When I was in college I decided I was going to bake and sell baked goods out of my dorm room. I know, HUUUUGE health code violation. It ended up flopping because everyone can just go to the cafeteria for free on their meal plan so I wasn’t really much of a novelty, but I did learn a lot about what I actually needed for cooking and what is just fluff.
Now, I would NOT suggest making brownies by placing a third of the batter into three different soup bowls to stir it. But, I do want to name that as an example of how you really can be creative with what you have to create great things. Making little shepherd’s pies in tiny ramekins is cute, but I’m guessing you’ll do just as well to have it in a normal pan.
If you’re working on your wedding registry or gathering items for your first apartment you’ll want to check out this list to decide the things you REALLY need. Make sure you print it out and take it with you to the store.
If you go to a wedding registry checklist you can end up looking at over 300 items. That’s almost the number of Netflix shows you have to choose between! You don’t need that stress in your life. So please print out my bare necessities checklist and save yourself the hassle.
After the printables, I also have a list for you of each item with some tips on how to use it to avoid having a million gadgets in your kitchen.
For most of us, our morning pick-me-up beverage is a defining feature of our day which decides whether or not we want to continue with it. You might only need one of these depending on what your preferred drink is.
Now, if you choose a Keurig, you’ll be able to also make tea by just running hot water through the Keurig. For a drip coffee maker, it really just does one thing, but there are lots of options that are either really petit or have a ton of settings. For a French Press or Pour-Over you’ll also need a tea pot, but TBH you can really just have a microwave-safe mug that you heat your water in if you don’t have space for a whole teapot.
Tea pots are crazy cute and come in all sorts of shapes and colors. If you like tea or french press/pour-over coffee, they’re kind of a must. If you don’t have oven access, they also come in electric options that don’t scream at you which is very nice.
There are two significant things that I use for food-saving. These are mason jars and Tupperware. Mason jars are great because they’re air tight and keep things fresh longer. (Yes, they can be used for things other than decorations.) I particularly like Tupperware that is microwave safe so you can eat straight out of it if you like.
Dining items include things like spoons, forks, knives, cups, bowls, plates, and mugs. My biggest advice would be this…things don’t have to match for you to use them. Things don’t have to be fancy for you to use them. If your Aunt Joni will judge you for having mason jars as cups then don’t invite her over. If you have a tiny home then you are 10% likely to invite a bunch of people over to celebrate Thanksgiving. Aka, you probably don’t need fine china (unless you’re into that, but I’m totally not pressuring you into it). So I repeat you do NOT need matching, pretty, fancy, or expensive dining ware. What you DO need is something that you like and can afford.
There are many gadgets out there that can make things happen really fast for you. And that’s fabulous. But if you have a tiny kitchen, I’ve narrowed it down to what I’d say you REALLY need and left out the items you can borrow from your Aunt Glenda the one time a decade you need it.
If you eat pasta, you’ll want to strain it. There are different types that take up less space, but frankly, it makes your life much easier just to have some type.
Some people like wooden spoons. I personally like metal so then you can scoop the food out with it too. Either way, pick one and have it because mixing things with the teaspoon you measured with is a pain in the rear. Trust me! I’d know.
This is my most used kitchen tool. I have one that’s heat resistant and I’m obsessed. I’ll use this to scrape out a bowl, to mix the batter, to move things around in my pan, to stir eggs, to stir my pasta. I love love love my rubber scraper.
I have had to use a knife to open a can before. It is NOT safe or pretty. Just spend the $4 and save yourself the stress.
I’ll be honest. This really isn’t a MUST have for me. I prefer peeling most things with my chef’s knife because it’s a good bit stronger than my peeler. However, using a peeler is a heck of a lot safer even though they can still be terrifying.
I like to pick bowls with measuring options on the sides as well as lids to save myself from finding plastic wrap. Also, finding ones that are microwave safe are super helpful so you can melt your butter right in your bowl.
I have an entire post on how to choose a chef’s knife. But here’s the main deal. You really need one. I spent my first 17 years using a steak knife to cut everything. Like, everything, everything. Including things like a watermelon. Which, again, just not pretty. I don’t need to you to spend a ton of money on this, but you do need one. Check out Farberware brand for some more reasonably priced ones.
This one you can actually do without, but kitchen shears will legit change the way you do food. I always use my kitchen shears on my lettuce so I don’t even have to pull out a cutting board. I also use it to get fat off my chicken or any sort of packaging off of my foods.
In order to use a chef’s knife, you should have a cutting board. I always suggest one with a ridge around the edge to catch the juices from your fruit.
One of these days I want to do a post on all the things I do with a blender. Frankly, you don’t NEED one, but if you at least have a small one it will be there whenever you need it for smoothies, mixing batter, etc.
2 C Measuring Cup
TECHNICALLY there is a teensy difference between wet and dry measuring cups. However, I always prefer using my 2 cup wet measuring cup over my dry ones because I drop flour a lot less that way.
All-In-One Measuring Spoons
There’s this delightful thing that my sister gave me which is all-in-one measuring spoons. Instead of having like, eight measuring spoons you get two. Those two have a piece that you move up and back based on how big of a spoon you need.
I’ve seen my husband try to pull things out of the oven with bare hands…there’s a reason women live longer than men, amirite?
If you have a choice, I’d find silicone oven mitts because you can use them when you’re straining pasta and don’t have to worry about the hot water which, guess what, doesn’t give a darn that your hands are there.
Tongs are great for flipping your meat or veggies in a pan and making sure they get turned the whole way around and don’t just tumble back onto the same side and then burn.
Pancakes… That will be all.
Pot & Saucepan
If you’re trying to go the minimal route, I’d just have one big pot and one big sauce pan. Both with lids. Both non-stick. I personally use ceramic non-stick. Mostly just because they looked kind of pretty. But they also work well!
13 x 9 Pan
I was worried about non having an 8×8 pan so I got it. Guess what. I never use it! Because more brownies IS better brownies. Also, I did have a time in college where I absolutely needed an 8×8 pan. I just grabbed some tin foil and turned my 13×9 pan into a 9×9. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.
I’ve tried cooling things on plates and it just ends with things being soggy. Just get yourself one big cooling rack for those cookies and you’ll be in a good place, friend.
Jelly Roll Pan
I’d pick a jelly roll pan over a normal cookie sheet if you’re only choosing one because the jelly roll pan has so many extra benefits. Mainly, not spilling things all over the place. You can use it for cookies, cake, or meat and veggies. With a cookie sheet you only really get cookies.
If you prefer cake or coffee cake to cupcakes or muffins you can probably skip this one.
I don’t even need to tell you the benefits of crock pot cooking, but lemme just tell you…I’m the laziest person in the world so I LOVE my crock pot. I just come home in the evening and it’s like someone already made dinner. Grab some crock pot liners and you’ll be able to do clean up in like, ten seconds.
I didn’t used to think this was a necessity…until I accidentally served mostly-raw chicken to my mother-in-law. She was super sweet about it, but I decided the next day I needed a meat thermometer so I would never give anyone salmonella. I’d definitely suggest a digital one. Mine even has the appropriate temperatures directly on the package so I don’t have to google it every time.
Things I DIDN’T Add to the List and Why
Graters are great if you enjoy fresh cheeses, hashbrowns, or cauliflower rice. However, you can get all of those items already cut up for you at the grocery store. Unless you ENJOY grating (I actually do, I’m not being facetious) then just buy it already done.
Ice Cream Scoop
I know a lot of my posts ask you to have an ice cream scoop. I’ll let you in on a secret…
you can use a spoon!
Electric mixers are incredibly helpful for mixing up batters and whipping egg whites. However, you CAN mix your batter by hand to get out your life frustrations and I know that most people don’t need to whip egg whites so I don’t want you to waste money on an item that you don’t need (unless you actually do!)
I actually have a rice cooker because I tend to burn rice. However, if you don’t eat rice too often then this will probably just sit in your cupboard. So consider if this is something you actually need.
My suggestion would be to not buy a microwave until you move into your new home since some homes have them built into the cabinets these days. Also, you can do everything with a microwave on a stove or in the oven if you need to. These are the only reasons I’m not adding a microwave to the list.
If you’re not going to use a knife sharpener then don’t buy it. I don’t consider it a necessity unless you use your knives a lot and care about them(which I encourage greatly, obviously).
I love my chef’s knife so much that I rarely use a paring knife. This doesn’t mean I think they’re unnecessary, however I hope this shows you how seriously I take my chef’s knives.
Alrighty friends. I want to hear from you. What items would you add to your “must have” list?