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Moving into your first home or apartment is a big and exciting step! If you want to keep that excitement from turning into overwhelm—and a busted budget—a little planning and bargain hunting will go a long way… especially in the kitchen.

Furnishing your first kitchen can really eat up your budget. Not only do you need to stock your pantry with food; you need to stock the entire room with the tools and utensils you’ll need for cooking and eating that food! When it comes to pots, pans, gadgets, and small appliances, how do you know what you really need when you’ve never lived on your own before?

Unless you subsist solely on microwave dinners or the drive-thru (all of us have at times), this is the cookware you’ll need for cooking with your range:

Skillet/Frying Pan

A cast iron skill will give you the most bang for your buck, but it will also require a bit some upkeep. If you weren’t raised in the ways of cast-iron maintenance—or you don’t feel like you want to make that kind of commitment—a basic non-stick skillet (or two) will do. Look for standard 8-, 10-, and 12-inch sizes. Buy bigger if you cook a lot all at once, smaller if you don’t.


These do more than just cook sauce! A large saucepan will work for soup, chili, veggies, and more. A non-stick 3-quart or 4-quart version should do but they come in sizes as small at 1.5 quarts. Make sure it comes with a tight-fitting lid. Consider it a bonus if it also includes a steamer basket!

Dutch Oven

If you’re the type who’d rather throw a one-pot meal or casserole into the oven, a Dutch oven will be your kitchen workhorse. You’ll find these in cast iron or non-stick styles and sizes up to 8+ quarts. Again, buy larger if you plan to cook a lot of servings at once, smaller if you don’t.

Sheet Pan

Another workhorse for your oven, a sheet pan will bake cookies, roast brussels sprouts, toast toast, and more. For home kitchens, a half sheet pan (18” x 13”)  is the largest that will fit in your oven, but two quarter sheet pans (9 ½”x13”) will be more convenient.

You’ll also need some small tools to do your food prep. Don’t get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of tools that are out there! A few affordable basics will help you accomplish everything you need to when you’re newly on your own.

  • Chef’s Knife – It slices, dices, chops, and butters, too.

  • Cutting Board – Look for one that won’t slip on the countertop.

  • Pair of Tongs – You’ll be surprised at how often you reach for these.

  • Heat-Safe/Wooden Cooking Utensils – Plain wood will do the trick, but silicone sets can be quite affordable. Look for sauce spoons, slotted spoons, and a variety of spatulas.

  • Measuring Set – A glass or plastic cup for liquids, and metal or plastic spoons and cups for dry goods.

  • Mixing Bowls – A set of 2 or 3 should meet your needs.

  • Colander – Suitable for draining boxed mac and cheese noodles or rinsing grapes.

  • Can Opener – Handheld or electric.

  • Potholders – Potholders are made for heat protection, towels and tongs are not. Speaking of…

  • Kitchen Towels – You’ll want a few for cleaning up spills, drying dishes, etc.

Add on some tableware for eating off of and these few supplies should give you an affordable start in your new kitchen. Whether you gather them from relatives, garage sales, or discount stores. Get the best quality you can, take good care of them and they’ll serve you well for many years to come.