Kitchen Basics: Preparing Your Kitchen for Cooking

Kitchen Basics: Preparing Your Kitchen for Cooking

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  1. The economy is in bad shape right now, and many folks are cutting corners any way they can. Some have cut back on their coffeehouse brews, some are buying fewer things in the department store, and others are putting off buying new cars or new homes. But we all have to eat! A simple solution to cutting food costs is to cook at home more often. These days, many people never turn on their oven or use their stove. (Um, what do all those little numbers mean?)

    If you, like most of us, are finding your finances a bit tight these days, consider forgoing a few restaurant meals each week in favor of home cooked meals. They’re cheaper, generally healthier (because you can control what’s in them and limit salt, etc), and can often be quite easy to prepare. But if you’ve never been much of a cook, you’ll need to stock your kitchen with some basic tools. (Also, if you’re a young person just starting out on your own, you’ll need kitchen basics, so pay attention.)

    If you’ve lived on your own for a few years and/or you received many wedding gifts, you may be well on your way to a fully-stocked kitchen without having to buy lots of new things. The following list covers most anything you’ll need to prepare basic meals and baked goods. The list may seem extensive; obviously, if you’re cooking to save money, you don’t want to spend oodles of money to get your kitchen ready. This list is just an outline for reference.

    All of the items on this list are available at local discount stores, online, specialty shops, grocery stores, and home centers, in a variety of price ranges. Choose items of good quality and reasonable price. Some items, such as measuring cups/spoons and utensils can be found at dollar stores for, yes, a dollar.

    ♦ For starters, you’ll need some cookware:

    Saucepans – 1, 2, and 3 quart sizes preferably with lids

    Skillets – 6, 10, and 12 or 14 inch, preferably with lids

    Dutch oven with lid

    Remember that you probably have plates that are the approximate size of these pans – you can cover the pans with a plate if you don’t have a lid. (Just be sure to use a hot pad to lift the plate off the hot pan!) Pots and pans should be durable, of good quality, and feel heavier than they look. Choosing good quality means the items will last for many years and be safe for cooking. (In other words, pots and pans are not the things to buy at the dollar store.)

    ♦ Baking dishes:

    1 or 1 ½ quart size dish

    1-2 9 inch cake pans (if you ever plan to bake cakes, although these pans are useful for other things, too)

    1-2 8-9 inch pie plates (again, if you ever plan to make pie)

    2 cookie sheets (also useful for baking things like rolls)

    1-2 loaf pans (handy for bread, of course, but also meatloaf – a simple, inexpensive meal)

    Note: most of these items are available as disposable pans, too – so if you don’t plan to make bread or meatloaf very often, don’t buy one. If you decide to try making one of thsoe, buy a disposable and try it out. They’re cheap and available at grocery and discount stores.

    ♦ Other tools:

    A basic knife set, or at the very least – a chef’s knife, paring knife, steak knives, and bread knife

    Pot holders

    Cutting board (plastic is easiest to keep sanitary; consider having a separate board for raw meat)


    Spoons in a variety of sizes – wooden, metal, plastic


    Mixing bowls (which can double as serving bowls)

    Mixer (hand-held is fine for casual bakers)




    Vegetable peeler


    Measuring cups (two sets – one liquids and one for solids…yes, there’s a difference)

    Measuring spoons

    Spatulas and pancake turners (useful for many things besides pancakes)

    Just a note: if your cookware has a non-stick surface, you will need to use only plastic or rubber utensils on it to prevent cracking and scratching. Cracked or scratched non-stick cookware can release carcinogens, which can lead to cancer. That’s not on the menu!

    ♦ And perhaps even:

    Food processor

    Tea kettle

    Cookbooks or recipes (also widely available online for free)

    Potato masher

    ♦ Items for keeping your kitchen clean:

    Dish towels

    Sponges or rags for washing dishes (please sanitize your sponges daily by microwaving for 1 minute or running through the dishwasher. Sponges harbor all manner of nasty germs. If you use dishrags, use a clean one each day.)

    Multi-purpose cleaner

    Dish soap

    Hand soap (wash your hands before you start a meal and frequently during preparation, especially after handling raw meat)

    Dishwasher soap, if you own a dishwasher

    And of course, you’ll want to actually prepare food in this well-stocked kitchen!

    ♦ Here are some basic food items to keep on hand, useful in a variety of dishes:


    Pepper (the type that comes in a grinder is best, but already-ground pepper is okay, too)




    Garlic powder

    Bay leaves

    Chili powder



    Vanilla extract

    Non-stick cooking spray

    You can find less expensive spices at some discount chains or dollar stores. Generic brands are just as good as fancy brands. In general, dry spices are best when used within one year of opening; don‘t spend several dollars on a spice you‘ll only use a few times in that time period.

    ♦ Pantry items:


    All purpose flour

    Brown sugar

    Powdered sugar (aka confectioners sugar)

    Oils – vegetable or canola, olive

    Baking powder

    Baking soda


    ♦ Refrigerator items:


    Sour Cream

    Condiments such as mustard, catsup, mayonnaise, salad dressings

    Worcestershire sauce

    Soy sauce

    Having these basic items available will make your kitchen truly functional and allow you to prepare a variety of dishes. Menu planning is a key to kitchen success, and we will discuss that in the coming weeks, along with grocery shopping basics. After you have a basic menu plan for a week (or a few days – whatever works best for you), you can purchase the fresh items you need, such as meats and vegetables, and be ready to cook!

    Cooking at home is uncomplicated, fun, and cost-effective. These basics will get your kitchen ready for preparing nearly any basic meal.








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