How to Stock a Kitchen on a Budget | How to Buy the Most Basic Kitchen Essentials
What Are the Bare Kitchen Essentials?
Something to . . .
Eat on: Plates, bowls . . .
Eat with: Forks, spoons, knives . . .
Cook with: Pots, pans, microwavable dishes . . .
Prepare food with: Knives, cutting board, colander . . .
Serve food with: Ladle, spoons . . .
Store food in: Food storage containers . . .
Glass Containers with Lids
You don't need to buy bowls and dishes!
You can store your food in these containers and eat straight out of them. If they come with lids, you will never need to buy plastic wrap. If they're microwave-safe, you can also heat your food in them. Best of all, unlike plastic containers they don't have BPA (bisphenol A), and they don't have estrogenic and potentially carcinogenic properties.
They come in all different shapes and sizes.
If you plan on having people over, you can buy bowls and dishes for appearances, but you don't need them! You can eat out of these glass containers.
You don't need to buy drinking glasses!
You can drink both hot and cold drinks out of mugs. Glasses are pretty, but they're not necessary. If the mugs are microwave-safe, you can heat your drinks up in them.
Kitchen Towels or All-in-One Oven Mit/Kitchen Towels
You don't need to buy kitchen mits or potholders!
Kitchen towels can be used both to dry hands or dishes and in place of kitchen mits or potholders. Just double up a kitchen towel to grab hot items. You may also be able to find all-in-one oven mit/kitchen towels that are specially designed for this purpose.
You don't need teaspoons!
Teaspoons are used for eating desserts or mixing drinks, however, tablespoons can do the job just as well as teaspoons, and they can do things that teaspoons can't. Forks are also a necessity.
You don't need to buy whisks or potato mashers!
Forks can be used in place of whisks or potato mashers.
Knives: Paring Knives, Serrated Knives, and a Large Chef's Knife
You don't need to buy vegetable peelers or butter knives!
Buy one or two good paring knives, serrated knives, and a large chef's knife. Paring knives can do the job of vegetable peelers and butter knives. You can use the serrated knives to cut bread or meat. Use the chef's knife for any other cutting jobs.
Of course, not everyone has the skill to peel vegetables with a paring knife. For people who aren't skilled enough with knives to peel vegetables with a paring knife, a vegetable peeler may be necessary.
A Large Pot and a Medium-Sized Saucepan
You don't need to buy a set of various pots and pans! You also don't need to buy a colander if you buy a pot with a steamer or a pot with a colander lid.
Buy one large pot for pastas, whole chickens, or other large items and one medium-sized saucepan for cooking sides, sauces, or soups. Make sure that the large pot is tall and narrow rather than short and wide, this way you will still be able to cook items which are too large for the medium saucepan but not large enough to fill up the large pot.
Pretty much anything that can be cooked in a frying pan can be cooked in a pot, so a frying pan isn't necessary.
Make sure to buy pots and saucepans that don't have any sort of non-stick coating such as Teflon. Teflon coating is carcinogenic if you forget it on the burner or overcook anything in it, and it smells bad if this happens. The carcinogenic particles can also leak into your food.
If you get a pot that comes with a steamer, you can use the steamer as a colander. Also, some pots are designed with colander lids which are lids with holes in the sides of them, so you can just pour water out through the lid.
Strainer, Colander Lidded Pot, or Steamer
You don't need to buy a colander or a flour sifter!
You can use a strainer in the same way as a colander.
Another way to strain food is to put it in a pot, hold the lid on top, tilt the pot, and allow a slight crack between the lid and the pot so that some water can seep through. Make sure the crack is not large enough so that food is coming out.
Some pots are actually specially designed for pouring water out of them. They have holes in the lid, or colander lids, so that you can pour out water through the lid while keeping the food contents inside. However, these holes are often large enough that really small items will also be poured out, so they can not be used in place of a strainer.
Finally, many steamers can also be used in place of colanders!
For people who bake, a strainer can also be used as a flour sifter. (Special thanks to Barkely for providing this tip in the suggestions below!)
For Bakers: Deep Rectangular Baking Dish
You Don't Need Lots of Pans and Cookie Sheets!
One deep rectangular baking dish should suffice. The deeper the baking pan, the more you can do with it. Anything that can be cooked in on a cookie sheet can also be cooked in this pan. If a recipe calls for a particular type of baking pan that you don't have, you can always buy a cheap disposable baking pan from a grocery store. You can also convert the recipe to fit your baking pan with the help of a conversion chart.
I would recommend buying an oven-safe glass baking dish with a lid that you can use for both storing food and cooking food.
Other Kitchen Essentials: Can Opener, Mixing Spoon, Measuring Cup, and Measuring Spoons
You may also want to buy a slotted spoon. Measuring spoons may not be necessary if you don't plan on cooking anything that requires precise measurements.