My name is Felicia and I am a 23 year old woman that has always been known to NOT cook. I am moving to the San Diego area with my boyfriend at the end of the month and I want to try cooking. Only problem is I'm on a tight budget and will have absolutely nothing in my kitchen. I need the help of you all to get me started on being a cook while staying in budget. Thanks ahead of time :)
How exciting! You have more than one adventure ahead of you. You'll find lots of answers here, and as you might expect, these kinds of set-up a kitchen and/or learning to cook questions are not uncommon.
We've had some recent discussions covering some of what you ask, and others will chime in with newer answers specific to your situation. In the meantime, reading these other discussions may give you some ideas as a starting-point.
Also, it will be helpful to us if you let us know what kind of cooking you'll be doing; in short, what do you and your boyfriend like to eat? Will he also be in the kitchen?
San Diego is full of farmer's markets, Asian and Hispanic markets and stores like Henry's and Trader Joe's where you can buy all sorts of awesome groceries on a budget.
equipment and dishes - this is why the heavens gave us thrift stores and garage sales. if it falls apart or turns out to be NOT what you want? who cares? it was $1.50 so just wash it, chuck it into the goodwill collection box and buy something else.
and you might find the coolest things if you can beat the hipsters to them.
And don't overlook the library as a place to find cookbooks. If there's one you find you love, order it used from Amazon.
And, as above, try the thrift shops for basic kitchen wares.
Does the boyfriend cook at all? Do ya'll like to grill (S.D. is great 'cause of year-'round grilling)? Tell us what kinds of food you guys like and maybe we can suggest more detailed ideas.
For basic gear you can get by with the below. Check out thrift shops for dishes - they won't match, but you can get plates and cutlery and mugs dirt cheap.
Most of the gear below you can buy the cheapest stuff you can find, with the exception of pots and knives. I will spring for a decent can opener, because I hate the hard to use cheap ones.
- a non stick frying pan, one decent medium sized pot and one cheap medium pot (by decent I mean fairly hefty with a thick bottom - thin bottom cheap pots will burn anything sauteed or stewed, but are fine for boiling pasta), lids for the pots and pans, a medium casserole dish, a cookie tray. If you like cooking in big batches, get a big pot.
- a cutting board, a medium sized knife, a paring knife and a bread knife, a cheese grater, a vegetable peeler
- a long handled wooden spoon, a spatula (for scraping out bowls), a spatula (for flipping stuff) a pair of tongs, a garlic press, a large metal spoon with holes, a colander, a ladle.
- a couple of cheap metal mixing bowls, a 1 cup glass or plastic measuring cup, a set of measuring spoons.
Plus a can opener, some tupperware, oven mitts, something to put hot pans on (trivet, wooden board), dish towels, a kettle.
For basic foodstuffs to start out with, it depends on what sort of stuff you like to cook. The list below is what I would start out with after a move. I've added a * to ingredients that are mainly for Asian cooking, which I do a lot of.
Liquids: vegetable oil, olive oil, sesame oil*, distilled vinegar, red wine vinegar, rice vinegar*, soy sauce, fish sauce*, lemon juice, rice wine*
Pastes: dijon mustard, ketchup, hot sauce, miso*, chili paste*, honey,
Spices and Herbs: Salt, pepper, Basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, cumin, coriander, cardamon, paprika, bay leaves, cayenne pepper, ginger, sage, cinnamon, cloves, garlic powder, boullion powder, chili powder, hot pepper flakes
Dried goods: Pasta, thin Japanese noodles, rice, oatmeal, chickpeas, lentils, beans, walnuts
Canned Goods: tomatoes, tomato paste, coconut milk*, canned beans, chicken stock,
Baking staples: flour, baking powder and baking soda, white sugar, brown sugar, corn starch,
Other: parmesan cheese, butter, olives, coffee, tea,
In general, I find farmer's markets tend to have nice stuff, but are not particularly cheap. Ethnic markets (start with Chinatown if you've got it) are good for cheap and interesting. Look for bulk herbs and spices (the jarred stuff is ridiculously expensive). Trader Joe's is good for budget gourmet (cheese and wine tend to be good deals), Costco is good for stuff you use a lot of (I buy olive oil and canned tomatoes there in large quantities).