren't airtight — especially in the U.S., where most are pasteurized, a process that thins the shell. Eggs can absorb odors from other foods in the fridge if exposed. Plus, as the Kitchn points out, by storing the eggs in a tray, you're also getting rid of the sell-by date included in the carton.
Photographed by Nicole Maroon.
Pre-sliced Fruit Sliced fruit is another food where you're paying a premium for someone to do the work for you. That said, like with cheese, you're also losing a lot of control. Not only are you giving up the ability to sniff, squeeze, or feel the fruit to judge freshness, you're also ensuring it goes bad faster. If you're buying some to eat immediately, that might not matter (as long as it's actually ripe), but if you are buying a week's worth, you may find you're better off buying fruit that doesn't require cutting, like strawberries or apples, that will also last longer in the fridge.
Photo: Courtesy of Amazon.
Food Storage Containers There are some exceptions to this, but many food storage containers, like olive oil dispensers, simply increase air and light exposure and speed up food spoilage. Dried foods, like rice and pasta, are generally fine. Other shelf-stable foods, like cereal, coffee, and nuts, are best stored in as air-tight a container as possible. That usually means the bag or box they came in, sealed tight.
Photographed by Davide Luciano.
Certain Fresh Herbs This isn't a universally true rule. Some herbs, like basil, are almost always better fresh. But others, like oregano and rosemary, are almost indistinguishable when you compare dried vs. fresh. Not only is buying dried herbs cheaper, you'll no longer be tossing away most of a bunch of thyme when it inevitably goes bad after you use the 1/2 a teaspoon a recipe called for.
Photo: Courtesy of Amazon.
Broth Broth and stock are in heavy rotation for us, especially in the cold fall months. But, unless you're lucky enough to be using a recipe that calls for exactly one can of broth, you may find yourself keeping extra around before eventually remembering it's there and pouring it down the drain. An easy money-saving swap is to buy Better Than Bouillon, a concentrate that just requires hot water and stores nearly forever in the fridge.