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My Top Ten Small Appliances: What are Your Kitchen Workhorses?


It’s that time of year, when I reevaluate the needs of my kitchen. Since baking, cooking and entertaining top the list of my Family Manager duties during this month, I am continually reminded of how fortunate I am to have the useful ease of so many wonderful kitchen appliances at my finger tips.

After my time in Peru, [4] I realize that as much as I view these as NEEDS, they are definitely wants, and over the years, I’ve slowly added to my kitchen more and more of my “wants” as finances allowed.

I often get asked for my recommendations as to the items in my kitchen that I can’t live without. Based on my season of life, they have changed slightly, but I continually come back to some core tools.. I’ve linked to some for ease, but I always recommend making sure you look at your budget before determining what kitchen “fun” to add. I’ve found great smaller second hand appliances, but for my larger work horses, I’ve saved, budgeted and then yes, splurged.

I’ve never regretted any of those investments because I look at the long term benefit to my family and the many years I use one appliance and they pay for themselves. For someone as frugal as me, kitchen tools are one aspect that I do invest in for the future.

With that being said, here are my Top Ten suggestions for items that I don’t want to live without in my kitchen.

Since everyone has so many different needs and cooking styles, I’d love to hear your favorites in the comments and I will add them to the end of this post.

how to shred chicken easily How to Shred Chicken in Seconds (Jens Best Kitchen Tips)

Stand Mixer

I have owned the KitchenAidClassic  4-1/2-Quart Stand Mixer  [5]since I’ve been married, nearly 20 years ago.It’s the work horse of my kitchen. Traditionally used for baking, I now use it to shred chicken or turkey in your Kitchen Aid [6]in seconds.

I actually own two KitchenAid Mixers [5] (long story – one broke, replaced it after trying to fix it for six months, then of course, two weeks after I bought my new one, we fixed it.) When I upgraded, I chose the KitchenAid Artisan Series 5-Quart Mixer [7] for the extra room, but honestly, I think I still grab my classic most of the time. It’s like my “comfort food of appliances.”

If your goal is serious baking or baking homemade bread for your entire family, than continue reading because you may want to consider investing in another machine, otherwise, this is the way to go.

(Added: I’ve never even researched Cuisinart for their mixers, but a reader swears by it, so more options for you to research. She owns the Cuisinart  7-Quart 12-Speed Stand Mixer. [8]

Crockpot/Slow Cooker

I own three Crockpots. Yes, it’s a bit embarrassing to admit, but I actually use them all. I have a tiny one for appetizers, heating cheese etc, then I own a large, high quality Wolfgang Puck 7-Qt. Electronic Slow Cooker [9], but got it on sale, and then I found an inexpensive Proctor Silex Crock Pot [10] brand new at a yard sale. I was so excited about that find, but now looking at just how cheap you can get then, it wasn’t the deal I thought.

That being said, I’ve owned it for two years and for less than $20 both my yard sale find and the Crock-Pot brand Slow Cooker [11] are ones to start off with if you aren’t sure how much you’ll use it. If you want to invest a bit more, any of the higher quality Cuisinart or Crockpot brands are great.
 Meal Planning – with a twist

Rice Cooker

My rice cooker is definitely another appliance I use every single week, if not multiple times. This is something my kitchen can NOT be without. I cook up batches, save and freeze extras and never have to worry about burning or tending to my rice. It’s a great thing! It takes my meal planning [12]to a whole new level. I even mix in lentils with the rice to cover two areas at once.

The irony is that most people don’t understand the jewel of this simple appliance because I see them at yard sales too often. The range is pricing on these is crazy and I’ve owned the inexpensive Black & Decker Rice Cooker [13]for years, although it’s now too small for our family. My larger model just broke, so I am off to purchase a larger edition.

As I search various rice cookers [14], I can’t imagine paying the high end prices ($100+) for some of these since I’ve had good luck with the inexpensive models, but I maybe missing a longer warranty etc. Recently, some brands have introduced crock pot/rice steamer combos and that would be worth the extra investment.

Toaster Oven

I’ve owned a Black & Decker  Toaster Oven [15] for years. Yes, I bought it new at a yard sale. (Love those double wedding present sales.) We use our toaster oven daily for actually baking. The kids will pop biscuits in or cook up a few cookies at a time from my bulk chocolate chip cookie or store bought stash, and when only a few of the kids are home, I will actually make a small dinner in there as well. I plan on upgrading to a larger one since it gets so much use and this isn’t quite big enough for our family of seven. The Cuisinart Toaster Ovens look great. [16] But I need to research a bit more and concentrate on the larger models this time.

High Quality Food Processor [17] or Hand held Grater/Slicer

From my years with Pampered Chef, I own a few Zyliss products and have always been happy with them. The Zyliss Food Slicer [18] is great for those who just dabble in the kitchen, but if you plan on upping your skills, a high quality food processor is the way to go.

Great for soups, sauces, dressings, dips, and much more.

Cuisinart Immersion Hand Blender [19]

Immersion Blender

An Immersion Hand Blender [20] blends drinks, sauces, dressings, dips, purées soup, mixes pancake and crêpe batters in seconds! Mainly, it is something I use all the time when I make soups. The ease of putting the stick blender right in my pot eliminates time, mess and clean up. I use mine often, but this could have the tendency to sit in your cupboards collecting dust unless you proactively find uses for it. A few of my friends use it for everything, but I use mine mainly for soups, and it’s worth it since those simmer quite often during the winter.

mr coffee no carafe coffeemaker Mr. Coffee No Carafe Coffeemaker & Oster Giveaway

No Carafe Coffee Maker

Last year, I was introduced to a No Carafe Coffee Maker [21] and have been loving it. While I enjoy my Keurig, I drink more than one cup of coffee a day, so the Keurig is saved for those moments, I need a quick cup on the go. The No Carafe models, mimic a Keurig, but it brews a whole pot and keeps my coffee constantly hot  because it has a special warmer. My daughters want to make and serve me coffee all day long because they think this coffee maker is so cool, and I have to agree. I couldn’t find the exact Mr. Coffee model I own, and the stainless steel ones didn’t get as great of reviews, even though I have been happy with mine, so I steer you towards the Cuisinart On Demand 12-Cup Programmable Coffeemaker [22]. Yes, higher in price than a traditional coffee maker, this would be for those of you who have really wanted the benefits of a Keurig, but who want the flexibility and savings of a whole pot.

Silicone or Non Stick Bakeware

Every since I started using my short cut tip for my own homemade Egg Mc Muffins [23] and baking eggs, I’m sold on the ease of the Silicone Bakeware [24], especially the Muffin tins. Even though, I am trying to lean towards stainless steel, cast iron (Lodge) or enamel (I’d love Le Creuset) for my cooking, the ease of clean up for those muffin tins supersedes the other. I’ve found some great ones at Goodwill, but you can also hit the TJ Maxx aisle for new ones.

High Quality Blender

We use our blender daily. After two years, our Cuisinart blender just bit the dust. I liked it, but  I’m now in limbo with a $1 blender from a yard sale. It’s not cutting it for our family and it’s daily smoothie needs. For over a year, I’ve saved up for a Vitamix TurboBlend  [25]or  BlendTec Machine. [26]


Vitamix vs Blendtech demo. (My friends bought the Blendtec.)

For over one year, I’ve been trying to decide about whether I should buy a Vitamix or a Blendtech. Both are amazing kitchen machines – blenders by definition, but they do so much more. I’ve compared, analyzed, stressed, but because I finally have decided that I can’t go wrong either way, I am biting the bullet and buying.

Yes, I’ve researched for hours and hours,  and either of these make an amazing investment. I’ve talked four of my friends into buying the Blendtec and I still haven’t. It was hard to justify it when my Cuisinart was still working but now that it’s done, my husband even said, ‘GET IT.”  This is an INVESTMENT and we’ll use it! I don’t recommend this purchase for someone who mixes up a smoothie once a month, but it’s for those looking to really add in all the health benefits that this provides, you won’t be sorry. They are workhorses, and have 8 year warranties, so I won’t have to worry about burning out a motor.

(*A reader just recommended her HP New Design High Performance Heavy Duty Commercial Blender [29]. Off to check it out. Looks like a great option as well.)

Good Knives

I have a drawer full of low quality knives and when I was at my sister in laws and used her high end one, I could NOT believe the difference. I didn’t know what I didn’t know and I didn’t realize just how easy all the slicing and dicing could be with a better knife. I own one higher quality, but it is a bread knife.

Do you have any good suggestions on knives? That is something I have not researched.


I hesitate mentioning my next products, but then I go back to my story. As a young mom with two toddlers, new to NC,and homesick for WI, I saved my long distance charges for over a year to buy this Magic Mill DLX Mixer – The Electrolux Assistent Bread Mixer [30]

and Electric Grain Grinder. [31] Read my story about how I saved for this [32]. I believe in giving every dollar a job and it took me a long time to save for this.
It’s still going strong after nearly two decades and it mixes up to 8 loaves of bread at one time. You will faint when you see the price tag. It’s gone up just a tad since I purchased mine, but it was still “faint worthy” even back then. This is the kind of machine professional bakers will even use, so it’s a great idea for your own at home business. Do you know how much healthy homemade bread loves sell for? You could pay yourself back.

It’s ONLY for those really SERIOUS about investing in a workhorse, and again, don’t put that on your credit card. Save up for it. It makes it that much sweeter.

Electrolux has been producing this mixer in Sweden for over fifty years. It’s well known in the rest of the world, less well so here because it’s not in discount stores. I also highly recommend the Bosch Universal Plus Kitchen Machine [33]. Both of my sister in loves have owned theirs for years and years and it’s a bit more affordable. Again, an investment, but the resell value of these holds incredibly high as well. Since they aren’t readily available, you can see it at any time for about 75% of what you paid.

What are some of those kitchen tools that you can’t live without in the kitchen?

I’d love to hear and I know my readers would too.

I keep thinking of more and more things, but let me know if you agree or disagree with my list. It’s helpful for everyone.

I also can’t wait to be inspired by your Tasty Tuesday recipes. (Link up, Link Back and share the love).