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The ultimate kitchen checklist

Even if you're starting from scratch, you don't need to spend your whole pay check

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By The Washington Post | January 8, 2022 | Kitchen

Making the move from a dorm or your parents' house to your first solo place can seem intimidating, especially when it comes to outfitting the kitchen.

Yes, you'll have to put some money into it - although maybe not as much as you think. In fact, if you spend wisely, you'll save money on eating out and have kitchen equipment that will last for years - and maybe even someday end up in your future offspring's first kitchen.

Pro tip:

Check out yard sales for kitchen equipment - you can find amazing bargains on everything from dishware and cutlery to skillets, blenders and handmade rolling pins.

Pantry Ingredients: $150 (+/- R2000)

Your pantry setup will lay the foundation for everything you need to feed yourself from a pre-workout breakfast to a late-night snack and even Sunday brunch at home with friends.


A few basic staples provide the basis for pasta, stir-fry, curry, chili and soup.

Olive oil

Vegetable oil

Sesame oil

Soy sauce (low-sodium, dark)

Vinegar (white, balsamic, red wine)

Honey or light agave syrup

Canned tomatoes

Tomato paste

Chicken/vegetable broth

Coconut milk

Mustard (Dijon, whole-grain)

Hot sauce

Easy shelf-stable proteins

Fill your larder with both canned and dried beans - canned for when you need a super-fast meal of rice and beans at the end of a long day, and dried for making more luscious soups and stews. Raw nuts can be pureed into pesto, tossed onto a salad or sautéed with veggies for a burrito filling.

Dried/canned beans (black, kidney, navy, etc.)

Dried lentils

Raw nuts: cashews, walnuts, pine nuts

Canned tuna in oil (look for an Italian brand, like Cento)

Starchy bases and additions

Stock up on super-thin capellini pasta when you want to cook dinner in 10 minutes flat, and grits (or polenta) make a great base for eggs and roast chicken alike. Different varieties of rice are often sold in bulk.

Rice (basmati, jasmine and brown, but also bamboo, black (forbidden) rice, arborio, etc.)

Pasta (wheat, rice, etc.)



Panko bread crumbs

Spices and other flavour-enhancers

A few dashes of spice, even just salt and pepper, can totally change the flavour of any dish, along with a squirt or two of lemon juice. Start with these basics, but expand your spice and flavour pantry each time you shop, picking up two-ounce quantities of ginger, smoked paprika, nutmeg, tarragon, thyme and whatever else strikes your fancy.



Chili powder








Vanilla extract

Baking supplies

It's incredibly easy to whip up a batch of biscuits or chocolate chip cookies, so don't be afraid to flex your baking muscles. Nothing will make you more popular with friends and neighbours than freshly baked brownies.

All-purpose flour

Sugar (white and brown)

Unsweetened cocoa powder

Baking powder

Baking soda

Fast-rise yeast (store in the freezer to extend shelf life)


Good tools in the kitchen can mean the difference between success and failure, so start with the essentials, and then add more items as your skills grow and you're ready to tackle new recipes and techniques.

The essentials: $150 (+/- R2000)

Dry measuring cup set, preferably stainless steel

16-ounce liquid measuring cup

1/4 cup plastic measuring cup

Measuring spoon set, preferably stainless steel

Stainless steel mixing bowls (three graduated sizes)

Large colander

9-inch metal tongs (locking)

Wooden spoon (any kind)

Silicone spatula (good for mixing batters or to use in a non-stick pan)

Thin metal spatula


Antibacterial cutting board or mats

Good to have: $130 (+/- R1800)

Handheld citrus juicer

Box Grater

Long-handled fine-mesh strainer

Wooden cutting board (12-inch or larger)

Parchment paper (roll or half sheets)

Instant-read digital thermometer

12-inch stainless steel French whisk

Potato masher

Microplane grater


Every cook needs a few good knives, like a basic eight-inch chef's knife and a small paring knife. A set of kitchen shears is handy for breaking down a chicken, snipping herbs and cutting off those pesky heavy-duty rubber bands binding the broccoli.

The essentials: $75 (+/- R1000)

8-inch chef's knife

Serrated paring knife

Corkscrew (the winged corkscrew is practically fool proof for a novice, but a waiter's corkscrew is a classic)

Good to have: $35 (+/- R500)

Kitchen shears

10-inch serrated bread knife

Pots and Pans

Pots and pans can be a big expense, but most cooking can be handled with a skillet, a stock pot and a sheet pan. Yard sales are a great place to look for cast-iron or enamel skillets and Dutch ovens, which can often be easily reconditioned at home at a small fraction of the cost of purchasing new.

The essentials: $100 (+/- R1400)

6-inch cast-iron or non-stick skillet (ovenproof)

12-inch cast-iron skillet

9-by-13-inch baking glass baking dish (a half-sheet-pan-size stainless steel hotel pan can also be a good budget option)

Rimmed baking sheet

6- to 8-quart stock pot

Good to have: $75 (+/- R1000)

Dutch oven

9- or 10-inch non-stick sauté pan (ovenproof)

Electrics: $175 (+/- R2500)

There is a dizzying array of appliances that could easily fill up an entire kitchen, but there are a handful that can be useful on an almost daily basis. Use an immersion blender for everything from smoothies to soup; a scaled-down food processor frees up counter space and speeds up chopping veggies or whipping up hummus.

Immersion (stick) blender

Mini food processor

Rice cooker

Slow cooker

Baking Essentials: $80 (+/- R1000)

Once you get bitten by the baking bug, it's easy to obsess over handmade French porcelain pie pans and high-end stand mixers - which someday may be worth investing in. Until then, a simple rolling pin - if it's not tapered, it'll be easier to roll out dough evenly - is a must-have, and a bench scraper is useful for other tasks besides baking, like scooping up chopped ingredients to throw into a hot pan.

9-inch round cake pan

8 1/2-inch loaf pan

9-inch pie glass plate

Rolling pin

Bench scraper

Kitchen scale

Handheld mixer

Written by Kristen Hartke, The Washington Post.