As someone who writes about food for a living, I take a lot of pride in having a well-equipped kitchen. I also take pride in the fact that I don’t buy silly gadgets that I’ll never use or spend tons of money on things I could get much cheaper without sacrificing effectiveness. It’s taken some trial and error to figure out which gadgets are worth buying (and storing!) and which aren’t, but I’m pretty confident these days that I have all the tools I need, and none of the ones I don’t.
Some of my kitchen tools are major investments: a food processor, an Instant Pot, a great chef’s knife, etc. But many of them are inexpensive and seemingly trivial tools that actually make a huge difference in my cooking. From making everyday tasks easier to elevating a cup of coffee to barista status, these 15 kitchen products are ones I use regularly, and they all cost less than $15. Whether you’re shopping for yourself or brainstorming a gift for an epicurean friend, these tools deserve a place in every kitchen.
Most people loathe peeling vegetables but don’t stop to consider that a better peeler can make the process much easier and more efficient. These inexpensive, lightweight Y-shaped peelers are easier to use than traditional straight swivel peelers because they fit more naturally in your hand and peel straight down instead of sideways. Buy a pack of three so you can switch them out when the blades start to dull, then get replacement blades once you’ve dulled all three.
Kuhn Rikon original Swiss peeler (set of three), $7.99 at Amazon
Frothed milk may seem a little extra, but if you’re a daily coffee drinker, it can literally make every morning a little brighter. This handheld milk frother turns regular milk foamy in seconds and will help you save big-time on store-bought lattes and cappuccinos.
Zulay milk frother, $12.99 at Amazon
If you’re a cocktail enthusiast, you know that using one big ice cubes instead of several smaller ones means your drink will stay cold but get less diluted since a larger cube melts slower. This ice cube tray makes six large “king cubes” that are perfect for impressing guests at cocktail hour. It’s a good thing to have in your freezer and also makes a great gift.
Tovolo king cube trays, $8.99 at Bed Bath and Beyond
Snap ‘n Strain strainer
Pasta is a great budget-friendly meal option, and this easy-to-store strainer makes cooking it that much more efficient. Snap it onto the side of a pasta pot to strain, then mix sauces and other add-ins right in.
Kitchen Gizmo Snap ‘N Strain strainer, $12.99 at Amazon
Spaghetti noodle pasta measurer
Speaking of pasta, it can be tricky to eyeball servings, especially when you’re starting with dry noodles. To avoid making too little food or having leftovers you don’t want, use this cute pasta measurer.
I Could Eat a Horse spaghetti noodle pasta measurer, $10.95 at Amazon
3-in-1 avocado slicer
Pro chefs slice avocados with regular knives while holding them — regular people tend to cut themselves when attempting that same thing. To make things simple and prevent a trip to the ER, get this avocado slicer, which also halves and pits your avocado.
OXO three-in-one avocado slicer, $9.99 at Amazon
Customizable cookie stamp
Some people have drawers full of various cookie stamps. I’m not one of those people. If you (like me) would rather keep things streamlined, this customizable cookie stamp will imprint words onto your baked goods for every occasion.
Customizable cookie stamp, $15 at Amazon
I don’t usually promote single-use kitchen tools, but this one is absolutely worth it. Stripping leaves from the stems of herbs and greens can be time consuming AF, but this little tool simplifies things.
Chef’n LooseLeaf kale, chard, collard green and herb stripper, $7.99 at Amazon
Flexible plastic cutting boards
These bright plastic cutting board aren’t just a fun addition to your kitchen — they’re also important for food safety. Plastic boards are easier to keep clean than wooden ones since they don’t absorb any of what’s in the food you cut on them. Designate one cutting board for raw meat, another for raw fish and a third for fruits and veggies.
Flexible plastic cutting board mats (multicolor set of three), $5.69 at Amazon
If you’ve ever been on Pinterest (and who hasn’t?) you know that sheet pans are up there with slow cookers and Instant Pots when it comes to making weeknight cooking easier. Basically, you throw food on a sheet pan, put it in a hot oven and relax on the couch as your dinner cooks itself. It’s worth keeping at least one (but preferably more so you can cook more food at once) around at all time.
Nordic Ware half sheet pan, $15 at Amazon
Adjustable mandolin slicer
Hate slicing veggies? This mandolin slicer gives you perfectly uniform cuts without any extra effort. You can thinly slice potatoes for chips, julienne carrots for fancy salads or shred enough cabbage for a big batch of coleslaw in just a few minutes.
Utopia Kitchen five-blade adjustable mandolin slicer, $10.99 at Amazon
If you really want to take your baking game to the next level, you need to be weighing your dry ingredients instead of measuring them in volumetric cups and tablespoons. Weighing is far more accurate, so your breads and pastries will come out perfectly every time.
Ozeri Pronto digital multifunction kitchen and food scale, $14.95 at Amazon
Set of 4 measuring cups
Even with a kitchen scale, it’s convenient to have measuring cups around for things like chopped veggies and nuts in recipes. These are the cutest ones you’ll find, which means you’ll save drawer space by always having them out on display.
SoHo Boho Elephant measuring cups (set of four), $14.99 at Amazon
Wine snobs love fancy decanters, which help the wine to breathe and bring out their subtle flavors. An aerator does a similar thing but doesn’t require letting the wine sit first. Translation: You don’t have to wait to start drinking. It’s also a great way to make inexpensive wine taste a little higher-brow.
Mayetori wine aerator/pourer, $7.99 at Amazon
Mini waffle maker
Waffles are excellent, but wasting valuable kitchen space on a clunky piece of machinery you’ll only use once every few weeks isn’t so great. This mini waffle maker is the perfect solution — small, inexpensive and perfectly portioned.
Mini waffle maker, $14.99 at Dash
If you cook — ever — you know that garlic makes most savory food taste instantly better. Instead of wasting time and frustration mincing it, invest in a garlic press that’ll do the hard work for you.
Kebley stainless-steel garlic press, $10.99 at Amazon