Life is expensive, especially when you consider you have to find and buy food — what is it, like, three times a day? If you’ve committed to less takeout and more cooking at home, you’re off to a good start. Beyond that, there are kitchen devices and cooking tools to add to your arsenal that will pay for themselves quickly and start saving you serious money over more expensive alternatives.
As part of CNET’s ongoing We Do the Math series, we’ve analyzed several popular home appliances, including water filter pitchers, air fryers, rice cookers and coffee makers. And we’ve seen how much each one could save the average person through regular use. In some cases, the savings from one appliance compared with an expensive habit like coffee shop lattes or drinking bottled water was as much as $1,000 in a single year.
Ready to save? Below you’ll find the best kitchen tools and appliances for saving money, including the projected upfront cost and the potential savings over the course of a year.
SodaStream sparkling water maker
I drink a lot of seltzer, so this analysis hit close to home. I thought it would be near impossible to give up crushing cans of LaCroix and Polar, but the decision was made easy once I calculated the savings for using a SodaStream over buying 12-packs on the regular.
I did the math and those who drink two cans of seltzer per day will save more than $300 a year if they spring for a $70 SodaStream make the stuff at home. After the first year, you can subtract the device cost and the savings get even bigger. Essentially, you’ll need about two CO2 cartridges — $15 each if you use the exchange program — to get through the year drinking one 12-ounce serving of bubbly water each day. If you’re a two-can (24 ounces) drinker, you’ll spend more like $60 a year on the four CO2 canisters needed to make that amount.
I down more like three or four cans per day, so the yearly savings clock in at more like $600. This all proved more than enough of a reason for me to kick the can.
- Upfront cost: $70
- Savings: Up to $600 per year
Even casual air fryer users know that these trendy cookers save time and hassle, and anything that inspires us to cook more and order less will save big bucks in the long run. But you might not have considered how these countertop convection ovens can also save money on your energy bill.
A typical air fryer uses far less energy than a big oven to operate, takes less time to preheat and cooks food faster. By my calculations using New York’s electricity prices, a standard 4-quart air fryer costs $0.25 cents per hour to run. That’s 50% more energy-efficient than the average full-size electric oven and about 35% more efficient than a gas oven.
- Upfront cost: $30 to $80
- Savings: Up to $114 (based on 300 hours of cooking)
Rice is about as versatile as ingredients get. Top a bowl of basmati or brown with veggies and meat or a fried egg with some chili oil and you’ve got yourself a budget-friendly meal.
Former CNET editor David Priest caught the rice cooker bug during quarantine and did a breakdown of how much it actually costs to make a serving of rice at home. On average, it’s about $1 per four servings of rice made at home or $0.25 per serving, whereas buying a portion of cooked rice for four will cost more like $3 or $4. That means you can feed a family or group for pretty cheap if you start with rice and don’t go too crazy on the rest of the ingredients.
Best of all, a decent rice cooker won’t cost you more than $25. And, if you already have an Instant Pot, it almost definitely has a rice cooker function.
- Upfront cost: $25
- Savings: Up to $547.50 (based on two servings of rice per day)
Meal kit service
Meal kits were once thought to be a costly dinnertime activity to be reserved for date night or a special occasion. Since the launch of Blue Apron over 10 years ago, meal kit prices have come way down with some budget-friendly operations costing as little as $5 a serving.
Meal kits alone might not actually save heaps of money from your bottom-line weekly food spend unless you replace takeout or delivery with them or tend to shop at really expensive supermarkets. That said, many of the meal kits I analyzed cost the same, and sometimes even less than it would to buy the ingredients needed to make the same meals from scratch. With cost being equal, the big bonus from meal kits comes in the form of convenience since you won’t have to spend time — which famously equals money — on meal planning, shopping and prepping.
- Upfront cost: $35 to $50 per week (three meals for two people)
- Savings: Time and energy
Instant Pot or slow cooker
These hybrid pressure cookers have been around for decades now and for good reason. The multicookers are easy to use and will turn tough, cheaper cuts of meats into meals you can cut with a butter knife.
Beyond the Instant Pot’s prowess for turning budget ingredients into toothsome food, these lil’ cookers also use less energy than a wall oven. We did the math to see how much you can save using an Instant Pot over a big oven. While the average large oven costs more than $0.50 per hour to run, a slow cooker costs just $0.05. Using the pressure cooker mode is slightly more expensive at $0.17 but still about a third of the cost to run your large oven.
- Upfront cost: $40 (slow cooker) or $90 (instant Pot)
- Savings: Up to $135 on energy alone (based on 300 hours of cooking)
Water filter pitcher
If you’re still drinking single-use bottled water around the house, or even outside of the house, it’s time to kick that nasty habit. Saddle yourself with a reusable water bottle and a water filter pitcher and you’ll eliminate loads of plastic going into landfills and clogging up the recycling systems. You’ll also save yourself some serious dough and have really great-tasting water, to boot.
We did the math, and those who drink three bottles of water a day could save more than $800 over the course of the year if they switch to a home filter. While Brita is one of the cheapest models, even the top-performing pitcher in our test of more than 10, the Zero Water Filter, still costs less than $30.
- Upfront cost: $20
- Savings: Up to $830 (based on consumption of three 12-ounce bottles per day)
If you’re buying coffee at Starbucks or another coffee shop even once a day, the total spend over a year is astronomical. Luckily, coffee can be made at home for a fraction of what the chains charge and all you need is a good coffee maker and a steady supply of beans to make it happen.
We crunched the numbers to see exactly how much making coffee at home will save you in a year. Even a modest one-cup-per-day drinker will save as much as $700 per year, depending on the specific order. Those who drink two or more cups per day are likely to save closer to $1,000.
- Upfront cost: $30 to $100
- Savings: Up to $1,000 (based on consumption of two cups per day)
Cocktail culture has exploded in the past few decades and with it the prices for vespers, sazeracs and sidecars on bar and restaurant menus. You can easily spend $15 to $20 per drink at a local watering hole or start making cocktails at home with a good shaker and save big money. Two $15 cocktails twice per week would cost you over $1,500 in a year. Those same cocktails cost closer to $3 or $4 to make at home, depending on the drink and necessary ingredients.
OK, so you’re going to need more than just a shaker to create bar-level cocktails, but almost nothing is as inflated as alcohol served in restaurants so, even with the cost of booze, mixers, bitters and glassware, you’ll still be saving major moolah making happy hour at home.
- Upfront cost: $20
- Savings: Up to $1,400 (based on consumption of two cocktails per week)