Amanda Hart, FCSE Educator and Purdue Alumni 2010
You are finally out on your own! Congratulations! As you view your new castle with pride, you suddenly become hungry. After scrounging through the empty pantry you realize, there is NOTHING of value in your kitchen. This is a problem. After all, man cannot live on saltine crackers alone. Faced with this situation, most of us would just call for a pizza, but not you. Instead of ignoring the problem, you decide to face the facts; it’s time to get your kitchen whipped into shape! In order to accomplish this, you are going to need the proper equipment. (If you are missing any items listed below check out Where to Find Cheap or Free Stuff for your Apartment.)
Here are the basics.
- An oven This is something you can bake in. Most apartments have an oven/range combo, but if yours doesn’t, you can get a toaster oven for pretty cheap.
- Range- These are the burners you cook on. They can be either gas (fire) or electric (coils). If you don’t have a range in your apartment, invest in a good hot plate, with the permission of your landlord. They range in price from $15 up to $90.
**Disclaimer: Please remember your fire safety skills. Things that get hot can burn your house down. Please don’t set your apartment on fire. **
- Askillet- You can go one of two ways with this…
- Nonstick skillet- These are very easy to find and take care of. You can’t use metal utensils on them or the nonstick coating will scratch and peel off. When looking at the quality of a skillet, keep in mind that weight corresponds to heat retention and distribution. Generally, the heavier gauge metal it’s made from, the more heat it will hold. This means that nonstick skillets cook your food evenly.
- Cast iron skillet- This skillet will be perfect for just about anything you want to do. It is tougher than nails and, if you take care of it, you will be using this pan until you die. You can pick one up at Walmart for about $20. Even better, check out a garage sale and see if you can get one for cheap.
- 2-quart pot with lid- This is going to help with boiling and steaming: think rice, pasta, hardboiled eggs, really anything that requires a cooking in a liquid. I prefer mine to be non-stick, but that is optional.
- Spatula/ mixing tool- Get a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. You need something that can scrape a bowl clean and is heavy enough to take some abuse. Also, please remember that plastic melts and wood can catch on fire. (See Disclaimer warning above)
- Mixing bowls- These need to be big enough so that your food won’t end up all over the counter when you are mixing. Plastic tends to hold oil and can get scratched, so go for a metal set. Aluminum bowls can go in the oven or act as a double boiler over a pan of boiling water. They can also double as a late night cereal bowl.
- Sharp knives- With knives, quality is the name of the game. Buy a good knife and keep it sharp. This will make your life so much easier. You need one larger (chef’s) knife and a smaller (paring) knife. America’s Test Kitchen tests and creates recommendations for many kitchen tools. Remember to use a cutting board every time you use that knife! Please, follow this advice, unless you want a dull knife and to have your housing deposit be used to replace a cut up countertop.
- Measuring cups and spoons- When I try a recipe for the first time, it always reminds me of my High School Chemistry class. You need to use specific ingredients in the exact measurement that is called for. And just like in Chemistry class, if you get lazy about the measurements then your final product will not turn out right. There are two (yes, two) types of measuring cups. One for dry ingredients (not runny) and one for liquids. You need one of each.
This list could go on forever. Here are my top 3.
- Microwave- Sure it’s good for baked potatoes, popcorn and Easy Mac but you can make those things yourself anyway.
- Rolling pin- An empty wine bottle works just as well, but it’s up to you.
- Colander- Some people call these “strainers”, and they come in metal or plastic. It’s the bowl with holes in it. They are good for holding pasta and vegetables, not so great for cereal.
Whew! That is quite a list! But, something to keep in mind is that all of these things are really an investment in your future. It seems expensive to pay for all of this right now, but in reality you will be saving so much money by not ordering in or eating out every night. Not to mention, you’ll also be eating a lot better than if you ate out all the time.
Do you have any other tips for eating well and saving money? Let us know!