What are your favorite reasonably-priced housewares?
December 28, 2018 8:45 AM   Subscribe

I need to furnish a house with all those little everyday tools and cleaning products and such. I'd love to get good ones from the get-go rather than buying whichever one is closest to hand because I need it right now and then buying it again later because the first one sucks. Kitchen supplies, cleaning supplies, bathroom supplies, all that stuff. What's good?

I don't mean what is objectively the very best regardless of price—I'm looking for stuff that is solidly mid-range or cheaper, but which is nevertheless well-designed, effective, and reliable. I'm talking both about tools such as brushes and potato peelers, and also consumables like soap and detergent. Not so much the big ticket items like pots & pans or vacuum cleaners, more the little things like spoons and hand towels. I do already have some things of course but the holes in my lineup are big enough that I'm going to just leave this wide open for maximum general utility.

I will say that I am covered on spatulas—apparently when you tell people, "I need housewares for Christmas!" their minds immediately jump to spatulas, and so I now have literally half a dozen of them but almost nothing else.

I need cleaning supplies, bathroom stuff, kitchen tools, yard tools, the works. I would strongly prefer to take the less ecologically destructive option where possible and will pay extra for that—in particular, I'd love to avoid single-use plastics (especially in difficult-to-recycle forms like pouches and tetra-paks) as much as I can. Also, politics aside, if I can just order as much of this stuff as possible from Amazon in one big lump, that will make my life a whole lot easier. Please just accept that avoiding Amazon is a battle I have decided not to fight right here and now.

I am particularly interested in the minor, unglamorous items that nobody bothers to talk about and which it is difficult to do research on. Things like dusters, bottle brushes, paper towels, etc. I am more price-sensitive when it comes to consumables which need to be bought over and over than with durable goods that are bought once or rarely.

So, what have you got in your house that you really like?
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The to Shopping (47 answers total) 45 users marked this as a favorite
Foaming soap dispensers are the best. Eco-friendly because you just refill them with 1 part a small amount of soap of your choice (honestly, I use dishwashing soap) to maybe 8 parts water maybe once a year or less, and never have to replace the container.
posted by deludingmyself at 8:56 AM on December 28, 2018 [3 favorites]

We have both KitchenAid and Oxo cooking utensils and imo the KitchenAid stuff is better quality, plus it doesn't have that weird feel the Oxo handles do.

Snapware food storage containers (available in plastic and glass) seem to be nigh indestructible and their plastic lids resist staining well.

If you know anyone who sells Pampered Chef (is that still a thing?) my pizza cutter is going on 20 years of service and has never needed sharpening.

Dawn dish soap is still the best for cutting grease. If you have a dishwasher, Cascade has Dawn in it.

Target's house brand paper towels and toilet paper are good. Obviously not available through Amazon, but last time I checked target.com also ships orders over $25 for free.
posted by Flannery Culp at 9:01 AM on December 28, 2018

Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The: "tools such as brushes and potato peelers"

Well, when it comes to potato peelers, I've had this $1 STÄM potato peeler from Ikea for years now with no complaints. In general I've been pretty pleased with my Ikea kitchen/household stuff, and I think especially for low-/midrange items it's tough to beat Ikea on quality.

I guess this is not the answer you want, but if I were you I would just walk through the bottom floor of Ikea and fill your cart with everything that catches your eye.
posted by crazy with stars at 9:02 AM on December 28, 2018 [7 favorites]

Amazon links included where I could:
Scotch brand sponges for scrubbing
Bounty paper towels (in the "choose your size" perforations, I do find they work better than other brands)
muji small broom set (perfectly compact for small dust cleanups like near a litter box or in the kitchen).
teapot cleaning brush (comes in stupidly handly for cleaning lots of small things actually)
Oxo peeler
silicone oven mitts

I have a lot of household stuff from IKEA, which I really like and has held up amazingly over the years. the spatula sets, the whisks, salad spinner, the dishtowels, the pots and pans hold up very well.

Detergent wise: I prefer dawn concentrated, and then plain vinegar for most of my cleaning.
posted by larthegreat at 9:07 AM on December 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

Can you do Costco? There are some good things there which would be an option if you went that route.
posted by twoplussix at 9:09 AM on December 28, 2018

This canister is magical for anything you want to keep air out of. Thanks to it I recently used an entire bag of brown sugar for the first time in years and it stayed soft till the end.
posted by Flannery Culp at 9:09 AM on December 28, 2018

Get yourself this style of lemon squeezer (no idea if the specific one I linked from Amazon is any good, though I don't see any differences between it and the ones I've owned). It's way better than the kind where you rotate the lemon over a pointy set of ribs.

You want it in metal, not plastic, and they're at many Ace Hardware-type stores. No need to also own the lime one, the lemon one works fine for everything that fits into it, including small oranges.
posted by twoplussix at 9:11 AM on December 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

Unibody silicone spatulas, like so. Silicone is heat and wear resistant; Nothing comes apart so no place for gunk to build up, so easy to clean.
posted by SaltySalticid at 9:16 AM on December 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

Sadly, the nearest IKEA to my house is on the wrong side of Boston, well over an hour away even without traffic, so I probably won't be going there. If they have something particularly good that can be ordered online though, I'm interested.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 9:16 AM on December 28, 2018

Incredible things are available as lid attachments/accessories for Mason jars. I just bought the 'cold brew coffee maker' strainer because I like to make a lot of tea/iced tea/herbal stuff in Mason jars, and I couldn't be happier with this one (though it's huge- it'll work in my 64 oz Mason jars too for tea-making, despite being the 32 Oz size)
posted by twoplussix at 9:16 AM on December 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

The nearest Costco is 45 minutes away and not on the other side of a major city, but that's still inconvenient enough that I don't see myself signing up for a membership.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 9:19 AM on December 28, 2018

Depending on what you make in a blender/food processor, Magic Bullet or Veggie Bullet blenders are easier to clean than large full-size blenders. I use mine to make small amounts of whipping cream for desserts, quarts of smoothie "to go" right in the jar, grinding up small amounts of nuts or herbs for a recipe, chopping garlic, etc. They come with extra lids you can take with you "to go" so that your smoothie jar becomes a travel mug or whatever.

If you are into smoothies, the small Magic Bullet is sometimes sold with a pitcher jar (also sold separately), and that works fine in my experience. The large Veggie Bullet just comes with a larger jar. I haven't seen that one is better than the other.
posted by twoplussix at 9:22 AM on December 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

Oh! This grate and slice set from Oxo is also very good. Get a pair of cutproof gloves so you don't mandoline your fingertips.

(Why yes, I saw this thread while cleaning the kitchen and looking for distractions...)
posted by Flannery Culp at 9:26 AM on December 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

For food storage, I love the reditainer quart and half quart round containers. The lids match every size, there’s also an 8 ounce container. The lids don’t change. They’re easy to stack. You never have to remember if you have ziplock or some other brand and cross your fingers and hope the new set is compatible. They cost much less than branded containers. And, if you get takeout soup, you’re just expanding your container collection.

For washing dishes, I like scrub brushes and dish rags rather than sponges. Brushes dry faster and dish clothes can be laundered. Just dry them thoroughly before adding to a basket. If dish rags are not practical, stick with brushes. I love the oxo stainless brush my partner has but the heads are not replaceable. Oxo makes an all plastic version that holds soap and has replaceable heads. The ikea dish brush was ok but didn’t last as long.

Amazon sells a sink pump for soap and I am such a fan of being able to just press the pump and not have to think about picking up the soap bottle with meat hands. Plus it’s less clutter in the counter. This works if there is a place for a spray nozzle that isn’t being used.

IF you get microfiber cloths, remember they can’t be washed with regular laundry. So get plenty. I also like the casabella microfiber mop with replaceable heads. Just double check you’re getting the right mop heads.

When you get bath mats, go for all cotton with no rubber backing as the rubber isn’t safe for the dryer. OR plan to air dry, and have two sets.

Shower curtain liners - get one that’s machine washable. Amazon sells these. Then set a calendar reminder to wash every 2 or 3 months. Wash with 1/4 cup of vinegar and your towels.

Speaking of washing towels, don’t use dryer sheets with them. The waxy coating they leave makes the fabric less absorbent. Also, get all cotton towels, not synthetic blends.

If you don’t actually peel vegetables (or whatever activity), don’t buy a veggie peeler (corresponding tool). But have one in your amazon cart to buy later in case you do decide you’ll start peeling veggies.

Check the Wirecutter for recommended products. They’re owned by somebody new now but the tips are pretty solid. Cooks illustrated has good kitchen gear advice as well. Look at those magazines in your local library. Amazon usually has what they suggest.

Check the outlet situation and have enough charging cords for your lifestyle.

Make friends with a few neighbors so you can borrow waffle maker or veggie peeler if needed/test theirs to see if you like before you commit.

Get waxed fabric (bees wrap is just one brand) to keep food and cut down on plastic bags.

Sorry no links I’m on my phone.
posted by bilabial at 9:27 AM on December 28, 2018

I use this cute mini whisk all the time, for whipping eggs, making vinaigrette (fits great into a 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup), stirring spice blends in a ramekin, etc. I've had it almost 10 years and it's still fine.

I use small nylon pot scrapers, saves a lot of scrubbing. Also handy for getting dried cat food off the floor (after wetting the gunk).

This mini paint scraper is fantastic for getting gunk of my glass cooktop. I spray with Windex, let it sit a few minutes, then scrape gently at an angle.

These are some of the best kitchen towels I've found. They are quite large, and thick, and absorbent. You have to wash them first, and the ends curl up a little, but I don't care about that. They come in all sorts of colors.

I haven't found any dish soap that works as well as Dawn Ultra, but one bottle lasts a very long time, and I hand wash all of my dishes.

Use generic Windex for the stove and counter; I just buy a big refill and use the same spray bottle over and over.

Fantastic for disinfecting the kitchen counter, tend to use that less, because it stinks, but it works.

Bought a dustpan with a handle, something like this, tho' mine's not as fancy. I hate bending down and having a separate dustpan and brush, so it saves space. Also great for all those random bits of kitty litter in the bathroom.

Recently got these Oneida measuring cups, and like them a lot. I have some generic stainless steel measuring spoons (had plastic before, not sure why, I hate plastic measuring cups).

Bathroom, I just use scrubbing bubbles (generic) and some disinfectant toilet bowl cleaner. I keep one sponge for the sink (pink, because it rhymes) and a different color for the toilet rim, and wear rubber gloves.

I like hotel shower curtains, like this one. They are washable, and last longer than plain plastic ones.

I also have a magnetic knife holder, it's all kinds of awesome. There are tons of them on Amazon.

Hope this helps.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 9:27 AM on December 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

Fantastik is amazing for cutting through oily/sticky kitchen residues. It is the only product that works to clean my poorly-chosen frosted glass kitchen tiles.

Agree w Dawn Ultra for dishes.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:30 AM on December 28, 2018

Get oven mitts that have the thumb below the hand, rather than beside it. (Like this, not this.)

Get choose-your-size paper towels. Brand usually doesn't matter, just get the store brand.
posted by Redstart at 9:33 AM on December 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

My general rule on kitchen tools is that OXO is likely the best option in form, durability, and price relative to form and durability. They have a reputation for researching their designs and making products that last. Along with the tools, OXO makes several kinds of sink mat, I prefer this one because it stands up in the dishwasher, and sink mats have changed my life. Almost nothing falls down the disposal/drain unless I want it to, I can set hot/sharp/heavy things in the sink without worrying about damaging it, and there's less general clanking noises.

Cleaning supplies are (MOSTLY, with exceptions) all exactly the same, and only distinguish themselves on scent and packaging. I buy a jug of Mrs. Meyer's all-purpose cleaner (because I like the scent), which you dilute so a jug lasts years, and put it in small spray bottles (Daiso has the best, mechanically, that I've ever bought) in every room. I use bleachy wipes on the toilets, and I find little difference between the Clorox branded and Costco's Kirkland ones but store brands do seem to be flimsier. Clorox makes one formula of toilet cleaner that advertises as a clingy gel, that's all I'll use as we have hard water and I need something that'll stick pretty good for at least 20 minutes or so.

My hand soap strategy is similar. I usually go to Tuesday Morning and buy a bottle I like the look of, and then sometimes I'll stumble across a big refill of hand soap with a scent I like there but I also keep a jug of plain white moisturizing hand soap refill in my supplies.

Dish soap is Dawn Ultimate or Platinum or whatever the Dawniest Dawn is now. Blue only. Giant jug, refilled into a recycled Sriracha bottle because a) that delights me b) the bottle fits nicely in the hand c) the dropper tip will dispense the teensiest dot of detergent which is all you need 95% of the time.

Confession: I love Scrub Daddy. They fall apart so fast and they're expensive but I haaaaate touching wet sponges and green 3m scrubbers, these have a stiffer cell so they don't stay soggy. When they start to fall apart, the smiling face starts to turn into a sort of terrified rictus, I don't know, it's hilarious.

I feel like the Libman dish scrub brush is the ideal scrub brush because your grocery store likely carries them, and when you need a new one you need a new one, and so they're right there. (I graduate our old ones to the bathrooms for cleaning the showers, and then they go into my tub of gardening supplies until useless and then I throw out.)

When I moved into a house that is *entirely* laminate plus lino in the bathrooms, I asked around and my friend who cleans vacation homes for a living said to get the regular Swiffer mop and buy the wet pads from whatever dollar store I crossed paths with. Five years later I have no regrets.

Bounty pick-a-size paper towels. I used to be a Sparkle girl but my husband hated them because they're thin and campaigned for Brawny, which is like using flannel rags, so we compromised on Bounty and are both satisfied.

Flour sack towels: jumbo and regular. These are my kitchen towels, hair towels, wet dog towels, dinner napkins and bibs, garden towels. I own other kitchen towels, but I only use them when desperate. I own about 40 of these and have a special hamper for them so I wash them all in one load at the end of the month with a little bleach. Also in that load: white washcloths, primarily for cleaning so they don't need to be lush or fancy.

Instead of gladware or any other plastic storage minus possibly some tall containers for sloshy stuff, get Fitpacker brand (only! the knockoffs are thin and terrible!) meal prep containers: 28oz, 38oz - they all nest together and use the same lids. You can get one 16-piece set of each and the stack of boxes is about 4" high, the stack of lids a little over 2". One shelf in one cabinet. You can write on the lids with dry erase marker (a little fragile but not terrible) or masking tape and sharpie. Rectangle shape maximizes fridge/freezer storage space.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:33 AM on December 28, 2018 [5 favorites]

I recently bought a bunch of small kitchen tools and appreciated Wirecutter’s reviews of even pretty small things, with lots of links to Amazon.
posted by bluedaisy at 9:34 AM on December 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

Sorry I meant Nutribullet, not Veggie Bullet. It's the larger version of Magic Bullet blenders. I think they really work pretty similarly, provided you have the optional larger jar for your Magic Bullet- I didn't see a big difference in smoothie quality between the two I've used.
posted by twoplussix at 9:35 AM on December 28, 2018

Oh, and for being organized from the start: I own the larger version of this but this Brother labelmaker would have been perfectly sufficient.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:38 AM on December 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

Korean branded dish gloves. Best ever.
posted by tipsyBumblebee at 9:39 AM on December 28, 2018

Recommended elsewhere on AskMe Baby Soft Dusting Cloths

and The Amazing Spiff Cloth
posted by goodsearch at 9:47 AM on December 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

I really like our Simple Human trash can. We don't have room for an under the counter bin, so this has been great.

I was at Marshall's yesterday and they had a ton of small glass storage containers for $2 and $3.

I also like the small cutting boards I have, including this wood composite one.

I recently bought a 24 pack of these white washcloths and I use them for cleaning a ton of things around the house.
posted by vunder at 9:52 AM on December 28, 2018

My fantasy trash can is the joseph joseph totem 60 for trash, recycling, and composting, but it's not cheap. Their "nest" line of storage products is also great.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:03 AM on December 28, 2018

If there is a decent thrift store in your area and you are price conscious it might be a good idea to do a quick sprint through there to look for stuff like OXO peelers, can openers and the like. They're pricey online and you see them at thrift stores often.

I am a big fan of having a labelmaker from the beginning as Lyn Never suggests. I have a different one from her, but any labelmaker. Also a big fan of having a laundry system (as in where does it go when it's dirty, how do I get it to the basement, etc). I have some variant of this which means laundry is presorted and in a bag with handles.

I got a nice set of matchy silverware with an interesting (to me) pattern from Overstock.com. Might be worth checking Amazon for that and/or waiting til Overstock has a sale.
posted by jessamyn at 10:17 AM on December 28, 2018

Check your local market for Global Balance products. They are a New England brand with no/minimal scent. I have used the dish and laundry detergents for many years.
posted by Botanizer at 10:27 AM on December 28, 2018

Somebody beat me to the Baby Soft Dusting Cloths, which I seem to recommend every chance I get, and the Spiff cloths. But I'm always on the search for a better mousetrap, so here are some other things I've been very happy with:

Measuring spoons designed to fit into spice jars. Mine are a different brand, but these are an example. Ones with rounded bowls have limited utility.

I know you said you're good on spatulas, but unless you have one of these your set is incomplete. They are absolutely the best thing for scooping out the contents of those little tomato paste jars, scraping out the food processor bowl, etc.

I just started using these Euroscrubbies, but they combine the functions of a sponge and a scouring pad, and don't get stinky.

So far, the Swiffer expanding dusters are my go-to for taking down cobwebs, reaching into corners behind furniture, and the like.

If you're not into using the Spiff cloths, Invisible Glass (in the can) is the best glass cleaner I've found. If you don't want to get it on amazon, most hardware stores and big box stores carry it in the automotive department.

Magic Erasers are worth their weight in gold for all sorts of cleaning applications. I buy off-brand (or no-brand) Magic Erasers in bulk on eBay and they work just as well.

Mr. DrGail swears by these dish-drying cloths, but only the striped ones. The patterns and the like are a different size and don't work as well.
posted by DrGail at 10:32 AM on December 28, 2018

Simple Human trash can. Yes the price is scary but they last forever and you can get one split for recycling & trash in one which I find is super handy.

Microfibre clothes. Any brand, just try a few out to find a size you like but there is really no major difference between the cheap & expensive ones but marketing. With them you can clean most anything with hot soapy water and they last forever. I keep a basket of them in my kitchen & only use paper towels for the grossest jobs, I can make a roll of paper towels last 4 months now.

You can find surprisingly good cutlery on Amazon. I got these forks thinking they'd be cheap & nasty but I needed extra for a special event, ended out swapping out my "good" forks for them & bought the rest online.

OXO duster to avoid waste by using swiffers. Cleans as well if not better as the shape is super handy and wash up well. I'm still on the first two dusting sleeves I bought back when they first came out.

OXO pop top storage containers.

OXO peelers

OXO dish rack. Love mine.

Fiestaware for plates etc. They cost a bit more but are restaurant quality.
posted by wwax at 10:37 AM on December 28, 2018

Rather than a particular brand, I'm going to plug Bed, Bath, & Beyond. They do free shipping to your home if you order in store, have those 20% off coupons they accept indefinitely, plus an amazing return policy. No matter how nice the brand, things don't last the way they used to. I bought a 50 dollar Oxo kitchen scale from there that crapped out after two years- when I brought it back, sans receipt, they gave me a new one no questions asked.

Costco also has decent, midrange items and excellent return policies.
posted by Syllables at 10:53 AM on December 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

Magic Eraser is a melamine sponge, which you can find for a fraction of the price at any Asian market. Tip from my housemate's former MIL: don't just get out a whole sponge and gunk it up, cut off a piece roughly the size you need and use that up. For example, we have about a 1" cube of it in each bathroom and next to the kitchen sink, which will last for months. To that end, a well-stocked Asian market will have it in just big sheets for you to cut as needed, rather than the sponge sizes.

Another thing I discovered at an Asian market: this clothesline lets you hang items on hangers and they won't all slide together. I also use lengths of this in my craft area, with these fantastic s-hooks and clothespins, for organizing stuff.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:00 AM on December 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

You will need a toilet plunger urgently one day. Get one now.
Label-maker, magic eraser, washable shower curtain, yes
Zip it or any facsimile to clean a slow drain.
Buy dish towels, use and abuse them like paper towels. I have nice ones and cheap ones, throw in the wash as soon as they seem not fresh. They go in with regular laundry and take seconds to fold. I use about a roll of paper towels a month.
I use cloth napkins; they feel so much more civilized.
I like swiffer dusters, and they can be washed. I have zippered mesh bags for stuff like that.
Toilet brush.
I use scrubbing bubbles to clean the shower tile.
Store-brand Windex for hard surfaces, Ajax cleanser with bleach for the toilet. I'm old school and like the smell of Pine-sol, so I use it on floors.
Is there a glass shower enclosure? Once it's clean, use Rain-x to keep it that way.

Dishes and cutlery - I get from thrift shops. On most visits, Goodwill will have nice sets of dishes, and so many mugs. or Bed, Bath, Beyond with coupons.

I'm a fan of Cool Tools; they recommend this knife which I covet, though I have a similar one. Knife sets have never impressed me, I prefer a few good knives. Ikea is worth a trip for the meatballs (their cafeteria is pretty good and so affordable) and basic supplies. I have an Ikea paring knife that is a pleasure to use. Curtains, lamps, light bulbs, string lights, etc.
posted by theora55 at 11:15 AM on December 28, 2018

Duster, you say? Get you one of these. Works on electronics, works on speakers, works on annoying dust-generating venetian blinds, works on everything. And it doesn't shed like a feather duster, or get grody-looking like a microfibre duster. The only downside is that my cat really really wants to play with it, and so it must stay carefully hidden when not in use.

I concur with the general OXO guidance above, but I have this Umbra all-in-one dish rack and I will never use another dish rack again. Easy to clean, takes up very little space, no drips/leaks/gross biofilm, stable and solid one-piece construction. I HATED DISH RACKS until this thing came into my life. And it comes in fun colours!

I have never found another all-purpose knife I like so well as my simple trusty little IKEA chef's knife. It is available via amazon (though I can't vouch for authenticity). They have full sets and specialty knives available too, but honestly this is the only knife I ever use.

When/if you do need pots, pans, or glassware, consider taking a field trip to your nearest restaurant supply store. Many are open to the public and have professional-grade / heavy-duty-use items for decent-to-great prices.
posted by halation at 11:59 AM on December 28, 2018

One of my old friends had a minimalist kitchen. He literally whipped cream with a fork. I think he was a great inspiration. Don't buy anything you don't need. Generally, I'm the opposite, but I have lived with minimalist homes and it is really heart-lifting. The lack of stuff frees your mind.

IKEA has an online store. Go see what they deliver in your area. There are so many things they are best on. (I hate supporting them, but it is the fact).

As someone who went from owning nothing to owning too much, I heartily recommend that you wait with as much as possible until you actually need it. Yes, that will sometimes lead to wrong choices, but on the other hand, a lot of supermarket products are really fine. I've been living in a temporary somewhat furnished home for the last six months, and here are what I bought:
A stick blender + accessories from Bosch, at the supermarket, now handed over to my nephew. I actually bought it because the measuring cup that came with it was so good, and the whole set was only 10 dollars more than a good measuring cup which was what I needed.
Steel bowls from IKEA, but you can get them on Amazon too. I use them for all sorts of things every day. Like cleaning vegetables, mixing salads, mixing soft dough, today I used one when I was cleaning my car. They are indestructible and go into the dishwasher.
A roasting pan from IKEA. It's the cheapest and the most practical and I'm surprised at how much I use it.
A ton of eco - single-use stuff like napkins, bowls, chopsticks etc. From a company that doesn't ship to the US, but maybe you can find something similar. I'm really happy with those. A lot of them, like the chopsticks, can actually be re-used, too.
A thick cotton weave bathroom mat that I found at my local supermarket too. It's easy to wash and dry. I have lots at home, so I only bought one, but for a permanent home, I'd buy 3 or 4.

Asian markets have great stuff too. Go there for your mortar and pestle. Your wok, obviously, and for your measuring spoons. I bought a ton of little steel plates for tea lights, they were meant for tea glasses. I also use them for snacks at parties. Depending on your habits, a rice cooker might be useful as well. I don't mind cooking rice on the stove top, but I have lots of friends whose lives were vastly improved by rice-cookers.

For towels and linens I'd go for a higher level of price/quality, if it is possible. I've regretted all the cheap stuff I've ever bought and I still have stuff I was given by my gran when I was a kid. But sometimes there is an Egyptian market that pops up near my home where there are bargains on all textiles, so this where it makes sense to be alert. Get plenty, you never know when there is some situation when you can't get the laundry done.

Knives are like textiles, you need to invest here, and remember that they live on for generations (I literally have a knife that belonged to my great-grandmother). Cheap knives are worthless. Go for either German or Japanese brands. And start with just a big chef's knife and a paring knife, then build from there.

My house-keeping habits are too old-fashioned for life, so I won't put in too much here, but I do think everyone needs a big bucket in the house. You never know why, but you will end using it.
posted by mumimor at 12:03 PM on December 28, 2018

As others have mentioned, Bed Bath is a good option. They are solidly mid-range and a one-stop shop. You can use multiple 20% off coupons per order and they accept expired ones,too. (or at least the ones near me do). If you don't have a stockpile of coupons sitting around somewhere, I promise, there is someone in your life who does. Find that person.
posted by eeek at 12:17 PM on December 28, 2018

Another beloved dish rack: this double-decker.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:54 PM on December 28, 2018

I'm a thrift shopper and so often see really great deals on household goods, particularly dishware. If I had to start a household from scratch, that's where I'd start.

For anything tool-ish, go to an actual tool store - Lowes, HD, Ace. Here you will find any trash can you need, a good broom and dustpan, a good toilet plunger. Real tools. And any big or expensive tool you need at the moment can usually be borrowed from a friend or rented at the larger home improvement stores.

Do you camp? Think about your camping box: you need one or two good pans, a pair or two of tongs, a can opener, possibly a coffee brewer or a wine opener, some aluminum foil and some paper towels. I understand the impulse to completely set up a new house from the get-go, but theres also something great about living minimally for a while and building as needed.

In your situation I would likely turn my focus on putting together a really comfortable, luxury-hotel-worthy bed and an amenities-laden shower, and worry about the tool stuff as it comes up.
posted by vignettist at 1:04 PM on December 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

I do camp! In fact, I've felt for years now as though I've been camping, living in a temporary situation, carefully avoiding putting down any roots. I'm really looking forward to feeling more settled. I'm not sure what it will even feel like exactly, but I want it. So while I'm not trying to fill my house up with every possible gadget under the sun, I do want a plunger and some dishcloths and a shower curtain! And I'll have all those things, thanks to folks here in this thread. So thanks very much, everyone!
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:15 PM on December 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

I've gotten a lot of mileage out of just looking at what Wirecutter recommends and buying that. They review tons of kitchen and household stuff, and often have budget recommendations as well.
posted by bookish at 5:02 PM on December 28, 2018

For solidly mid-range or cheaper kitchen stuff I like restaurant supply stores over traditional retail housewares places.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 6:10 PM on December 28, 2018 [3 favorites]

A plastic bag dryer so that you can wash out and re-use zip-top bags.
posted by Joleta at 7:00 PM on December 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

One of the tools you're likely to use the most is a knife. You can sink a ton of money into them (and I have...call it a hobby), but this Victorinox is consistently highly-rated and only 35 bucks. A good chef knife is a joy to use and makes food prep so much easier. Especially if you keep it sharp, so if you're feeling adventurous a honing steel - while not an outright substitute for a proper sharpening stone - will vastly extend the life of even a cheap knife and keep it slicing veggies like buttah. Get a good sized wood or bamboo cutting board, or plastic/nylon if you must. Don't skimp and get a teeny one or it'll be a pain to use, and avoid glass boards because they dull the hell out of knives.

Also seconding restaurant supply stores for all sorts of great little inexpensive items, including the following (they can also be found on Amazon if you don't have a restaurant supply store nearby):
- stainless-steel tongs
- large slotted and non-slotted spoons
- a 6"-7" (not including handle) whisk
- measuring spoons and cups
- can opener
- large and small strainers
- set of small/medium/large metal bowls
- box grater
- colander
- 9"x13" baking sheet and/or roasting pan (taller sides). Go for nice thick aluminum, not thin aluminum or steel. Note: washing aluminum items in a dishwasher discolors the finish, which looks ugly but doesn't affect their function.

Avoid non-stick pans for anything other than eggs. Cookware with thick bottoms (generally an aluminum core surrounded by steel) can be had relatively cheap and they cook food more evenly than thin lightweight versions. At minimum get 3 qt and 1.5 qt sauce pots and a 10" skillet (with lid). Depending on your budget and needs a 12" skillet (lid optional) and an 8 qt stock pot might be useful as well.

A cheapo used microwave oven (from Goodwill, Craigslist, etc.) is really handy. I don't use mine for cooking, but it stays quite busy reheating beverages, leftovers, etc.

Even if you have a dishwasher, a dish rack+drainboard is handy.

An instant-read thermometer guarantees far better results than guessing, chicken-leg wiggling, or relying on minutes-per-pound approximations. Handheld ones are good, or better yet a remote-probe model. That of course assumes you're a meat-eater; if not they're totally optional, but at least get a timer (a smartphone timer app also works).
posted by Greg_Ace at 7:09 PM on December 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

Oh, I forgot to mention kitchen shears.
posted by Greg_Ace at 7:24 PM on December 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

I get tons of use out of this Victorinox paring knife and this Wusthof Utility knife, and this vegetable peeler. Love Dobie Pads for non scratch pot scrubbing, Bon Ami for cleanser, and Comet (citric acid based) cleaner.
Agreeing that having an instant read thermometer is really useful, and also would recommend kitchen tongs and a kitchen scale.
posted by gudrun at 8:23 AM on December 29, 2018

If you like to bake: magnetic measuring spoons and a silicone bowl scraper. The bowl scraper seriously changed my baking life and I have given it as a wedding present.

I also like a Y-peeler instead of the typical swivel peeler -- looks scarier but actually you have better control over the blade. I haven't tried Euroscrubby yet but it's on my list once I use up my existing disposable sponges.

Not the most environmentally friendly tip, but if you're feeling lazy: Use parchment paper to line the bottom of your baking pans for EVERYTHING. Then just lift out, rinse the pan and let dry, you're done cleaning up with zero scrubbing.
posted by serelliya at 4:11 PM on December 29, 2018

Murder spray
(for doing one-on-one battle with insects you encounter on the hoof or wing)
one bottle rubbing alcohol
like half a cup of dishwashing liquid--I like Dawn because it makes the spray blue, which distinguishes it from vinegar, which I also keep in spray bottles
like half a cup of water
put in this bottle. Kills any hard-to-reach insect. I like to scatter these bottles around so that I don't have to seek them in a distant room but can dispatch the wasp or whatever it is before it wanders off somewhere.

Murder putty
(for wiping out entire populations of roaches, ants, what have you)
Boric acid
corn syrup
in a small preferably disposable container, mix a quarter cup or so of boric acid with enough corn syrup to make a slurry the consistency of peanut butter. Put tiny dollops of this on small squares of card stock (get the card stock from junk mail--in a week or two you'll have a year's supply). Scatter these about the domicile, keeping a list of where they are and making sure to keep them out of reach of pets/children. This should wack 'em back to nil in a couple of weeks. If, months later, you start to notice populations building up again, go around with your list, replacing old baits with new.
posted by Don Pepino at 11:18 AM on December 30, 2018 [4 favorites]

I know you asked not pots and pans, but T-fal nonstick skillets are cheap and perfect even if you've got 10x the loot to spend. I think we spent like $20 on each of them.

Meanwhile, "Perfect Glass" is the name of some window cleaner stuff that's not more expensive, but holy whoa lives up to it's name. I hate cleaning glass because it streaks and requires more work to get anywhere near right; this stuff requires almost no work for better results.

Kershaw Kitchen Shears are $25ish, and easily one of the highest quality things in my kitchen; can't dream of better/wouldn't advise less.
posted by talldean at 5:39 PM on December 30, 2018

« Older Cat + Dog = ?   |   How do we pay this bill? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.