Kristen Hartke, The Washington Post
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.
Soy sauce (low-sodium, dark)
Vinegar (white, balsamic, red wine)
Honey or light agave syrup
Mustard (Dijon, whole-grain)
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.)
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.
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.
Sugar (white and brown)
Unsweetened cocoa powder
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 (our favourite is the Mini Angled Measuring Cup by OXO, $4.99)
Measuring spoon set, preferably stainless steel
Stainless steel mixing bowls (three graduated sizes)
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
Peppermill (try the chef's favourite, Unicorn's 6-inch Magnum Peppermill, $31)
Antibacterial cutting board or mats
Good to have: $130 (+/- R1800)
Handheld citrus juicer (Chef'n FreshForce, $19.99)
Long-handled fine-mesh strainer
Wooden cutting board (12-inch or larger)
Parchment paper (roll or half sheets)
Instant-read digital thermometer (ThermoPop, $29)
12-inch stainless steel French whisk
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 (Victorinox's four-inch Swiss Classic Paring Knife, $7.69)
Corkscrew (the winged corkscrew is practically fool proof for a novice, but a waiter's corkscrew is a classic)
Good to have: $35 (+/- R500)
10-inch serrated bread knife (great for slicing bread, cake, tomatoes and eggs; try Chicago Cutlery's Walnut Tradition 10-Inch Bread Knife/Slicer for $16.99)
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 (Lodge's 6-quart Enamel Dutch Oven, $49.99, or Cuisinart's 5 1/2-quart Chef's Classic Enamelled Cast Iron Oval Covered Casserole, $56.89)
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 (dish up rice and steamed vegetables for a quick meal in 20 minutes; try Black & Decker's 6-cup cooker, $19.99)
Slow cooker (come home to ready-to-eat chili and stews; try the KitchenAid 6-quart slow cooker with standard lid, $89)
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 (Ateco's 19-inch maple wood rolling pin, $7.99 at webstaurantstore.com)
Kitchen scale (baking requires some precision, so invest in an Escali's Primo Digital Kitchen Scale, $24.89)
Featured Image: Wendy Galietta, The Washington Post