Need a new gadget? You may already have it.
Consumer culture tells us that a purchase exists for every problem. But with a little creativity, we can often problem solve using stuff we already own.
Wine bottle as rolling pin
I do like my tapered wooden rolling pin but a wine bottle works just as well and cleans up more easily. Choose a smooth bottle without embossings that can mark up your dough. Save $16!
Bowl over a pot as a double boiler
Choose a heat-resistant metal or glass bowl just a little bit bigger than the pot you’ll place it on top of. Boil an inch or two of water in the pot and place the bowl on top. Make sure the bottom of the bowl does not come into contact with the surface of the water. In the bowl, melt some chocolate, make a custard or prepare something else that requires gentle heating. Save $60!
Cloth produce bag as salad spinner
Place your washed greens in a cloth produce bag, head outside and spin your arm around above your head like a human centrifuge. The force will pull the water away from the greens quickly. If you spin the greens around just enough so that they remain slightly damp and then store them in the refrigerator, they will stay fresh longer. (Go here for more on storing produce without plastic.) Save $30!
Clothes hanger as cookbook holder
This works best for smaller cookbooks (and cupboard doors with handles…). For larger books, use a music stand if you have one. Save $40!
Colander as vegetable steamer or potato ricer
Place a colander on top of a pot of shallow boiling water for a makeshift vegetable steamer. For very smooth mashed potatoes, push boiled potatoes through a colander for a makeshift ricer. As I mentioned in my last blog post, use a colander to grow sprouts. Save $20 to $30.
Fork as juicer
Stab half a lemon with a fork and continually twist it around to juice the lemon into a bowl or directly into your dish. Save $15!
Spoon to peel ginger
When you must peel ginger, scrape the skin off with a spoon. Unlike a vegetable peeler that removes half the ginger along with the skin, the side of a spoon removes the skin only. You can also simply leave the skin on your ginger. You probably won’t notice it if you do. (You’ll probably still want a vegetable peeler. So save nothing on the tool but get more ginger for your money.)
Baking sheet as serving tray
Transform a trashed baking sheet into a shabby chic serving tray by, well, serving food on it. I no longer have my wicker and wood serving tray―I have only so much room and so gave it away―but my sturdy distressed baking sheets work well. Save $30!
Damp dishtowel to prevent sliding
If you’re emulsifying a sauce, you need both hands free: one to slowly drizzle in oil and the other to whisk. Stainless steel bowls with the rubbery bottoms stay put on the counter but you can get the same effect with a damp kitchen towel and standard bowl. Wet the towel, wring it out, then twist it into a ring smaller than the bottom of your bowl. Place your bowl in this nest and whisk away. Save $100!
Similarly, place a damp dishcloth under a cutting board to prevent it from sliding around the counter while you chop.
Box grater in lieu of a microplane
We have a small microplane but it’s, well, small. During winter, I have zest guilt if I fail to zest at least some of the oranges and lemons we eat. I store the zest in the freezer to add to baking later. Zest adds a wonderful aroma and flavor to cookies, cakes and muffins and also savory dishes like salads, pasta and roasted vegetables. Small holes on a box zester―not the very smallest, prone-to-clogging ones―make quick work of zesting. Save $15!
Large glass jars for storing utensils
Glass jars deserve their own blog post. Until then, here is one use for large jars: Fill them with the utensils you use most and keep the jars within arm’s reach on your counter. A clever commenter on Instagram recommended placing some felt in the bottom of the a jar intended for metal utensils to prevent the glass from breaking if a tool landed in the jar with a thud.
The two large jars above came from two different restaurants that my daughter MK used to work in. Restaurants, bars and cafés can be excellent sources of free jars. Just ask! Save $30!