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First Time Having a Kitchen? With These Essentials, You’ll Be Cooking in No Time

By Kate Strassel | Citizens Bank Staff

It’s the day you’ve dreamt of for as long as you can remember: You’re moving into your own place! No more letting your parents know when you’ll be home (seriously — don’t they understand you’re an adult?) or adhering to dorm rules and restrictions. You are a bona fide apartment renter with your own living room, bedroom, bathroom … and kitchen.

When you lived at home or on campus, chances are someone else — Mom, Dad, dining halls, the local pizza joint — was preparing meals for you. Not anymore. Unless you’ve struck gold in the roommate department and you’re living with a Food Network fan or culinary student, you’re going to have to learn to cook something. Eating out gets monotonous — and expensive — pretty fast, and there are some foods (like eggs or burgers) that just aren’t that appetizing when microwaved.

If the only meal you’ve ever successfully prepared is a bowl of instant ramen or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, you might not have the slightest idea of where to start when stocking your kitchen with cooking supplies. We’ve put together a list of basic kitchen essentials, along with a few “nice-to-haves,” so you’re made ready to prepare meals for yourself — and maybe a friend (or date?) who’s willing to give your cooking a shot.

It’s a good idea to check with family and friends to see if they have unused kitchen items taking up space in their cabinets. Yard sales or Facebook Marketplace can be another way to score inexpensive dishes, gadgets, and appliances. You may just hit the jackpot, and you’ll definitely save yourself a good chunk of change than if you bought the same items new.

The “basic” basics

Maybe all you plan to make is sandwiches, canned soup, and microwave pizza. At the very least, you’re going to need something to eat off of — and with. Disposable plates, silverware, and cups might be convenient (I mean, who wants to wash dishes?), but they’re neither environmentally friendly nor cost effective.

Unless you’ll be entertaining large crowds on a regular basis, you don’t need to go all in and buy an entire dinnerware set. But you should plan to get at least four of the following:

  • Dinner plates
  • Soup/cereal bowls
  • Forks
  • Spoons
  • Knives
  • Drinking glasses

Let’s assume that you plan to cook at least some of your meals. If you don’t happen to score a set of pots and pans from someone you know, you can easily make do with:

  • Two saucepans with lids — one small (1.5-2.5 quarts) and one medium (5-6 quarts)
    • Note: If you’ll be cooking a lot of pasta, a stock pot with a lid is a good investment
  • Nonstick skillet (Use wooden or silicone utensils — never metal — with nonstick pans to avoid damaging them)
  • Baking sheet (also known as a cookie sheet or a sheet pan)

The best kitchen items are those that do double-duty, such as:

  • Mixing bowls — can also be used as serving bowls
  • Tongs — use to flip food while cooking, transfer cooked food to a plate, or serve pasta or salad
  • Cutting boards — besides the obvious, plastic or wooden boards can be used for serving or to protect counters or tables from hot pans
  • Wooden spoons — can be used for cooking (especially important for nonstick pans — see above) as well as serving
  • Colander/strainer — perfect for draining pasta, rinsing canned beans, and washing salad greens

These miscellaneous items will quickly become your daily go-to's in the kitchen:

  • Chef’s knife (Note: Always wash knives by hand; over time, the dishwasher will weaken the handle and eventually erode the blade)
  • Silicone spatula
  • Food storage containers for leftovers or meal prep
  • Corkscrew/bottle opener
  • Measuring cups and spoons

Items to elevate your culinary game

Maybe you’ve got the cooking basics down and you’re ready to get adventurous in the kitchen. Create Insta-worthy dishes using these common kitchen tools:

  • 9″ X 13″ baking dish: Forget boxed macaroni and cheese — impress your roommates (or date) with a cheesy homemade casserole (check out this easy-to-follow recipe).
  • Box grater: Perfect for shredding carrots for salads, cabbage for coleslaw, or cheese … for nachos, obviously.
  • Kitchen shears: Sturdy scissors that make everything from trimming green beans to spatchcocking a chicken easier.
  • Instant-read thermometer: Tired of wondering if your burgers are raw or medium-rare? This handy gadget offers instant gratification — and protection from food poisoning.
  • Microplane/zester: Think freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, dark chocolate shavings, and fragrant lemon zest for garnishing.

Ready to get cooking?

Whether you enjoy cooking or view it as a necessary part of adulting, making meals in your own kitchen can go a long way toward streamlining your monthly budget. If you’re not yet sure how you feel about your cooking capabilities, start off with the basic essentials. As your confidence grows, you can always add to your collection. Who knows: In a few months, you may find yourself hosting monthly supper clubs and giving cooking lessons to your friends.

Bon appétit!

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