In our home the Kitchen is the "heartbeat" of our home. It is the room in the house that is most used and loved. We cook healthy meals for our family, have fun trying new and old recipes and, of course, you always have to taste test! This is the main reason why knowing how to set up a working kitchen is essential. If you would like to save time and money, the right essential tools are necessary.
As you know it is exciting to set up your first kitchen. There are literally hundreds, even thousands, of very exciting and enticing baking and cooking utensils, pots and pans, and then not to mention all the frilly items that you think you need to set up your first kitchen. Whether you have opened your first cookbook or watched your first cooking show, you have probably seen all the lovely dozens of utensils, tableware, pots and pans and frilly items that they use. While yes, all these brand name products look great on TV, let's get realistic ~~ your budget probably says otherwise. After all, this is your first Kitchen. Don't get me wrong if you can afford to buy those expensive items, but most of the time the "knock-offs and/or used items" are just as good, if not better. I prefer vintage items that I have found at garage sales and/or resales shops. These vintage kitchen items are truly wonderful treasures because they were made a lot hardier than today's "fashion" classics, and most of the items I have found are in mint condition for a 1/3 of the price!
So as you set up your new "user-friendly kitchen" remember you really don't need those fancy gadgets! But what you do need to make fun, easy and delicious meals, are a few simple kitchen staples and essentials!
So here is what you need to know in "Kitchen 101!"
Basic Flatware and Eating Dishes
To me this is the most essential and first step that you need to take care of when setting up your kitchen. Of course, I am assuming that you have purchased all your needed appliances: refrigerator, stove, sink, dishwasher (not a necessity), etc. After all the appliances are purchased the next step is choosing your basic flatware and eating dishes, i.e., flatware, plates, bowls, ramekins, glassware, tea and coffee mugs. After all you have to eat and you have to have something to eat on and eat with.
When choosing your flatware and tableware patterns you might be overwhelmed at first because there are literally thousands of patterns to choose from. You can either go to your local department and/or kitchen store to purchase these items or you can choose to do what I did. I did not want that same mundane pattern for each of my family members. So for the first couple of days we ate off of Dixie plates (paper plates) and that gave me time to go and search at my local unique antique stores, thrift stores, second hand stores, yard sales, garage sales and estate sales in my area. So that is exactly what I did. I was very surprised to find at my local antique store that the collection of unique vintage and mint condition plates, bowls, glassware, mug and tea ware and even ramekins were priced anywhere from $.50 to $2.00 dollars apiece. To me this was perfect for our needs as well as being able to find some very unique patterns that suited each of our personalities the best. And what a lovely table does it make. I was also able to find almost brand new Oneida flatware at an estate sale that was also reasonably priced. I saved myself quite a bit of money and had a great time choosing each unique plate and flatware! I must say my family was happy to their "own" plate also.
POTS and PANS
The next core set of items for any great working kitchen are: pots and pans! I know what you thinking... big money going out on these items. Well, I am here to tell you after over17+ years of being a housewife and going through many a variety of pots and pans, my newest purchases are here to stay! Lodge Cast Iron! After dumping dollar after dollar into the "non-stick surface" pots and pans, I say "keep them" and how they wear off into your food. Do you really want eggs with a non-stick surface, black speckles in them? After all, who even knows what that coating is really made of? So yes, for me it is cast iron for the rest of my life. I made my first purchase at Target no less for my Seasoned Lodge 15-1/4"diameter by 2-1/4" depth Double Handled Skillet and let me tell you, I use it literally for everything from frying eggs to making homemade spaghetti sauce! What I love the most is whatever you cook in it makes each meal taste even more delicious! I have heard that some of the greatest chefs and cooks in the world swear by cast iron and I am right there with them! Best of all the cleaning care for them is fast and easy and they literally will last you a lifetime. To me they are the best investment for the money. These are the pieces I would recommend purchasing first to get you started (you can always add more unique pieces as your budget allows). They are as follows:
- 12" cast iron Skillet (with lid)
- 15 to 18" cast iron Skillet (with lid)
- 4 and 8 - quart Saucepans with covers (I would recommend stainless steel/cast iron)
- 6" or 8" cast iron skillet (great for making gourmet omelets, even small deserts)
- And of course, a Cast Iron Dutch Oven, Roasting Pan and/or Stock Pot (with lid)
You will find that you will be very happy with these first investments and it will even enhance your cooking so in return you will enjoy being in the kitchen more!
Even if you are not a baker, you will definitely need some pans that can go into the oven. So when you are first stocking your kitchen bake ware section you want to start with a sheet pan (sometimes this is called a "jelly roll" and/or "cookie sheet). Once again I would choose either cast iron or vintage aluminum. I am fortunate enough to have inherited my grandmother's aluminum and vintage bake ware. Once again save yourself some money and look at your favorite antique store, garage sale, yard sale and/or local thrift store.
I believe the first purchases that you should make regarding bake ware should be:
- Jelly Roll pan (usually measures 15"x10"x1"up to 18"x13"x1")
- Aluminum Pizza Pan (15")
- 2 - 9" round cake pans
- 9" x 13" baking pan
- 9"x 5" loaf pan
- 9" pie pan
- 12 cup muffin tin
- Metal cooling rack; and
- 2 cookie sheets
Believe me you will not just use your Jelly Roll pan and Cookie sheet pans for only cookies and pastries, but rather they make great trays for oven-roasting vegetables and meats. This is why you should look for sturdy pans that are solid and do not bend easily. Also, FYI sturdier pans distribute heat more evenly than lighter pans.
Baking pans whether glass or stainless steel that has a 2" or 3" height to their sides makes great casserole and lasagna dishes. You will even be able to bake brownies, breads, and cakes in them.
A muffin pan when greased well makes great bite size quiche. These are great for a kid's breakfast before school or on your way to work.
Then once again as your budget allows you might want to add the following to your collection of bake ware:
- Mini Loaf Pans;
- Shaped Loaf Pans;
- Fancy Cake Pans (hearts, holiday shapes, flower pans, etc.)
- Porcelain or ceramic casserole dishes;
- Cookie Cutters;
- A Bread Machine;
And many, many more baking gadgets!
Kitchen stores have many whole walls just devoted to dozens and dozens of different types of cooking utensils. But as a new cook setting up her kitchen I would purchase a crock (even a ceramic planter works great for a utensil crock). Again, these may be purchased at garden centers, retail stores, garage sales, antique stores, and/or resale shoppes. I would say the basic utensils you will be in need of to start with are:
- A good set Wooden (or bamboo) spoons;
- A Wooden (or bamboo) spatula;
- A Ladle (great for serving soups, stews, chili, spaghetti sauce, etc.);
- Stainless Steel Tongs (for frying bacon, turning meat, tossing pasta while it is boiling and serving pasta also, tossing a salad, etc.);
Once again, after much experience in the kitchen I have found the wooden or bamboo utensils are just the ultimate of choice. They work very well with cast iron also. You can also purchase spatulas in wooden and/or bamboo. They are low priced and low maintenance as all you need to do is hand wash and dry well.
As your kitchen grows, here are a few other utensils to consider:
- Lasagna Spatula (Pampered Chef has a great one);
- A Pasta Fork to separate pasta and to keep it from sticking;
- A Slotted Spoon;
- Small, Medium and Large Wooden Spatulas;
- Small and Large Stainless Steel Whisks;
- Pie Server;
- Cake Cutter and Server;
- Stainless Steel Pizza Cutter
The only major appliance that you will need to create delicious and heartwarming meals is an oven with a stovetop, but many other electric appliances will make cooking and baking a lot easier for you. A microwave is convenient for just reheating food and popping microwave popcorn, so I believe that this not really a necessity and you can get around it with a stovetop oven.
Most new homes and/or apartments come with microwaves already installed so you might want to consider purchasing this at a later date.
As your kitchen and budget grows, here are a few more convenient appliances you might like:
- Food Processor: To me a food processor can be a huge timesaver! You can use it to quickly chop large quantities of vegetables, fruits and even make homemade bread crumbs in it. Most food processors come with specialized discs that make grate cheese a breeze and evenly slicing vegetables, such as potatoes, carrots, etc.
- A Blender: Using a blender to make pureed sauces, smoothies, and milkshakes can save you tons of times and trips to the nearest ice cream store.
- Toaster: You can always toast bread in the oven or in a dry frying pan, but a toaster is definitely lower maintenance.
- Toaster Oven: This is a great appliance and huge time saver for cooking frozen pizzas, toasting a lot of bread at once, and reheating things safely. I personally would recommend this over a microwave!
- Electric mixer: A must have! You can purchase these as hand-held and/or as standing devices. But an electric mixer is a must have for speeding up baked goods, beating eggs for quiche, mashing potatoes and much, much more. This is an invaluable asset when you plan on baking frequently.
- Bread Machine: another invaluable asset these days. I literally have used mine almost every day for the past 17+ years and it is still going strong. Mine even makes jam. So when we get our harvest of ripe fruits in I am able to make my homemade preserves. Delicious! I even make my homemade pizza dough recipe in it!
Miscellaneous Kitchen Items
In preparation of just about any meal, you will definitely need knives and cutting board. When shopping for knives do make sure to buy the highest of quality! Even though you are putting out the money now, in the long run it will last a lifetime.
- A knife made of high carbon stainless steel for chopping;
- 3 or 4" paring knife
- A serrated knife for cutting bread and other items
- 8" or 10" chef's knife
A cutting board, even though the wooden ones look fancier on the countertop, a plastic and/or tempered glass board is easier to clean (is dishwasher safe) and is more versatile. Also you can save yourself some moohla by purchasing this at any dollar store.
- Colander and Sieves:A colander is a must-have for any kitchen. You can use a strainer for draining pasta, canned beans, rinsing vegetables, fruit and more. Nested varying size sieves, in stainless steel) work as flour sifters too).
- Mixing bowls:A basic set of three mixing bowls is another must-have for any kitchen. They can be used for baking, mixing, serving, tossing salads, serving side dishes and garage bowls as you are preparing your meal. Some mixing bowls come with lids and serve a dual purpose for storage. I do not prefer these and my mixing bowls are a nestled set of vintage Pyrex that I have found along my journey.
- Plastic storage containers and Ziploc Bags: Both of these items come in hand for storing any item you can think of. Containers are great for leftovers. Zip Storage bags are great for anything you want to store and/or freeze. With all the different sizes these are a necessity in my kitchen and they also help with portion control!
I pick my fresh vegetables from the garden, come in and dice and slice them and into the storage bags they go to either use for dinner that evening and/or freeze for future use. Snack size bags can be your best friend if you have children that love to snack and it keeps them on portion control!
- Dish towels: To me a dish towel makes a kitchen your own unique place. With so many to choose from you are bound to be able to show off some flair or theme in your kitchen as well as dry things more quickly.
- Measuring cups: These are a must start in any kitchen. I would start with glass Pyrex glass measuring cups! You can use these also for dry measure too! Not only great for measuring they are great for sauces, dressings, dips, measuring flour, sugar and even more! These are a necessity! A must!
- Measuring spoons: Another treasure in your kitchen. These spoons come in plastic and/or metal. I prefer metal. They are very useful in measuring out very small quantities of both liquid and dry ingredients. Measuring spoons come in a set of different sizes. When purchasing, make sure that the spoons you choose include: a quarter- teaspoon (1/4 tsp.); a half-teaspoon (1/2 tsp.); a teaspoon (1 tsp.), and a tablespoon (1 Tbsp.).
In closing ~ setting up your new kitchen does not have to cost you a fortune. I would begin by asking family members and friends if they have any extra kitchen items that you might be able to start out with. If not, look for sales and if that doesn't work - REMEMBER: shop garage sales, estate sales, antique shops, thrift stores, and goodwill and resale shoppes in your area!
If you decide to purchase your items new then I would definitely shop the sale papers. The best stores to start at are: Kohl's, Tuesday Morning, TJ Maxx, and Marshalls.
Remember: buy on sale or with a coupon!
Happy Hunting for your treasures!