No Machine Will Change Your Life

 

The other week I went to a demonstration dinner for a kitchen appliance called a Thermomix. A friend wanted to buy one and was hosting a dinner so we could all see the miracle machine in action.

I’ll admit it: I was impressed.

It could make bread dough and sorbet and steam veggies and make lump free cheese sauce. All quite quickly as well. It could crush ice and turn  sugar into icing sugar. One of the selling points was that you could make a four course meal in an hour. Hot damn!

We don’t have many kitchen appliances here. No blender. No bread machine. No electric wok. My Kitchen Aid mixer and food processor are in storage in Canada. I could have brought them overseas and used them here with an electrical converter but I decided against it. I knew it wouldn’t be good for the machines and I’d probably burn out a few expensive converters along the way.

As I watched the demonstration of the Thermomix I started to get sucked in. Of course, this machine would do it all. Dinner would be on the table in no time flat. No more standing at the stove stirring risotto for half an hour.

And look at the savings. The demonstrator had a guide to show much money you could save making your own icing sugar and bread. Supposedly you could save the cost of the machine in the first year.

Oh, right. The cost.

Around £800/$1250 USD.

Hot damn is right.

The cost snapped me out of my revery. I also started to look at the list of things you could make. Smooth soups. I like mine chunky. Bread dough. We don’t eat a lot of bread. Sorbet and ice cream. We don’t keep either of those in our freezer (if we get ice cream it’s in the summer at the ice cream shop in town).

And, call me weird, I like making cheese sauce from scratch. I find cooking to be meditative. I find it to be relaxing. I like chopping and stirring. I usually have good ideas when I’m cooking. The other night I made a cake for my husband’s birthday in my post-child-going-to-bed leisure time. I enjoyed it.

Also, I realized I’m already getting dinner on the table with what I have. I’ve already got my short cuts. The biggest one being once or twice a week I make a double batch of whatever is for dinner and we eat it the next night.

My shortcut is leftovers. Not a machine that costs over a thousand dollars.

The friend that is buying a Thermomix is dabbling in Veganism and I can see that the machine would be useful for her. But I don’t need to turn carrots into pate. My kitchen works just fine with what we have. I seem to get dinner on the table without a Thermomix (including when we had a dozen people over for a casual meal).

We still have our own gadgets that some of you might find excessive. I have an apple slicer and quarterer. I use it quite a bit. I have a meat thermometer and it’s taken a lot of guess work out of roasting chicken and other meats. I have a julienne slicer that is really unnecessary but a lot of fun for cutting up carrots and cucumbers and zucchini for salads, stir frys and sandwiches. I’m on the brink of buying a blender because I really miss making smoothies.

While I’m not immune to the convenience and fun of kitchen tools (who is?) I just can’t believe that a machine will change my life.

My iPod didn’t change my life.

Neither did my Mac Book.

Oh, and the Garmin running watch that I bought as a birthday gift for my husband but that I now use (thanks honey)… it didn’t change my life either.

Has anyone been sucked into a ‘this will change my life’ tool or piece of electronics? Anyone with dusty bread makers, pizza ovens and crock pots ready to get rid of them this week?

PS. We have an air date for our House Hunters International Episode. It will be on at June 25th at 10:30pm and 1:30am EST on HGTV in the U.S. (no word on when it will air in Canada). From the episode synopsis it looks like they are focusing on my husband’s strange and wonderful career path. If you happen to see it let me know. We won’t get to see it ourselves for a while yet. I’ve been thinking about writing about the experience so keep your eyes peeled for a post on what has to be my favourite reality television show.

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Comments

  1. Chloe Banks says

    When we made our wedding list, everyone’s advice was to put everything we might want on it, but we didn’t. I’m so glad. We’ve learned so much more in the first few years of our marriage about what we need and what we don’t than we ever could have guessed. Someone gave us a rice cooker we didn’t need for our wedding, which was lovely of them, but (feeling very guilty) we gave it to a charity shop pretty quickly. We’re fine using saucepans. On the other hand we didn’t ask for a electric whisk but ended up buying one because I do a lot of recipes that require egg whites being whisked to stiff peaks.

    I always feel seduced by my friend’s bread machine and Kenwood mixer – but I always remember, like you, that I can knead bread by hand and a wooden spoon mixes my cakes just fine. I’m sure I have some things that other people think unnecessary (my mum always uses a knife and scoffs at vegetable peelers, whereas I am a peeler convert). I don’t want money and space to be the cost of faster living – slower living and a better attitude is probably what I need! (And I happen to like cooking as good thinking time too!)

    Lovely post – thanks!

    • theminimalistmom says

      I made my husband’s birthday cake using a small whisk – no blender. I’ll admit it was a bit of a workout but I don’t bake much anymore so why go to the bother of buying a mixer that will only get occasional use?
      Oh, and I love my vegetable peeler. I use it almost daily. I read that Tanja over at minimalistpackrat.com got rid of hers and it was her only regret.

  2. sara says

    That makes my Vita-Mix seem affordable! Ha, ha.
    I don’t usually watch that show, but I will program my DVR to record your episode!

    • Lesleigh says

      I was trying to remember what it was that I bought about 15 years ago – Vita-Mix! Wonderful machine that I rarely used.

  3. Rebecca Halpern says

    We got lots of gadgets when we got married ten years ago. We’ve never used our fondue maker, but have used our rice cooker at least twice a week for ten years, would feel lost without it!

  4. Nano says

    We moved apartments at the beginning of this month, and I put a number of weirdly specific kitchen implements into storage – banana holder (I’m allergic to bananas), a hot chocolate pitcher, and a single-serving blender come to mind – but we kept all our fancy machines. I definitely don’t enjoy cooking, so things that allow me to get fresh and tasty food prepared with little effort means I won’t end up eating McDonalds! The bread maker is lovely, and the blender is for smoothies in the summer. The one I always regret not using is the crock pot… while I love stews, meatballs, and roasts, my fiancee – alas – does not.

  5. shelly says

    Funny you mention the vegetable peeler….I distinctly remember standing in the dollar store with a cheap vegetable peeler contemplating buying it or going across the street to the fancy kitchen store. I ended up ditching the dollar store and buying the $10 ergonomic handled peeler at the fancy store and everytime I use it I congratulate myself on the good purchase. It seemed rediculous at the time, but it was so worth it considering I use it almost everyday. Now I just need to apply the same logic to other things I buy and use regularly…it’s not worth cheaping out on certain things.
    Loving the blog as always Rachel. Hopefully we will be able to find you episode of House Hunters online at some point as we don’t have cable :( Be sure to post a link if/when it ends up online!

  6. Lori says

    I struggle with appliances. I dont mind paying a lot for them, but I want the quality of the ones made in the 1950′s! Now, those just dont exist!! If you know of ones, please tell me!! I love my kitchenaid mixer and use it almost everyday especially for bread. I also love my food processor and use it several times a week, (I buy sacks of carrots, onions, potatoes, herbs, etc when they are on sale and chop them up and freeze. I also use it to make gelato. Super easy. But really want a blender too. (Mine broke a year ago). I was going to pick up a refurbished Vitamix.
    So as far as appliances I personally feel like I really need a Mixer, Food Processor, Blender, Chefs Knife, Rubber Spatula. :)

    • Vanderbilt Wife says

      Ask around? One of my friends who never cooks was getting rid of her grandmother’s Cuisinart food processor and gave it to me. The thing is probably 40 years old and it works like a charm every time!! I totally agree – things used to be made to last. Now they’re made to make us want a better one or need to replace the one we have. Yard sales?

  7. Hannah says

    Ah, the lure of the KitchenAid. Doesn’t everyone have one? My mom has offered to buy me one for years but I live in a small space and those things are not little (although they are pretty I prefer an uncluttered counter). Every time I think about getting one, I think about the fact that I have lived without one for years – and I make almost every meal from scratch and bake weekly. I mix cookie dough with my hands (yes hands! – the ultimate tool) and cake batter etc with a whisk.

  8. aviva shaw says

    Great post, I just put our Cuisinart in the basement to see if I would ever pull it out to use it and thus far it has stayed there! Also, for those of us without cable, will this episode be available online somewhere? thanks!!

  9. Emily says

    I am eagerly awaiting my Vitamix in the mail; hoping that I can then sell the hand blender, regular Oster blender, and food processor. I agree that lots of kitchen stuff is useless clutter, but I think I would have to say that my Crockpot has changed my life…or as close as it gets. :-) I use it multiple times per week, for cooking beans that I then freeze, as well as dinner. I currently have a log going of what kitchen baking pan or appliance I use, when, for what. Hoping that seeing it laid out like that will help me to get rid of a few things.

    • sara says

      The VitaMix has replaced my regular blender and food processor, but not my hand mixer. Two years later and I am still happy with my purchase!

    • Barb says

      I love my Vitamix and would buy it again in a second if this one disappeared. The other appliance that has paid off for me is my CBTL coffeemaker that makes expresso drinks (around $150.00 US I think). It helped me end my love affair with Starbucks! It paid for itself very quickly.

    • Sissy @TheMinimalistYear says

      Just got our VitaMix today. We’re kind of annoying California juicing/green smoothie dorks and I can’t wait to blend hard veggies like carrots, beets, etc. Now we’ll get the benefit of the extra fiber (unlike the juicer). I think the VitaMix will render our juicer obsolete, but husband isn’t so sure.

      We shall see!

  10. Jess says

    completely agree. I have been tossing the idea about getting a food dehydrator to make dried fruit and realized it’s not worth the expense nor clutter. The oven will work just fine. The other day I was cutting up sandwiches with a standard knife and my 2 friends were saying how I needed some silly gadget. Needless to say, I will not be getting a specialized tool to cut pb and j sandwiches. They taste and look just fine after being cut with a regular knife. ;)

  11. EcoCatLady says

    In general I shun kitchen appliances. I just find that when you figure in the time it takes to haul the thing out, set it up, then tear it down, clean it and put it away again… it’s generally easier and quicker to just do whatever it is by hand. I do have a few exceptions though.

    1) The Crock Pot. How does anybody cook beans without one?
    2) The Immersion Blender. Totally changed my life during the winter soup-making season. Might not be a big deal for people who don’t make cream-of-whatever-the-garden-produced-in-abundance-and-needs-to-be-eaten-up soup all through the fall and winter, but for me, it was a life saver.
    3) The Dishwasher. I never thought this before, but then I got a new dishwasher (a Bosch) and bit the bullet for those expensive Finish tabs. Seriously, being able to toss anything and everything (even baked on crud) in there with no pre-rinsing has sort of been life-altering. No more dish drainer on the counter, no more pile of dishes in the sink, no more soaking and scrubbing, no more chapped and bleeding hands, no more battles over dishes. Totally worth it.

    OK… but other than that, I find most gadgets to be a waste of space, time, energy and money.

  12. Erin says

    Oh Rachel, please tell your friend who is trying veganism that she doesn’t need a $1200 kitchen appliance! Since adopting a vegan diet I use less kitchen appliances than ever before – my trusty sidekicks in the kitchen are my rice cooker for making rice and quinoa and my Magic Bullet (that cost $40) for making a ton of stuff, including hummous, salad dressing, smoothies and even grinding coffee beans. Other than that, my cutting board and knives get a lot of use chopping vegetables. ;)

    Most of our big kitchen appliances got shown the door last year in the “Big Declutter of 2011″, including our breadmaker and our crockpot.

    • Andrea says

      completely agree! i’ve been vegetarian for 17 years – you don’t need fancy gadgets! I cook at home a LOT and use:

      cutting board
      3 knives: paring, chopping, serrated (for slicing homemade bread)
      small food processor for making sauces, hummus, dips, etc…
      blender for smoothies or soups
      measuring cups & spoons
      large soup pot, saucepan, cast iron frying pan, baking sheet, pie plate, casserole dish
      wooden spoons, spatula

      i use just some variation on those tools for 99% of the food i make. i have other things too,of course, but have realized I don’t need them & have slowly been purging. :)

  13. Apple says

    Your post Rachel made me think what are the things I’d take from my house in a fire, or in some disaster.
    The answer is nothing. My DH, the kids, but nothing else. (maybe my small folder with passports, degrees, birth certs, marriage cert etc for practicalities)

  14. Lin says

    I’ve been lurking for the past day or so on your site – hope you don’t mind, hehe – but I had to comment on today’s post. I’m currently in a “decluttering” stage and I’ve honestly been dreading going through my kitchen. I don’t have much by way of appliances (we haven’t used a toaster in well over a year now) but I’ve got so many measuring cups and spoons and other utensils, various casserole dishes and those little mini appliances that always seem to be on sale for $10 each and are so attractive, but only worth that $10 for the first 10 hours you own it. You’ve given me some inspiration with this post, though, and I do believe I’ll be tackling the kitchen tomorrow!

  15. Melissa says

    If you want to get a blender, I highly recommend an immersion blender with the food processor and whisk attachment. Very multi-purpose and does not take up much space. When I first got my food processor, I got suckered into getting a “better” item which was a full 12-cup Kitchenaid Food Processor. I wish I went with my initial idea because I never cooked enough for 12-cup being single and living in 400 sq ft space! But the food processor made making pesto so much easier than old fashion chopping. I certainly didn’t need the food processor though. The immersion blender will also allow you to make soups like Butternut Squash soup and blend right in the pot!

    I had a Crockpot and ditched it for a electric induction hot plate with a timer (up to 10 hrs) and temperature sensor. So now I just put a pot on it, set a low temperature and time and walk away. Also useful for buffets when setting out in the kitchen for guests to serve yourself, hot pots, fondues, etc.

  16. Stacy says

    Rachel, I am so excited for your House Hunter’s International episode! That is my most favorite show. I’m going to go set the DVR right now! YAY!

  17. Julie Falatko says

    I do use my blender, food processor and pressure cooker a lot. And Kitchen-Aid mixer. The Kitchen-Aid may have been semi-life-changing. But those are all multi-use gadgets. And two of them I got for free as hand-me-downs. But I did get rid of a crock pot and an ice cream maker that we never used. I certainly think it’s possible to cook with nothing but a good sharp knife and a sturdy thick pan. But no one needs, say, a microwave hot dog cooker.

    And I would pay $1200 for an appliance if it would also clean the floors and wash the windows and make acceptable lunches for the children.

  18. Tamara Epps says

    I will agree that for the most part, machines (especially gadgets) won’t change your life as you need to change your mindset and how you use them for that to work.

    However, the one machine that I truly believe has changed my life is my laptop (and, in specific, the internet) as it provides connection to the outside world for me (as I am almost completely housebound).

  19. Samantha says

    It’s funny that you wrote about this – I bought a Thermomix a few months ago with absolutely no regrets! I took a LONG time to decide because of the cost. However, for me it replaces numerous appliances – crockpot, blender, stand mixer etc. I’d been weighing up whether to buy some of these appliances but also mindful of filling my kitchen with unused appliances. Also, as a very unskilled cook I was not doing well with getting home cooked food on the table – whereas now I’m able to do it quickly and easily (important with a toddler at my feet all the time!).

    Nonetheless, I agree that a Thermomix is not worthwhile for everyone, but it is for me :-)

  20. Sher says

    My sister has owned a thermamix for a couple of years…she got a discount for hosting the party I think…AND she lives in a communal house with a kitchen that is shared by 3 families so they all use it. I have used it when I visited her and its cool but I dont need one ;) It also COOKS after it chops/blends. so for example you can put in raw potatoes and ingredients and end up with mashed potatoes

  21. jasi says

    i definitely don’t need a thermomix, though it seems like a nice thing to have. my smartphone changed my life though. i’m at my computer a lot less, i catch tons more cute and spontaneous pictures of my children, i can watch my 2 favorite shows (of the moment) without sitting at the tv watching TONS of commercials and other crap. my library books, family chat, budgeting, receipts, recipes, lists, everything on one place (backed up periodically on my husband’s pc). i love this thing. it allows me freedom from tons of other devices and cost of upgrading them.

  22. Pamela R says

    We’ve been tempted to get a Vitamix since our old blender died. However, I find myself using my immersion blender for smoothies and everything blenderish. It is small, inexpensive and it even blends frozen fruit. I’m not sure that it’s the best use, but I just can’t seem to get myself to spend the money on the Vitamix and, even more importantly, give up the counter space.

  23. Kate @ Our Little Sins says

    Hahaha, I have a Thermomix and I can tell you it has definitely not changed my life and my gawd, talk about expensive lesson! It cost me $1,849 (Australian dollars) in 2008 and I worked out I’d have to use it everyday for six years to amortise the cost to $1 a day… I think it’s going to take me about 18 years to amortise the cost. SIGH. I wish I’d really thought about it before I’d bought it. But..shhh…don’t tell my husband!!

  24. Cassie says

    so here I am, watching tv with a good friend, when I realize that the details of the show are sounding familiar. hold on, I say to my friend, I think I read this woman’s blog! Sure enough, just watched your episode of House Hunters – totally unintentional! and completely awesome! you all looked wonderful, and it was very cool to see your story from another perspective :) thanks for being great people.

  25. Jennifer K says

    So true!! Each person may get good use out of one or two kitchen “gadgets” that help with special things they like to do (like a blender if you make smoothies), but most are just expensive clutter. Besides cost and clutter, a big deterrent to me has been how hard they can be to clean! I don’t care if a food processor chops faster than I do… I’d rather chop slowly with a simple knife and then just have a simple knife to wash quickly, rather than all those parts!.Maybe it’s because I prefer spending time feeling like I’m “actually doing” rather than “cleaning up after the doing”. Simple tools that are quality and work well are really the best for me.

  26. Lesley says

    Of course no machine will change your life. I do think, however, there is a value to my time that should be considered in the equation.

    My Kitchen Aide mixer makes it faster and easier to whip up cookies for the kids. My blender means we can make fast, healthy and fresh smoothies for breakfast, and get out the door quickly. My food processor means I can minimize the amount of time spent on repetitive, non-value-added tasks, like grating zucchini from the garden (which I freeze for future breads and fritters), or grating bulk cheese.

    I’m all for minimizing wasted space and money. But time matters, too.

    • theminimalistmom says

      Much agreed, Lesley. I think there is space in a kitchen for good machines if you use them regularly and they save you money. I made 10 batches of biscotti for wedding favors using my Kitchen Aid mixer way back when and I use my coffee machine here everyday. I think the trap is thinking that buying a machine will somehow make you do X more. As in if I buy this I’ll cook at home more or make more bread or ____. I’ve found for myself, and a lot of friends, that shortcut machines only work if it’s for something you already do.
      PS. Enjoying my new blender daily :) So nice to have smoothies again.

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