Checklist for kitchen essentials | Thrift, repurpose & save

In this article, I focus on the essentials of the kitchen. I share my experience on how you can choose things that will last a long time to save money in the long run and tips on what I personally use. I clarify what kitchen essentials are perfect to buy second-hand and thrifted and what tools you could use for several different purposes to avoid wasting your money before you know exactly your personal needs in the kitchen. You can also download your FREE Kitchen Essentials Checklist which is divided into ten kitchen essential item groups to ease your day.

Measuring cups and measuring set on a wooden table. On the top there is a two-pages checklist for Kitchen Essentials.

You have the option for the bare minimum that you should have and then the things that you can take time to find from a thrift store, Facebook Marketplace, or some things that you can do yourself. The idea is to know what you have and what tools and utensils you can use multiple ways in your kitchen to not shop for loads of things that you notice that you don’t use. In this list of essentials go through the tools, appliances, and things, not for food or any perishable pantry items.

For whom is this checklist for kitchen essentials?

This kitchen essentials checklist is for you if you love cooking but are maybe just starting out or moving to a new apartment and you have the first kitchen of your new home to equip. You can use this checklist also for kitchen inventory though you have been cooking in your kitchen for a while.

Start small

Mark in the checklist the things you have already. Go through which items are in the category of the bare minimum and then add up when you know your style of cooking and needs. You do not need them all at once and use a ton of money. Start small and build the kitchen essentials with the need. This way you also don’t need to declutter plenty of useless items next year. Download your comprehensive list to check all your kitchen essentials easily.

Download the Kitchen Essentials Checklist

Coffee cups used as muffin tins on a wooden surface. On the top two paged Kitchen Essentials Checklist.

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What are the kitchen essentials?

The kitchen essentials are the tools that make it possible to make food in your kitchen and the flatware that makes for you nice and easy to enjoy the food you have cooked.  Download your checklist for the Kitchen Essentials, follow along and cross things over from your list!

Plates and bowls

Bare minimum for your kitchen

Plates and bowls  – Choose a set of dishes with a few different sizes of plates so that you can eat and serve also the food from those plates when needed. Choose your bowls with the idea that they are not too small or too big to match them for morning yogurt or soup. Or you can choose deep plates that have edges and serve well as so soup bowl too. I like this blue deep plate that I have used for soups, stews, risottos – you name it. When you choose dishes that can serve different purposes you save money and space at the same time. 

Extend your kitchen essentials

Mixing bowls – When you want to extend your dishes from the bare minimum to a functional and easy kitchen that you love to cook in, choose a few sizes of mixing bowls, preferably the same mark so that they nest to save some cupboard space. Always a plus is if you have lids for the mixing bowls, so you can store some food in the fridge in that one too. I love to meal prep, so I cut and peel for example the potatoes beforehand and season them in a bowl, put a lid on, and leave them in the fridge before dinner time when they go to the oven. I also like to store the whipped lingonberry porridge that my daughter loves in a bowl with a lid, so it is easy to whisk in that same bowl – no need to have several things to wash.

Serving platter – If you are cooking for friends and family, you might want to invest in a few serving platters. These are good things to find in thrift shops and Facebook Marketplace because they are one of a kind and they do not need to match like a pile of plates, which are more functional when you have a set.

Cutlery and silverware

Bare minimum for your kitchen

Set of forks, knives, and spoons – Start with the silverware with a set of spoons, forks, and knives to eat with. Choose two sizes of spoons teaspoons, and tablespoons to make your life more convenient.

Extend your kitchen essentials

Chopsticks, smaller silverware – Depending on your and your family’s eating habits add to your kitchen some chopsticks with some smaller knives for spreads like butter and fresh cheese and tiny forks for serving for example olives.

Silverware organizer – All the cutlery stays fine in the drawer, but getting you a bit more organized and easier to find the last spoon, consider purchasing or thrifting a silverware organizer to ease your everyday life truly.

Glasses & cups

Bare minimum for your kitchen

Glasses and cups – You can manage with only glasses or glasses if you want. Moroccans drink the hot tea in the glasses and so can you if you feel like it. But to be more convenient you should have small glasses and cups, one set of each and you will be set for any moment.

On the white cupboard shelf some coffee cups upside down and lower shelf deep blue plate and another plates.

Extend your kitchen essentials

Teacups and espresso cups – If you are a tea drinker you might prefer a larger teacup. Same way if you drink some strong Turkish or Moroccan coffee, you might want to invest in tiny espresso cups.

Wine and flute glasses – Adding some wine glasses or flute glasses to your kitchen essentials depends on your way of living. We don’t consume alcoholic beverages but we love to drink freshly squeezed orange juice in beautiful wine glasses. And spring without homemade rhubarb juice in the long delicate flute glasses is no spring at all in my opinion.

Cooking essentials

Bare minimum for your kitchen

Pot – For a functional minimalist kitchen choose a small pot for boiling eggs and sauces and a bigger pot for soups and cooking pasta. If you choose a set of pots in which you have a strainer you can steam your food and you may not need to invest in a separate strainer.

Skillet or a frying pan – Choose a large skillet or a frying pan with edges to use it more versatile. I do in one skillet some pasta sauces, crépes and harcha semolina bread

Teatowels as oven mitts – You can use the tea towels instead of the oven mitts and pot coasters. If you have a strong enough tea towel, you can fold it several times to take the food out of the oven and place it folded on the table under the pot so as not to burn your table.

Extend your kitchen essentials

Tiny pan – If you like scrambled eggs as breakfast as we do a smaller pan for frying eggs might be the best thing for you. I use it as well to heat up fast some leftovers for my daughter if she is having lunch different time than the rest of the family.

Crêpe skillet – I have found out that crepes are super versatile food. Depending on the ingredients you can use it for desserts or salty dinner portions. We wrap and stuff them like in tortillas and that is why if your regular skillet is very heavy, the crepe skillet might be worth investing in. I have in my cupboard as well a cast iron skillet for tiny crêpes, which is perfect for doing some nettle crêpes for snacks for the whole family or doing several pancakes in the morning.

Oven mitts and pot coasters – For a safer kitchen, the pot coasters are a must. They are so handy and you know that your table is safe when you place your hot pot on them. If you are sensible for the heat and get burns easily investing in proper oven mitts is more than desirable.

Cast iron crêpe skillet with nettle crêpes on it frying on the stove. On the side a white plate with a pile of crêpes.

Baking essentials

Bare minimum for your kitchen

Oven pan and baking sheet – Many ovens come with at least one deep and one shallow oven pan, but if not those are the must-haves in your kitchen if you want to bake anything. A baking sheet helps a lot, and you can invest in a reusable one too! 

Casserole dish  – Choose at least one big casserole dish to do your casseroles and lasagnas in. Baking in the oven is one of the easiest ways to cook in the kitchen. Just let the oven do the work.

Extend your kitchen essentials

Cake tin and loaf pan – When you start cooking a bit more you will find cake tins as a must. Choose one that you can clip open and detach the edges from the bottom to get the best results in cake making. If you do love bread baking too you can also invest in a loaf pan and do loaf-formed cakes like pound cakes. And who said that a birthday cake needs to be a round one? 

Muffin tray – If you are a muffin lover the muffin tin will help you to get great breakfast muffins and blueberry muffins as a snack, but I have a sneaky habit of using my oven-proof coffee cups instead of a muffin tray. On Runeberg day I did the nutty almond cakes with raspberry jam in the Finnish Arabia cups, and they turned out great.

Coffee cups repurposed as muffin tins, buttered and sprinkled with sourdough breadcrumbs.

Kitchen utensils and tools

Bare minimum for your kitchen

Whisk – Whenever cooking and baking a whisk is very useful. I prefer a ball whisk, I have two a big one and one tiny one for a smaller batch. The tiny whisk, that you see me using in the dark hot chocolate recipe, is actually a repurposed champagne whisk that I thrifted years ago. Choose a stainless steel one and it will last forever in your kitchen. These are also good ones to find used. You can use a fork to whisk nicely something small like an egg, but for example for a pancake batch, the whisk is quite essential.

Ladles or big spoons – Choose a ladle that is versatile and goes for soups and portioning the pancake batter to the pan. Try to find one that has a tiny spout for pouring to pour things smoother.

Measuring cup – Start with a basic cup or decilitre measure where you have a line to show as well the half one. You can use your actual teaspoons and tablespoons to start with.

Scissors – Purchase quality scissors and you do not need to think about them ever again. I rely on Finnish design on this one too, so I have several size Fiskars Scissors, to choose from from opening bags to cutting croissants open to fill them with lettuce, tomato, and cheese to serve. Choose one perfect pair of scissors to help you in the kitchen.

Two scissors open on a wooden surface with a bunch of chives and bits of chives all around.

Openers – When using cans or screw cork bottles in your cooking, make sure you have something to open them with. YouTube is filled with hacks to open anything in any situation, but for the sake of your healthy fingers, choose a proper opener of the proper thing. Choose a good can opener and a screw bottle opener to not waste time on Youtube hacks…

Vegetable peeler and grater – Vegetables are a staple of a healthy kitchen so choose a good vegetable peeler. In this one too I suggest you choose a stainless steel one to make it once in a lifetime purchase. Choose one that is steady and does not rotate. With a higher probability, the stable stainless steel peeler will not break for peeling any harder sweet potatoes or even a pumpkin.

Strainer – You can use strainers of shifting flours, rinse the pasta, steam broccoli, drain some honey from chebakia cookies, or the smaller ones for steeping tea. Think about what you need in your kitchen and if you have purchased a pot set with an integrated strainer you might not need a strainer at all in the beginning.

Extend your kitchen essentials

A slotted spoon lifted out of the hot oil with some Moroccan Chebakia cookies on it.

Tongs and slotted spoon – Whenever frying and cooking more in the kitchen you might want to find yourself a pair of tongs to ease the grilling. If you like to deep fry some cauliflowers, doughnuts, or chebakia sesame cookies a slotted spoon makes it easy to lift the food up from the hot oil without burning your hands.

Spatula – With a spoon, you can only get some of the dough out from the bowl but if you want not to waste a thing spatula is your friend in the kitchen. I use it for getting every last drop of the whipped semolina porridge that I pack after a meal prepping to let it cool in the fridge for the next day.

Measuring utensils set – Later on, it would be a good idea to purchase a measuring utensil set, where you have all the exact measuring spoons to make your cooking more precise. Think if you need both cups and decilitres/milliliters marked in your measuring cups.

Rolling pin – You can use a straight glass bottle like an olive oil bottle as a rolling pin to start with, but later choose a wooden rolling pin to add to your kitchen essentials.

Lemon squeezer and garlic press – If you are into Mediterranean food, you will find much help in the kitchen with a proper lemon squeezer and a good and sturdy garlic press.

Ice cube trays – For the summer and all those beautiful iced teas and iced coffees that you can imagine, find good ice cube trays. You can use the ice cube trays for some homemade apple sauce or blanched nettles to freeze them easily to use later.

Two ice cube trays side by side on the table with a pot full of apple sauce.

Cutting board and knives

Bare minimum for your kitchen

Knives – The key kitchen essentials are a good wooden cutting board and a good set of knives. Choose a good cook’s or chef’s knife with a sturdy handle like in Japanese Satake knives and a small paring knife, like this Swiss Victor Knox knife that is just perfect for cutting fruits for example. Knives are maybe the only thing that I never have bought thrifted and never will. These are the ones that make your healthy cooking with plenty of vegetables easy or an unpleasant task. Sometimes you can save money to purchase a ready-made knife set, but check first that you really use all the knives that are in the set and you will not pay extra just to have the set. But the cheapest option is rarely the best option when you are purchasing the knives.

Cook's knife laying on the wooden surface with different sizes of almond crumble.

Cutting board – When you have your knives is time to choose your cutting board. Choose sturdy wooden ones, one big one and one smaller. On the bigger one, it is easy to cut meats and potatoes for meal preps when you do batch work with plenty of ingredients. Whereas on the small one, you can cut fruits or do a quick chop-chop for the salad.

Extend your kitchen essentials

Serrated knife – A long serrated knife is perfect for cutting loaves of bread and cutting the cake to the layers before filling and decorating.

Storage containers

Bare minimum for your kitchen

Food containers  – Choose a few sizes of food containers to start with. You can put a plate on the top of a bowl and store a few days’ food in there. If you start meal prepping purchase the containers so that the food is sealed airtight and you can freeze the food in them too. The ones that nest are good options so you save some space.

Extend your kitchen essentials

Cling film or beeswax wrap – Another way of storing is to seal the food on a plate with a cling film or beeswax wrap. For other sustainable money hacks you can check my post about saving money as a homemaker.

Measuring cups and measuring set on a wooden table. On the top a header about Kitchen Essentials Checklist that is downloadable for free.

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Small kitchen appliances

Bare minimum for your kitchen

Immersion blender – For any kind of preparation from smoothies to velouté soups immersion blender is your friend. Choose the one that has a stainless steel head and if you have an extra whisk head too you don’t have to buy at least in the beginning any kind of electric whisk. I have been using an immersion blender of the German mark called Braun for ages and it has been one of my kitchen staples for many years now. It has actually three changeable heads: a cutter head, a whisk head, and a head for mashing potatoes that works quite nicely too. It comes with a measuring cup for up to 500ml, so it is one less thing to buy when you can use it for measuring flour and water for example. Perfect!

Toaster / toaster pan – With an electric toaster, you can make perfectly crispy bread at a low cost. It is a fast way to heat some leftover msemen pancake and harcha bread too! From the thrift shop, you might find a cast iron toaster pan that you can heat on the stove and do some warm, filled toasts.

Coffee maker – The most important for many is a coffee maker. Depending on your habits you can choose as well a small pan for Moroccan or Turkish-style coffee or a French Press that you can use for steeping tea too.

Extend your kitchen essentials

Water boiler – An electric tea kettle to boil water is very hast and handy for several occasions for boiling tea or coffee water to instant couscous. To learn more about choosing the perfect one for you visit my article: Teakettle vs. Teapot | How to use and choose them

Teapot – If you are more of a tea drinker and you prefer drinking more than one cup, consider choosing a durable ceramic teapot, stainless steel, or cast iron teakettle so that you can boil the water and steep the tea on the stove.

Black, decorated cast iron teapot on a wooden plank, in the front of a white tiled wall. In front text with "Tea kettle vs teapot" and "how to choose the best one for you"

Food processor – When you start diving deep into cooking and meal-prepping, you might want to invest in a food processor. If you want to do your meals from scratch and you prefer to have your almond butter and tahini homemade, a food processor is a must. Choose one that has changeable cutters so that you will have at least a cutter head, a grater head, and a slicer head so that you can use the one for several different preparations.

Download the Kitchen Essentials Checklist

Cleaning and dishwashing essentials

Bare minimum for your kitchen

Trash bags and trash bin – One of the kitchen essentials is a trash bin with a trash bag. Start with random grocery bags and any bucket you have in the house and later on you can invest in a recycling set of bins.

Dish soap and dish brush – When you are cooking there are of course some dishes to wash. Choose a dish brush with a sturdy handle and preferably with a changeable brush head so it is cheaper to buy a new head than the whole brush when it has met its end. From an economic point of view, you might want to find yourself a dish soap cube that lasts forever, so you don’t need to buy new very often.

Dish towels – Linen dishtowels are very durable and you can wash them with your clothes every once in a while. Don’t waste your money on paper towels.

Dishcloth –  Dishcloth too is something that you should consider buying a quality one that is washable with the laundry. I talk about the ones that I use more in my frugal homemaker article: Money-Saving Hacks | How to save money as a Homemaker.

Extend your kitchen essentials

Drying rack – if you don’t have a drying cabinet in your kitchen ready set as we do in the Nordic countries, you can make your life daunting dishwashing easy when you choose a good drying rack.

Recycling set – To be a more intentional and sustainable homemaker if you can recycle waste at least food waste, metal, glass, paper, and cartoon, you should do so.

Read my other homemaking and organizing posts

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    1. There you go! I am happy if I could help, the Braun immersion blender has been my helper in the kitchen for a while now and liking it so much!