I’m crazy about gadgets — everything from quirky can openers to smartphones. Hand me a Swiss Army knife and I’m in heaven — the more blades and utensils the better. And when that gadget is a true money-saver? Oh, be still my heart!
Today, I want to tell you about four gadgets that are inexpensive enough to pay for themselves in a short period of time — and then to continue paying off in food savings, which is saying a lot as food costs continue to soar.
I’ve depended on a vacuum sealer in my kitchen for so many years that I cannot imagine getting along without it. Now and then, I get lazy, and invariably, that gives me a jolt to remind me why I do this.
Take strawberries, for example. If I put them into a rigid container (such as a Mason jar using the jar sealer accessory) and vacuum out all of the air, fresh strawberries will last for at least two weeks in the refrigerator — remaining as fresh as the day I bought them. Placed in the refrigerator in their original container, strawberries often start to show mold in just a couple of days.
I vacuum seal raw rice, sugar, spices, meat, baked goods (I freeze them first so the vacuum doesn’t crush them), fresh fruits and vegetables.
I vacuum seal silver flatware to keep it from tarnishing. I vacuum sealed my birth certificate and my Social Security card.
A vacuum sealer, when used diligently, will extend the shelf life of every type of food imaginable. That means your garbage disposal and trash can will cease to be the best-fed members of your household!
I am more convinced than ever that healthy eating is one of the most effective ways to reduce health care costs. That’s why I thought we needed a powerful juicer to make healthy smoothies every morning. So, I purchased a highly rated juicer — and used it exactly two times before it became a dust-collector and space-occupier.
Cleaning the thing was so difficult and time-consuming that it became more of a problem than a solution. Whoops.
Another problem? Juicers don’t make smoothies! Powerful, professional-grade blenders do.
So, eight years ago, I donated the juicer to a friend who could use it and replaced it with a Blendtec. That exact model Blendtec is still available at a much-reduced price from what I paid.
No one was more surprised than I by what a terrific money-saver a dehydrator can be. Of course, you have to actually use it. But when you do, you’ll be quite amazed.
The cost of dehydrating your own food is a fraction of the cost of commercially dehydrated foods, and it doesn’t require any additives or preservatives.
With a good dehydrator around, for about $80, you can dry fruit, vegetables and jerky in hours instead of days.
I’ve been using my new electric food slicer for about a year now, and oh, boy, what a lovely item it is. I’ve pretty much used it every day since I pulled it out of the box. I know what you’re thinking: Why?!
I would have asked the same thing before I did a little cost evaluation. At our home, we eat a lot of deli-style turkey — $6.59 per pound at my local Costco. The same brand roast turkey breast unsliced is $3.99 per pound. The exact same thing!
I discovered the same price difference for cheese — sliced versus bulk. After calculating how often I purchase these items, it didn’t take long to see that slicing at home would pay off big in lower costs. What I didn’t calculate was the fun factor. Seriously, it’s fun.
Would you like more information? Go to EverydayCheapskate.com for links and resources for recommended products and services in this column. Mary invites questions, comments and tips at EverydayCheapskate.com, “Ask Mary.” This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a lifestyle blog, and the author of the book “Debt-Proof Living.”