"Grandma never should have told us about this place."
That would be my mom, referring to the cookware section at Marshall's. The exact place where I totally hit the lottery yesterday and left with a huge adrenaline rush and feeling like I had just gotten away with stealing Le Creuset bakeware. Of course I didn't steal anything, my conscience would never let me, but MAN, did I get some great deals there.
So of course, it got me thinking: How to get more bang for your buck. Because if there's anything that makes me go weak in the knees, it's cook and bakeware. Now that I'm building up my second kitchen, I know what I like and don't. I know which brands I prefer, and want to share some tips with you on spending wisely to make that buck stretch an extra mile.
1. Stock up on cookware slowly, if you can afford to. This means no impulse buys! Purchase only the necessary kitchen items at the beginning and then slowly acquire a beautiful collection- you'll put more thought into it. I find making a wishlist, whether on Amazon or written down, helps keep track of your priorities and "wants."
2. Don't buy cookware in sets or kits. I find they come with a lot of things you don't necessarily want/ need, and also compromise quality.
3. Buy good quality so you don't have to buy it more than once. You heard me, I'm telling you to go get the good stuff. That is, buy it once and buy it good. Also, if it's a little scratched or broken but still works, repair it, don't throw it away.
4. That being said, Don't discard second-hand. I've gotten many plates, props for this blog, and other handy dandies at Salvation Army and the Rescue Mission. Check out your local thrift shop! Around here, Wednesdays are 50% off day. Also, garage-saling never hurts! Look through mom or grandma's old stuff and see if any suits you (and if they'll kindly give it to you). It may just need a good soapy wash.
5. Buy cookbooks used on Amazon (or other retailer). Even better, check them out from your local library. This one doubles as being better for the environment. I used to buy cookbooks new on Amazon or in bookstores, sometimes without even checking out the reviews! Now I have access to a superb local library, I've learned to check books out first to see if I like them. If I do, I go on Amazon and see if I can get the book used from a bookstore in New York state or in the Northeast. I've saved a ton of money and generally the books arrive in beautiful condition.
6. Buy multi-functional appliances and kitchen goods. Try not to buy stuff that will only be good for one purpose, unless you will use it enough to make it worth it.
7. Go to Marshall's. OK, wait. Go to Marshall's if you have self-control. Find out what days the home goods truck delivers and try to make it then. If you see something, grab it; it might not be there next time. While we're on the topic, Michael's and A.C. Moore often have 40% and 50% off coupons and I've saved big on cake decorating supplies.
8. Never send your belongings with Fedex. You heard me. They might bust your stuff like they busted mine. Kind of off topic, but I had to vent.
9. Shop around. It seems pretty obvious, but don't take one store's prices as the set-in-stone market price tag.
10. Check out Etsy shops. They host a huge amount of talented artists and people selling vintage goods (like cute Le Creuset pots and pans). They may not be the biggest bargain, but man, you can find very unique and original goodies.
11. Participate in LOTS of giveaways. My mom thinks I'm just lucky, but I've won 5 (pretty nifty) things since I seriously started playing the food blog lottery about three months ago.
And now for my favorite, most-used goodies (P.S. This is not sponsored by any company, although I kind of wish it were).
Cuisinart Chef's Classic frying pans (I have 8, 10, and 12 inch pans, and would recommend all)
Epicurean cutting board (My mom got me this! I LOVE it)
These are items I pretty much use every time I cook and bake. In another post I will elaborate on necessary kitchen items. Marshall's generally has a great selection of Le Creuset and Cuisinart and I love to get my stone bakeware and frying pans/ saucepans from there.
Crustless quiche with Swiss chard and leeks
2 TBSP unsalted butter
1 large leek, thinly sliced (white and green parts only)
¼ tsp dried thyme or rosemary (or your favorite dried aromatic herb)
1 small bunch Swiss chard, rainbow chard, or chard- stems removed where the leaves end, and the leaves coarsely chopped
1 ¼ cups whole milk
4 large eggs
Salt and pepper to taste
About ⅓ cup shredded Parmesan cheese, or to taste
Preheat the oven to 350F with rack in the center.
Melt the butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat and add the leeks. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the leeks are tender, 5-7 minutes. Lower the heat if they are browning. Add the chopped chard and sauté until wilted, a few minutes longer. Remove from the heat and cool slightly. Stir in the dried rosemary or thyme.
In a small mixing bowl or large measuring cup, whisk together the milk and eggs until well combined. Season with salt and pepper and then whisk in the Parmesan. Combine the vegetable mixture and the custard.
Pour into an 8-inch diameter deep dish pie plate and bake about 45 minutes, checking towards the end to see that the filling is puffed and golden and just set in the center. Transfer to a wire rack to cool at least 10 minutes to firm up.
Note on how to wash leeks: Leeks tend to be kind of dirty. What I generally do is thinly slice the leeks before washing, and then I submerge them in a medium bowl of cold water. I leave them a minute or two, clean obvious dirt off with my finger, and then, without stirring up the dirt, scoop the leeks out with a slotted spoon.