You already know the trick to saving money on food is to buy in bulk and prepare your own meals from raw ingredients. With today’s busy lifestyles, however, that may seem like a daunting task: It’s so much easier to just drive through your neighborhood fast food outlet and pick up a bag of ready-to-eat dinner! If you invest in the following three kitchen appliances, however, you’ll find it far easier to supply yourself with an abundance of tasty and affordable home-cooked treats.

Blender

These modest appliances sit gathering dust at the back of almost everyone’s cupboards, but they actually deserve star billing in your kitchen. Throughout the warm seasons, they can turn fresh produce and ice into an endless array of sophisticated smoothies, which you can enhance with yogurt, ice cream, liquor or various nutritious additives. Blenders also let you effortlessly produce smooth soups, sauces, dips and condiments that present the most common foods in a new and appetizing configuration. For single servings, a hand-held immersion blender will produce the same impressive results with less clean-up.

Crockpot

Sometimes called “slow cookers,” these countertop electric pots let you come home at the end of a busy day to the luxury of a hot meal ready to eat. Crockpots are safe to plug in and turn on when you leave in the morning, and their slow cooking capacity brings out the rich, complex flavors of meats and vegetables. You can make delicious use of leftovers, adding herbs and flavorings to produce original stews or sauces. With a quick salad and some bread or pasta, you have an elegant dinner within minutes of walking through the door.

Chest Freezer

Even if you live in an apartment, you can probably find a corner for a small chest freezer. With this essential appliance, you can get the full economic benefit of unexpected abundance. Does your neighbor have a sudden surplus of fresh strawberries in June? Pop them into freezer bags and enjoy fresh-tasting fruit on your waffles on a snowy winter morning. Is your local grocery store running a super sale on whole chickens? Buy up a dozen at the bargain price and fill your freezer for months of inexpensive casseroles and enchiladas. The convenience of having your own stock of ingredients will make home cooking easier than driving out to your local deli or restaurant.

Many of us make New Year’s resolutions to eat a healthier diet or to save money. If you purchase these three essential kitchen appliances, you’ll have a head start on keeping both of those resolutions.