Kitchen Essentials on a $500 Macy's Budget - Input is GREATLY Needed!
In two months I'm moving out on my own. I'm a novice cook; I just started really cooking and experimenting with food at the beginning of the year. (My New Year's Resolution was 'learn to cook!') Lucky me, I'm inheriting a beautiful table and six chairs from my aunt, and I'd like to have some little dinner parties, as well as continue to better my kitchen skills. I'm wondering what Chowhound would recommend for a beginning cook who's starting out by herself for the very first time. I have a short list already:
- Dinnerware and drinkware for 6 people (dinner and salad plates, cereal bowls, mugs, tumblrs, wine glasses, flatware)
- Pots and pans (How many? What size, aside from a small frying pan and a medium-sized pot?)
- Knives (what's the best budget brand?)
- Utensils like spoons and spatulas, a veggie peeler, a colander, and some measuring cups
- Cookie sheet and muffin pan
- A casserole dish (Glass? Ceramic? Metal?)
- Cheap toaster and coffee pot that won't be used every day, maybe 2 - 3 times a week
What else am I missing? I already have a microwave on lock.
I have $250 to Macy's, and I'm a Macy's card holder. I'm trying to budget my moving-out money, and I can put another $250 toward that amount, maybe $300. I'm hoping to go to Macy's when the have a sale or deals for card holders and try not to go past $500/$550. What's the best cookware, utensils, dishes, etc for a moderate/cheap price? Is it even possible to get all I need, for now, with that kind of money, at the store I'm intending to shop at? (Of course I want to build my kitchen, but not for at least another three or four months after initially moving out.) Is there anything I'd be better off buying elsewhere with my cash? What do you think of:
- Tools of the Trade?
- Martha Stewart brand cookware/dishes?
- The Cellar brand?
Is there anything I should splurge on?
Thanks for your time!
i have found Alton Browns book --Gear for your kitchen...has a lot of useful tips for building a kitchen set....
one of the things u should splurge on is a good chefs knife...it should be the work horse of your kitchen cutlery..i have a ja henckels that i use most often..
u should also go to a good cutlery store and hold them in your hands..and find one that feels comfortable before u decide on which one...
as far as casserole dishes..corning ware usually has good sets for around 30-40 bucks..
for utensils..i have a mix of things...some wooden spoons..some cheap starter sets..
but if u get nonstick cookware make sure u get utensils that wont scratch it..i also like oxo good grips...
and i find the heat resistant ones useful...like spatulas/spoonulas etc..
my dinner ware i usually buy a set at BBB...not sure about macys ..u will have to check and see..also check their online site for sales and clearance items...
a good half sheet pan is a good start..
as far as cheap toaster..i wouldnt go for cheap they dont last very long..i like my tfal 4 slice avante..which they also make in a 2 slice..
dont drink coffee so i cant help you there...i only keep a hot pot around for boiling water..
and if u search chow...there are lots and lots of threads on specific brands..and more on this subject
so good luck and welcome
If I were you, I would buy a good chef's and paring knife, a Pyrex glass bakeware set as well as some moderately priced pots and pans from Macy's. Take your cash to Marshall's and you'll find beautiful china, utensils, etc for a fraction of the cost!
If you're living alone but planning to entertain, you might want to get 8 and 10 inch frying pans, a 12 inch covered saute pan, a 2 qt pot, and a 4 - 6 quart pot. You can get some really amazing deals at Macy's, especially if you go on sale days as you mentioned. I've seen Circulon pans in sets of two for 50% off.
Other things to add to your list:
-- Mixing bowls
-- Cheese grater
-- Dish towels
-- Oven mitts
-- Half sheet pans, instead of a cookie sheet. They're much more versatile. You can bake cookies and cakes, and roast vegetables and shrimp on them very easily.
-- Wooden spoons
Using your budget, I recommend spending 1/4 to 1/3 on a really good chef's knife, another 1/4 to 1/3 on a good 10-inch lidded rondeau (a shorter Dutch Oven), and the balance at the thrift or clearance stores on some utensils and bakeware. Think individual, quality purchases that you will not have to replace (make it hurt), and you will be ahead. Smart vintage purchases can be the very best as you move forward.
I'm excited for you!
You are very welcome.
If you think about it, this search you have started is more about significance and meaning than it appears. Better "stuff" can theoretically help you--if you're up to it--turn out better food that can be more memorable and pleasurable to you and yours over time.
But one thing I have learned is that the provenance of these things can also impart great meaning to cooking (and its results). A vintage piece pressed into your young hand by a withered old arthritic one at a garage/yard sale *because it was their grandmother's and they could see you admiring it* may actually gratify you more than anything Macy's or Williams-Sonoma can ever offer. And it may be a better piece, too.
I have a metal "stirring spoon" of some antiquity that, after generations of righties using it, is mostly worn away, flat on one side. Actually works better all worn out. Can't put it in the DW, doesn't match anything, ugly as sin, but I wouldn't trade it for everything OXO makes, even though I can't use it in my good copper. Most other folks would throw it away. I don't because I find it *significant* (and useful).
You have fun now. Please yourself and don't buy everything you're sold.
If I were in your shoes (knowing what I know now as I'm replacing my cheap kitchen stuff) buy the best that you can afford at the time. Better to get couple of pots and pans than a set - check amazon, ebay, Williams Sonoma outlet, pyrex outlet, BBB, etc. Also goodwill and garage sales are great places to find deals! Some of my favorite pieces are my lodge cast iron skillet - they can be found for under $20. Something else I found that I've really been enjoying is my pressure cooker - Macy's has had good sales on these. If you're looking for a multitasker it'd be great for cooking pasta, making stock, etc. Just my own preference. I love All Clad but I recently found some great copper pots at TJ Maxx at an awesome price and I'm very excited about them.
Another piece of advice I've learned from here is to think about what you like and to ray/make and let that guide your purchases. If you don't make lasagna there's no need for a lasagna pan, if you never make muffins don't bother with the muffin pan, etc. You can always add as you feel the need. Something else I liked that I read here is that you can't afford to buy cheap gear. My cheap stuff did the trick for me but I'm replacing it now with what I hope are forever purchases. Since it's expensive I'm definitely buying a pieces or two at a time.
Final thought (for now) Fiesta ware has been extremely good to me and there are frequently deals on it at Macys although I get mine at their factory. Best of luck - keep us updated!
Ouch, ouch, ewww, be careful. 5 bills sounds like a lot, but once you get going you will run short of $$$ really fast with a big portion of your 'need' list unfilled.
1) America's Test Kitchen/Cook's Illustrated published a list of kitchen crock essentials; IIRC, the total was around $100.
2) knives: a couple of el cheapo paring knives, an el cheapo serrated bread knife, and a $75, best quality 10 inch chef knife plus cutting board
3) a set of Pyrex baking dishes and also mixing bowls
4) 2 pieces official, good quality (Lincoln or Wearever, I think) commercial half-sheet pans.
5) one non-stick, 10 inch generic fry pan and a 3 or 4 qt. sauce pan: these must be of top quality, I would recommend All-Clad.
Plus, you will definitely need: toaster, toaster oven, blender, hand held mixer, rice cooker, etc; I noticed that Walgreens sells some of these for, like $10. Cheapies that may not last a lifetime, but will certainly get you started until you can afford better. You can also get discount dishes and silverware at the local thrift/second-hand store.
As is, this will already exceed your budget. But, hey, who said this was gonna be cheap?
re: jerry i h
>>>>a $75, best quality 10 inch chef knife plus cutting board
You may find a 10" knife more than you need. I have an 8" and a 10", and I almost never choose the 10". And this was true even when I had plenty of room, and a larger cutting board than I use today.
There's a relationship between size of knife and size of cutting board, btw. You want a certain number of inches on either side of your knife when you lay it diagonally across your cutting board. Does someone remember? Should the diagonal measurement be twice that of the knife?
This is a rather crucial item. Your knife is as important as all your other kitchen stuff combined. This is how I sold kitchen knives during a past life:
1) if you are 5 foot tall or less and have small hands, use a 8 inch knife
2) if you are 5 foot up to 6 foot tall with normal sized hands, use a 10 inch knife
3) if you are anywhere near 6 foot or more, or have unusually long fingers ( calling the 'Frugal Gourmet' , with whom I worked with on a TV cooking show, and yes, I know about the aftermath of said chef's career, but he had long, creepy. spider-like fingers that truly creeped my out) like a recent college basketball player to my kitchen, use a 12 knife or even a 14 inch knife; yes, I know for a fact that 14 inch knives exist, because I have one for which I paid about $30.
re: jerry i h
Wow, I'd love to read the ATK/CI list of essentials! I did a search and can't find it. Where should I look?
And you're awesome for the Walgreens tip! Like Glam Foodie said, I really do need to think outside the box. Thank you, and to the other CHers for making me realize I can get more for less if I stray away from Macy's and JC Penny.
Oh, man, you have $250 to Macy's right now? I'm jealous! ;)
For your budget, getting everything you feel you need right away isn't impossible, but you're going to have to shop the sales and think outside the box a bit. It's a good thing you're planning now.
Three years ago, I was a lot like you: A newbie cook with a new kitchen for one to shop for. It's hard to rec. stuff to you because there are a few things to consider when purchasing kitchenware. The first is, do you want something that's going to last a long time, or do you plan on trading up within a relatively short period, of say 1 - 3 years? Second, what foods do you like to eat now? Third, what types of cuisine will you be planning to explore as part of your resolution, and are you willing to invest in the proper gadgetry, cookware, etc to do so?
If you want pots and pans that won't rust, warp, or loss evenness of cooking after a year, you're better off investing in pieces that will last.
Regardless, the only way I see you getting all you want on a maximum of $550 is to go for the cheapest of the cheap. If you're fine with that, then you can probably do it. Otherwise, take Jadore's suggestion and scour Marshall's. I'd also try Ebay, Costco, Target and even Good Will. If you start buying now, you'll be able to stock a great kitchen that can meet all of your needs for a decent amount of time.
If I had to do it all over again like you are, here's what I would buy, and where:
- Three knives: 6 inch chef's, 8 inch slicer, 3.5 or 4 inch paring. As srsone suggested, you need to splurge on these knives. I bought a cheap Martha Stewart set from Macy's myself when I first lived on my own. I thought they were fine. Then I invested in Wusthof, and it was like I became a better, faster cook, no kidding! This is where some of your Macy's money should go, but check Marshall's first. In fact, check Marshall's first before anything else.
- A 6 quart stock pot. You can boil pasta, make soup, stew, and great one-pot meals in this. I would also get an 8 inch nonstick frying pans for eggs, two different saucepots in 2 and 4 quarts or similar, and another fry or saute pan with a lid, from 11 - 13 inches, depending on your stove size. Cuisinart, Circulon, and Calphalon have wonderful nonstick and stainless pieces that often go on sale at Macy's, but can be found on Ebay and Marshall's. I believe Calphalon has a Target line too. Look into it. Read some reviews and compare prices. It will be more than worth it.
- Echoing Jadore, half sheet pans are a cook's essential for versatily and clean-up. Get stainless ones. I've seen great ones at Crate and Barrel for cheaper than the fancy Williams Sonoma kind and they look identical. Mine actually came from Costco, in a set of four, and they are second to my knives in terms of being the kitchen work horses.
- Mixing bowls in three different sizes. Someday, you'll want a set of stainless, a set of glass, and maybe some ceramic thrown in. For now, I would get one set of stainless OR ceramic. Cuisinart has a set of stainless for $30 at Macy's (just looked it up) that I actually own. They're great, and a worthy purchase. However, you may find it more economical to find a pretty but sturdy ceramic set in a color or colors that compliment your dishes, so you can use them for serving as well. Target, Ebay, Marshall's, are great places to find a quality, fairly priced ceramic set.
- An 11 inch square grill pan. Mine came from Bed Bath and Beyond, and I think I paid $25 for it. I love to grill meats and vegetables in it, and I use it at least once weekly, so it's more than paid off. This is just my personal preference; you may not see it as an essential.
- A colander, Microplane grater, coffee grinder that can also be used for nuts, whisk, wooden and plastic spoons for nonstick, silicone spatulas, a can opener, wine opener, bottle cap opener, tongs, and a ladle. All of these can be found for cheap, cheap, cheap, for decent quality, at any of the stores mentioned previously.
- You can find cheaply priced, high quality muffin, brownie, and round cake pans for a steal at Marshall's, but sometimes Macy's will have a good sale.
- Invest in an Emile Henry or Le Creuset casserole. You won't regret it.
Good luck, feel free to ask me any other questions.
re: Glam Foodie
You'd probably walk out of the store with more stuff if you had $250 on a TJ/Marshall's card.
But seriously they carry a lot name brands from cookware to bedding to home furnishings. It helps if you kinda know what your looking for before you go. Most of their mid range pots and pans are less than $30 a piece.
Start with a 10" nonstick skillet (fry pan). Nonstick is more forgiving than cooking on stainless. A 3 or 4 qt stainless pot with aluminum disk bottom and colander lid for pastas. Cuisinart generally makes quality cookware. As you begin cooking you will figure out pretty quickly what pieces you need for your style of cooking.
Save the $250 Macy's credit for things you can't find at TJ/Marshall's. Watching other people cook on youtube will give you ideas too.
Out of sheer boredom, I went onto Macy's site and tried to find all the essentials as cheaply as possible, splurging for quality only when it came to knives, really. My damage, with tax, was $763.95! I tried to trim the fat as much as I could, but that's the lowest I could really do. This just reiterates my point that if you try Marshall's, or take some of Glam Foodie's suggestions, you can do this for $550!
If I were starting from scratch, trying to minimize expense and pieces of equipment while maximizing quality and longevity, here's the order in which I'd buy things and the materials I'd be looking for:
A: Victorinox Forschner 8" chef's knife ($30), bamboo cutting board, safe storage for the knife (blade cover, magnetic rack, block, etc.), and flexible plastic cutting board sheets if you cook with meat. [This will be fine to start with; try out knives in your friends' kitchens and kitchen stores to see what's most comfortable and effective for you in the way of an investment knife; when you finally get that knife, buy a honing steel that will suit it.]
1: 10" or 12" skillet (depending on size of stove burners available to you), tri-ply or other fully clad stainless, with lid; wooden or melamine blunt-edged spoon, stainless locking 9" tongs. A U.S.-made, high-quality bargain is the Regal 'American Kitchen', formerly Marcusware, skillet, available for $50.
2: 5-qt or more soup pot with lid (ideally, one that also fits the skillet), wider than tall, stainless with aluminum disk base or fully clad; colander or mesh strainer with base, slotted spoon (stainless or melamine). Cuisinart Chef's Classic 6-qt is $50 at Macy's.
3: medium saucepan (2 qt or so) fully clad or disk-base with lid; stainless whisk, silicon spoonula, mixing bowls. Cuisinart Chef's Classic again perfectly adequate, $40 2 qt w/lid.
4: aluminum baking sheets, and ideally grid baking/cooling racks that fit the pans (half sheets or quarter sheets depending on oven size available); metal slotted cooking spatula. The racks are very helpful in prep, for roasting, and for cooling, but the 8 x 12 size that fit into quarter sheets are not easy to find.
5: 2- to 3-qt enameled cast iron casserole; measuring cups and spoons, oven thermometer. Old Descoware, Cousances, Copco, and Le Creuset can be had for very reasonable prices at garage sales, estate sales, ebay. Online, I've seen the Staub 2.5 round cocotte for as low as $75. This little pot has a million uses: baking souffles (so straight up and down sides are best), baking bread, making soups/stews, acting as another saucepan. And it can go straight to the table for serving.
With a bread knife, peeler, swingaway can opener, scissors, pyrex rectangular baker, and pie pan ... there isn't much you won't be able to prepare. I'd also recommend a timer -- not only does it prevent overcooking, it frees you to concentrate on another task while the timed item cooks.
Next tier: 3-qt saucepan, disk-based or clad stainless; enamel cast iron Dutch oven, 4-7 quart; cast iron skillet, 8-12" depending on burner size and what you'll most often use it for -- cornbread for two or chops/steaks for a group; 3.5-5-qt saute pan w/lid, disk-based stainless.
After that, the direction you go depends on what you like to cook. Wok, bamboo steamers, spider strainer // Baking equipment: ramekins, souffle dish, gratins, loaf pans, tart pans, springform pans, etc. // Rounded, clad saucier for bechamel, caramel, polenta, risotto, etc. // Roasting pan for large fowl and cuts of meat // Machinery: stick blender, coffee grinder, blender, food processor, stand mixer // Major conveniences: salad spinner, garlic press, pastry cutter, eggbeater, pizza wheel, poaching pods, prep bowls, citrus press... again, highly dependent on what you cook -- buy as need arises.
Have fun shopping and cooking!
I completely agree with the PP on the Victorinox Forschner 8" chef's knife! CooksIllustrated rates it very well and I often reach for this instead of my Henkels. The key will be keeping it sharp with a professional grinding 2x/year. I recommend getting several Bed Bath and Beyond coupons on going there for knives, toaster and coffee pot. They usually have good sales and the extra 20% off makes a difference. You might also consider a cast iron pan in place of a more expensive frying pan (maybe 10-in). I would also save some of the money - $50 or so - to spend after you get into your new kitchen and start cooking. it's amazing what you realize you need. But all the info above is an excellent start, and remember on a limited budget to think about the recipes you'll be using and what you need. Chow Hounders can sometimes go nuts with stuff that you might not use right away. That being said, I highly recommend a pyrex bakeware and bowl set - cheap and very functional! Good luck!
I just looked up Victorinox and Macy's actually has a three piece set, including an 8'' chef's knife, for $99. Is that a good deal?
And thanks for the tip about saving some money for later. I think you're right; only after I'm in my own kitchen will I realize what I need. Definitely going for Pyrex, like you said!
Do you have a couple of good reference cookbooks? Highly recommend Mark Bittman's HOW TO COOK EVERYTHING. Considering the size of my cookbook library (and that I'm acookbook editor!), I'm amazed at how often I consult my JOY OF COOKING. Books are easy to find secondhand.
Also, I'd definitely shop Target or local hardware store for basics like stainless mixing bowls, glass measuring cups, cast-iron skillet.
Fine to buy a cheap large stock/spaghetti pot. Quality not essential here.
Thanks everyone for your really detailed, helpful suggestions. I took a few days to let it all marinate in my mind, and now I've decided:
- To save some extra money and be prepared to expand my budget to a maximum of $700.
- To have a weekend of estate and garage sale shopping
- To re-think my list dramatically (I'm going to post a new one soon)
I second this approach to appliance buying. Sure, go ahead and get your major applicances new (stand mixer, toaster, whatever) but for second tier appliances, check out thrift shops. My crockpot, foreman grill, presssure cooker, and rice cooker all came from thrift shops, each less than $5. I just bought a brand new yogurt maker, $49 at SLT, for $7 at a thrift.
I have noticed that Macy's often has really good sales on kitchenware during May and June, I guess because of all the Mother's Day, Father's Day, wedding, anniversary and graduation presents that are purchased around that time.
Keep a close eye on their sales for the next couple of months and when you see one or your selected items go on sale grab it.
My hubby used to work at Macy's and some of our favorite things that we got there:
A set of 3 Martha Stewart cutting boards - white no-slip polymer-type material
3 sizes of Martha Stewart enameled cast iron dutch ovens
Oxo grease separator and vegetable peeler ( I like anything OXO)
Calphalon tri-ply saucier - I think it's 2 quart - my favorite pan
I found some sets of white dishes on the clearance rack for my younger college son.
My older college son got an electric griddle there that he and his roommates use for bacon and pancakes on the weekends.
A set of Pyrex mixing bowls that have plastic lids
A set of 3 Wedgwood glass mixing bowls
I wouldn't go for Tools of the Trade, Calphalon non-stick or any of the cheaper cookware. Sometimes they have All-Clad.
Keep an eye out for Macy's morning specials when they have sales. Those are great prices for good name brand kitchen stuff.
If you have access to friends and family kitchens, see if you can help cook. By handling a variety of knives, pots and pans you will get a better idea of what you like and what isn't comfortable in your hands. I had been lusting over a particular brand/style of cookware until I had a chance to actually use it at a chef friends home. Just too heavy, the handle was uncomfortable for me and they did not wash up well. Very glad I hadn't bought them! And another reason to buy open stock as opposed to sets...
The idea of equipping your kitchen soon is appealing! I did that once upon a time and later wished I had taken more time and added tools as I needed them. The more experienced I became, the more I was able to make better choices when buying. Plus I enjoy the hunt!
Look at your credit cards and check their "rewards". I have used the points from my Discover card to completely purchase bigger ticket appliances. I watched the sales at BB&B for a year and learned what month the promotion that had the package I wanted would be. I was able to use $20 of rewards for each $25 BB&B gift card. I used the 20% coupons and ended up saving over 40% on my Kitchenaid mixer - and didn't spend any cash!
I just got 6 settings of white Fiestaware from Macy's for a grand total of $130 even. Originally, each set was $48 each for a dinner plate, salad plate, mug, and bowl. Macy's had each one on sale for $26.99. I put five in my cart and the sixth one was free. They also took another $15 off my cart. Then I used the code 'TICKTOCK' in the promo code box (it ends at 4:00 AM on the 14th! Hurry!) and got $15 off my order. Macy's gave free shipping as well. With California tax, I got to $130 flat and paid with my gift card.
I splurged because Macy's was doing a special online deal with the free place setting, and because I KNOW Fiesta is durable. I was going to go thrifting for Fiesta, but then I realized I've had my heart set on white dishes for a while, and you don't see a whole of lot of the white out there. I figure I can always get colors later down the road.
I think I did well, and I'm very happy with this purchase. I still have $570 of my newly considered budget left. My next quest is knives, which will also be new. I'm also scouring Ebay for used, cheap Le Creuset pots; I've decided I want one, and that it would be worth it to me to have it over a brand new cheap nonstick.
Awesome! That's what I have - the white. I've got accents in different colors though for fun. The factory is in WV. I always stop in when I'm in OH over the holidays. It's a great deal if you can find good seconds. However at around $5/piece I think you're probably close to outlet prices! Good job!
You can still thrift for accents and fun pieces like pitchers, platters and vases!
Another thought is a de Buyer carbon steel pan rather than non-stick. Last year Cost Plus World Market had a deal and you could pick them up for $9. Great pans and very non stick when seasoned. The Le Cresuet outlets can be great for deals too - get on their mailing list for coupons. You frequently get discounts for AAA as well at the management office of the outlets. Oooh, wish I could go shopping with you!
Congratulations! Fiesta is great and I think white was a good color to go with. White dishes make food look better. As you said, you can always get rainbow colors down the road; the dishes are certainly affordable enough to do so.
Let us know how the LC hunt goes! I'm excited to see what else you buy, to be honest. :)
Ok, I recently have gone out on my own too for the first time in my life at 43 years old (went from my parents house to my husbands when I was 21). I love to cook like most everyone else on here and have been doing it for the better part of 33 years. Additionally, I went from a 3600 sq foot house to a 1150 square foot house with a kitchen 1/4 the size of my old one. I took ONLY what I really needed with me due to the space I have to work with. My goal when sorting thru my old kitchen was to take things that could work in multiple capacities and limit the number of items that only serve one purpose (say things like a rice cooker or other gadgety type things).
With all that in mind, I would recommend a really good chef's knife and paring knife, decent wooden cutting board, a set of decent scissors (yes scissors!), wooden spoons, couple of spatulas, good tongs (I use OXO good grips locking tongs and these work for everything from turning/stirring stuff on the stove or grill to serving all sorts of stuff on the table and grabbing that dang knife or spoon that fell just out of reach behind the stove or whatever. ha!), a few decent quality pots and pans (I have one copper skillet, one large stock pot, one smaller heavy dutch oven, and a couple of pans for making rice/soup etc. The skillet imo is the most important to have good quality of but it depends on if you will be making a lot of sauces etc. I don't so I don't really need high quality pots, just a high quality skillet), a fine cheese grater that looks decent enough to use at the table :), <b>a Cuisinart food processor<b/> (like a 9 or 11 cup), a hand held mixer unless you will be baking a bunch, then start looking at garage sales for a kitchen aid stand mixer, baking sheets.
Ok now for dishes, i personally just bought a cheap service for 6 at ikea for $25 and some inexpensive $40 service for 12 or 16 stainless utensils at Sams Club. The dishes are plain white with no decoration but that means that I can decorate the table however I want because they go with everything. I had really nice fine china that came with the husband when we married, they did last a good 20 years with daily wear but good or not, china wears out eventually, decorations fade, gold rubs off, etc. especially if you use a dishwasher. And sheesh, if you are like me you might get tired of looking at the same thing everyday for 20 years and just want a change of pace in the way of dishes. As for towels and mitts, I buy the cheapest soft cotton, thin as all get out, $5 for a 5 pack flour sack dishtowels that I can find at walmart. They are AWESOME! I use something similar in material to a barmop but smaller in size for my dishrags in the sink. I like a dishrag as opposed to a sponge (although I always have a sponge around) because I can get a new dishrag out everyday and can wash them in bleach so I know they are always super clean. Ya, Ima freak like that!
Ok now lastly, don't cheap out on a decent potato peeler. OXO makes one that has an orange handle is probably the best potato/apple/carrot/turnip etc etc etc peeler I have ever bought. I use it to shave chocolate and all sorts of other stuff. Yes I could do that with my great paring knife but the peeler just is easier and more consistent with sizing than my hands are with the knife. Def. get yourself a glass pyrex 9x13 baking dish....great for cakes to casseroles, water baths and more. Oh a I use the heck out of my pyrex custard cups too...shouldn't be hard to find pyrex at estate and garage sales. Really and truly, start hitting up garage and estate sales. You will find so much really great stuff there. I sent my son off to his first college apartment this year and spent less than $50 to get him darn near everything that he needed for his kitchen from garage sales.
Do you like wine? If so make sure you get yourself an relatively inexpensive waiters corkscrew, simple and easy to use and some cheap wine glasses (very few people will really appreciate the difference between an expensive wine glass and a cheap one). A 2 cup glass measuring cup and a set of dry measuring cups and spoons is essential as well. The sets with an 1/8t. measure are not necessary. Just get yourself a set of cups that has 1/4, 1/3, 1/2 and 1 cup measures and a set of spoons with 1/4, 1/2, 1 teaspoon and 1 table spoon measures. Along with a copy of the Joy of Cooking you will not need any other measures. The Joy of Cooking is the best beginner cookbook imo. Simple, straightforward yet has a recipe for just about anything you want to make in it. Of course, with as much as there is on the internet now, maybe you don't really need any cookbooks. Seem to be videos to demo everything out there that you could want to do now. (Thankfully!)
The last thing that you will want to do is find a reputable knife sharpener in your town or city. You will need to take those decent knives that you are going to buy to be sharpened a few times a year if you use them often. It shouldn't cost you much more than a couple bucks per knife each time and its much better than trying to hone them yourself which if you don't know what you are doing can dull your knifes even more.
Good luck to you with your kitchen hunting and enjoy your new place!!!!
Hope everything's goine well since you started your new kitchen! I wanted to add a note that may be helpful for shopping garage sales & estate sales. These are unpredictable, and only rarely offer the classics of traditional kitchens such as Le Creuset pans and fine knives. But if you shop them regularly over time, you can find marvelous treasures. Most kitchens are created over time, not too fast, and they change over time as the cook's interests, skills, and family needs change. Welcome to the open universe of cooking!