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Everyday Cheapskate: Best Inexpensive Dinnerware, Drinkware and Stainless Flatware

Mary Hunt on

Recently, when one of my staff members turned 30, I quipped that I have dishes older than he. It's true.

Sometime during the late '80s, my husband took on the huge task of painting the dark-walnut kitchen cabinets white, inside and out. Of course, that meant new hardware and lighting, too. What a transformation. To celebrate, I went out and bought new dishes, a white porcelain service for 12.

These dishes were perfect because they were classic in style, just the right size and super sturdy. Plus, they were dishwasher, microwave and oven safe.

Those white dishes became our everyday, special occasion, holiday, all-purpose dinnerware. More than 30 years later, nothing has changed there. They have survived two major moves and served thousands of meals (at least), and they look just as they did back in the 1980s. I just took a quick inventory, and find we've lost only four salad plates in all these years.

The brand is Cafeware from Crate and Barrel. It's still available in a slightly upgraded style as Cafeware II. Sold open stock, this dinnerware is remarkable in every way.

If my math is correct, my set of Cafeware would run more than $300 today if I were to replace it with Cafeware II. But honestly, I don't think I would do that. For that price, I could do so much better.

Instead, I would opt for my pick for Best Inexpensive porcelain dinnerware: the AmazonBasics 16-Piece Dinnerware Set service for six, which costs about $30 per set. A service for 12 costs about $60. While not identical to Cafeware II, these dishes are so close in both quality and appeal that it is quite amazing.

As for glassware, my pick for Best Inexpensive is the Galaxy Glassware 12-piece Set. It includes four each of three sizes of glasses: 7 ounce, 13 ounce and 17 ounce. It costs about $21.


Here is my Best Inexpensive pick for stemware to complete a beautiful table setting: Libbey Wine Party 12-piece Stemware Glass Set, which includes a dozen 12.5-ounce stemware shaped to equally accommodate red and white wines. About $30.

Last, let's talk about flatware. I may be pickier than average, but here goes: I can't tolerate eating utensils that do not feel great in my hand. Flatware needs to be properly weighted and made of quality materials. Those pieces need to come out of the dishwasher sparkling. My pick for Best Inexpensive flatware is Dokaworld 18/10 Stainless Steel 20-Piece Flatware Set. At about $30 for four place settings, this flatware is remarkable in both function and beauty. It's perfect for both everyday and special occasions, too.

For links to the dinnerware, stemware and flatware mentioned in this column please visit

As for my venerable Cafeware, I see that this dinnerware is fetching inflated prices on the secondary market. In researching for this column, I came across four original Cafeware salad plates for a healthy $36, whereas I paid at about $3 each. But given the history and my fondness for these dishes, I went for it. Soon, my set of Cafeware dinnerware will be restored to its complete service for 12.


Mary invites questions, comments and tips at, or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, 12340 Seal Beach Blvd., Suite B-416, Seal Beach, CA 90740. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of, a personal finance member website and the author of "Debt-Proof Living," released in 2014. To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at

Copyright 2017 Creators Syndicate Inc.


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