You don’t need a whole lot in your kitchen to make healthy meals, but there are a few essential items I recommend everyone have in their toolkit to make meal prep a breeze.
1. Spatula Set
This is the exact spatula set I use in my own kitchen. The biggest one is my favorite, because the sides are curved more like a spoon and makes scooping and scraping much cleaner. The smallest one is great for getting the last bits of jam or almond butter out of a jar. They’re all flexible, and you can actually remove the silicone part from the handle when cleaning if you need to.
I finally bought some glass bowls, and I’m in love with them. I purchased mine from China Fair in Somerville, but these are a good option from Amazon with a big size range. I use the medium-sized bowls for breakfasts and salads mostly, but they’re great for mixing smaller amounts of ingredients, and for mise en place too. The large and tiny ones are both perfect for pretending you’re hosting your own cooking show.
I have a Ninja blender, but it’s a basic version that annoyingly ONLY has a pulse function – this is the upgrade I want (other than my dream Vitamix, of course). The most important part about Ninja blenders is that they come with smaller to-go cups. You just blend your smoothie right in the cup, toss on a lid, and off you go. This was life-changing when I first got mine. I had less to clean, and I could prepare the ingredients in the cup the night before, blend in the AM and run off to work. Now that’s fast food!
4. Chef’s Knife
A chef’s knife is a definite essential in the kitchen. Stop trying to cut dense sweet potatoes with a butter knife! This will be your workhorse and is worth the investment – a good knife will last you a lifetime if you take care of it. Don’t put it in the dishwasher, don’t drop it, don’t toss it in the drawer with all your other utensils, and definitely don’t use it to crack open coconuts. Get a knife block to keep it safe or find one that comes with a sleeve, and then call me up for a knife skills class so I can show you how to use it!
Because you need something to use that chef’s knife on! This one is organic bamboo, so there’s no gross chemicals leaching into your food while you’re preparing it. The groove around the edges helps keep juices from getting all over your counter, too.
There are two small saucepans in our cabinet and between Dan and I, we probably use both for one reason or another almost every day. You definitely want to get bigger ones for soups and stuff (and Farberware is a great brand), but these 1-qt straining saucepans are perfect for serving one or two or making small recipes. The lid has small holes on the side so you can strain out liquid without having to dirty a colander.
You’ll also need a good skillet in your kitchen. Avoid non-stick, as those can leach chemicals into your food, and if you let one of those overheat, it can give off enough fumes to kill a small bird. #themoreyouknow
I, too, think measuring cups shaped like cats and frogs and other animals are cute, but for some reason I don’t fully trust that they’re accurate, so I stick with my trusty stainless steel measurers. Keep in mind the cups are typically for dry measurements (you can get a glass Pyrex cup for liquid), but if you don’t feel like buying something else, these will work just fine.
8. Nut Sack
Ah yes, the trusty nut sack. This mesh bag is essential for homemade nut and seed milks, which I love making because I know exactly what’s going into it. After you blend up your concoction, you just pour it all in here and give it your strongest squeeze. It makes the process a breeze with very little cleanup. You can use it for juicing too if you don’t have a juicer, using the same method as milk. It’ll stain the bag a little bit, but who’s lookin’?
9. Baking Sheet
For roasting delicious veggies… and cookies, obviously! I’d also grab a box of parchment paper or a baking mat, if you’re feeling fancy.
You will regret not having tongs next time you need to flip something in the oven and you are shouting “ouch! ouch!” after you burn your fingers on every vegetable that needs turning. I also use these to toss salads like they do at Sweetgreen (big bowl + tongs + shake shake shake = perfectly dressed salad), and for reaching things in the highest cabinets when I’m too lazy to get out the step stool.
Additional fun things
So these are the main items I think everyone should have, but if you’re really getting into it, I also don’t think I could live without my immersion blender. You could always put soup in a regular blender, but if yours doesn’t have a vent it might explode everywhere and we don’t want that. I also love the teeny tiny mini whisk my mom gave me for making small batches of salad dressing. I could just as easily use a fork… but that’s not as adorable.
Finally, you can use your chef’s knife to do just about everything you need to, but sometimes it’s easier to have a smaller tool on hand for things like small fruit, cheese, etc. In comes the paring knife!
What other items could you not live without in the kitchen? Do you have a weird tool you love like the itty-bitty whisk or elephant-shaped measuring cup? Let me know!
This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small share of sales if you make a purchase. All of the items included in this list are things I use in my own kitchen just about every day, which is why I’m recommending them, and I’ve linked to the exact items I use where possible.