When you move into your first home, building up your kitchen from scratch is one of the biggest challenges you will face. You may have a few bits and pieces passed on by family members, you will still need to buy quite a few items. What is essential and what is not? How can you make good choices and avoid spending more than necessary?
The first thing you will need to do is buy appliances. A washing machine is not essential at this stage as long as there’s a laundry nearby, and neither is a dishwasher because it’s not that much of a challenge to clean your dishes by hand. However for the best and healthiest cleaning, consider an ultrasonic cleaner.
If you want to eat healthily, however, you’re going to need a stove. If you can, buy one with induction burners. This will cost a little more, but it will save you money over the long term. You’ll also need a fridge and at least some freezer space. Don’t invest in more space than you’ll use because both run more efficiently when full. Choose a high energy rating for an appliance that is kinder to the environment and cheaper to run.
Even when you have a stove, a microwave is really useful, and they’re now very cheap to buy. Just make sure that any electrical gadgets come from a place you can trust so that they don’t create fire hazards. Some thrift stores have their own electricians to take care of this. Instead of buying gadgets like toasters and waffle makers separately, look out for deals on combination devices that give you more functionality for your money and take up less space.
Pots and pans
Pots and pans can often be picked up second-hand but it’s worth investing in new ones when you can find good deals, like the copper skillet as seen on TV, because they’ll stay in good condition for longer. What you need will depend on the number of people in your household, but it’s essential to have at least two smaller pans for prepping most dishes. A wok can come in handy for making quick meals. Don’t forget to get a couple of baking trays for your oven, a roasting tray, and a large ceramic dish with a lid for baking or making pot roasts.
Crockery and silverware
Even when you’re washing dishes regularly, it helps to have a little more crockery and silverware than you need. It makes life easier on busy days, and it means that you can entertain guests. A good ratio is three of each basic item per person: large plates, small plates, bowls, mugs, glasses, knives, forks, spoons and teaspoons. You may also want chopsticks.
Food preparation essentials
Preparing food is a lot easier if you have a good knife set. This should include a large chopping knife, a small chopping knife, a carving knife, a bread knife, a filleting knife and a sharpener. A wooden chopping board is best for most items because it won’t blunt your knives like a stone one can. However, for hygiene reasons, it’s best to use a plastic one for meat or cheese. Other items you will need include a colander, a sieve, a cheese grater (this is also useful for grating vegetables), a rolling pin, kitchen scissors, a nutcracker, a can opener and a bottle opener. You’ll need wooden spoons and heat-resistant plastic spatulas (to avoid damaging non-stick surfaces) for dealing with hot food. You’ll also need oven gloves and tea towels.
Stocking your spice cabinet
Building up a good, basic collection of herbs and spices in your kitchen gives you many more creative options. Although a lot of people like to show them off, the sensible way to store them is in tightly sealed, opaque containers inside a dark cabinet in the coolest part of your kitchen. Basil, dill, thyme and oregano are a good place to start. Adding coriander, chili powder and turmeric means you can start making curries; stocking up on ginger, star anise, black pepper and lemon grass will enable you to start cooking Chinese and Thai dishes.
Alongside the fresh ingredients that you’ll pick up for each meal, there are certain staples that it makes sense to buy in bulk. These include rice, pasta, flour, sugar, oats and noodles. That way, you will always be able to turn fresh ingredients into some kind of meal that can fill you up.
Although these kitchen essentials may give you a long shopping list to begin with, they will serve you well, and you can gradually add to them over the years until you’re equipped to make everything you want. If you cook a lot of rice it would be wise to invest in an induction rice cooker.