I’m not one for spending money. I’m very frugal (except with crafting staff, when it comes to yarn I’m a hoarder). But there are some things that you just need in the kitchen if you want to do something beyond instant noodles.
I’ll divide the list between ‘get them now’ tools and ‘nice to have tools’.
Get them now
All of these set me back £28.50 and allow me to do pretty much everything in the kitchen. Most of the tools I’ve had for years, like the ladle and chopping board that have seen me through 2 countries, and marriage and 2 kids.
Some kitchen cloths
Cheap cotton ones will work just as well as fancy expensive ones.
Useful for the obvious cleaning and drying but also as kitchen gloves replacements.
I get mine from Poundland at £1 for 3.
With a wok you can do stir-fries. But you can also cook anything that requires boiling. It’s a great soup, pasta and sauce pot replacement, which saves you space and money. Because of the shape it warms up quickly and gets things boiling fast. I use my wok to make popcorn and stove-top cornbread. And I’ve even been known to use it as a mixing bowl.
Get a glass lid that allows you to see what you are cooking.
Mine was £12 with lid from Ikea. I use ir everyday, several times per day. I have a pretty big one, a smaller one should be even cheaper.
A set of knives
My set has one little knife, one small knife, one chef’s knife, a cleaver, a bread knife and scissors, and one of those sharpening things(whatever they’re called!).
It was £15 at the local market. A nice expensive high quality knife is great if you can afford it and you want to get serious about food, if you just want to put dinner on the table a cheap set (that you take care of) is more that enough.
I use the two small ones for fiddly things. For normal chopping I use the chef’s knife. And for big tough stuff (like winter squash, melons and hard root vegetables) I use the cleaver.
Make sure you always keep your knives as sharp as possible. A dull knife can be very dangerous!
A chopping board
I actually have 2: a small one and a big one. Mostly because I can’t be bothered to clean a big one if I’m just chopping a tomato. For years and years I only had the small one, because I don’t really have to worry about cross-contamination, but the family got bigger and I upgraded.
Wood and plastic are the best options as glass will dull your knives fast.
Mine are both wood and I got them from Ikea at about £5 and £10.
A pair of tongs
They are you hand extensions in the kitchen. You can use them for flipping things, move them around, mix and serve.
I keep mine where my knives are. It’s my most used kitchen tool. I prefer silicone so they don’t damage my non-stick stuff, mine were £1.50 from Wilko.
A baking sheet
You can use them for everything from cookies to a roast. Mine is non-stick for easier cleaning.
You can even get a small one for a toaster oven.
I got mine free after some haggling from a second-hand store (it was being sold at 50p)
A ladle or large spoon
For soup, sauces, noodles, grains, veggies… I use it all the time.
Mine was £1 from Wilko.
A must if you’re going to cook any grains or pulses.
A mesh strainer is better than a colander a the holes are smaller and can be used instead of it.
Mine was (once again) from Poundland and only £1. I got a pretty big one so I can use it with large amounts of pasta and beans, or wash a lot of vegetables in one go.
A can opener
There are a lot of fancy ones, a simple cheap one will do the job. Mine was £1.50 from Amazon.
Very useful for baking and using the last drop of batter and also for cooking. Mine doubles as a wodden spoon for stirring.
Another Poundland buy for £1.
Nice to have
These tools are not essential but they do make things easier and give you more options in the kitchen. Like the others, some I’ve had for years and years: my scale has been with me for over 15 years now!
All of these were £39.
I have a mini one that fits on the palm of my hand and was £1.50 from Morleys. It has 5 different options including slicing. I use it mostly for fresh garlic and ginger, but it manages to be useful at least once a day as it doubles as a microplane.
I also use it for grating carrots and courgette, and sometimes blocks of vegan cheese. Every now and then I will also use it to make shredded tofu.
A rolling pin
If you’re a baker, you need one. Mine, as pretty much everything else, was very cheap as it came from Poundland for £1.
A mixing bowl
A must if you do any sort of baking. But also useful for making sauces, breading, coating and even mixing salads.
Mine was 50p from Wilko.
A set of measuring cups and spoons
Even if you live in a metric-loving country, get yourself a set! Many baking recipes follow volume proportions and measuring cups make it so much easier!
Even if you’re not a baker you’ll be using measurement like 1 teaspoon.
I’ve got 2 sets, one was £1 from Poundland, and the other one 99p from 99p. I like having 2 because I don’t have to wash them when I need to measure different ingredients (especially if I’m using dry and wet).
Same as above but the other way round.
I got mine 15 years ago from Amazon for £5 and I use them on an almost daily basis.
An electric kettle
For some reason most people outside of the UK don’t have one. They are so incredibly useful. Of course you can make your tea and coffee without having to microwave the water (don’t even get me started on that!), but you can also save a lot of time by boiling the water you need there first and then using it for pasta, or rice or soups. Even couscous and most noodles can be done a lot faster with an electric kettle.
I got mine from Aldi as a kettle and toaster set for £10.
I have a 3-in-1 blender that came with a jug, a portable smoothie cup and a little mill.
I mostly use the jug for soups, smoothies and batters. And the mill for grinding coffee and spices. The mill also works as a mini food processor.
Mine was £20 from Argos, a tad more expensive than the other things on the list but very, very useful. Especially if you like making your own sauces, or if you’re a smoothie lover.
And an extra one
A pressure cooker
Not something you really need, but such a good thing to have.
I use mine almost daily. I make soups, stews, beans, grains, steam vegetables, potatoes… the list goes on and on. It makes the best rice, and we are rice lovers. We go through a kilo per week.
There are some expensive ones around and some more affordable ones. Mine is an electric pressure cooker, very easy to use and clean and it was £50 from Amazon. It has a slow cooker setting, which is pretty useful as well. Some come with a yogurt-making setting, we’re not really yogurt people so I didn’t get that one. But it would be a real money-saver for those who have it regularly considering how expensive some vegan yogurts can be.
Modern pressure cookers are extremely safe and won’t explode all over your kitchen. I used to be terrified of them and now I love it!