I mentioned to Amy the other day (has everyone visited Amy's shop? It fits right in with what I'm thinking about here - buy as little as possible, but when you do buy look for quality things that will last and that are made with care) that our KitchenAid stand mixer was a great investment. We've had it about 10 years and use it regularly. Heck, we like it so much it got its own cabinet when we re-did the kitchen. I remember that when we bought it it was $200, and I was so unsure about spending all that money. (Looks like it's more like $300 now.)
Just as an aside, I never saw a stand mixer until I was an adult. I still remember the first time I saw Jon's mom pull hers out of the closet. I did a lot of baking as a kid, and finding an invention that would cream butter for me was amazing.
I was thinking about what other things we've bought that were not so easy on our budget at the time, but have worked out to be completely worth the initial ouch. Some that come to mind right away:
Calphalon cookie sheets (used ONLY for cookies - cheapo $1-$2 cookie sheets are fine for everything else). We've had these 10 years as well, and they look pretty much like new.
Good pots/pans (Actually, if anyone has any recommendations for pans that will last the rest of my life, other than cast iron, I'd like to hear them. They need to be able to go in the oven. They don't need to be dishwasher safe.)
Silk long john's
For the past couple of years I've been considering the idea of a food processor. I go back and forth on whether it will really save me so much time/effort that it's worth the cost and space in the kitchen. On the one hand, I've lived just fine without ever using one. On the other hand, there are things that look so much easier to do with one (chop nuts for example). If you have one, what's your opinion? Should I stick with my knives? Is there a brand you use that you'd recommend? Is it worth getting a bigger one? I think I'd almost need to be talked into it, really. I can see my kids growing up and using my mezzaluna. I can see a food processor ending up broken and in the trash. But if I'm wrong, I'd like to hear about it.
Oh, and check these out. They have a lifetime guarantee for breakage. We go through a LOT of straws, so I'm thinking these might be a good investment.