I will get to what foods to always keep in your pantry in a later post, but if you are going to cook anything you need the right tools. If you are trying to cook food with the most nutrition and the least toxins, the right tools are even more important and can make things a lot easier. They will help you get the most out of your money and help you eat healthy too.
Stocking your first kitchen can be a struggle when you're on a budget, but getting good tools is worth it, and you don't have to pay for them all yourself. Birthdays, Christmas and other gift giving events can really help if you know what to ask for. For my 18th birthday, I asked for kitchen related presents. I was still living at home, but I wanted to build up my supplies before I moved out on my own. That year I received a great set of pots and pans from my parents. I have loved cooking with them for the past 9 years; they have served me well and are still almost as nice as the day I first opened the box. I liked them so much that I recently asked for more from the same collection for Christmas.
Everyone is different and everyone cooks differently, so you may find that there is an item you find is a must have for you that I don't. Do your research and make the best choice you can with what you have available. Don't shy away from the thrift store kitchen section; you might just find a gem hidden in there. And try not to buy items that only have one purpose; all they do is take up space, and you only use them a few times a year.
So here is my list of must have items for your Real Foods kitchen.
(Yes, these are affiliate links and I will make a small commission if you buy anything through them.)
Let's start with a set of pots and pans. When looking for pots and pans, I find these are the most useful:
- 10 or 12 inch skillet
- 1.5-2 quart sauce pan
- 3 quart sauce pan
- 8 quart or larger stock pot
- Well fitting lids for each
If you can't do $100 right now, I would opt to buy a good 10 or 12 inch skillet and a 3 quart sauce pan with lids first and add to your set later. I use those more than any of the rest. Look for quality stainless steel pans with a good weight, well fitting lids, and either an aluminum or copper encapsulated core bottom for even heat distribution.
DON'T get anything with a non-stick coating! That stuff can be toxic, and even the new ceramic non-stick aluminum pans are not considered safe.
Another great option for your kitchen is a 10 or 12 inch Cast Iron skillet:
I have heard more than a few people say that everyone should have at least one well seasoned cast iron skillet, but it wasn't until recently that I added one to my line up. Don't get me wrong; I really wanted one, but somehow it didn't make it into my shopping cart until this month. You can definitely get by and still make great food without one, but they really are all they are cracked up to be. (And they are good for self defense if anyone climbs into your tower window.)
If you are single or only cooking for 2-3 you really need a toaster oven. They cost so much less to run than a standard oven, they don't heat up the whole kitchen, and newer models, often called counter top ovens, can hold their temperature just as well as a standard oven would. I have even baked a cake in mine and it worked better than in my gas oven at my first apartment. Look for a model designed for more than toast. Many come with a convection setting as well as toast, bake, broil, and sometimes even rotisserie. A good one can cost more, but they are well worth the investment in energy savings and convenience.
Next, let's talk Tupperware, shall we?
Even if you are just cooking for yourself, you need somewhere to put the extras, as well as freezer meals and lunches. Canning jars work great for most of your needs, but sometimes you need a different shape. I would recommend this set or one like it. I got it at Costco for around $30 I think. Glass is perfect for storing left overs in because it won't leach chemicals of any kind; it's see-through so you know what's in there; it's freezer safe; and this set is even oven safe so it can double as bake ware for small batches and single servings of favorites, like shepherds pie, lasagna, roasted veggies or baked chicken in a toaster oven.
For personal-sized bake ware, I really like the looks of this set and have put it on my Christmas wishlist.
If you plan on feeding more than just yourself, you will need a Loaf Pan, a pie pan, and one 8x8 pan. I prefer glass for bake ware, as it can't leach anything into my food and is much less expensive than other good non-toxic options like cast iron, stoneware, or ceramic. Just make sure you grease them well; I always have trouble with my bread sticking if I don't. You can usually find these in an inexpensive set like this one, which also has 3 mixing bowls, a liquid measuring cup, and 2 custard cups.
Next on my list is a half sheet sized cookie sheet or 2.
Since they don't make glass cookie sheets, you have a few options. The easiest is to use parchment paper on an aluminum cookie sheet like I do. (Aluminum might leach into more acidic foods and is believed to be linked to many illnesses, and most real foodies try to avoid it touching their food, but it is one of the best heat conductors.) However they do make stainless steel (not great reviews on them though) cookie sheets, and I have even seen a Stoneware Cookie Sheet on Amazon.com (great reviews but they are a lot more expensive). I also recommend for the single baker a toaster oven sized cookie sheet.
You will also want a cooling rack but I won't bore you with what to look for with this one.
6 cup muffin tin.
A safe option is stainless steel, As with cookie sheets they do make stoneware and even cast iron muffin pans, but they can cost $30+ for a 6 cup pan! As much as I would like one, I just can't justify it. I say 6 cup rather than 12 because is will fit in a toaster oven. If you have a family to feed though, please feel free to get the 12 cup tin.
Now we can move on to the prep work tools:
Mixing bowls, at least 3 in different sizes, but having more than one set is nice when I'm really in the baking mood. Look for glass, stainless steel, or crockery (but be careful when selecting colored glazed bowls; some have lead in the glazing.) I prefer deep bowls and I love the non slip grips on these stainless steel ones. Avoid plastic and melamine as they might leach.
Colander/strainer. Look for a stainless steel colander, not aluminum. I prefer a large mesh colander that fits over the sink like this one.
You will also want a set of smaller metal mesh strainers like these.
Cutting boards. Look for a good sturdy cutting board that is easy to clean thoroughly. Wood, bamboo and plastic are better for your knives than composite boards, and harder boards like glass, metal, stone and ceramic will quickly destroy knives. Eventually, even the best wood, bamboo, plastic and composite cutting boards will develop too many gouges and should be retired. Consider that when weighing costs. This is the one place I will recommend plastic, but only for raw meats because they are easier to properly sanitize than wood. For everything else, bamboo is a great option and having a few really helps if you have a lot of prep work to do.
Good knives. Having a good sharp knife can make the difference between enjoying cooking or looking at it like a chore.
I recommend at least 3 basic knives.
- Chefs knife
- Bread knife
- Paring knife
Let's talk power tools, shall we? The ones I use most often are my immersion blender (I have an older model of this and love it) and my hand mixer.
If you are really serious about real food a grain mill is a must. I have a 20 year old one that a friends mother was about to donate to a thrift store I snagged it up right away. Its loud and can be messy but I use it at least once a week. Its essential for making bread with the most nutrients available to you. This is the one on my wishlist to upgrade to when I have the extra money.( that's funny "extra money" what does that really mean?)
Another great power tool, the slow cooker. I don't use it very often but it can be a life saver when the schedule is tight. Get one the right size I have both a 1.5 quart and a 5 quart slow cookers. the large one is stored in the basement, unless I am hosting and serving hot mulled apple cider.
Then there are all the little tools:
- Vegetable peeler
- Can opener
- Box grater
- Kitchen shears
- Dry measuring cups
- Liquid measuring cups
- Measuring spoons
- Wire whisk
- Slotted spoon
- Silicon spatula
- Pancake turner
- Locking tongs
- Wooden Spoons
- Rolling pin
Corelle dishes are lighter weight, thinner, and a lot more durable than most dinner ware, and I think they look much more formal. I grew up with Corelle dishes, so they remind me of home. After looking into whether or not they contain lead, I cannot find a straight yes or no. I feel that the white sets are safe, but you should decide for yourself.
Flatware or silver ware can be tricky. I am having trouble finding answers on what to look for to best avoid toxins. I would say buy good quality stainless steel and look for a smooth finish.
Drinking glasses are an easy one, as glass won't leach any chemicals into your food. Just pick out some you like. If you need a more durable option you can always go with stainless steel for the kids.
Pepper mill. I love fresh ground pepper. It really can't be beat. Look for a wooden mill with a shape and design you like.
I think that's everything. If you think of anything I missed please let me know. Part two will be pantry basics so check back soon.
Thanks for stopping by,
This post was linked to the homestead barn blog hop