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Inspiration & Solutions

Kitchen Basics on a Budget

Whether you're stocking the kitchen for your house, apartment,
or college dorm, here are the 11 must-have cooking essentials
you'll need to deck out your kitchen on a dime.

Measuring Sets

Why you need it: Measuring cups and spoons are must-haves for every kitchen, as nearly any recipe you'll come across calls for exact measurements. Though some seasoned chefs may be able accurately eyeball their measurements, we lean toward the "don't try this at home" philosophy for cooking and baking beginners.

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Kitchen Composter

Why you need it: Live a little greener by getting into a composting routine — it's good for the earth, and many composters even add fresh style to your countertops. Insert charcoal filter sheets to eliminate odor, and then pile in old leftovers from banana peels to coffee grounds. And, bonus: you won't need to take out the main trash as often!

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Why you need it: Flipping. Mixing. Scraping. Serving. A good spatula is the kitchen tool equivalent to a Swiss army knife, helping you to tackle practically any type of cooking or baking project. Spatulas come in a variety of materials and shapes, and even an array of peppy colors that, let's face it, make the entire experience that much more fun.

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Cutting Board

Why you need it: From the purely functional to the decorative and fashionable, cutting boards are can't-live-without-it necessities. They keep countertops scratch-free and food germ-free while chopping or slicing. Handsome wooden boards are often also used to serve meats, cheeses and mini hors d'oeuvres, while plastic or glass boards have been known to brighten the kitchen with vibrant shades.

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Why you need it: Everyday cuisine staples like pastas (straining), rice (rinsing), and salads (washing) are easily prepared using a colander. Typically made from solidly crafted metal or plastic, and frequently available in happy-go-lucky hues, colanders are as
user-friendly as they are versatile.

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Why you need it: Teatime can be any time. A cup of piping hot tea is soothing on chilly days and better than chicken soup on sick days. You'll find teapots and kettles crafted of stainless steel, glass, cast iron, ceramic and other materials that excel in the art of heat retention. And, a pretty teakettle can become a stylish countertop feature when not in use.

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Dutch Oven

Why you need it: The versatile Dutch oven has been in use for several hundred years, and is still a must-have for modern-day cooks. Amazingly durable with dual stovetop and oven functionality, it can be used to make everything from stews to cakes to pizzas to pies. A lid that doubles as a skillet extends the Dutch oven's repertoire to include fried meats, eggs and beyond.

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Small Dustpan

Why you need it: A clean, organized kitchen is a space where you'll enjoy spending time. Keep the floors of your cooking area free of fallen food bits with a handy, easy-to-tuck-away dustpan. Also, stock up on key cleaning supplies such as counter disinfectants and durable sponges.

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Why you need it: Let's cut to the chase. High-quality knives are investments that will pay off in the form of smooth, frustration-free slicing and dicing experiences while cooking. Most chefs agree that beginners should have several types of sharpened blades in stock, including a Santoku knife, a bread knife, and a paring knife.

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Mixing Bowl

Why you need it: Homemade dips, cakes, pastas, waffles, and so many other delicious foods come together in a good mixing bowl. This kitchen staple is bound to be one of your most-used items; it can also double as a serving bowl, or a colorful decorative accessory when not in use.

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Why you need it: If you can't take the heat, get out the kitchen potholder. A good potholder is your first (and usually only) line of defense against burns from hot pots, pans and fresh-from-the-oven bakers or casserole dishes. Pick colors, patterns and themes that'll add an unexpected pop to your kitchen decor.

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Measurement Conversions

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Vegetable Cooking Times

Tip: Overcooking vegetables degrades vitamin content. Aim for al dente with a crunchy bite.

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