There are two parts to the cooking process: the equipment and the food. Hopefully your apartment has a serviceable stove, oven and refrigerator, so the Food Literacy Project has put together a list of kitchen equipment and tableware basics. Compiled from The Kitchen Survival Guide by Lora Brody, an informal poll of recent grads, and HUHDS staff—check it out below.

Mollie Katzen is a collaborator with HUHDS on a number of projects. In 2004, she provided a list of healthy pantry staples to Body and Soul magazine. Check out Mollie's recommendations below.

Equipment and Tableware Basics

Cookware, equipment, gadgets
Bare minimum:

  • Chef's knife—don't skimp on quality here
  • Paring knife—ditto
  • Cutting board—to use with above
  • Silicone spatula—won't melt in a pan like normal plastic
  • Turner spatula—for pancakes and burgers
  • Tongs—for serving spaghetti
  • Wooden spoon—for any and all stirring
  • 1 frying pan—at least 8-inch, non-stick if you like that
  • 1 pot—3-quart, for things like pasta
  • 9 by 13 glass baking dish—for anything from cake to lasagna to roast chicken
  • 2 oven mitts/pot holders—can double as trivets when putting hot pots on vulnerable surfaces
  • Strainer/sieve—doubles as a colander to drain pasta
  • Measuring cups and spoons—if you're in to using recipes
  • 2 mixing bowls—can double as serving bowls
  • Can opener
  • Corkscrew/bottle opener
  • Blender—smoothies, frozen drinks, soups
  • Microwave—where to cook all that frozen Trader Joe's food
  • Plastic storage containers—Tupperware, clean yogurt cups, take out tubs...

More than minimum:

  • Hand-held mixer—much faster than a spoon, great for homemade whipped cream
  • Toaster-oven—reheat pizza, toast bread, go crazy
  • Containers for flour and sugar—without these
  • Pepper grinder
  • 9 by 9 square baking pan—for brownies
  • Coffee maker—this might be in the bare minimum category for some
  • George Foreman grill—very handy for burgers to panini

Plates, silverware, etc.
It's probably good to have six place settings, but there's no reason to need matching sets. Scour your mom's basement, yard sales and craigslist for cheap used goods.

Bare minimum:

  • Dinner plates
  • Bowls—good size for big or small portions of soup, salad, ice cream or what-have-you
  • Mugs
  • Glasses—pint glasses are a good bet, cheap and just the right size
  • Dinner forks
  • Teaspoons
  • Soup spoons
  • Table knives
  • Pepper grinder/salt shaker

More than minimum:

  • Salad/dessert forks
  • Small plates
  • Serving spoon, fork, dishes—most of these can be doubles of cookware
  • Wine glasses

Pantry Staples


Whole grains:

  • Rolled oats
  • Steel-cut oats
  • 9-Grain Cereal
  • Oat bran
  • Wheat bran
  • Brown rice (long or short grain)
  • Bulgur
  • Millet
  • Quinoa
  • Whole grain or high-quality pastas

Dried and/or Canned Beans:

  • Dried—lentils (red, brown, and/or French)
  • Split peas
  • Black beans
  • Chick peas
  • Pinto beans
  • Kidney beans
  • White beans
  • Soy beans

Nuts and Seeds:

  • Peanuts
  • Walnuts
  • Pecans
  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Pistachios
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • (Nut or seed butters made from any of the above)

Dried fruit of all kinds


  • Olive oil
  • Canola oil
  • Nut oils

Vinegars (cider, wine, sherry, rice, raspberry, balsamic)

Lemons and limes

Jars and cans of high-quality tomato products—plus a few esoteric, fancy imported items

Several boxes of Imagine Brand—or Trader Joe's—vegetable broth

Dried herbs - variety (not too old—buy them frequently!)

Fresh herbs stored in water, like bouquets (or planted in flower pots)

In the larder (Note: Keep onions and potatoes separate! When stored together, they cause mutual rot.):

  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Potatoes

In the refrigerator :

  • Milk
  • A few really good cheeses
  • Plain whole milk yogurt
  • Cottage cheese
  • Unsalted butter
  • Eggs
  • Tofu
  • Fresh, in-season fruit and vegetables (as many as will fit!)
  • Olives
  • Pickles, and marinated vegetables (preferably unsweetened)

In the freezer:

  • Corn
  • Peas
  • Chopped spinach
  • Artichoke hearts
  • Unsweetened berries
  • Homemade Granola