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As a full-time, working parent with a family allergic to commonly used ingredients, finding time to cook was a major challenge. I tried everything from cooking at night, mass cooking, making quick 30-minute meals, and freezing meals to use later. While all of those things worked, they didn’t work for every phase of my life. Depending on the state of the household (newborn sleep schedule; spouse working 3rd shift; no longer buying premade foods), my ways of cooking changed.
Over time, cooking has gotten easier. I know what my family likes, what everyone can handle, and I make new recipes when I know I’ll have time. While I love working with my hands, sometimes cooking helpers can’t be beat! We all have names for them, but cooking helpers are those gadgets and appliances that just make life easier. What’s even better is that you can find them at any store and thrift store; therefore, you don’t have to spend a lot of money. Here are my top cooking helpers:
The crockpot has been a lifesaver for me. Whether it’s soups, stews, mashed potatoes, or sauces, the crockpot is something that I have relied on. I currently have three of them. I have had them running while I’ve been at work. I’ve also had them running at night, while we’re all asleep. The crockpot is an easy cooking helper that allows everyone to have a nice and hot meal with little work from the cook (that’s you).
This is an appliance that I didn’t know I needed until I got it. I’ve been shredding blocks of cheese for years. Who knew that I could have used this? Making pie crust? Use this. Slicing veggies? Use this. With the push of a button, you’ve got a chopper, mixer, puree helper and more.
I literally got this from my local grocery store and it has worked wonders. Mr. H especially loves it for making pastes or crushing vitamins for the family’s smoothies. While this “gadget” has been around for more than 6,000 years, it’s just as useful as ever.
Okay, now this was a gift from a great friend who had two of them, so I completely understand if you’re not ready to spend the money. However, when you are ready, get this! I use this for almost everything and it’s so reliable. The kids love using it (with my supervision).
I absolutely love this one! Because I use garlic in almost every recipe, having this is perfect helper. Crushed garlic in soups and spaghetti sauces helps pack a real punch. What’s even better is that this can be found in almost any store an inexpensive amount.
Okay, now I know that this seems a bit awkward to place a blender as a cooking helper, but hear me out. Sometimes, we get so caught up in the fancy gadgets that we neglect the tried and true ones. Everyone needs a good blender. While the food processor is great for making salsa, so is the blender. Margarita night? Blender. Smoothies? Blender. Homemade peanut butter? Blender. Don’t neglect this great appliance that is also incredibly affordable.
This may not be useful for cooking, but if your day starts with coffee, please invest in a good coffee maker. I began making my own coffee fifteen years ago. I only buy coffee as a treat every few months now. Every night, I set my coffee blend and maker up so that is starts at 5am. Here’s what I learned. Buying a durable, long lasting coffee maker makes all the difference in the world. Mr. Coffee is my family’s tried and true brand (I can still see my Dad’s coffee maker from the 80’s). Don’t skimp when getting this.
My grandmother and mother always had cast iron pans, which created the hottest and most delicious meals. While they’re both amazing cooks, I’m pretty sure that the cast iron pan had something to do with the great meal. So when I got one for a gift, I was elated (well-made cast iron skillets can cost a pretty penny). Take good care of them when you get one, but they are perfect for one-pan meals.
Soon, we’ll expand our family of helpers with an Air Fryer and Immersion blender, but we feel pretty good right now. What appliances and gadgets have worked for you?