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Spending Smart

Just the ticket for frugal foodies

High-dollar kitchen gadgets may look cool, but lower-cost substitutes can often fit the bill

By John M. Guilfoil
Globe Correspondent / October 18, 2009

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Hard-core cooks can sometimes spend lots of money on kitchen toys. But those gadgets sure can blow a budget.

The Globe went shopping recently and gawked at all the pretty, expensive kitchen appliances. Then we rummaged through our own kitchen to find out what we could substitute for, say, a $350 iced drink maker.

The first and most obvious substitute for us was the Panini press. We found a Calphalon HE600CG grill/press for $149.99. It has a nonstick surface and fat drip tray that’s perfect for cooking meats or pressing delicious, crispy sandwiches. But $149.99 for sandwiches is a lot even if they are delicious and trendy. Our solution: Do all that on a $15 George Foreman Grill.

Another area to save: can openers. For $45.99 you can buy a West Bend Electric Can Opener. It’s a 70-watt countertop can opener that comes in a variety of colors and finishes. However, you can buy a manual, crank can opener for a buck. Or if you really have some disposable income lying around, you can dish out $12.99 for an Oxo Good Grips Soft-Handled Can Opener that’s easier on the hands.

We also found savings for those who like to make their own drink concoctions. For $225, you can have all the juice you’d like out of the Waring Professional 850-watt, 2-speed “Juice Extractor’’ with a pulp-ejection system. Or you could, you know, squeeze your own juice. If you need some help, we recommend the Oxo Good Grips Citrus Juicer. It’s $13.99 and does the job, even without a pulp-ejection system.

If you are in more in the mood for alcoholic beverages, a $349.50 Margaritaville Fiji Frozen Concoction Maker will pour the ice right into a 700-watt blender for perfect drinks. If you don’t have a Fiji Frozen Concoction Maker, though, you could do something radical like pour your own ice into any $25 blender. For the sake of moderation, we’d also recommend a high-quality blender such as the $72.99 Oster Beehive Blender.

Our choice
PANINI PRESS
Expensive: Calphalon HE600CG grill/press for $149.99
Inexpensive: Any George Foreman Grill, starting at $15
The final word: George crisps up a sandwich just as tasty for 90 percent less money.

Our choice
CAN OPENER
Expensive: West Bend Electric Can Opener for $45.99
Inexpensive: Oxo Good Grips Soft-Handled Can Opener for $12.99
The final word: Flex your arm muscles and open your own cans.

Our choice
JUICER
Expensive: Waring Professional “Juice Extractor’’ for $225
Inexpensive: Oxo Good Grips Citrus Juicer for $13.99
The final word: We know we’ll get some argument here, but isn’t juice just squeezed fruit? What could you be getting for $212 more?

Our Choice
FROZEN DRINK MAKER
Expensive: Margaritaville Fiji Frozen Concoction Maker for $349.50
Inexpensive: Oster Beehive Blender $72.99
The final word: The Fiji is basically a blender with an ice bucket.

John M. Guilfoil can be reached at jguilfoil@globe.com.