Here's a kitchen essentials list that will ensure your starter kitchen has everything needed to start cooking right at move-in. With links to example products and a helpful printable checklist, this list is invaluable to anyone moving into their first place even just looking to replace some worn items in their established kitchen!
I have had a couple of opportunities recently to shop for basic kitchen items for young adults heading out to live on their own for the first time.
The exercise was a real thinker for me, since I have had years to accumulate lots of things that I use and consider 'essential', but of course we wanted to be very practical and start out with just the absolute kitchen essentials.
But for our purposes in getting initially set up the main goal was to avoid face palm situations. For example, realizing that you have no potholders at the very moment you need to take a hot baking sheet out of the oven. Ugh! 🙂
After having gone through the experience a couple of times now, I decided to put together a kitchen essentials list, so that the next time I'm getting someone all set up in their first home, I won't have to go through the whole thought process again. I can just refer to this checklist and know that we have all the necessary items covered.
And hopefully it will help you also!
Would you be interested in a handy, one-page checklist that you can just print and take with you to the store? Scroll to the bottom of the post for a FREE instantly downloadable printable!
🔪 Food prep essentials checklist
⬜ Measuring cups and measuring spoons: Basic sets of just the most standard measurements will do for these. I look for sets where the measurements are etched in, not printed, so that they won't wear off. Liquid measuring cups are also great to have, and I like to get the glass kind since they can also be used in the microwave.
⬜ Mixing bowls: I like to choose stainless steel bowls since they're lightweight and easy to clean.
⬜ Knives and cutting boards: I look for items that are functional and affordable. You can spend a lot of money on really good knife and cutting board sets, but for most young adults just starting out, the less expensive kind work just fine.
⬜ Colander: Pasta tends to be a staple for those just starting out on their own, so a sturdy food strainer is a must!
⬜ Utensil set: These are so great because they come with all the essentials plus a holder. My favorite set from OXO has 14 pieces: flexible turner, 12-inch tongs, square turner, spoon, slotted spoon, grater, veggie peeler, ice cream scoop, potato masher, can opener, balloon whisk, spatula, meat tenderizer, and pizza wheel, all made from nylon and silicone so they are safe for non stick surfaces and heat resistant!
🍳 Cooking/baking essentials checklist
⬜ Cookware set: OK, so this is one area where I am a little more careful. There are lots of cookware sets out there that aren't safe. This is true in particular with certain nonstick coatings. I highly recommend going with ceramic coated cookware for safety and sturdiness.
Cookware sets are something that may not be replaced for years, so it's worth it to spend a little more money here. I really love this 12 piece GreenPan set, because it's lightweight yet durable, and comes with a 2qt covered saucepan, 5qt covered casserole, 8" open frypan, 9.5" open frypan, 3qt covered skillet, and a stainless steel multi steamer insert.
⬜ Casserole set: Handy for using in the microwave, and essential for making hearty oven recipes like my easy chicken pot pie. Try to snag a set that comes with lids, which are also convenient to use for storing leftovers!
⬜ Potholders: Don't forget the potholders! (ahem, I speak from personal experience here. 🤦)
⬜ Parchment paper baking sheet liners: I'm stretching it a little here in calling these a necessity, but these pre-cut parchment cookie sheet liners are not that expensive and I threw them in to protect food from harmful chemical leaching and also to help with easy cleanup!
🧼 Cleanup essentials checklist
⬜ Leftover food storage: You can definitely plan on using the casserole dishes for leftovers, but many times they will be too large. I recommend staying away from plastic, because of the chemicals that can leach into the food if you use them in the microwave to reheat. Good choices are glass food storage containers or silicone. I personally LOVE the silicone food storage containers, because they are stand-up, zippered containers. (No lids, and they are freezer, microwave, and dishwasher safe!)
⬜ Dish drainer: If you haven't looked at dish drainers lately, you might be surprised at all the different kinds there are and also at how expensive they can be! I personally don't think this is a area where you need to spend a lot of money. You can even try the dollar store to get a inexpensive plastic one if you really want to save some money here.
⬜ Kitchen towels: Simple but effective is the key here!
⬜ Scrub sponges: Seems obvious, but you'd be surprised how easy it is to forget to pick these up. And don't forget the dish soap!
😊 Nice-to-have items!
⬜ Cookbook for beginners: Sure, there are so many recipes you can get for free on the internet, but it's great to have a reference cookbook where the recipes aren't overly complicated and the steps are clearly outlined.
For a quick and easy cookbook that you can download instantly, check out my ecookbook 30 Minute Meals!
⬜ Meat thermometer: These are so helpful, especially for beginner cooks, to know for sure when the chicken is done enough to be safe to eat.
⬜ Toaster or toaster oven: Toasters are less expensive, so maybe the better option, but toaster ovens are great for quickly whipping up things like tuna melts. So it's kind of a personal decision as to which one!
⬜ Four cup coffee maker: Some might consider a coffeemaker essential, for sure. Bump up the priority if that's the case in your situation!
⬜ Mini food processor: So handy, especially for finely chopping onion and other veggies!
📋 Printable kitchen essentials list
Would you like a printable list to take to the store with you? No signup needed, just click the button to instantly download your checklist!
It's exciting to set someone up in their first home! Or maybe you are just here to check and see if there's anything missing from your kitchen that you want to get before it becomes an issue. Either way, I hope this kitchen essentials list was helpful for you.
See anything I missed? Comment below and let me know!