Kitchen Basics (for Broke-Ass College Kids)

Hello readers, today I will list down kitchen essentials for all of your cooking and baking needs. I found that these items are relatively cheap and very useful for day to day food prep activities. So let’s gather around and get that to do list ready!

Now most important, is that you have working stoves and fridge (or dedicated fridge section) set up already in your humble abode.

Cooking

On top of working stove, make sure that your kitchen have

  1. Multi-purpose Knives (A$2.8 x2)
    • This is where the perk of being a plant-based human shows. You only need one very good and sharp knife, but I have two just in case the other one broke — it hasn’t though because I buy good ones. Don’t buy knives from IGA or any weird brands. Invest in good ones, so you won’t hurt yourself 😦 . I bought a homechef knife from IGA and split my fingers soooo many times.
    • Daiso’s Galaxy knife is a good brand it cost less than A$2.00 too!
    • If your shared kitchen have knives already, just remember to wash them thoroughly, we do not want that cross-contamination sickness 😷
  2. Silicone spatula (A$1.5 )
    • The price for this item should not be more than A$2.00, really easy to find: Kmart, Target, Woolworths, and Coles. Kmart and Target should be the very first place for you to search for this item.
    • Dollar stores should have them too. Make sure to get one that can be used for both cooking and baking.
  3. Frying pan(A$8; they tend not to come with lid)
    • If your kitchen does not have any frying pan yet, run to Kmart and Target to get the mini size one. I live alone and bought a 16cm diameter frying pan from Woolworths. It is pretty, tough and last long.
    • Find frying pan with non-stick base, it does not have to be tefal brand or anything. If you’re shit at cooking, like me, just make sure it’s not the stainless-steel ones
  4. Saucepan + lid (A$5)
    • As above, I tend to get two of this, one prep the beans, while the other one cook my food. And the extra lid is useful when I need to cover my frying pan.
  5. Kitchen utensils (A$5, if you cannot get individual ones)
    • I’m talking about cooking spoon with holes, pasta spoon, ladle, etc. The most important ones are slotted spoon and ladle.
    • Price range is around the same, I would advise dollar store first (Big W, variety store, then Kmart)
  6. Metal strainer (A$2)
    • Dollar store babbeehh, one strainer is enough, make sure it is wide enough to stack on top of your saucepan. That’s your makeshift steamer. Unless you bought a saucepan that comes with steamer, then you are one lucky human 🙂
  7. Digital kitchen scale (A$9)
    • Kmart, Target, Woolworths and Coles are where you should go. Get the electronic/digital scale to save your time and energy. It should not cost you more than A$15. Daiso is overpriced.
  8. Measuring jug (A$2)
    • Not interchangeable with measuring cup. Measuring jug measures liquid (vs measuring cup’s solid) and I’m pretty sure I use it to measure some solid too such as flour.
    • Dollar store is where to go.
  9. Blender (A$22)
    • Kmart and Target have a great range of blender. Just make sure to get the one that can crush ice so you can skip on food processor.
    • For the love of everything plant-based, read the manual and do not put in mammoth-sized ice chunks into your blenders.
  10. Measuring spoon (A$3)
    • Don’t get the weird-ass looking ones. Stick with the classic, get the cheap one I could not care less. Just. Don’t. Get. The. Weird. Shape. They are either hard to store, use, or clean. No versatility, my dudes.
    • Dollar stores and Spotlight is your first option. Kmart and Target if they do not have it.
  11. Measuring cup (A$2)
    • Similar to measuring spoon, don’t get the weird-ass shaped measuring cup. They are such a pain in the ass to maintain.
    • Dollar stores are cheap. Kmart and Target if they do not have it.
    • The reason I put measuring cup at the bottom is that if you’re realllyy tight on your budget, it is kind of safe to skip this one. Your measuring jug got you 😉
  12. Magic wipes (Super absorbent wipes) (A$2.8)
    • They are pink, reusable, quick-dry, antibacterial, replace the need of 1237893 tea towel. Get them at Daiso. It costs only A$2.8. Wet then cut them into several pieces. Last you throughout your college life.

Top tip: Use cronometer to see the conversion from cup to weight, skint on measuring spoons and cups while also reducing that washload!!

Baking

  1. Mini oven (A$29)
    • If your kitchen does not have an oven already, invest in mini oven. 9 litre oven is enough for mini baked goods. Baking is your new hobby now, thanks.
    • Kmart and Target please
  2. Silicone baking mould/tray (A$12)
    • Skip on non-stick baking tray, silicone baking mould/tray is here to stay! They are easier to use, clean, and store. Baked goods easily peel off the mould (which means no need to slather your goods in extra oils/fats) and they bend easily so you can slip it between your reusable jars.
    • Peter of Kensington has a set of silicone ramekin which is versatile and relatively cheap. Though now all of your baked goods are in the shape of muffin 🤭. It’s A$12 and I have never used other trays ever since.
    • The problem of mini oven is that most baking pans do not fit so you have to look for small individual trays. I have no problem with that, dollar stores got you covered for that ones, though they tend to be non-stick. Just be very cautious when using them to not scratch the bottom. They cost around A$1-3 each.
  3. Baking paper (A$ 3)
    • Dollar store have them cheap, even compared to Woolworths and Coles. We’ll use this a lot to roast veggies, grill sandwiches, and bake cookies. I find that baking mat are way too expensive, but if you’re looking for long term solution, the cheapest one should cost no more than A$10
  4. *Digital kitchen scale
    • as explained before
  5. *Measuring cup
    • as explained before
  6. *Measuring spoon
    • as explained before

Food Prep/Storage

  1. Produce bags (A$ 5)
    • Get them while you shop, I use Harris Farm cotton produce bags.
  2. Food containers and cannisters (A$ 10+ 1 x3)
    • I know most people will advise to go for glass containers, but they are expensive and if you’re accident prone like me, outright dangerous. I buy a 10 set from dollar stores (Reject Shop) and it last really long. Square/Oblong all the way, round containers take too much space.
    • Glass canisters/ jars are pretty useful too. I use them to keep my cooked beans and homemade sauce/mix/condiments. Kmart stocks the orange-lined jar which I love because it is a clip jar. Clip jar is easier to clean and use than twist jar, especially when your hands are oily from all that cooking.
  3. Clothes pegs (A$2)
    • Keep those open bag of pasta and more fresh without buying shit ton of containers 😉
    • Dollar stores and Kmart

In the order of importance, I would go with cooking, food storage, then baking. I started to invest in baking items after saving money from eating out and skipping clubs and parties. In term of buying stuffs, surprisingly, I do not recommend IKEA nor IGA at all. Their items tend to be overpriced and not of good quality. Stick to the stores I mentioned below.

Total: A$154.9 (without baking: A$110.9)

Dollar StoreAsian/Ethnic Store
Dollar tree
Daiso
Reject Shop
Spotlight
Usually stock up on cheaper items, my go to whenever I need to buy kitchen and baking utensils. Daiso items are mostly at A$2.8
Mid-size Dept StoreBunnings
Kmart
Target
Big W
Peter’s of Kensington
Harris Farm
I get my electrical appliances from these dept stores (would not consider Harris Farm as dept store though). Target is slightly pricier than Kmart, but it has better quality. Target is a good place to buy formal attire too, Kmart cuts are just too cheap.
Harris Farm produces are fresher than Coles/Woolies. It last long in the fridge and their imperfect range save some money. Definitely cost more than Woolies/Coles, but it has longer storage life, keeping those meal prep fresh and safe!
Giant Supermarket ChainAldi
Coles
Woolworths
Last choice, however might be the easiest place to go. Aldi is really cheap, it is my first choice for frozen goods. However, it is hard to compare price because they do not have online shopping website.
Coles and Woolies are quite similar. Compare prices online to see which one offer better values. Remember that different location have different price and promo.
Table 1

(I italicised my favourite stores, happy window shopping!!)

What we have learnt today:

Cooking

Dollar store is the best bet for those who are really tight on the money.

Get your knife from Daiso! For the love of plants and everything green, you won’t regret it. Galaxy knife is life.

I would not recommend stainless-steel cookware for us babycooks because we’re shit and will scrub the burnt bottom :(. Stick with non-stick cookwares.

Baking

Peter of Kensington’s have a good collection of cheap baking items, however, I would still leave electrical appliances to Kmart and Target.

Silicone are reusable, sustainable and safe money in the long run. Invest, invest, invest.

Food Prep/Storage

Cotton bags keep your produce fresh, just buy a minimal amount of tupperwares while waiting for your jars to empty out. #self-sustain

Saving money tips:

  • Hand me down save your coins a lot. Check facebook groups for secondhands, salvos, and if you live in dormitories those who moved out or graduated usually leave their stuffs in the common room. Don’t be shy to ask your seniors.
  • Sharing is caring. Always do online price comparison, and share items such as blender and oven with roommates, dormmates, and friends.
  • Gen Z are digital natives, so you know better to buy online and couponing.
  • Apply for memberships especially if its free, they sometime send promotion and special deals for you

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