For some reason, so many of us pride ourselves in the inability to cook. While dining out and living off of delivery service delights seems easy, it has some major downfalls like cost.
Eating out is one of the biggest drains on any budget. As you know, most meals that you cook at home will be cheaper, and often quicker, than a similar meal from your go-to eatery.
Now before you start thinking of all the lame excuses as to why you don’t cook, think of all the money you can save. The average restaurant meal cost $13, while a home cooked dish will range closer to $4. Seems insignificant, but if you eat out every day for lunch, then most evenings and weekends, you are spending an unnecessary $100. So, if you want to save money consistently, gain an impressive skill and throw out the ramen, cooking at home is a great place to start.
Ah, but there’s a problem. Your kitchen isn’t set-up for actually cooking a meal and getting the essentials is expensive. Well, my friend, it isn’t as costly as you may think. Equipping your kitchen for daily use on any budget is possible.
A Checklist of Cooking Basics
This part is going to have a start-up cost, but I’m going to help you minimize it by focusing on what you absolutely need. You are going to end up spending about $250-$350, but before you back out, think about what you spent on your last cell phone or that trip to Vegas.
My goal was to create a list of tools that beginners need for daily cooking using our go-to shopping destination, Amazon. So, let’s get started.
Cleaning Tools & Supplies
Unless you like food poisoning, having a clean kitchen is the most basic part of cooking. You likely have most of these items or can get them from your local dollar store. So before you start getting your Iron Chef on, make sure you have these basics.
- Dishwashing liquid safe for dishes and hands
- Multi-purpose surface cleaner for counters
- Rubber gloves to protect your hands
- Broom, dustpan, and mop for cleaning the floor
- Scrub brush for pots and pans
- Bottle brushes for cleaning inside of items with narrow openings
- Heavy-duty sponges for surfaces and dishes
- Cloth, microfiber or paper towels for drying dishes, wiping up spills and regular cleaning
- Steel wool for cleaning appliances and the sink
- Plastic Scraper
- Dish Rack for draining your dishes
- DIY cleaning essentials: white vinegar, baking soda, and lemon juice
- Trash bin and trash bags
- Cleaning bucket for mopping and storing your supplies
Stores sell these beautiful sets of cookware that can cost you hundreds of dollars. They are super convenient, however, the new cook won’t use most of it. The lists below are just the essentials to outfit a novice kitchen.
I’m keeping it simple remember. You don’t need a chopper, grater or peeler at this stage just these two things.
- Chef’s knife. This knife will satisfy all of your cutting needs, and you will use it every time you cook.
Try: Victorinox Fibrox Straight Edge Chef's Knife, $36.95 on Amazon
- Paring knife. This small essential is for peeling, chopping and coring your vegetables and fruit, safely.
Try: Victorinox Swiss Army Fibrox Straight Edge Paring Knife, $9.47 on Amazon
Eyeballing ingredients and draining things with the pot lids are a sure fire way to hate cooking. These tools will make the process much easier and keep you out the emergency room.
- Cutting board. You don’t want to ruin your countertops or cut yourself while chopping. Invest in a non-slip surface that you can use for years.
Try: Heim Concept Organic Bamboo Cutting Board, 18 x 12 inches - 1" inch, $19.95 on Amazon
- Mixing bowl. It may seem negotiable, but it’s not. From marinating meats, tossing salads, or mixing batters this essential will be a part of your daily routine.
Try: Vollrath 47938 Stainless Steel Economy Mixing Bowl, 8-Quart, $10.59 on Amazon
- Wire mesh colanders. For draining pasta or washing vegetables and salad greens without soaking the floor.
Try: Codream Micro Perforated Stainless Steel 5-Quart Colander, $11.99 on Amazon
- Measuring cups. For precisely measuring the volume of liquid or solid cooking ingredients.
Try: Pyrex Prepware 1-Quart Measuring Cup (for liquids), $10.50 on Amazon
Try: Bellemain Stainless Steel Measuring Cup Set (for dry), $18.95 on Amazon
- Measuring spoons. Used to measure smaller amounts of liquid or solid cooking ingredients than measuring cups
Try: Cuisipro Stainless Steel Measuring Spoon Set, $11.76 on Amazon
I guess you could mix and flip with your hands, but that’s just messy. Get these tools and save your forks and spoons for dinner.
- Silicone spatula. From scrambling eggs to folding dough, the spatula is an often overlooked utensil.
Try: GIR: Get It Right Premium Silicone Ultimate Spatula, 11 Inches, $17.35 on Amazon
- Whisk. You think you don’t need it, but you do. A whisk is perfect for making salad dressings, pancake batter and scrambled eggs that are fluffy and delicious.
Try: OXO Good Grips 11-Inch Balloon Whisk, $9.47 on Amazon
- Wooden spoon. If you need to stir anything, you want one of these. Opt for an angled one so you can use it in bowls, pots, and pans.
Try: OXO Good Grips Wooden Corner Spoon & Scraper, $4.95 on Amazon
- Can Opener. Pretty self-explanatory.
Try: EZ-DUZ-IT 3028 Deluxe Can Opener with Grips, $12.95 on Amazon
- Locking tongs. I probably use this tool every time I cook. Tongs are perfect for turning meats, tossing vegetables in a skillet and even stirring when your wooden spoon is preoccupied.
Try: KitchenMax Stainless Steel 12 inch Locking Cooking Tongs, $6.97 on Amazon
- Instant-read thermometer. If you’re new to cooking, time and texture will not let you know you can eat that chicken without contracting E-coli. Take the guess work out of if your meat is ready with this little utensil.
Try: GDEALER Digital Talking Instant Read Thermometer, $16.99 on Amazon
Before Big Mama starts telling you to get a cast iron skillet, remind yourself you’re not there yet. These four basics will cover your cooking and baking needs.
- Large Stainless Steel Sauté Pan with Lid. This multi-purpose beauty does it all. You can make sauces, soups, burgers, eggs and just about anything. Don’t get cheap on this one, go stainless steel (handle too) as you can safely put it in the oven.
Try: Cuisinart Chef's Classic Stainless 5-1/2-Quart Sauté Pan with Cover, $43 on Amazon
- Dutch Oven. This big pot is worth the big price tag. You can cook just about everything in these beauties. Boil pasta, bake casseroles, brown meat and so on.
Try: Lodge Color EC6D43 Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven, 6-Quart, $59.99 on Amazon
- 9x13” Baking Pan. Want to bake a cake or a small lasagna – get this pan to cover your deep dish baking needs.
Try: Wilton Recipe Right 9x13 Oblong Pan with Cover, $10.24 on Amazon
- Sheet pan. In college, it was acceptable to bake on aluminum foil, but you’re a grown-up now. For a whopping $10, you need to invest in the most utilitarian baking and roasting tool.
Try: Nordic Ware Natural Aluminum Commercial Baker's Half Sheet, $10.24 on Amazon
These tools are critical, but there are dupes available in your home. If you don’t have these, get them the next time you’re near Ikea or on Amazon.
- Timer. If your stove or cell phone does not have one, this is a must have. Most recipes call for things to cook for a certain amount of time, so get one.
- Trivet. I remember when I first started cooking I burnt a hole in my counter. Get an inexpensive heat resistant pad to place hot dishes on your table or counter or use a kitchen towel.
Try: Chefworx Silicone Trivet Mat, $8.00 on Amazon
- Oven mitts or pot holders.Unless you have fireproof hands, protect yourself from burns while baking and cooking.
Try: DII Heat Resistant Potholder, $6.99 on Amazon
Quick Click Shopping list
- Chef’s knife: Victorinox Fibrox Straight Edge Chef's Knife
- Paring knife: Victorinox Swiss Army Fibrox Straight Edge Paring Knife
- Wire mesh colanders: Codream Micro Perforated Stainless Steel 5-Quart Colander
- Measuring spoons: Cuisipro Stainless Steel Measuring Spoon Set
- Silicone spatula: GIR: Get It Right Premium Silicone Ultimate Spatula, 11 Inches
- Wooden spoon: OXO Good Grips Wooden Corner Spoon & Scraper
- Can Opener: EZ-DUZ-IT 3028 Deluxe Can Opener with Grips
- Locking tongs: KitchenMax Stainless Steel 12 inch Locking Cooking Tongs
- Instant-read thermometer: GDEALER Digital Talking Instant Read Thermometer
- Large Stainless Steel Sauté Pan with Lid: Cuisinart Chef's Classic Stainless 5-1/2-Quart Sauté Pan with Cover
- 9x13” Baking Pan: Wilton Recipe Right 9x13 Oblong Pan with Cover
- Timer: Likely on your cell phone
- Trivet: Chefworx Silicone Trivet Mat
- Oven mitts or pot holders: DII Heat Resistant Potholder
Well, that wraps it up. How did you outfit your first kitchen? What cooking essentials would you add to the list?