Cheap Or A Good Value – The Chefmate

I’ll cop to being pretty cheap in general, especially when it comes to things I don’t use very often.  But over the last few years I’ve started to figure out that the cheapest option is not necessarily the best value.  One of the earliest times I really internalized that lesson happened just a couple of months after Mr. PoP and I moved in together.

The holiday season was approaching, and his parents were coming down to visit.  Still being just “the girlfriend”, I wanted to help make the holidays special for his family, so I volunteered to make some of the holiday cookies from his mom’s family recipes.  Some of these cookie recipes are legit heirlooms, and as such, can be a pain to make.

My feeble baking supplies did not include a mixer (which Mr. PoP’s mom insisted wasn’t truly necessary, after all great-grandma PoP did without!)  But Black Friday ads were on the internet, and Target had a Chefmate Hand Mixer on sale.  I’m pretty sure I paid $5.  I bought one, thinking this would make my semi-annual baking expeditions a bit easier.


I started combining ingredients for the first batch of cookies, and as instructed, first tried it without a mixer for full authenticity.  Ha!  Great-grandma PoP must have been a body builder in her spare time to be able to mix that cookie dough without her arm falling off.  My feeble arms gave out, but I had faith.  My $5 Chefmate mixer would surely come to the rescue!

I pulled it out of the box, washed it, and stuck it in the dough.  The mixer struggled a bit with the heavy dough, but it was turning…  Within a minute, there was the distinct smell of an electrical fire coming from the mixer in my hand.  I yanked the cord out of the wall, yelled for Mr. PoP and waited while he declared the Chefmate mixer dead.

Back to Target we went.   The store associates were gems and gave me my $5 back for the broken Chefmate.  Yay!  But in the small appliance aisle, I agonized.  The next step up in mixers was a big one – to $35 for another brand I had never heard of.  What if it failed, too?  Then Mr. PoP recognized one – a KitchenAid.  It looked like a modern version of the one that his mom had used (on this same cookie dough!) for the past 25 years.  The price – $39.99.

At $39.99, it was 8 times the price of what I had paid for the Chefmate.  Eight Times?!?  That’s crazy!  But, 25 years is also a lot longer than the Chefmate had lasted me.  In fact, about 13 million times as long as its brief little life.  Was I ready for this kind of long-term commitment to a small kitchen appliance?

A few deep breaths later, I took the box from the shelf and walked to the checkout.

The KitchenAid Hand Mixer went through the family cookie dough recipe like it was no problem at all.  And almost 4 years later, it still works like a champ every time I use it.  Will it last 25 years?  Who knows.  But even though it wasn’t as cheap as the Chefmate hand mixer, the KitchenAid has definitely proved to be the better value so far.


I’d like to think that we mostly internalized this lesson.  We try to weigh how much the “heirloom quality” is compared to the “cheap version” of the same product as well as how often we’re going to use it.  Usually we end up with a good balance, but every once in a while, we err too much on the cheap side.  The last example, a tile saw that we needed for just one tile job.  The cheap version just didn’t cut it – sorry, bad pun! – and died before the job was finished.  But that’s what warranties as return policies are for, right?


What types of products have you found to be good examples of cheap vs. a good value?


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