As if you needed to hear it again: Our health and savings are better off when we skip the takeout and cook more meals at home.
People who regularly cook at home take in fewer total calories as well as fewer "empty calories" from sugar and saturated fat than those who dine out more often, according to a February 2017 study in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine.
The same research found people who frequently cooked at home saved $57 per person per month — that's $1,368 a year for a two-person household!
As a dietitian, I'm all for cooking more at home, but at the same time, I understand it can be daunting and time-consuming. The key is to make cooking easier and more enjoyable so you'll be more likely to do it. And having the right tools and gadgets on hand makes this a heck of a lot easier.
Here are the best kitchen gadgets every home chef — new or seasoned — needs in their kitchen. The best part? They're all less than $20.
1. Cast Iron Pan
You'll be hard-pressed to find a pan that's more versatile. You can cook with a cast iron skillet on the stove or in the oven. And if you're cooking outside of your kitchen, like on a grill, you can use the pan over an open flame.
This one is great because it's pre-seasoned, which means you can start cooking with it right out of the box. (Seasoning is a necessary maintenance step for every cast iron pot or pan that involves coating the cast iron in oil and then baking.)
There's even a nutritional benefit to cooking with cast iron: Your food absorbs some of the actual mineral — iron — from the pan, according to Columbia University.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $14.88
2. Silicone Muffin Pan
Silicone muffin pans make baking (and clean-up) so much easier. Gone are the days of your blueberry muffins sticking to the side. With silicone pans, you can easily pop them out by giving a slight push from the bottom of the cup.
You can find silicone muffin pans in a variety of sizes just like their metal counterparts.
3. Garlic Peeler
There's nothing worse than peeling garlic and then having your hands smell for days on end. You can buy already-peeled garlic, but it costs more and you have to use it all up before it goes bad.
Enter: the garlic peeler. It seems so simple, and it is, but more importantly, it works. You just roll the bulbs in the cylinder as the papery outside falls off.
Buy it: PamperedChef.com; Price: $8.50
4. Garlic Press
If you're trying to avoid garlic's strong odor from getting on your hands by investing in a peeler, you might as well go all the way and get a press, too.
Yes, pre-crushed garlic is available at the supermarket, but again, it costs more and it's not as fresh. The press is easy to use and this one, in particular, is great because it has a built-in cleaner. Remember, it's all about making your life easier in the kitchen.
You don't have to get fancy here — you just need a colander that's big enough to handle the volume of food that you're cooking. Metal tends to hold up better than plastic because it doesn't warp over time when exposed to higher heat, like when you're dumping pots of hot pasta water over it.
Look for a colander with a base or "feet" so that it's lifted off the bottom of the kitchen sink, which allows the water to drain easily.
Buy it: BedBathandBeyond.com; Price: $14.99
6. Oil Spray
Sure, you can buy non-stick sprays at the store, but you can also make your own using oil you already have at home. The aerosol-like top allows you to spray any oil as you would with a store-bought spray.
By using your own spray bottle and oil, you're avoiding any additives that may be found in a store-bought canister. Plus, the Misto is made of aluminum, which blocks light from penetrating and oxidizing the oil — and helps maintain your oil's quality, per the UC Davis Olive Center. Just keep in mind this only works with liquid oils like olive or avocado, not solid types like ghee and coconut.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $9.99
OK, this one might seem obvious, but if you don't have a spatula, your cooking experience is going to be a lot harder. Spatulas have so many uses, from flipping pancakes and burgers to serving up slices of lasagna or brownies.
If you're only going to have one spatula in the kitchen, this is it. The smooth nylon is less apt to scrape non-stick pans, yet it's sturdy enough to get all its jobs done.
Buy it: BedBathandBeyond.com; Price: $9.99
8. Salad Spinner
A soggy salad is a no-go, but you don't want to skip the crucial step of washing your greens either.
All you have to do is thoroughly rinse your greens in the salad spinner bowl, and then the tool pulls the water away by spinning the leaves. You can use the spinner for herbs, too.
9. Salad Scissors
This gadget will help you eat more salads — and we could all use more greens in our diets.
The key to a good chopped salad is getting all of the items — from the leafy greens to the pieces of protein to the big chunks of vegetables — evenly chopped into small, bite-sized pieces, which helps the dressing coat the toppings and greens evenly.
While you obviously don't need salad scissors to eat salads, this tool is handy because you'll get the perfect bite with a little bit of everything every time.
10. Herb Keeper
If you put in the effort to cook a meal at home, you want it to taste good — and herbs are key to big flavor. But keeping fresh herbs, well, fresh can be tough. That's where the herb keeper comes in.
This contraption helps fresh herbs, such as cilantro and parsley, taste good as new by hydrating the stems in water — sort of like a flower vase, but better, because it's compact and protects the leaves in the BPA-free container. The investment will save you in the long run when you're no longer throwing unused herbs into the trash.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $15.99