I like ogling fancy kitchen tools as much as the next person, but it occurred to me recently that the things I use most often (with the exception of knives, my father's cast iron frying pan and my food processor) are actually the smallest and cheapest members of my kitchen army.
Here, in no particular order, are five of my most useful kitchen tools - and they all cost less than $5.
1. Rolling pin: Have you always sighed over those beautiful French rolling pins? Me too. But this cheap and cheerful version - a length of dowelling from a hardware store - is just as good. It's also the perfect length for my kitchen bench and at 50cm it's long enough that two pairs of hands (one little, one big) can use it at the same time.
2. Pot(ato) scrubber: A few years ago I gave my beloved a nifty brush that amusingly resembles a potato (he comes from a family of rampant spud eaters). But I've since traded it in for one of these - a pot scrubber. Nothing beats it for cleaning dirt-encrusted potatoes, both for efficiency and speed. A pack of two costs about $5, so you can use one for your pots and the other for your potatoes.
3. Dough scraper: Even if you don't make bread, one of these is a boon to any cook. They cost about $1.50 and you can use them for all sorts of kitchen tricks aside from breadmaking. Just don't make the mistake of putting them anywhere near a hot frying pan - I speak from foolish experience.
4. Scissors: I use these for cutting pizza, snipping herbs, slicing chicken thighs, scoring dough, chopping spring onions - all sorts of tasks. They are in such hot demand from other members of my household too (I must ask 'where are my blue scissors?' about 20 times a day) that I'm thinking of investing in a secret second pair. At about $4.50 from the supermarket, I think we can afford it.
5. Silicone pastry brush: It's not always smart to do things on the cheap. For the last five years I have struggled with a repurposed paintbrush whenever I've needed a pastry brush and cursed every time I've had to pluck a sharp bristle from a fluffy brioche or out of a pie. A month ago I splashed out on this pink beauty - a princely $2 - and it has changed my life. The bristles are soft but strong. It's a gamechanger.
What are your favourite kitchen tools? Do you like to spend up large on shiny things or keep it simple?