I’ll mention products and services in my posts as they’re relevant, but here are my highlights:
- Knock Knock What to Eat Pad – I picked this up at World Market on a whim way back when we were just starting to try to cook for ourselves and it laid dormant on the side of our refrigerator for a long time. It’s a daily part of my life now, though. I am definitely one to design my own documents for planning and organization, but I just can’t beat the convenience of having this attached to the side of my fridge at all times when I can’t remember what we’re having for dinner tonight. The right column is hardly used, but I write each day’s dinner with the page number each week, always writing in pencil so I can rearrange as I inevitably have to reschedule something. I’m also just now starting to finish up that one I bought way back when, because 60 weeks is a long time.
- Cookbooks – I can’t tell you how much switching from Pinterest to cookbooks changed my life. The infinite scrolling and unknown sources paired with my lack of inspiration for items that would narrow down my search led me to lots of whining “I don’t knooooow”s when Sean and I would talk about what to cook. Now, I still have to go through several cookbooks while meal planning because I like to find recipes that suit my whims, but I know I can trust the recipes when something does look interesting. My favorites are from America’s Test Kitchen (obviously – see menus for our most used cookbooks), but both of Smitten Kitchen‘s books have been reliable sources, and we’re always on a hunt for reliably good ethnic food. Madhur Jaffrey writes good Indian cookbooks and we’ve been happy with what we’ve made from Flavors of Africa so far, though the spice level is high so we have been avoiding it while cooking for my nephews.
- Online ordering grocery apps – I have never actually ordered groceries for pickup or delivery because I love grocery shopping and don’t trust others to pick out quality produce, but I use Fry’s, Safeway*, and Sprouts online ordering platforms to price-check and check availability of items. It keeps me from making multiple stops when stores don’t have something in stock and enables me to get the best deal on any given item. More on my whole meal-planning-and-grocery-shopping process in its own post at some point.
- Echo Dot/other Alexa-enable device for the kitchen: All of America’s Test Kitchen’s comments on their kitchen timer reviews are reasonable, but the Echo Dot is way better than any kitchen timer out there, in my opinion. This is because I can make multiple timers with names, increase and decrease the total time for a timer without having to set a new timer, and check how much time is left without touching anything, which is great for when I have raw-meat hands or am wondering how much longer I need to knead dough for. Two main downfalls: It doesn’t always hear me properly, particularly when the faucet is running (when my husband is doing dishes while I cook) or people are talking in the kitchen (I have to interrupt conversations to set or stop a timer when I’m talking and cooking at the same time) and it has no functionality when WiFi is out (I encountered this recently and was very frustrated with trying to use the timer on my stove effectively while cooking). But the benefits far outweigh the downfalls, especially if you keep a backup timer around.
- Reusable produce bags: I don’t have a particular brand I recommend and have just purchased whatever is the best price on Amazon the three times I’ve purchased them, but seriously, use produce bags. I got them because I felt a little guilty about my plastic use, but also because my produce was always kind of slimy if it was in the fridge for more than a day, especially if it had just been sprayed by the produce misters in the grocery store before I bought them. There are little ones for peppers and garlic and all of the small things that get lost at the bottom of plastic bags and are a pain to fish out and there are really large ones for fennel and chard and all of the long things I always had to wrangle into two bags while standing in someone’s way in the produce section. Even when I have to buy things that are wrapped in plastic (lettuce, cauliflower, etc.), I’ll often unwrap them and move them into a produce bag if I’m not using it right away, and my cauliflower has definitely lasted longer without developing brown spots when I have done so. If you’re at all interested in shopping more than a day before you use your produce, get produce bags.
- Good knives and a mandolin: See me gushing in my posts about them. Follow America’s Test Kitchen’s advice when it comes to picking them out.
- An herb keeper: I bought this one because ATK recommends it, and I have scallions, cilantro, and parsley in it nearly constantly. They last so much longer and it is so much easier to pull out the amount that I need. Not really manageable for the herbs you get in the little plastic boxes because their stems are too short, but if you use herbs that you buy in loose bunches, get an herb keeper. It fits in my fridge door really nicely, so it’s better than trying to keep things in glasses, which I’ve seen other people do.
- Food podcasts: I used to watch Netflix while cooking, but found myself, for once, uninterested in watching Gilmore Girls again and quickly running through good options that I could watch while the kids were in and out of the kitchen and that I didn’t have to pay super close attention to. Then ATK started up Proof and I found myself listening to it while cooking whenever there was a new episode available. I ran through those episodes quickly, though, as I am often spending well over an hour cooking and am cooking daily and episodes are released weekly when they’re in-season. Then the host of The Feast was on an episode of Proof, so now I’m working my way through several seasons of old episodes. Both Proof and The Feast have been recommending more podcasts in their episodes, so I’m sure I’ll be adding to my list of food podcasts once I run out of episodes of The Feast.
*Safeway is an unreliable source for their own prices, as they often charge more for items online than they do in store, but it’s reliable enough that I’m generally pretty confident I’m getting the best deal. They also don’t allow you to pick a specific store when you’re doing delivery so their inventory is pulled from all their local stores and a specific location may not have an item in stock that is listed. Choosing the pickup option might be more reliable but the stores close to me don’t have that option. Also, Safeway has their Safeway app for justforU and weekly ad prices/rewards, but has a separate Shop app for online ordering. It’s confusing and not my favorite, but I take what I can get.