The Barest Kitchen

Your basic kitchen arsenal

The kitchen is the primary work space of home economics.  There are a few basic necessities that every kitchen needs.  Everybody has their standards.  These are ours.  Prices range from almost nothing to whatever you want to pay.  Seriously, there’s no upper limit.  I’m going to recommend some prices based on the longevity and the quality of the kind of equipment I would buy.

To call a room a kitchen, it must have the following

  • Electrical outlets with electrical power
  • Sink with running hot and cold water
  • Oven
  • Range
  • Refrigerator/Freezer
  • Cabinets/Drawers for storage (ideally with some pantry space)
  • Counter tops
  • Fire Extinguisher (Not optional!)
  • Optional: Microwave oven (I’ve never seen someone who had a kitchen and didn’t have one of these)
  • Optional: Dishwasher

Our entire premise assumes you at least those resources in the place where you live.  Most places people consider a home will have at least this, so you should be fairly safe.  The next step is cookware.  Cooking usually requires heat.  A lot of heat.  Like so much heat that you probably won’t want to touch it with your hands.   So you’re going to need method of applying food to heat without your hands.  Seriously, “Hey, look what Zog do!”  Again, unless this is the first time having a home, you probably have this stuff.  But just in case you are brand new to the world, here are the basics.

Cookware (< $100)

  • 1 large pot (stock pot)
  • 2 sauce pans (one large, one small – the large one should have a steamer basket)
  • 2 frying pans (one large, one small – the large one can be a wok)
  • 1 roasting pan
  • 2 pot holders (one can be an oven mitt)
  • 1 bread pan
  • 1 baking sheet
  • Optional: Casserole Dish

You can usually buy all this stuff as a set. It should cost less than $100 for non-stick.   Right now, Wal-Mart has it for about $65-$150 on their website.  Heavier cookware is generally considered higher quality because it distributes the heat more evenly.

Next you’ll need a set of measuring equipment ($10)

  • Set of measuring cups
  • Set of measuring spoons
  • Kitchen scale (Not optional)
  • Optional: Pyrex measuring cup ($10-ish)

And cutting tools ($10)

  • Carving knife
  • Paring knife
  • Bread knife
  • Vegetable Peeler
  • Can opener

Everything else ($30-$50)

  • Set of 3 mixing bowls
  • Mesh Strainer
  • Tongs
  • Cutting board
  • Fast read thermometer
  • Timer (You usually have one built into your phone, oven, and microwave)
  • 1+ long handled spoons (at least one slotted)
  • 1-2 spatulas
  • Rolling Pin (I like pizza rollers.)
  • Optional: Whisk, Silicon Bowl Scraper, cheese grater

 Other recommended items:

  • 3-4 large airtight containers (for long term pantry storage of things like flour, beans, rice, and pasta)
  • 6-8 medium semi-disposable airtight containers (for storing leftovers in the fridge)
  • Set of pantry baskets (just to keep things organized)


And there you have it.  Those are the core basics components of a kitchen, and it costs less than $200.  You can cook 99% of everything that can be cooked with this set of equipment.  There are limitless additional pieces you can buy.  But as a general rule, avoid anything that only has 1 use.   The the bigger it is, the more uses it should have.  Storage space is a fairly expensive part of your home.  Don’t waste it.  And don’t fill it up with a lot of stuff that’s going to make your kitchen time more complicated and time consuming.

Which brings me to the next topic: kitchen appliances.  Technology is a wonderful thing, and when you use it properly it can save you a ton of time.  Time is valuable, so some appliances are easily worth the cost.  A good kitchen appliance is used regularly, makes cooking faster, doesn’t complicate the cleanup, and stores easily.

Highly recommended kitchen appliances, in order of value

  • Hand mixer for $15-25 (I prefer the hand/stand mixer combos.)
  • 6qt Slow cooker for $25 (Consider upgrading to an electric pressure cooker for $75-$100.)
  • Optional: Bread maker for $60 (Buy ‘em used on craigslist for <$20.  I love these things.)
  • Optional: Food Processor for $40 (The more people you’re cooking for, the more useful these are.)

A complete kitchen costs about $200-$300 to equip.  Fill in the gaps with anything your missing.   Give serious consideration to the appliances.  But you don’t have to buy them all at once. Our plan assumes you have the mixer and the slow cooker.  But the used bread maker will pay for itself once you start making your own bread.  And I can’t recommend making your own bread without one, it simply takes too much time.  The food processor is more of a personal preference.

So go to town.  You probably already own most of it.  If you own substantially more than this, consider reducing your clutter by throwing out some specialized tools that you don’t need.


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