5 Things in the Kitchen That Cost You More Money than You Realize — And What to Get Instead

updated Sep 14, 2021
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Credit: Leslie McKeller

I have strong opinions about pretty much everything, but especially the stuff I keep in my kitchen … and the stuff I absolutely will never, ever keep in my kitchen. I believe, for example, that a bench scraper is an essential tool and so is a salad spinner, even though I have a strong dislike of unitaskers. I also believe that dish soap and hot water can clean most things and that your dish towels should spark joy. (I splurge on these linen ones that double as aprons.) 

These opinions are my own and I stand by them, even if you disagree! But I will say that I have arrived at them after many, many years (okay, decades) in the kitchen and many, many experiments, mishaps, and dollars misspent. 

Okay, now that you have been warned, here is my list of things in the kitchen you should stop spending money on — and what to buy (or use) instead.

Credit: Sarah Crowley

1. Paper Towels

Some time ago, I decided to significantly reduce my use of paper towels. I haven’t cut them out completely, but it now takes me around three months to go through a roll of the stuff. Previously, I was almost going through a roll per week. And honestly, it wasn’t that hard to cut back! I am going to stand on my soapbox for a minute and say that reducing your paper towel usage is a pretty easy thing you can do for the environment. Also, it will save you money. (Paper towels are not inexpensive and, when you’re buying a lot of them, it really adds up!) I didn’t actually buy anything new; I just started relying more heavily on the dish towels and microfiber cloths I already had in my kitchen. If you are looking for a replacement, the Kitchn staff loves these dishcloths, which are sort of a hybrid of a dish towel and a sponge.

Credit: Raymond Forbes LLC/Stocksy

2. Cheap Gadgets

Let me be clear: I don’t mean cheap as in inexpensive (my go-to vegetable peeler costs around $7 — and Giada and Ina love it too). I am talking about cheap as in poorly made or poorly conceived; tools that don’t work or aren’t really necessary. What should you get instead? Save your money and invest in quality tools. This way you don’t have to replace the subpar items over and over again when they inevitably give out on you.

Related: The Absolute Best Tools For Home Cooks in 2021

Credit: Joe Lingeman

3. Regular Zip-Top Bags

Kitchn editors have stated their preference for freezer bags over regular zip-top bags and I am here to say that I 100 percent agree. In fact, if you are buying the regular bags, I will go so far as to say you are wasting your hard-earned money. Not only will the freezer bags keep your food protected in the freezer (as their name suggests), but they’re also significantly more durable in general. Which means that I can wash and reuse them a few times before they give out, saving me money and making me feel better about buying plastic bags in the first place. 

Credit: Joe Lingeman

4. Aluminum Foil

Alright, this one is going to raise some eyebrows and I know that there are cooks who swear by aluminum foil for many things — leftovers, lining your oven, making spaceships with the kids, etc. — but I’m just gonna say it. You don’t need foil! When it comes to wrapping up leftovers, I turn to these food storage containers, which are microwave- and freezer-friendly and also beautiful to look at. And they save me money in the long run because I don’t need to constantly replace rolls of foil.

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Apartment Therapy

5. “Natural” Cleaning Products

Oh, how I hate the word “natural” when it comes to cleaning products (or really anything). It’s not that I don’t believe in trying to reduce the use of bad-for-the-environment cleaning products. I do. It’s just that I think “natural” is a marketing ploy to try to get you to pay more for something that is allegedly “green.” Here’s what I propose instead: Dish soap and hot water for almost everything. Really, you don’t need much else. Otherwise, try making your own cleaning products with vinegar and baking soda and lemons.

Got anything else to add to this list? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!