Erin’s Favorite Things
I don’t like to waste money on things that don’t work or don’t last, and I know you don’t either. So, I thought I’d share some of my favorite products with you, in the hopes that it might help you find a few new favorites of your own. These are products that I own, love and have found to hold up to the test of time.
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For years I just used cheap spatulas, and they always mildewed around the seam where the rubber spatula connected with the handle. Then, I scored a couple Kitchenaid spatulas at a thrift store, and I’ll never buy anything else again. Since the tops come off for washing, you don’t have to worry about water getting trapped between the two pieces. I just allow both parts to dry completely before I put them back together.
When I started making my own broth, I needed containers to freeze it in. These Stor Keeper freezer containers are perfect. They come in multiple sizes; the lids go on and off easily; and they stack beautifully. If I froze my broth in freezer jars, I wouldn’t get anywhere near as many in the freezer. I use the quart jars for my broth.
Ball freezer jars are my canning jar of choice. They have thicker walls than traditional canning jars, so I can use them to can or freeze, and they’re wide-mouthed, so they’re also easier to fill. I have quite a few half-pint and pint jars, but I still don’t have enough to support my canning habits.
A Kitchenaid mixer is a big investment, and I really drug my feet when it came to buying one (even though I knew I’d love it). My husband surprised me with one on our anniversary, and I love it as much as I expected to. It gets used so often, I just keep it out on the counter. I have the 7 qt professional series, and it handles anything I throw at it beautifully.
It can be kind of tricky to add ingredients around the head of a mixer without spilling, so we added a pouring shield to my Kitchenaid mixer. It’s just a plastic piece with a chute off to the side, that fits over top of the bowl. The chute makes it loads easier to add ingredients without making a big mess on the counter. I’ve owned my mixer for several years now, and it’s still the only attachment that I’ve bought (unless you count the meat grinder that I found at a yard sale).
We keep all of our shoes by the door (because I think they get worn more when they’re easy to grab), but with four people that’s a lot of shoes. To keep things from getting out of control, we use shoe trees to keep everything off the floor. My kids each have their own rack, and my husband and I share one. They take up very little space, keep shoes matched up with their mates, and allow you to see all of your shoes at a glance. I also love that you can adjust the height. Even my husband’s size 13 shoes fit.
I’m an organizing nut, so I don’t know how I managed to go 33 years without owning a label maker, but I’m happy to report that I’ve rectified the situation. I did a lot of research before I bought one, and went with the Epson LabelWorks LW-400 because it has up to 60% less label waste than other label makers, and because it has a few more bells and whistles than the other models I looked at. I’m constantly finding new uses for it, and consider it an important part of my frugal lifestyle.
We like to forage for nuts in the fall, and at this point I think we’ve tried just about every nut cracker out there. Most of them have ended up in our yard sale pile, but the Reed’s Rocket Nutcracker has earned a permanent spot in our kitchen drawer. It’s well made; makes quick work on shelling; and is much easier on the hands than a traditional hand-held cracker.
Several years ago my friend got a Nesco Snackmaster Dehydrator for Christmas. She had no plans to use it, so she passed it on to me. Score! I’ve been using it ever since, and I have to say, I love it. I use it to dry tomatoes and herbs and to make fruit leather. There are plenty of fancier and pricier dehydrators on the market (I think this is honestly the cheapest option out there), but you know what? This one does everything I need it to. In fact, I like it so well, when I came across another one at a yard sale for $4, I bought it too.
I pack my kids’ lunches every day, and I’ve devised a lunchbox system that generates no waste (you can read all about that here). These Lunchskins reusable sandwich bags are a part of that system. I’ve tried several different reusable bags over the years, and these are my favorite. They’re durable; they’re easy to wash (just throw them in the dishwasher), and they come in lots of fun designs.
These snack-size Lunchskins are another part of that system. They’re perfect for packing chips, fruit and cookies.
Store-bought cooking spray has silicon, propellants and other nasties in it, so I use the Misto Oil Sprayer instead. You just fill it up with whatever oil you want, pump the lid to build up pressure and spray. I keep one filled with olive oil, and another one filled with canola oil. Occasionally the nozzles gets clogged, but that’s nothing a quick cleaning can’t fix.
When I spotted this Lodge cast iron griddle at a yard sale in never-used condition, you better believe I snatched it up. It fits over two burners, allowing you to cook a lot of food at once, and it has both a smooth side and a ridged side. The deep channel along the edge does a good job of capturing fat and other liquids, so they don’t run over onto your stove. And it comes pre-seasoned, so you have a nice non-stick surface from day one.
I try to sharpen my kitchen knives regularly, but that doesn’t mean I want a bulky knife sharpener taking up space in my drawer. I bought this two-stage sharpener several years ago, and I’ve been really pleased with it. It takes up almost no space, and it does an excellent job. The design makes it easy to put the proper angle on your knives, (something I’d never get right with a sharpening steel).
I waited WAY too long to buy this KitchenAid food chopper. I use it whenever I have something small to dice, so I don’t have to drag my big food processor out. I had a cheapie food processor before I bought this one, and there’s just no comparison. This one has a powerful motor, and I expect to get years of service out of it.
Here’s my big food processor. It’s also a Kitchenaid, only this one holds nine cups. When I spotted it at a yard sale, I wasted no time in snatching it up. It’s a workhorse, and has all kinds of cool attachments. Whenever I have a lot of chopping or grating to do, I pull it out. It’s such a time-saver. I like it so much, I’ve since purchased a back up at a yard sale.
My Cuisinart immersion blender really earns its keep. I mostly use it to blend soups, and love that I can do that right on the stove, without having to transferring the soup over to a blender. My husband (the dishwasher) loves that it’s easy to clean.
With all the cooking that goes on in my house, our cutting boards really get a workout. We own TruBamboo cutting boards in a variety of sizes, and they’re very well made. We haven’t had any of the warping or separation that is common with cheaper bamboo cutting boards. To keep them in good condition, I season them regularly.
I’m a buy-it-once kind of girl, and these Lodge cast iron muffin pans will never need to be replaced. The cups are a bit smaller than what you’d find in a traditional muffin tin, but I don’t mind a bit. They come pre-seasoned and ready for their first batch of muffins. I recommend something with pumpkin.
I don’t know how I ever did without a kitchen scale. I use it ALL the time. This Ozeri scale is nice because it doesn’t take up much space, and it can weigh up to 12 pounds at a time.
We used a hand-crank ice cream maker for years. Then, our friend gave us an electric Cuisinart ice cream maker, and it was a total game changer. It has a cyclinder that you keep in the freezer, which eliminates the need for rock salt. I keep a quart of whipping cream in the fridge, so we can make ice cream whenever the mood strikes. And now that it’s as simple as dumping a few ingredients in and flipping a switch, the mood strikes often. Seriously, I basically don’t buy ice cream any more. That same friend also got us hooked on homemade magic shell. #badinfluence
I like to dry my own spices, so a spice grinder is a handy tool to have. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy; this Proctor Silex number works fine for me. To keep my spices tasting like spices and my husband’s coffee tasting like coffee, we have dedicated grinders for each task (I labeled them with our label maker to keep them straight).
Ever tried to hold a gallon-size freezer bag open and fill it at the same time? Not easy. So, I use these freezer bag holders to hold my bags open, while I’m filling them. It keeps the bags from flopping around, and serves as that extra set of hands that I need to get the job done.
Regular measuring spoons don’t fit inside spice jars, and that makes it really hard to measure out spices without spilling them everywhere. I picked up a set of these RSVP Endurance Spice Measuring Spoons from a yard sale, and now I’m a convert. These fit inside all of my spice jars, so I get precise measurements, without spills.
This is a definite should-have-bought-it-sooner item. After way too many years of being frustrated with how much I was paying for printer ink (and how often I was having to buy it), I finally bought a Brother laser printer. The toner cartridges don’t cost any more than an ink jet cartridge, and they’re good for 1,200 pages! Get the full scoop here.
We have several large trees around our home, and our gutters used to stay clogged with leaves, no matter how often we cleaned them out. Then, one day I spotted these gutter guards in a Plow & Hearth Catalog. They’re basically giant bottle brushes that you just drop into your gutters. The rainwater still has room to move through, but the leaves can’t get in. They work like a charm. Now, we don’t have to clean our gutters at all. And since our back gutters are over 22 feet off the ground, that’s a pretty big deal.
The edges of a pie crust tend to burn while you’re waiting for the center to cook. You can protect the crust by wrapping it in aluminum foil, but the foil tends to fall off when you’re sliding the pie in and out of the oven. I came across these
pie crust shields a few years back, and I’ve been using them ever since. It consists of an adjustable silicone ring that fits over the edge of the pie plate. I stick it on before my pie goes in the oven, and take it off at the end of the baking time. The crust always comes out perfect.
This brown sugar keeper is a game changer. I bought one at an estate sale, and have been surprised at how effective it is at keeping my brown sugar soft. It has a small terra cotta disk that fits on the inside of the lid. You wet it with water once every few months, and that little bit of moisture keeps your brown sugar from drying out. Brilliant!
Diffusing essential oils is a great way to freshen the air in your home, and can be good for relieving symptoms, like sinus congestion, too. But with so many diffusers on the market, how do you know which one to pick? I went with the
Now Foods Ultrasonic Wood Grain Oil Diffuser because it’s made by an essential oil company that I trust, and I haven’t been disappointed with my choice. We have one in our living room and one in each bedroom.
Interested in treating symptoms with essential oils? Then,
Essential Oils Natural Remedies: The Complete A-Z Reference of Essential Oils for Health and Healing is the book to have. Look up a symptom to see which oils are recommended for treating it, or look up an essential oil to see what it’s good for. The book is set up to work either way. I keep this book in my reference library, and refer to it often.
I picked up an OXO measuring jigger at a yard sale, and I absolutely love it. It makes it easy to measure out small amounts of liquids quickly and precisely. It has marks from 1/2 tablespoon all the way up to four tablespoons, so you don’t have to bother with filling a measuring spoon more than once, when you need multiple tablespoons of something. And you don’t have to worry about spilling, like you do when you try to fill a measuring spoon with a liquid ingredient.
If Hunter boots are out of your price range, I highly recommend Kamik boots. I have a pair of their Jennifer Rain Boots that I love. They’re super durable, and they fit snugger to the leg than most rain boots, so they’re easy to move around in. And they’re comfortable, too. This is what I wear up at the cabin. I’ve been wearing the same pair for three years, and they still don’t show any signs of wear. All the other brands I tried were quick to split. Catch them on sale, and you’ll pay around $30 for a pair.
It took many years, and a killer sale, for me to finally splurge on a Blendtec Blender. Now, that I have one, I wish I’d done it a lot sooner. This thing is an absolute beast, and blends anything you throw at it. I feel like I’ve barely touched the surface of what it can do. I tried to save money by buying a much cheaper Ninja blender, but it didn’t take long for it to break.
Add this to the list of things I should have bought sooner. For years I’d heard gardeners rave about Hori Hori knives, but it took stumbling upon one at a yard sale for me to finally buy one. Now, it’s pretty much the only digging tool I reach for. Since it has serrated edges, it cuts through roots with ease, making it the perfect tool for weeding and dividing plants.
I don’t wear makeup of any sort, but I can’t live without my Burt’s Bees beeswax lip balm. It’s the only thing that keeps my lips from cracking in the winter. I always have a tin in my pocket. It’s gotten harder to find in stores, so my husband surprised me with a subscription for Christmas a few years back. Now, a tin shows up in the mail every three months.