Whether you're a newlywed, recent grad moving into your first apartment or one of the reported 32 percent of millennials who — as Pew Research Center reported — are living at home with Mom and Dad, surely the idea of furnishing a kitchen has crossed your mind. I'd love to help you get started.
Here's the deal: There are a few basic kitchen tools without which you probably won't use your kitchen for much more than a place to pile takeout containers. We're not talking about mountains of stuff — just 10 essentials to get you started.
Number 1: Fire Extinguisher. Because of personal experience, this item is absolutely essential and first on the list. It was one of those lazy Saturdays. I decided to make grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch. I set the greased skillet on the stove over high heat and ran out to the garage to say something to my husband. A neighbor wandered over, and we started talking. It was the smoke alarm that caught my attention and sent me flying to the kitchen. In those few moments I was gone, the pan flamed out and caught the upper cabinet on fire. My kitchen was on fire! The Kidde fire extinguisher (which costs about $40) on the counter saved the day. I am still surprised that I knew (almost intuitively) how to use the thing. I was so grateful.
Number 2: Knives. You need good knives that can be sharpened and that you will keep sharp. If you can find a set that comes with a wooden block, shears and at least a chef knife, a carving knife, paring knives and perhaps a bread knife, that's exactly what you need. Try the Utopia Kitchen 13-piece Set, which costs about $26.
Number 3: Pots and pans. You can go broke on pots and pans, or you can go smart with a high-quality basic set like the Cook N Home 12-Piece Stainless Steel Set. You want to make sure you have at least one skillet, a couple of saucepans and a larger pot for soups and stock. Each piece in that set comes with a glass lid. It costs about $55.
Number 4: Measuring cups and spoons. They don't need to be fancy. They don't need to be expensive. What you need is a set of cups and a set of spoons that to help you measure accurately. The Accor 11-piece Measuring Set fills the bill. It only costs about $16.
Number 5: Dish towels. These are also known as bar mops or restaurant cleaning towels. You need a stack of them for your kitchen — clean and ready to go. You'll save a ton of money using these instead of paper towels. Once they're dirty, throw them in the laundry. A 24-pack of white cotton professional-grade towels, like the set from Utopia costs about $20. They'll last for years.
Number 6: A strainer. I can't tell you how often I reach for my strainer. I use it for so many things. And now that I have started cooking rice the same way I cook pasta (by boiling the rice in an uncovered pot of with a lot of water until it's cooked, and then draining and rinsing the rice under hot water), I use my colander even more. The Bellemain Micro-Perforated Stainless Steel 5-quart Colander is perfect for all of your colanderization (Is that a word?) needs. It costs about $16.
Number 7: Tongs. These are essential in any kitchen, for sure. The OXO Good Grips 12-inch Stainless Locking Tongs are my first choice. I wouldn't know what to do without them. The price is about $12.
Number 8: Baking dishes. If you want to bake a cake or a casserole, you're going to need something to bake in. You want Pyrex baking dishes. With the 2-piece Pyrex Basics Oblong Glass Baking Dish Set, you can bake a cake and a casserole at the same time! The set costs about $17.
Number 9: Instant-read thermometer. You really need this. With a reliable thermometer, you won't suffer the heartbreak of overcooked steak or undercooked chicken. The Habor Instant Read Digital Cooking Thermometer will keep you looking good, chef! It costs about $18.
Number 10: Cutting board. Face it: Cooking requires a lot of cutting and chopping. You need a good cutting board to protect and preserve your cutlery and countertop. And, you need a cutting board that's easy to clean and sanitize. Try the 10-by-15 inch OXO Good Grips Cutting Board. The nonporous polypropylene board is ideal. It's even safe in the dishwasher and only costs about $15.
For links to these products and more information, please visit www.everydaycheapskate.com/essentialkitchen.
Mary invites questions, comments and tips at [email protected], or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, 12340 Seal Beach Blvd., Suite B-416, Seal Beach, CA 90740. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com, a personal finance member website and the author of "Debt-Proof Living," released in 2014. To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.