Save Money By Cooking At Home: Kitchen Essentials + Budget Thoughts
Have you ever walked into Target and perused the endless aisles of kitchen gadgets? It’s overwhelming to know which tools are kitchen essentials and which ones are crap you’ll never use. I didn’t really enjoy cooking until I was around 23 living on my own- and I think it’s because I didn’t know where to start.
But we see it everywhere? Shouldn’t we know how to feed ourselves and savev money like we’re encouraged? ‘Save money by not eating out so much.’ or ‘Live frugally and shop smart at the grocery.’ How does someone who doesn’t like to cook.. start to save money by eating at home? (Especially in the ‘eat-out’ culture we’ve all created!) It starts with meal planning, sticking to a grocery budget, and buying the right kitchen cooking essentials.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE A CHEF TO SAVE MONEY BY COOKING AT HOME!
Simple Weekly Meal Planning + Grocery Lists
Pinterest is about to become your best friend! There are so many recipes out there and you can type in anything starting with the word ‘easy‘: ‘easy keto’, ‘easy vegan’, ‘easy salads’ – you name it – the recipes exist.
How do you go from a recipe to not dropping $200 at the grocery store? Think in terms of what you actually want to eat and for how many days you want to eat it. One of the major pitfalls of meal prepping can be making too much of one thing and getting so burnt out on it that you don’t want to eat it. Trust me when I say from experience you will end up eating out – destroying all plans of frugal living. ( Click here for easy eco-friendly money-saving cleaning and household supplies! )
Pro-Tip: To make a super focused grocery list – use the notes app on your phone to make a grocery list and check off what you put in your basket. It’ll keep you from buying things you don’t need! #budgettipsTweet
Meal Planning + Delivery Services
A friend just started using a food delivery service and it’s helped her enjoy cooking for the first time! At 26 years of age, she finally felt ready to take on the task of trying to prepare a meal – and most Millenials are in the same boat!
Learning to cook as a Millennial is so important. We have the power to travel and have experiences like generations before us never had. Being able to cook is just another part of adventuring – it deepens our appreciation during our travels for the different cuisines around the world. Hello Fresh is a great company that focuses on diversifying your pallet with recipes from around the world! There are plenty of other meal delivery options like Blue Apron and Freshly as well. All customizable and cheaper than eating out!
We personally use Imperfect Foods grocery delivery service because it’s so cheap to have produce, meat, and grains sent right to your door. ( I haven’t shopped for grains in over 2 months because I stocked up and don’t need anything! Use my link to get $10 off your first delivery! )
Before you go crazy in Target – remember that most cultures don’t have as much to work with and they still manage to create entire incredible cuisines! There are a few things that are pretty indispensable to almost every kitchen – and then some things that really just make life easier.
Essential Kitchen Utensils
- Knives – A sharp set of knives is pretty essential for all kitchens. You’re going to need them no matter what kind of diet you plan on following. The key is to find a set that will give you all the functionality you need. Do yourself a favor and just get a good set with good reviews from the start!
- Kitchen Scissors – Usually a good set of knives will come with a good pair of kitchen scissors. They can be sharped the same way your knives can! But if you don’t get a knife set with scissors or are just looking for a fresh pair – these are great!
- Measuring Cups + Spoons – Especially when you’re learning to cook – having a set of measuring cups and spoons is totally necessary!
- Can Opener – I think it’s written in stone somewhere that every kitchen has to start out with a can opener! You cannot eat grilled cheese and tomato soup from a can (my favorite college meal) without a can opener! ; )
- Utensils (Mixing Spoons, Spatulas, Whisk, Tongs, Pizza Cutter, Peeler) + Utensil Crock – Easy Access for small kitchen, and this set comes from a can opener and just about everything you could want! – I also love this set just because it’s pretty and comes with a matching copper utensil crock!
This set from Amazon comes with an assorted set of utensils, a crock for the counter, and measuring cups + spoons! ( Budget-friendly for the starter kitchen!)
Essential Kitchen Prep Ware
- Cutting Boards – The golden rule of cutting boards – do not cut raw meat of any kind and produce on the same cutting board. Unless you want salmonella – totally up to you. Anyways- cutting boards are cutting boards and they’re literally designed to get torn up. Don’t go crazy – just find the eco-friendly ones like bamboo!
- Mixing Bowls – You’ll be thankful you have a set of these and especially if they have lids. Make your guacamole, your stuffing or your chocolate chip cookie dough – and then pop a lid on it for later. The bowls I have linked are like the ones we have in our kitchen – they have a silicon-dipped bottom so they don’t slide across the counter while you’re mixing.
Essential Kitchen Cookware
- Cast Iron Skillets – Cast iron skillets are super important to learn to cook with. They’re pretty much the same from everywhere and they can even be put in the oven and baked in!
- Pots + Pans + Skillets – You need a decent set of these that won’t warp while you’re cooking!
- Baking Sheets – Having a few non-stick baking pans makes meal prepping so much easier!! Here are a few of my favorite sheet pan recipes: Chicken, Sweet Potatoes and Broccoli, Cajun Shrimp and Sausage Vegetable Sheet Pan, and Chipotle Chicken Burrito Bowls.
Extras That Make Life Easier
- Garlic Press – Chopping garlic small enough for sautéing for every recipe ever is annoying. Buy the garlic press!
- Mandolin – See the veggie sandwich that we make before hiking!!
- Hand Juicer – Love this one because it does lemons and limes like ours!
- Avacado Cutter – Coming from someone who ALWAYS almost cuts their hand pulling out the avocado pit – this thing is a lifesaver! It basically has three dull blades that pull out the pit!
- Oven Mitts & Trivets – Obviously you know what oven mitts are but if you don’t know — Trivets are what you sit hot pots and pans on. They protect your counters and keep things from sliding around the counters! I linked rubber grippy ones because they’re awesome!
- Ninja Blender – Blender, smoothie maker all in one. Anything that can do double duty is my pick!! You can buy different attachments for the same base and it makes it very easy to clean and store.
- Hand Mixer – Although I do love my stand mixer – unless you’re ready for that step up – it will quickly become a very heavy paperweight. A hand mixer is a great place to start!
Necessary Kitchen Spices
A few spices that we find ourselves not being able to live without:
- Onion Powder – Goes On Almost Erry’thang
- Garlic Powder – Goes On Lotsa Things
- Salt – Goes on Errry’thang
- Pepper – Goes on Errry’thang
- Oregano – For Italian, Cuban, etc.
- Rosemary – For Potatoes, Greek Food
- Cumin – For Enchiladas, Tacos, and Chili
I know it’s kind of expensive to buy them all upfront but I guarantee you that your food will just taste better with good spices! (When your food tastes better, you actually want to cook at home!) One way that we save money when we buy good quality spices and herbs is to buy them from Penzey’s! They have a great selection and it’s a lot cheaper than buying mediocre quality from Kroger? We probably go once a month and stock up!
Gift Guide for New Cooks
If someone in your life is a big cook, just starting out in college or a new marriage – cooking-related gifts are always a good go-to. Practical as well as functional – I love making a little basket of things for people! For a more festive touch to elevate your gift try adding in a few elevated pieces like these copper mixing bowls, a marble mortar & pestle for spices, or this Kitchen Aid Mixer!
Whatever you pick – just try to have some fun in the kitchen! If you need a little music inspiration – please feel free to throw on my Soul Food Cooking Playlist and have a glass of rosé!