Moving out involves a heap of expenses, and setting up a kitchen is one of them. The following is what you really should buy to avoid making yourself ill. This isn’t Julia Child’s kitchen, but rather what you need to make some standard student meals; pasta, toast, sandwiches – that kind of thing.
This kind of goes without saying, but you will need saucepans. Avoid saucepans that are light and thin – these won’t last and will burn your food. I cannot stress enough how much you don’t want bad saucepans. Do you like the taste of disappointment? No? Then look for a heavy base and a secure handle. Get a few sizes (3 is a good start), including one big enough for soup. Saucepans can get very expensive, so set aside a price you’re comfortable with, and find the best quality in that range.
You’ll need a minimum of two, preferably in different colours. Use one for meat and another for vegetables to avoid giving yourself food poisoning, and make sure you wash them thoroughly. You don’t need anything really fancy, but flimsy boards won’t last, especially if you have a dishwasher (looking at you, IKEA chopping boards). A thick plastic board is a good compromise. $10-25.
Good knives get really pricey, but last a long time if cared for properly. You can really spend as much as you want to, but bad knives are pointless (see what I did there?) and dangerous. Don’t waste your money. It’s worth spending a bit more and getting a mid-range knife block with a sharpener. Alternatively, you could consider buying a small number of higher quality knives that can cope with meat and vegetables for now.
One decent fry pan
Like saucepans, you’re looking for a heavy base so that your food won’t stick. Fry pans are great for student staples; pasta sauces, omelettes, pancakes, stir fry (which is better in a wok, but a good pan is fine). Up to $30 is fine.
Your everyday utensils (knives and forks) can come from an op-shop or that set your mum doesn’t really like anymore. You can get a set of cooking utensils for $2 at a few places (supermarkets, IKEA etc) but be wary as cheap plastic often starts to melt and wear as you’re cooking. It’s worth spending just a little bit more and getting something better. At a minimum, want a good stirring implement (like a wooden spoon), a ladle, tongs, and a spatula if you like to bake. $10-$15.
At least one oven tray
Oven trays are magic. Roast veggies, chicken, pizza, scones, biscuits, – whatever. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy – let’s face it, it’ll probably have baking paper on it anyway. $10-$20
Our colander is called Colin. I am not joking. $5-$15
$2 is fine, but if you want to spend $20, there are many novelty varieties available.
If you can afford a nice one, go for it. A thick mixing bowl will last ages, but there’s also this set of two from IKEA for $7 and they’re fine.
Kettle, Microwave, Toaster
Sure, you could buy the fancy kettle with different heat settings, but the $10 kettle will still make a cup of tea.
Kitchen funds leftover? Consider buying some of these.
The following aren’t strictly essential, but will be useful.
The benefit of a rice cooker is really about convenience. Rice isn’t hard to cook but it is easier to let a machine cook it for you. $20-$50
I love my slow cooker. You literally just put all the ingredients in, and 6 hours later it’s food. You can use cheaper cuts of meat, your food tastes better and it’s ridiculously easy. Just stir it every couple of hours and let the machine do all the work. Magic. $30-$80.
A cheap stick mixer won’t set you back much and can be used for a bunch of different things – smoothies, dip, blending soup etc. You don’t really need one, but you will use one if you have it. $40-$100, depending on attachments and quality.
A roasting tray allows you to plan ahead by making a whole roast chicken, for example, and using the leftovers throughout the week. $30ish
For muffins, or cupcakes, or mini quiches. A cheap one won’t cost much at all, but it’s not really an essential item. Unless you really like muffins. $10
Supermarket cake is sad. Make your own. Add sprinkles. $20.
If you like to bake, I recommend a knock-off kitchenaid, but you can pick up a set of simple beaters very cheaply. Just take note of the size of the beaters – anything too small won’t be terribly effective. Cake for everyone! $15-$40 for handheld beaters, $80-$150 for a stand.
Lasagne. Pie. Pasta bake. Pudding. You won’t starve without one of these, but they are pretty handy. A good pyrex dish will last years and you really only need one.
And there you go! The most versatile kitchen basics to get you started. Have a look at this piece from Joey about what to actually do with all your new equipment.