The Absolute Essentials
When it comes down to it, you don’t need much to set yourself up for success in the kitchen. If you’re starting from scratch or disentangling one house from another, here are some of the basics that every family should have if they plan on making a habit out of healthy, homemade meals (without wanting to scream!).
Medium-large cutting board(s)
A sizable cutting board can make all the difference because it gives you the space you need to prep. While stone and glass cutting boards are pretty, they tend to dull your knives quickly, so they’re not recommended for heavy chopping.
At least two good quality knives
It may sound ridiculous to shovel out a wad of cash on a sharp knife, but without one, your weekly prep time is sure to be extended exponentially. Not to mention, smashing rather than cutting, becomes extremely frustrating.
Kalie: Two of my favorite (and most used) gifts that I received as an adult are a set of Cutco knives from my parents and a WÜSTHOF Santoku knife from my husband’s aunt. Quality knives can last a lifetime, making them well worth the money. There are so many options out there, just make sure you do your research before buying.
If we had to pick two (both can be found for under $50), we’d recommend a serrated knife for slicing meat, sandwiches and harder foods, as well as a 7″ Santoku plain edge knife for chopping veggies and softer foods.
Pots, Pans and Cooking
A set of small, medium and large pots and pans.
There’s a lot of opinions surrounding non-stick, stainless steel and cast iron pots and pans.
- Non-stick: As busy moms, there’s value in the ease of cooking with non-stick pots and pans, especially when preparing eggs, delicate fish and things like good old pancakes (which tend to stick). They’re easy to clean and don’t require much butter or oil to keep food from sticking, which can help you maintain healthier cooking habits.
- Stainless and cast iron: If you’re looking to pan sear, crisp or deglaze your food, or cook something that has to go from stovetop to oven, a stainless steel or cast iron skillet is a great addition to your cookware.
A commercial grade sheet pan
Sheet pans are PERFECT for anyone who wants to cook simple and nutritious, but tasty, meals on busy nights with little prep and virtually zero cleanup.
A baking pan
Because it’s nice to cook in bulk whenever possible, a baking pan is highly recommended. It comes in handy for casseroles, bakes, lasagna and other one-dish meals.
A slow cooker
Yes, instant pots (and other trending models) have been the latest craze, but let’s take it back to the basics. There’s nothing that sets you up for quick, healthy success more than tossing a few ingredients in a slow cooker before heading off to work and coming home to a hands-off meal. Once cooler weather hits, a traditional slow cooker is a MUST-HAVE!
Because leftovers set you up for healthy success and lessen the chance of grabbing a highly processed meal out of desperation, storage containers are ESSENTIAL to staying on track. Glass containers minimize cleanup because they’re oven safe and can be tossed in the dishwasher. We often use freezer-safe wide-mouth mason jars when freezing individual portions of soup for school and work lunches.
In addition to the above, we recommend having some other basic necessities on hand such as measuring spoons, measuring cups, mixing bowls, a high-powered blender, spatulas and a potholder, as well as some small appliances.
Your kitchen is paramount to your health and sanity, so having the proper setup is essential. There are TONS of other kitchen items, but these are by far the ones used most regularly. You don’t have to go out and purchase everything at once, but these tools will allow you to cook in a highly functional and pleasant environment. This will help you eat out less, cook more healthy, homemade meals and not feel so stressed.
What’s in your kitchen? Are there any amazing tools we missed out on? If so, please share below!