Thursday, November 8, 2018

10 Kitchen Tools I Rely on to Make Quick and Healthy Dinners on a Budget

Sometimes life gets busy and you don’t have the time to cook an involved recipe for dinner.
Oh. Hold up. That’s me. All. The. Time.

But even when time is short I still manage to cook a quick and healthy meal from scratch using my favorite tools, gadgets, and appliance. I don’t have a ton of storage space in my small kitchen but I rely on these kitchen tools so much I can’t recommend them enough.

10 Kitchen Gadgets I Rely on to Make Quick, Easy, and Healthy Dinners when Life is too Crazy Busy to Cook


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Most of our meals follow a protein as a condiment, lots of vegetables and a starch formula.Think along the lines of making a stir fry with a variety of ingredients and spices and not solely an Asian influence.


I like to keep a variety of frozen vegetables on hand as a backup when I run out of fresh which is another godsend when time is tight in the kitchen. We also eat a lot of fish (sadly fresh caught is never going to happen in my landlocked city) on the regular as it is, and since it cooks quickly is another one of my go to quick and healthy dinner recipes.


Here’s what I use to do it.


1. A meal plan - I make meal planning ahead of time easy (because I am not the greatest at it yet) with this Weekly Meal Planning Pad
that hangs front and center on my refrigerator with magnets. I try to jot down meal recipes and ingredients I need throughout the week so when it’s time to go grocery shopping I just tear off the perforated shopping list and go.


2 Microwave oven – I don’t use my microwave oven for much other than defrosting things and heating leftovers for lunch (which makes a microwave bowl cozy like this one something I can’t live without because it is so much better than potholders when it comes to taking hot bowls out of the microwave oven!) Lately, I’ve been adding a little more variety to a speedy meal week (or month) by making 5 minute baked potatoes and corn on the cob in
this microwave potato cooker bag – so easy!


3. Food steamer – I had a tiered food steamer similar to this one and almost cried when it broke beyond repair. I’d throw down some fish and hit with spices in the bottom (fun fact: most meat rubs like these taste great on fish too!), vegetables in the top, set the timer and walk away. Quick, easy, and healthy!


4. A good skillet for stir fry and pots and pans for making rice, couscous, quinoa,  or pasta – Stir fry type meals heavy on the vegetables (sometimes frozen because, time crunch) with meat as a condiment and a grain or 5 minute rice noodles on the side take less than 30 minutes to make. I don’t recommend buying nonstick pots and pans because the coating eventually flakes and they never last. My stainless steel pots and pan set has long outlasted even the most expensive nonstick set I had (looks at you Calaphon ) and will probably outlast me.


5. My metal adjustable measuring cup and spoons because I am not as good as my husband when it comes to eyeballing pinches and dashes in a recipe. I really love how they save space (and I can always find the set) in my tiny kitchen. Best. Christmas. Present. Ever.


6. Kitchen shears - I know many of you are asking how I have to the time to chop a bunch of vegetables and meat when I'm making a quick dinner recipe. I forgo the kitchen knife and use kitchen shears to quickly slice meat, fish, and veg (although I think a set of basic kitchen knives (check them out at multiple price points here) and a knife sharpener (I use a sharpening rod. It's cheap, easy, and lives in my knife block) are essential. Don't even bother with those serrated knives that claim you never have to sharpen them. They will dull and experience tells me you can't sharpen them which pretty much makes them a total waste of money.


7. Indoor electric grill I love the taste of grilled food and even better that it doesn’t require extra fats or oils to cook it. Grilled vegetables feel decant to me, when in reality, I pop them in the electric electric grill, set the timer, and walk away. When it is too cold, snow, or rain to grill meat outdoors my current George Foreman grill has removable plates like this one which I can’t recommend enough! It is so much easier to clean because I can pop off the plates and put them in the dishwasher. Because of course, if I don’t have time to cook, I probably don’t have time to clean up either.


8. Slow Cooker – In a world of trendy Instant Pots, I still rely on and love my Crock Pot because some recipes just taste better when cooked slowly and while my Instant Pot can slow cook, it isn’t the best at doing it.


9. Clear storage containers with lids (you can find a variety of options here)I have glass, I have BPA plastic just so long as it is clear I can quickly see what needs to be used or eaten in the fridge, unlike my other containers which are likely to turn into science experiments. Decanting all of my dry goods into mason jars like these due to pantry ants was a pain, but paid off big time because I can fit more food in my cupboards out of the original packaging (who knew?), food stays fresh longer, and best of all, if I’m out of a family favorite ingredient I can easily see the good substitute I have on hand rather than running to the store for that one thing.


10. Pressure cooker – I resisted buying a stovetop pressure cooker like this one for a long time even though tons of frugal chefs recommend using one when you need to cook a meal or ingredient quickly but once I had it I was impressed. Later, I upgraded to this Instant Pot and not a week goes by that I don’t use it to make dinner several times a week. The Instant Pot is pricey but there are several good brands of electric pressure cookers here that do the same mutli cooking thing (some do more!) for a variety of affordable price points.


What do you use to make a real food dinner, real quick, and on a real budget? 


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