10 things you really should be buying at restaurant supply stores

When it comes to kitchen gear, I’m all about combining form and function. After all, who doesn’t love practical but pretty tea towels or adorable recipe cards? However, when it comes to kitchen workhorses—you know, the products you use every day—pretty doesn’t always pay. For those heavy rotation items, I turn to my local restaurant supply store.

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Buy these kitchen items at a restaurant supply store
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Buy these kitchen items at a restaurant supply store

Baking sheets

I’m not sure there’s any baking tool that works harder than the classic cookie sheet—especially when it gets thumped against the oven rack. These sheets get used over and over and over again, so it’s worth investing in an industrial-grade product. That’s where your local restaurant store’s baking section comes in handy. These stores are packed with pans of all sizes (perfect for larger sheet pan dinners), and they’re all extremely affordable. A full-size sheet pan will likely run you under $10, and cookie sheet-sized trays under $4. Just be sure you aren't making these baking mistakes next time you whip up a batch of cookies!

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Cutting boards

Be sure to add cutting boards to your supply store shopping list. Available in multiple sizes for a fraction of what you’d pay at your local kitchen shop or department store, Little says that this kitchen basic is one of the most common items home cooks look out for.

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Cake decorating supplies

When it comes to shopping for cake decorating supplies, it can be hard to track down the right tip (is it just me, or is my local craft store always out of the one I want?). Restaurant supply stores offer a huge assortment of piping tips and pastry bags to satisfy all your creative decorating needs—and at more affordable prices than most shops. Oh, and if you’re in the market for a fancy decorating turntable for your most beautiful cakes ever, you’ll find those at restaurant suppliers, too!

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Whisks and other utensils

Whisks, spatulas, and wooden spoons are all easy enough to come by at traditional shops, but you definitely won’t find the same massive selection. Restaurant supply stores offer all these in dozens of sizes. Plus, these heavy-duty utensils are built to last—with high heat resistant spatulas, you don’t ever have to worry about one melting to your pan again! Find out more about these common kitchen utensils and the alternate names you never knew they had. 

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Knives

I’ll admit that I’m envious of all the beautiful knife sets I see online and when I shop kitchen stores, but sometimes these knife blocks can be on the pricey side. Instead of investing the big bucks into one of these kits, you can get a set of good, hardworking knives at a restaurant supplier for a fraction of the cost. Ranging from paring knives to meat cleavers, you can find an excellent variety.

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MIxing bowls

When it comes to the basics, like mixing bowls, there’s no need to splurge on a fancy set. Instead, shop your local supplier for dishes in every conceivable size. These stainless steel and glass bowls can withstand years of use and will cost you only a few bucks.

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Baking gadgets in all sizes

When it comes to finding multiple sizes of cookie scoops, batter dishes (perfect for filling cupcake and muffin pans) and offset spatulas, I struggle to find the options I need at a big box store. I just can’t bear to use a regular size scoop when I’m craving extra large cookies! That’s where restaurant supply stores come in so handy. You no longer have to settle for one-size-fits-all products. Instead, you can find a huge array of cookie scoops, dishes, spatulas, cupcake pans and so much more in a huge variety of sizes (and at better prices than traditional kitchen stores). Little also points out that when you find the right size tool for a given recipe “it provides a lot of consistency—you can know exactly how much a recipe will make every time.” Don't miss these 32 unique and weird kitchen gadgets you won't believe are actually real. 

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Frying pans

When I’m cooking up a storm, I find that I can never have enough frying pans. Whether you prefer nonstick, ceramic or stainless steel, restaurant suppliers offer plenty of affordable options so you can stock up and be prepared for those busy days in the kitchen. Find out more about the types of cookware you should be using at home

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Silicone mats

While I typically rely on parchment paper to line my cookie sheets, I can’t help but want a few reusable silicone mats to ease the process (is it just me or do you cut the wrong size half the time?). I’ve always been reluctant to invest in these silicone baking sheets because most department stores sell them for about $25 each—now multiply that by the number of trays you can pop into an oven at once and you’ve got a huge investment. Luckily enough, restaurant supply stores sell these silicone mats for about a third of the price. Little explained that they’re one of the most popular products she sees home cooks buy.

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Specialty tools

Some kitchen gadgets and tools are more difficult to find than others. Whether you’re looking for a madeleine mold for those delicate cookies, a crepe pan for French desserts or a giant pizza peel for homemade pies, restaurant supply stores are a great resource for these hard-to-find items.

While unexpected, these industrial suppliers are a great resource for even home cooks. You’re likely to find a few great tools at a great price, and at the very least, as Little puts it, “It’s just really fun to look around.”

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I know what you’re thinking: those are for restaurants. You’re not wrong, but these suppliers are often open to the public, and they have a lot to offer home cooks.

According to Jamie Little, marketing director at Fein Brothers, a Milwaukee restaurant supplier, “The big advantage to shopping here is that everything is commercial grade. These products are made to be used over and over again—to really take a beating.”

With that in mind, here’s what you should be buying at your local restaurant supply store.

RELATED: The most overpriced foods at restaurants:

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The most overpriced foods at restaurants
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The most overpriced foods at restaurants

Omelet -- 566%

Plate IQ breaks down a Denver omelet made with ham, cheese, onions, and peppers and finds that the raw ingredients cost just $1.35, according to an ingredient cost analysis from Plate IQ. None of the items cost more than 50 cents, yet you’re likely paying about $9 for your breakfast, meaning you pay 566 percent more. The restaurant will likely charge $1 less for a vegetarian option made with spinach, mushrooms, and Brie cheese, bringing the markup down to 471 percent. Not that every supermarket item is cheap—don't miss these 14 grocery store items that are grossly overpriced.

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Cheese pizza -- 580%

No ingredients in pizza crust cost more than 15 cents per pizza. The toppings add up a bit more, but a Margherita pizza would still cost the restaurant about $1.77, even though you’re shelling out closer to $12. Order a supreme pizza with all the works and the extra cost to fall on you could equate to a 636 percent markup.

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Pizza toppings -- 636%

If your pizzeria charges a few bucks for meat or a couple dollars for veggies, that’s an extra 525 percent markup on each topping. Get all the works on a supreme pizza, and you could be looking at paying an extra 636 percent.

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Cheese -- 417%

We get it—a hamburger won’t always do the trick when you’re craving a cheeseburger. But tacking $1.50 onto your check for a 29-cent slice of cheese is practically thievery. Don't miss these other 57 secrets your restaurant server isn't telling you.

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Guacamole -- 285%

Yes, you know guac is extra—but did you realize just how much more? Making guacamole from scratch would end up costing 52 cents per serving. With a scoop of guacamole costing up to $2 at burrito joints, though, you’re getting served a 285 percent markup.

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Pasta -- 809%

A serving of dry pasta only costs about 25 cents, and even with a homemade sauce, each serving will only cost about $1.43. Unless a restaurant is going through the labor of making its pasta from scratch, a $13 pasta dish is marked up more than 800 percent.

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Coffee -- 825%

Using the brewing instructions from Starbucks ground coffee, you’ll end up paying about 20 cents per serving. Buy a tall brewed coffee from the store, and you’re paying 825 percent more than you would by making your own. To make the most of your cafe coffee, learn how to get free refills every time you go to Starbucks.

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Soup -- 1,500%

Homemade chicken noodle soup only costs a restaurant about 30 cents to make, though a big bowl can cost $4.95, according to Forbes, making it one of the most overpriced things on a menu. If you’re concerned about “wasting” money on something you can make yourself, opt for thick soups like gumbo or chowder, which are more expensive to make but the same price for the customer, Forbes recommends. Just learn why you should never order these certain fish at restaurants—and what to get instead.

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Potatoes -- 471%

A pound of potatoes costs about 70 cents, meaning an individual spud is worth about 35 cents. On a menu, though, you’ll end up paying $2 to get one as a side, meaning you’re paying 471 percent more than you would baking your own white potato. Don't miss these other foods that chefs never order at restaurants.

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Wine -- 167%

A bottle priced at $15 at a wine shop might only cost the restaurant $10 on wholesale, but they’ll charge you $25 to $30. (That's particularly overpriced considering the best wine in the world costs just $10 retail.) Plus, paying $8 a glass—even with their bigger-than-normal pours—means you’re paying more than twice as much as you would at a BYOB restaurant. Oddly enough, you’ll often end up being less overcharged (though still, of course, paying more) for the most expensive bottles on the menu, because the biggest markups are on the cheapest bottles, according to Wine Enthusiast.

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The post 10 Things You Really Should Be Buying at Restaurant Supply Stores appeared first on Reader's Digest.

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