I agree that understanding the code and what is happening really helps you make the most use of these tools. But, if you stick with learning PHP and then learn a few basic things, you see how these tools become a must have as it enables you to do things so quickly.
I would say keep at learning PHP, and even ask for whatever help you need on these forums (in the PHP, CSS, and other appropriate threads). Then, as you get a better grasp of all of it, you'll probably be itching to unleash the power of some of these tools.
Best of luck,