Save Hundreds with a $20 Coffee Maker
To say I love coffee is an understatement. I drink the stuff all day long — yes, sometimes to the detriment of my water consumption — and if I had it my way, I’d drink iced coffee over hot every time. (As it turns out, you spend more energy and therefore generate more warmth digesting iced coffee once it enters your system than you do digesting hot coffee — to that end, it’s never too cold for iced coffee.) But even my beloved bottle of iced coffee concentrate from Trader Joe’s can add up — and lugging those bottles from the store to my apartment gets heavy, quickly.
In search of a better and more cost-efficient way, I spent a not-insignificant amount of time last year trying to find the ideal iced coffee system for me. I was specifically in the market for the kind of contraption that would allow me to put in the least amount of effort in the morning. That’s when I stumbled across the kind of cold-brew pitchers that steep your beans in water overnight, and it was love at first sip.
One of the most popular versions of this pitcher is the Takeya cold brew coffee maker, which boasts plenty of rave reviews. I wound up buying a similar version made from glass and stainless steel by the company Brew to a Tea — the pitcher works for both cold brew coffee and iced tea, and at $19.99, it’s about five dollars cheaper than the plastic Takeya version.
It’s straightforward enough to use: Fill the pitcher with water as far up as its top line, fill the mesh filter with the coffee of your choice, and submerge the filter into the water. I’ve found it’s helpful to fill the water about 3/4 of the way, insert the filter and the coffee, and then top the pitcher off with more water so that the coffee grounds are fully saturated in water. Then, leave the pitcher in your fridge overnight or up to 24 hours, remove the filter, and boom! Cold brew coffee, ready to dilute to whatever strength you need.
Sure, it takes some foresight to prepare, and if you run out without brewing more, you might need to reach for the hot coffee as a backup. To that end, I’ve taken to storing my brewed cold brew in glass milk bottles once it’s done brewing, to free up my pitcher for a regular rotation.
Even so, the best benefit is the amount of money I’ve saved. Because I was curious, I did the math:
A bottle of Trader Joe’s cold brew coffee concentrate lasts me about a week (OK, sometimes it’s less than that), and costs $7.99.
A bag of Trader Joe’s French roast ground coffee costs $4.99.
If I use one cup of coffee grounds each time I brew a pitcher of cold brew, that means my coffee bag will last me for about five to six pitchers.
A comparable amount of cold brew concentrate would cost me anywhere from $39.95 to $47.94.To that end, the iced coffee pitcher saves me, on average, $35 to $42, for each bag of coffee I use, if I were to buy the same amount of coffee concentrate bottles.
10 Cleaning Products that work Miracles for Under $10
You can get your cleaning done thoroughly and cheaply.
Because we spend a good chunk of our time cleaning, it makes sense to spend money on things that make the process more pleasant and easier. There are many sensible cleaning investments you can make. From nice-looking brooms that make your home prettier as well as cleaner to Dyson stick vacuums, here are some of the purchases you can consider.
I haven’t always been a fan of the Scrub Daddy. The name sounded kind of weird and the toothless grin didn’t exactly give me a pleasant feeling. But my grandma always has one at her sink. So sooner or later, I had to try it out.
I have to admit that Scrub Daddys are nothing short of amazing. They are better than sponges or scrub brushes. They do such a good job that I have finally made peace with the grin.
Scrub Daddies work well in hot or cold water and they never stink which is so nice. You don’t have to get the orange or neon green versions. They also come in a milder gray color that won’t interfere with your kitchen’s color scheme.
Clean Magic Erasers
After using them for a while, the ‘Magic’ part of the name doesn’t sound like a marketing gimmick anymore. These blocks clean wall scuffs, scum in the bathtub, grout, and even stains on stainless steel like a charm.
Shannon Muldoon, the Director of Studio52 loves Mr. Clean Magic Erasers for a good reason. Whenever you find that a rag and a spray do not quite do the job, reach for these Magic Erasers and you will get the job done.
One of the worst things about shower doors is the filth that builds up in their tracks. The worst part about them is that they can be hard to get rid of without cramping your fingers and running through several paper towels. So when I came across these groove cleaners on Instagram (of all places) I had to try them out.
Not only do they remove the gunk effectively, but they are also easy on my hands and reusable. These groove cleaners are amazing for cleaning anything that has grooves, from baseboards and shower doors to window tracks.
Wash the sponge in your dishwasher and it is as good as new.
Rubber gloves are probably your best defensive weapon when it comes to cleaning. Household cleaning products are amazing for your house but not-so-nice for your skin. You still want to have soft and supple hands when you are done cleaning.
Never take on deep cleaning without wearing rubber gloves. They are especially important in winter when skin dryness is such a huge problem. Invest in one of these and you will pinch yourself for taking so long to buy them.
Bar Keeper’s Friend
There is a good reason why so many people love the Bar Keeper’s Friend. It is a near-universal cleaner that polishes off stainless steel cookware and utensils as well as clears up rust, scum, grimy wheels, hard water stains, and cleans sports equipment.
Bar Keeper’s Friend works for so many items that it would be difficult to list all of them. All you need to know is that you need to make the Bar Keeper’s Friend your friend too.
Reusable Swiffer Pads
These eco-friendly pads have lasted so long in the market because they are so popular. The only downside of these Swiffer pads is that you can’t refill the bottle of cleaning solution so you have to keep buying new plastic bottles which are wasteful.
But there are reusable microfiber pads that are just as good as the Swiffer and are even more robust. They can tolerate harder scrubbing. Afterward, you can wash the microfiber pads by hand or throw them into the laundry.
Deep Cleaning Brush Set from OXO
Remember using an old toothbrush to wash away grout and scrub sneakers clean? This set has amazing mini scrub brushes that work for all kinds of cleaning tasks.
What makes them even better than a toothbrush is the wiper blade made from rubber that effectively removes all the dirt hidden inside the crevices and corners.
Pink Stuff Cleaning Paste
Pink stuff Cleaning paste has an amazing power to remove grout from your home. So many people swear by vinegar and baking soda. But sometimes you need something stronger. And this is it.
Full Circle Coffee Machine Descaling Liquid
If you want nice tasting coffee, you want to clean your coffee maker. A lot of people use white vinegar for the job. But when you want to go all out, invest in a descaling product that will take out the grime that has built up within your coffee machine.
Drill Brush Attachments
I am obsessed with these brushes that go inside my drill and thoroughly clean it without leaving me exhausted. They work beautifully on grout, grease on hubcaps, bathtubs, as well as patio furniture when it is crunchy with dirt. Use these drill brushes to scrub all the filth away.If you are trying to cut down on your use of paper towels, you may want to consider using compostable sponge cloths instead. And work with blinds brushes to dust windows. Wipe the cloth over your couch to remove pills and leave it perfect.
How to Care for Stainless Steel Cookware
Stainless steel is one of the most ubiquitous kitchen staples that serve a variety of uses. Stainless steel pans get hot really fast because they have cores of aluminum or copper that respond quickly to heat.
Stainless steel pots and pans are also nice looking. So you can usually use them as serving dishes as well. Stainless steel is incredibly light when you compare it to cast-iron, and they are easy to clean with a dishwasher in addition.
Read on to find out more about stainless steel cookware. One of the best gifts you can receive is a gorgeous set of stainless steel cookware.
Cooking with Stainless Steel
Stainless steel heats up quickly, so you don’t want to leave it sitting on a hot stove empty. Put some high quality oil on the pan first before you turn on the heat.
Remember that heating an empty stainless steel pan can warp it. Cheap cooking oils and fats are a no-no. Use a small amount of good quality fat. If want to go for nonstick stainless steel, choose one that is coated with silicone, wooden, or nylon stirring tools and avoid cooking sprays.
Because stainless steel heats up so fast, you don’t want to set the temperature so high because the food might burn or stick to the pan.
If you use stainless steel in the oven or broiler, the temperature should be no higher than of 600°F. Nonstick stainless steel is not oven-safe for temperatures higher than 400°F.
Stainless steel works well with most cook tops as well as induction systems. Some are not. You want to see if your magnet attaches itself to the stainless steel pan base. If they stick together, it is a sign that you are good to go.
Stainless Steel Cookware Storage
If your stainless steel cookware is lined with nonstick, you might want to invest in a cookware protector to shield it from scratching. This cookware should last long as long as you take good care of it.
Invert the lids and stack the cooking pots and pans in order of size. You can hand the pretty ones – or the most often used ones – on a pegboard. Keep them somewhere within reach because you will be cooking with them on the regular.
Cleaning Stainless Steel Cookware
Stainless steel is dishwasher safe, but to get it to last decades, you want to wash it by hand and avoid using high heat.
Harsh chemicals and steel wool are bad for stainless steel. Soak it overnight using soapy water and some vinegar. Lemon and baking soda helps remove the toughest stains. Invest in a special cleaning product to help get rid of discoloration or to remove foods that get burnt on the pan and don’t come out easily. One such product is the Bar Keeper’s Friend.
Sharpen your Knives with these Amazing Tools
Knives are some of the most ubiquitous and valuable kitchen tools. We tested knives of different shapes and sizes as well as prices to find the best knives and to master how to use them correctly.
But even the best knife is as good as useless unless it is sharp. A dull sharp is not only difficult to use, it is also unsafe for use.
Here is a comprehensive breakdown of the most reliable tools we have come across for keeping our knives sharp and ready for use.
Some of these tools are simpler and others more complicated. But they are all effective for sharpening knives and making your work in the kitchen easier and safer.
Just before we get to the knife sharpeners, we just want to mention that you need to store your knives correctly to keep them sharp for as long as possible. Don’t leave your knives in a busy drawer, rubbing against the rest of your kitchen equipment and getting blunt in the process.
The Ken Onion
Electric knife sharpeners are not the best because they cause your knives to lose too much metal. But there is one electric sharpener that we do recommend, and that is the Ken Onion Sharpener from Worksharp.
What makes the Ken Onion Sharpener so good is that it features a series of bands which run from very fine to coarse. This allows you to decide whether you want to just perform small finishes or carry out more extensive knife repairs.
With the Ken Onion, you can select the blade geometry that works best with your knife. It has angle guides that help you sharpen your edge at a correct angle.
It allows you to go with your preferred edge profile – symmetrical or not. This way you can be consistent even without the aid of muscle memory in the case of a whetstone. This makes it ideal for people who are just learning about knife sharpening.
Even better, the Ken Onion works on virtually all kinds of blades, thanks to the variety of angle options. You can use it on kitchen knives as well as ax heads, pocket knives, and mower blades.
Yes, the Ken Onion is a bit pricey, but you will save so much in sharpening fees that it will have paid for itself within a few years.
Whetstones are definitely one of the best, and most affordable knife sharpening solutions that do not involve using a professional sharpening service.
A whetstone will not shave off as much metal as an electrical sharpener, which makes it much superior but it does mean taking the time to learn to do it yourself.
Whetstones are not all the same. Their grit levels vary from coarse to fine. You may want to start with a medium one and a fine one. The two will be enough to meet all your needs.
Invest some time to master their use. Look up some online tutorials that will help you learn some techniques for using whetstones. The rest is a matter of practice.
You may also want to invest in a flattening stone which will help to maintain your whetstones. When you run a flattening stone over your whetstone, it removes the grooves.
Whetstones are amazing, but sometimes beginners find them stressful to work with. Not to mention messy. A sink bridge helps to secure the whetstone so that it does not move while you sharpen. The sink bridge holds it securely over you sink and contains any messes.
The angle guide is tiny and cheap but it makes a huge difference in your knife sharpening experience. When you are working with an angle guide, it is a lot easier to stay at the same angle while you sharpen your kitchen knife using a whetstone.
Without an angle guide, you will need to develop muscle memory. This takes time and practice. It comes in a small package, but it gives you a range of options when it comes to angles.
Use a rubber band to attach an angle or two to your whetstone. The angle will guide the sharpening process, freeing you from having to keep a 20-degrees throughout the sharpening process.
The next step after sharpening is honing. A sharpened blade is polished off tiny fibers to give it a new edge. A honed edge is made straight. For a well sharpened knife that is safe to use, be sure to do both.
Knife honing sounds complicated but it is simple to learn with a little research and practice. Do this again and again with your knives. But when honing does not make a difference, it is time to sharpen your knife.
There are three types of honing steels: stainless steel, diamond steel, and ceramic. Longer ones allow you more space to pull your knife and not hit your workstation. 12 inches long is good enough for most people. Don’t buy one longer than this unless your knife measures 10 inches or less.
Stainless steel is easier to use and cheaper and it is the most common type of honing steel on the market.
Consider investing in Winware which is magnetic and therefore able to hang on to the tiny shards of metal that your knife will shed during honing process. It gives you a cleaner process overall. Plus, you don’t want metal shards ending up inside your food. This makes it a lot safer to use, too.
As for diamond and ceramic steels, they are a lot more abrasive which means that your knife will probably lose a lot more metal while you hone them with these. They are better for people who wait longer in between honing and sharpening. But if you steel on a daily basis, you probably need to stick with the normal stainless steel honing steel.
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