One of the best parts (or worst, depending on your skillset) of moving into your own apartment is having free reign over your kitchen, meal plan, and cooking schedule. For those that love to cook, this freedom is thrilling! For those that don’t, it can be a bit daunting. Here’s a our list on what to save money on and what to splurge on in your first kitchen.
While I do like design, I also like to keep costs to a minimum. For me, that meant accepting free dishes and glasses from older friends, saving plastic cups, and getting used to a slightly mis-matched dining set. Since it’s just me and my roommate 99% of the time, expensive dinnerware didn’t really matter to us, plus it was nice to get them for free. You can find great (cheap) sets from big box stores like Target and Walmart, if you’re interested in a matching set that doesn’t break the bank. Thrift stores and tag sales are also great places to find dishes and glasses, often the kind that your grandma used to set her holiday table.
Silverware: SAVE…but not too much
We originally bought a silverware set from Ikea for about $8 and always joked that it looked like “caveman silverware”…for instance, the forks only had 3 tines and looked ridiculous. While it was functional, we couldn’t even take ourselves seriously using it. So, we ended up getting a different set for about $20 from Target. So, I would say try to save here, but make sure whatever you get, you can live with.
You will need to at least semi-splurge on two sharp knives if you are planning to cook. A top quality chef’s knife is a must, but they can get really pricy, easily $100 or more. However, my fellow MFA blogger Sam, a Culinary Institute graduate, has found a great lower-priced alternative, the Victorinox 8-inch chef’s knife, that is available online for under $40. A good small paring knife is another kitchen essential and a Victorinox 3 1/2-inch version is available online for under $7.
In order to enjoy cooking (and do it well), you need the right tools. Narrow down the list of kitchen gadgets you must have, and treat yourself to one! My advice? If you’re a coffee addict, splurge on a nice maker. If you are a health nut, go for the blender-juicer combo. If you are a baker, get a strong hand mixer. Just make sure you’re positive you’ll get use out of any kitchen gadgets you buy. If you’re not sure, hold off for now.
Pots & Pans: SAVE
Since pots and pans are absolute staples of every kitchen, they aren’t crazy expensive. Plus, every family member you have ever known likely has set…which means they may have a few spare items that they’d like to give away. Let your family know you’re moving into your first apartment, and the goods may come pouring in. If not, look at your local thrift store, or big-box store to find some deals. Check this set out at Target. No matter what, though, look for non-stick pots and pans or you will regret it when you’re up to your elbows in dirty pans!
You will need one good frying pan and best deal around is a 10-inch cast iron skillet. You can find one online for under $15 and it will last forever.
A Dutch Oven is another type of a cook pot that that every serious cook should have. Look for seasonal sales in stores like Macy’s, use your coupons, and you can find a good enameled cast iron one for under $50, while the top-of-the-line splurge Le Creuset will cost $300 or more.
Garbage Can: SPLURGE
You’ll need a kitchen trash can that you can open hands-free when you are cooking. Also, you want a tight lid to keep pests and bugs out. You can find some good step-on open alternatives in the $30 range.
Cleaning Supplies: SPLURGE
Here, “splurging” means spending a couple of extra bucks and believe me, it’s totally worth it. Specifically: instead of buying bargain brand dishwasher detergent (like I did…) go for the on-brand version. It will save you hours of heartache and help you avoid re-washing the same load of dishes five times. Go for the nicer paper towels, too. The cheap versions usually don’t last as long, and you find yourself spending more anyway!
For more advice on equipping your kitchen check out this post by Sam.