Outfitting a kitchen on a budget can be a daunting task. For many first-timers, whether you’re fresh out of college, or living on your own for the first time, it can be easy to get caught up buying way more than the essentials. The allure of the department stores and even smaller mall shops can entice naïve shoppers with their elaborate displays and wide selections, but the mark-up on other outlets can be as much as triple the price.
One of the greatest sources of kitchen tools is your local dollar or discount store. A wooden spoon will stir just as well, whether it costs $1 or $10. Savvy shoppers can accumulate the same amount of essentials for $25, as would cost $100 and upwards at department stores. Many, if not all, professional chefs stock their own toolboxes for as little expense as possible, preferring to splurge on only a few specialty tools particular to the trade. But for most in-home, everyday preparation, the list of tools you will use quite often is much less intimidating.
Firstly, knife sets may seem like a necessity, but for the sake of preparation and cooking, it’s really only necessary to set yourself up with a couple quality blades. A mid-to-large sized chef’s knife is used for almost all meat trimming and filleting, and is quite versatile for slicing and dicing vegetables. This is one of the few items where it is worth the time to browse a specialty or department store. As oppose to spending upwards of a hundred to three hundred dollars on a knife set, a single quality knife can last for years longer, and cost as little as $20. If you are fortunate enough to have a somewhat larger budget, splurging on one upwards of $40-$50 will give you a finer cut edge, and a heavy steel which will last for years.
The remaining items you will find yourself using on a daily basis can be found in most discount and dollar stores. Big Box stores such as Wal-Mart and Canadian Tire also carry most of the same products, but the brand selection is usually higher end and priced accordingly. At the bare minimum every kitchen needs the following items which are readily available at almost every dollar store:
• One measuring cup (the one cup size is the most versatile)
• Measuring spoons
• One Heat-proof spatula – the variety you would use for stirring and mixing.
• One Regular flipping/serving spatula
• At least one wooden spoon – many dollar stores sell then in packages of two or three for only one dollar!
• One Medium-sized wire whisk
• One pair of preferably heat-resistant tongs
• One medium/large sized non-stick frying pan
• One large sauce/cooking pot
• One small sauce pot
• One large baking sheet
o Optional: One 1”-2” deep roasting pan
• Basting/pastry brush
• One wooden cutting board for vegetables/grains only
• One plastic/glass cutting board for meat only
These basics will allow you to prepare almost, if not all recipes that do not call for specialized equipment, and will set you up with a foundation of cookware that can be built upon. When you find yourself properly equipped, it’s only natural to invite over a group of friends, and prepare your first home-cooked meal.