The $150 Starter Kitchen

Know anyone getting ready to move into their first apartment? Whether it’s a  recent college grad, newlyweds or maybe it’s you … outfitting the kitchen can be a daunting, albeit essential, task. And it can get expensive. The problem is that as long as that kitchen sits idle, someone will be spending a lot of money eating out.


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For less than the cost of week’s worth of restaurant meals, I can show you how to set up a starter kitchen that will get that special someone in your life excited about cooking at home. Just keep in mind that these aren’t the highest quality items available. But for newly minted grads and couples, this will get them started cooking great cheap meals in the kitchen while they save to one day invest in higher quality cookware.

1. This 15-piece non stick cookware set from Cook N Home is a fabulous starter set, complete with four pots with lids, two skillets and a five-piece utensil set. As a bonus it comes in three colors, too. Quite amazing at less than $55.

2. When Kevin Mills moved into his first apartment, he soon realized he couldn’t live on just take-out food alone, so he called his mother, Nancy. She taught him to cook, and now the two of them have put together a collection of easy recipes (actually, they’re graded and most Very Easy or Easy, a few are Not So Easy) for inexperienced cooks, along with lots of “Mom tips” and “Mom warnings.” (Because Kevin’s girlfriend is a vegetarian, more than half the recipes are vegetarian.) “Help, My Apartment Has a Kitchen,” is fun and very useful! $12.

3. While not at all essential to any kitchen, this coffee mug sporting the Dr. Suess blessing of “Oh the Places You’ll Go!” is like a perpetual congratulatory message for someone who’s accomplished something remarkable. About $11.

4. Nothing is more essential than coffee. This Mr. Coffee coffee maker has no bells or whistles, but it’s a reliable workhorse that will make hundreds and hundreds of great cups of coffee.

5. Any kitchen is worth its salt has at least one pyrex baking dish. Make it this basic set of two (9×13 and 11×7) and dinner is sure to be on the table day after day. Priced, amazingly.

6. Oven mitts are essential and this silicon set get very high reviews. You don’t want to skimp on safety, especially with novices running the kitchen! This pair from Kitchen Elements is flexible, heat resistant to 425 F., and even machine washable. About $18.

7. No one should have to live without a slow cooker. This 3-quart Crockpot model is a basic starter model. The price very  reasonable because it reflects the lack of a digital timer. It uses manual operation, which means you turn it on and you turn it off. It’s the no brainer of slow cooking!

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12 replies
  1. Cville says:

    When my daughter started her 4 year college adventure, I gave her all sorts of “first apartment” kitchenware, linens and small appliances each year for Christmas. When she got her first job and apartment, everything was already boxed and ready to go – saving her not only money but also aggravation and time.

  2. Gehugh says:

    I have to chuckle here. Several decades ago I thought I was being thoughtful and practical for a bridal shower gift by purchasing a simple and inexpensive kitchen trash can (coordinating with the bride’s colors even!) and filling it with kitchen utensils, individually wrapped and selected with care. Imagine my horror when after the gift giving we were helping to clean up and the hostess commented to another, without realizing I was in earshot, that MY gift was exactly what the bride-to-be had ‘gotten rid of’ the week before. Since then, it has been gift cards coming from me!!!!

    • Kellie Alexander says:

      that’s too bad. she didn’t know how great of a gift that was. My aunt gave me a step stool for my wedding in 1991 and I still have it! frankly, it’s probably the only thing I do have left from family gifts. 🙂

    • Toast Points says:

      If the bride-to-be got rid of a old groaty waste-can, it must have meant she was hoping to receive a brand new one. Am thinking you may have misconstrued the overheard remark.

  3. Luisa says:

    You’ve offered some good ideas here, Mary. Yes, people will change up the list, naturally, which is one of the good things about getting this conversation started. This brings back fond memories of my first tiny kitchen in my first tiny apartment when I was a senior in college.

  4. Toast Points says:

    Good insights. But that $150 cost can be shaved without sacrifice. Eleven bucks for a mug? No. Go to the dollar store.

    Recipes are free online, so dump the cookbook, which is a plug anyway. Frequently on sale, 12-cup name-brand coffee makers are cheaper than $22 now.

    The dollar store, by the way, is a great place for muffin tins and other non-essential but good to have items. Also, I recently was in thrift store that was intent on reducing its inventory of mugs, pricing them at six (SIX) for a dollar. I bought a Disney mug with a friend’s name (Heather) on it. Plus five others that struck my fancy. All in pristine condition and all for a buck.

    • Janetlee801 says:

      I shop the thrift and dollar stores and yard sales, too. There are great deals to be found especially at all of them. When I need new items I always check them first before buying new. As far as buying an entire set of pans I would just buy a good frying pan and 2 pots all with lids as I never use all the pieces in a set. That little pot can’t cook anything a big one can’t. You can always add new pieces when you need them. Pyrex can always be found in second hand stores as can pie tins, muffin tins, cookie sheets, measuring cups, knives, dishes, coffee mugs, utensils, and cook books – hundreds to choose from. Yard sales are good for items, too, as there are so many this time of year and you’d be able to find anything you need if you visit a few each weekend.

  5. Danielle says:

    Yes, Lynn, I guarantee anyone under the age of 30 has heard “Oh the Places You’ll Go” read at every commencement since kindergarten, and would rather find recipes online than in a book, so I’d cash those two items in for a chef’s knife, paring knife, and cutting board. 🙂

  6. Sophie LaFontaine says:

    I don’t see a microwave here – that’s the single thing I used the most (as a college kid and currently) in the kitchen! Great for those cheap 5-pound sacks of potatos and for healthy frozen veggies!


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