How the right household tools can save you money

7 Essential Appliances

by Debra L. Karplus, MS, OTR/L

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You do an exemplary job stretching dollars for your family in every way possible and you do everything imaginable to maintain your family's health. But some healthy alternatives can be ridiculously expensive. How can you balance health and wealth in your household?

You've heard the expression "spend money to make money." There's some truth to that saying, as you often must spend money to save money. That's why a one-time investment in some basic low-cost household tools, which use minimal electricity, can save you a substantial amount of money over time.

You can blend health and wealth.

For approximately $20, a blender can last for years, use little space, and can treat you to many delicious shakes and smoothies. You don't need a fancy one or one with many speeds or settings. Use recipes or just be creative to blend savory beverages and treats that your entire family will enjoy. Do you have some fruit, such as cantaloupe, that's been sitting in the back of the refrigerator too long? Mix it in the blender with yogurt and a little ice to make a sumptuous fruit smoothie. Get the kids to drink more milk by making tasty milk shakes.

What's perking in your kitchen?

Have you calculated the cost of your coffee habit lately? If you drink the cheap stuff on-the-go, perhaps only a dollar a day, it still adds up; you'll be shocked when you calculate the numbers. A drip coffee maker can be purchased for approximately $35. A coffee percolator costs less and makes the same delicious java in about the same amount of time. Neither takes up much kitchen counter space; you can set them on a timer so that you can wake up to the smell of your favorite brew any day and time you choose. Buy good quality coffee or, if you really want to save money, purchase bargain coffee and add a dollop of vanilla ice cream to each cup; trick yourself into thinking you're drinking the gourmet blend. Try it and see!

Sweeten your life with fresh juice.

Different from the citrus juicer that you're accustomed to for oranges, lemons, limes and grapefruit, a juice extractor can be purchased for approximately $50 and makes any quantity of delicious fresh fruit and vegetable juice. The extractor separates the pulp from the juice. Even the pulp can be used in recipes, so you waste nothing. One young family received a juice extractor as a gift and claims "it changed our lives." The family buys "damaged" fruit cheap at the grocery or farmers' market, and the kids enjoy creating healthy sweet concoctions, such as apple-carrot juice. Another family had pear trees in their yard with a neighbor who has apple trees. The two families combine their efforts and share the juice, a great way to be neighborly.

Don't knock a slow cooker until you've tried it.

Slow cookers have been around for awhile. Maybe your grandma used one. For about $20, you can buy a slow cooker and cleverly use food bought on sale, or even disguised leftovers, to create yummy soups and stews. Start your meal in the morning before you leave for the day and let things simmer. You'll come home to a hot, healthy dinner ready to serve.

You don't want to hide from a food dehydrator.

$40 can get you a basic food dehydrator. But why would you want one? A food dehydrator is designed to turn fruit and vegetables into dried snacks that are preserved a long time. You can also create foods like beef or venison jerky.

Your food dehydrator can be used creatively in your kitchen for other purposes. Try making yogurt at home. It's surprisingly easy and will save you money over time. Plus, you can flavor it as you like. A food dehydrator is perfect for culturing your homemade yogurt. Making bread at home is also a healthy and affordable alternative to store-bought bread. Use your food dehydrator for rising bread.

Give your hands a rest with a bread-making machine.

Indeed, once you've tried homemade bread, you'll seldom buy bread in a store again. But perhaps using your hands and baking bread like our ancestors did is a bit too rustic for you. $50 can buy an electric bread-making machine that does all the work for you. That could be money well spent. Shop around.

Make your family a cut above the rest.

Unlike the above kitchen appliances, a set of hair clippers and hair cutting scissors can lengthen the time between haircuts for both men and women, thus saving you money. For about $15, you can purchase clippers that'll do the job. Women can easily trim their own bangs. Men's beard and moustache trims are a snap with your own clippers.

Become more self-sufficient at home with a few basic household tools for your kitchen and home, and you'll notice a savings over time. You'll find yourself eating better. And the kids can join in for an evening of fun.

Debra is an occupational therapist, accountant, teacher and freelance writer. She is a writer for Advance for Occupational Therapy Practitioners. She also writes for Grand Magazine, has some items (fiction and non fiction) selling on (kindle), has written several travel articles for the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette and several articles for and volunteers as a money mentor for the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension money mentoring program. Learn more about her at

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