10 Surprisingly Cheap Items Everyone Should Have in Their Kitchen

iStock.com/4kodiak
iStock.com/4kodiak

When shopping for certain kitchen gadgets, sometimes paying a little extra is worth it. But there are plenty of supplies that can greatly improve your cooking skills without hurting your wallet. Some of the most essential tools to have in your kitchen are available from quality brands in the $10 to $30 range. If you want to take your food to the next level on a budget, these are the products you should own.

1. Wooden Spoon; $15 for Three

Three wooden spoons
OXO, Amazon

There are many fancy kitchen utensils available to home cooks today, but the best type of spoon for cooking is one that’s been around for centuries. Wooden spoons have several advantages over spoons made from metal or plastic: They don’t conduct heat well, they won’t scratch the bottom of your expensive pan, and they won’t leach chemicals into your food. They’re also just as durable as they are versatile. Wood is naturally antibacterial, and if you care for your spoon properly, it will last you through countless meals. OXO sells a set of three different wooden spoons for under $15. (We also like OXO's single corner spoon, which is sold out on Amazon right now—but you can still get it from Bed Bath & Beyond for $6.)

Buy it: Amazon

2. Silicone Mat; $25

Silpat with macarons.
Silpat, Amazon

Neater than cooking spray and less wasteful than foil or parchment paper, silicone mats are essential for home cooks and bakers. These reusable mats turn any surface into a nonstick surface. When a baking sheet is lined with a silicone mat, temperamental items like cookies slide off in one piece. The mats are also easy to wipe down and can survive thousands of baking sessions. They can also make cleanup easier when roasting savory items like vegetables and chicken wings.

But it from Amazon

3. Kitchen Shears; $20

Kitchen shears.
Apogee Culinary Designs, Amazon

Quality knives are vital in the kitchen, but no collection of cutting tools is complete without a good pair of scissors. A home cook needs kitchen shears for butchering jobs, like spatchcocking a chicken. Kitchen shears are also useful for trimming pie crusts, snipping herbs, and even cracking open lobster claws. And unlike decent chef’s knives, a great pair of shears can cost as little as $20.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Digital Scale; $18

Digital kitchen scale.
Etekcity, Amazon

If you’re serious about baking, invest in a kitchen scale. Baking is all about precision, and it’s hard to be precise when working with measuring cups and spoons. A digital scale, however, can measure your flour and sugar down to a fraction of an ounce. It’s also great for making recipes written in metric units. (Say, if you're cooking from Great British Bake Off recipes.)

Buy it: Amazon

5. Mortar and Pestle; $25

Mortar and pestle.
Fox Run, Amazon

A bulky mortar and pestle may seem antiquated in today’s modern kitchen, but it’s necessary if you want to take your cooking to the next level. Some spices—like fennel seeds, cardamom, and peppercorns—taste much better freshly ground than they do out of the jar. Using a mortar and pestle is also the key to making professional-tasting sauces and condiments, such as aioli, pesto, curry paste, hummus, and guacamole.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Box Grater; $12

Box grater.
Cuisinart, Amazon

Think of a box grater as more than a basic cheese grater. Each of the four sides serves a special purpose, from slicing to zesting. You can use it to shred potatoes for latkes, grate nutmeg for desserts, or slice zucchini for ratatouille. Of course, the cheese-grating capabilities alone are worth it if you like to make mac and cheese at home.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Instant-Read Thermometer; $27

Instant-read thermometer.
Lavatools, Amazon

There are many tricks you can use to gauge if your meat is cooked properly, but none are as foolproof as an instant-read thermometer. The tool makes cooking steak, chicken, and roasts much simpler and less stressful. It’s also essential for deep frying food or making candy like caramel at home. Sometimes an extra minute of heat is all it takes to push an ingredient from perfect to inedible, so the time it saves you compared to analog thermometers is definitely worth the price.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Citrus Juicer; $15

Citrus hand juicer.
Zulay Kitchen, Amazon

Fresh citrus juice is superior to the packaged stuff, but squeezing halved fruits by hand can get messy. With a manual press juicer, you can add bright, acidic notes of lemon and lime to your meals without stinging your fingers. This tool also catches the seeds for you, making squeezing citrus juice over your food almost as easy as squeezing it from a bottle. Even if you don't use it often while cooking, it's an essential component of any good bar cart.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Locking Tongs; $13

Pair of locking tongs.
OXO, Amazon

Bare hands are underrated tools in the kitchen, but some jobs just can’t be done without tongs. If you’re flipping hot meat on the grill, tossing wings in buffalo sauce, or serving pasta, you’ll need a decent pair of locking tongs to keep your hands clean and unburnt. Fortunately, durable, stainless steel tongs with smooth, pinch-free locks are easy to find for less than $15.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Cast Iron Skillet; $15

A cast iron skillet
Lodge, Amazon

Cast iron skillets seem like they should be expensive. They’re heavy, long-lasting, and they make food taste amazing. Steaks, potatoes, and hamburgers all benefit from the material’s unique heat-conducting properties. But you don’t need to blow your paycheck to own this tool chefs swear by: Some of the best cast irons available cost less than $25. As long as you care for it properly, buying a cast iron skillet is one of the cheapest ways to improve your cooking.

Buy it: Amazon

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we choose all products independently and only get commission on items you buy and don't return, so we're only happy if you're happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

13 Wholesome Gifts for Mister Rogers Fans

Funko / Universal Studios / Amazon
Funko / Universal Studios / Amazon

Fred Rogers didn't watch television until his senior year of college, and when he finally did, he hated it. He told Karen Herman during a 1999 interview for the Archive of American Television, “I saw people throwing pies in each other’s faces. And I thought this could be a wonderful tool for education. Why is it being used this way?”

Interested in helping the medium fulfill its potential, he told his parents he would be postponing his prior plan of becoming a minister to pursue a career in television. Despite their initial protests, he forged on, eventually becoming a household name as the creator and star of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, which would stay on the air for nearly 30 years and help change the perception of what children's television could (and should) be.

On November 22, 2019, A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood will premiere in theaters, with Tom Hanks taking on the iconic role of Mister Rogers and Matthew Rhys playing a cynical reporter named Lloyd Vogel who is tasked with writing a profile on the wholesome TV star. The film takes a look at the life of Rogers and the impact he had on viewers and the people around him.

So, in anticipation of the film, and with the holidays on the horizon, here are some unique gifts you can pick up for the Mister Rogers fan in your life.

1. Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood: A Visual History; $25

Mister Rogers' Neighborhood Book
Clarkson Potter / Amazon

Have you ever wished you could journey behind the scenes of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood? Well, now you can. This book chronicles the show's timeline—from its modest start on WQED in Pittsburgh to its film debut in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Featuring exclusive behind-the-scenes photographs, a visual guide to the characters, and stories from those who devoted their lives to the show, this book will give readers insight into both the program and Rogers himself.

Buy it: Amazon

2.The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember; $11

The World According to Mister Rogers Book
Hachette Books / Amazon

Carry Mister Rogers’s wisdom around wherever you go. With a forward written by his wife, Joanne Rogers, this book allows readers to explore the life of Fred Rogers through his speeches, interviews, anecdotes, and some of his never-before-published writing.

Buy it: Amazon

3. Mister Rogers Color-Changing Mug; $16

Mister Rogers mug
The Unemployed Philosophers Guild / Amazon

There’s a lot to love about Rogers, especially his never-ending wisdom and extensive sweater collection. Now you can have both on a mug. At first it appears he’s wearing a suit jacket, but fill it up with a hot beverage and watch it change to a yellow sweater. The mug is also covered in some of his classic sayings, such as "I like you just the way you are,” to help you get the morning started off right.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Mister Rogers's Bath Soap; $6


The Unemployed Philosophers Guild / Amazon

Rogers taught viewers a lot of things, especially the importance of washing one’s hands. Make him proud with this cocoa butter-scented soap that features his reassuring smile on the wrapper, alongside his pal, Daniel Tiger. The same company also has Bob Ross soap to add even more serenity to your bath.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Mister Rogers Magnet Set; $22

Mr Rogers magnets
Papersalt / Amazon

Coming in four vibrant colors and featuring different quotes from Rogers himself, these magnets will brighten up your day, whether you stick them on your refrigerator, locker, or wherever else you need a little positivity.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Mister Rogers Encouragemints; $5

Mister Rogers Breath mints
The Unemployed Philosophers Guild / Amazon

If you’re going to be taking a stroll around the neighborhood, then these will enable you to do so with peppermint-fresh breath.

Buy it: Amazon

7. King Friday Oven Mitt; $15

King Friday oven mitt
Surreal Entertainment / Amazon

King Friday XIII was originally created to show kids that Friday the 13th should be fun, not frightening. And with this oven mitt featuring the king, you can take that same positive mindset into the kitchen next time you've got an important dinner to make.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Mister Rogers Sticky Notes Booklet; $8

Mister Rogers sticky notes
The Unemployed Philosophers Guild / Amazon

These sticky notes allow you to inject some wholesome Rogers charm anywhere you'd like. Let his serene smile adorn your grocery list and slap his trademark yellow sweater on your kitchen counter anytime you need to be reminded of an important errand to run. However you use the book is up to you.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Mister Rogers Funko; $11

Mister Rogers Funko
Funko / Amazon

Available for pre-order now, this figure features Rogers in that famous red sweater with Daniel Tiger right by his side. The figure will be released on November 25, 2019, right around the time the film premieres.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Mister Rogers Pins; $16

Mr Rogers pins
The Unemployed Philosophers Guild / Amazon

If you’re looking to dress up your favorite sweater or jacket, then make sure you’re doing so in a way that says “Won't you be my neighbor?”

Buy it: Amazon

11. Mister Rogers Magnetic Dress-Up Play Set; $15

Mister Rogers magnet set
The Unemployed Philosophers Guild / Amazon

You're in control of Mister Rogers's wardrobe with this magnetic dress-up kit from The Unemployed Philosophers Guild. Want him a green sweater? Go for it. Want him to be a fireman while wearing roller skates? You're more than welcome to try. You can even bestow Daniel Tiger with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, because, well, he's earned it.

Buy it: Amazon

12. Won’t you be my Neighbor? Documentary; $13

Will You be My Neighbor documentary
Universal Studios / Amazon

This award-winning documentary from director Morgan Neville—which has an incredible 98 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes—offers a glimpse at the legacy of the venerable TV star. It's perfect for both lifelong fans and newcomers simply looking for something to smile about.

Buy it: Amazon

13. Mister Rogers Socks; $14

Mister Rogers socks
Good Luck Sock / Amazon

Walk around with Mister Rogers and King Friday wrapped snugly around your feet. The socks have a reinforced heel and toe and are safe to machine wash. You can always buy the same socks in women's sizes for $14.

Buy it: Amazon

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we choose all products independently and only get commission on items you buy and don't return, so we're only happy if you're happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

Rosetta Stone Is Offering Up to Half Off Language-Learning Software for Black Friday

Rosetta Stone
Rosetta Stone

It’s no secret that learning another language has numerous benefits. But if going back to school and memorizing lists of vocabulary isn't an option—or something you particularly want to do—you can turn to Rosetta Stone, which now offers subscriptions to their language-learning software. And through November 27, language enthusiasts can take advantage of the company's Black Friday pre-sale deals and receive up to half off Rosetta's regular prices by heading here.

These deals include a three-month subscription for $39.50, a one-year subscription for $89.50, a two-year subscription for $124.50, and a lifetime membership for $199. Over 30 languages are offered on Rosetta Stone, such as Spanish, Japanese, and French, and your online subscription to the language courses comes with numerous other perks, including:

  • Phrasebooks: These teach you quick expressions and greetings that are perfect for traveling
  • Mobile app: Get access to Rosetta Stone's iOS app, where you'll find conversation practice and short 10-minute lessons that fit your schedule.
  • An audio companion: Download and listen to lessons even while offline.
  • Stories: Written and narrated in the language you're studying, these stories include poems, tours, and narratives that expose you to new words and help you understand the culture better.
  • Games: Practice your language skills by yourself or with other users (available on all devices but mobile).

For an additional fee, you can also get live sessions. The sessions are 25 minutes long and are taught by a tutor who is a native speaker of the language you’re learning.

Rosetta Stone language program on mobile
Rosetta Stone

Mastering new languages can open up new ways to communicate with others you may have not been able to before, and over the past few years, studies have shown that being multilingual can help slow cognitive decline and strengthen neural pathways as you age.

Alongside using a program like Rosetta Stone to learn a language, it can help to have periodic conversations in the dialect you’re studying—even if they are with yourself. Check out our other tips for mastering another language.

Sign up now for the three-month ($39.50), one-year ($89.50), two-year ($124.50), or lifetime ($199) subscription.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we choose all products independently and only get commission on items you buy and don't return, so we're only happy if you're happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

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