Kitchen Hacks

Calling All Cooks: How I Stocked My First Kitchen

August  9, 2015

Last month, I asked for your advice for stocking my first kitchen from scratch. Today, I'm sharing some of your best advice and the kitchen it helped create.

Last month, I moved into my first real kitchen and faced the daunting task of stocking the entire thing from scratch. Luckily, when I desperately cried out asked for your advice, you answered in droves. You voiced your opinions on the utility of cast iron pans, shared your advice for aquiring more counterspace, and recommended your favorite appliances (and denounced some altogether).

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Countless trips to IKEA and a variety of cooking stores—including our own—later, my kitchen looks extremely different and (dare I say it?) complete. Here's some of your best advice and how I turned a small kitchen into a fully-functioning, smartly-stocked workspace:


Prep Space:

  • Your advice: Several people, including Tami, Victoria Maynard, and TheFritschKitchen emphasized the importance of getting an additional countertop or kitchen island with room for storage.
  • What I did: Because I don't have room for a dining table (the other side of the room contains a couch, coffee table, bookshelf, and small desk), I splurged and purchased a kitchen island from IKEA. It's sturdy enough for prepping dinner, large enough to act as a divider from the "living room" on the other side, and doubles as a dining table for my boyfriend and myself (we purchased additional folding chairs for when we have guests over). I also purchased a small rolling "pantry" cart for easy access to my most-used food items like olive oil and salt.

Storage Solutions:

  • Your advice: Some readers recommended that I make use of vertical space by hanging pots and pans and putting up a magnetic knife holder. Opinions differed on the best kind of spice storage—Kath said to "omit the rack" and get a box that slides in and out of cabinets, while Corrie recommeded magnetic spice containers that stick to the refrigerator, and ds14248 and Tami suggested wall-mounted spice racks and hanging pots for herbs.
  • What I did: While I found it was more useful to put the pans under my kitchen island (where there are two shelves of storage) than rig a hanging system, I did make quick use of the wall between the island and the stove and mounted pots of basil and thyme, a spice rack, and a magnetic knife rack right on the brick. The herbs promptly died—apparently they need sunlight?—but the spices and knives are right where I can reach them. I also used the space above the cabinets to store the majority of my cookbooks and other miscellaneous appliances, and brought over a footstool for easy access.
A magnetic knife rack, marble board, hanging potted herbs (R.I.P. thyme and basil), spice rack, and standing mixer.


  • Your advice: While many of you are purists and suggested not getting any appliances at all, several of you mentioned appliances that you can't live without—like a mini food processor and an immersion blender.
  • What I did: I said "yes" to almost all of the appliances you suggested, including a Magic Bullet that I've been using instead of a food processor, a toaster oven and electric tea kettle that both live in the kitchen island, and two incredibly thoughtful housewarming presents: a boysenberry-colored Kitchenaid stand mixer (from my mom) and a Cuisinart ice cream maker (from my boyfriend's mom).
I also got a cat, but that's a story for another post.

Tools and Cookware:

  • Your advice: While Karin Jonczak was adamant against purchasing a cast iron pan, several of you suggested a Dutch oven, Clayton said Pyrex bowls are a must, and Miriam provided a well thought-out list: "a skillet, pasta pot, and a saucepan or two, plus a baking sheet. Maybe a Pyrex baking dish if you're a casserole kind of person... And for God's sake, don't forget the cheese grater."
  • What I did: I forgot the cheese grater, but I bought several tools including a huge pot for making stock (because someday I'd like to be the type of person who makes stock), a cast iron Dutch oven, a small non-stick frying pan, and a large, high-rimmed stainless steel pan for everything else. I also purchased a marble board from our Shop for making crusts, a Kitchenaid knife set, wooden cutting boards, miscellaneous Pyrex bowls, and a casserole dish (for my favorite chicken thigh recipe), a spatula, measuring spoons, and lots and lots of dish towels

How'd I do? What else would you add? Tell us in the comments below!

Photos by Leslie Stephens

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I eat everything.


Kristy July 28, 2017
I would have got a thermomix to replace any appliances and a pressure cooker cause they speed everything up. Also agree with the below user on the microplane
John December 15, 2015
Beautiful your kitchen. But the cute kitten and kitchen can't go together.
Sharon E. October 19, 2015
Slow cookers! Can't live without mine.
Maria B. October 19, 2015
"The herbs promptly died"
I tried to keep herbs several times and they always died. the secret is to plant them in large pots, well at least 3 times as big as the white ones I see in the picture. I also recommend putting herbs outside at the balcony or at least near a window, where they can get sunlight. Mine are (still) thriving in large pots at the balcony and it's 5 °C here... let's see how they will survive the winter.
mary M. October 19, 2015
a microplane is a must. you will use it to zest citrus, shave chocolate, grate ginger, garlic, nutmeg, cheese.
multi-use and doesnt take up much space.
Robyn October 19, 2015
I LOVE my Earlywood Designs utensils,( not only are they useful but they bring such beauty to the kitchen. Remember to buy the best you can afford at the moment and upgrade in the future as you can.
Rhonda35 September 11, 2015
I love that exposed brick wall - lucky gal! I'd figure out a way to make use of that wall space to the left of the kitchen. You'd have to work around the thermostat, etc., but you could add shelves, a wall-mounted pot rack and/or a small cabinet or bar cart. Maybe it just needs some art? I like Sam's idea to use the herb pots for storage of utensils. Enjoy your lovely new space!
Leslie S. September 11, 2015
I'm actually having a print framed now for that wall to give it some color—great minds! Thank you!
Nancy September 1, 2015
Is that a Bottlecraft (San Diego) shirt your boyfriend is wearing? Great choice!!
Sam August 26, 2015
As the herbs have died (RIP)... Why not use one pot for wooden utensils.. I buy spoons when I travel, functional keepsakes and different sizes are a must. The other for tongs and silicon based tools, never buy metal tools... Save your pots. Whole spices and a coffee grinder for Indian stuff is always good... Enjoy!
Natalie M. August 16, 2015
THat Kitchen Aid mixer, holy! Everything looks incredible actually, I couldn't tell from the first shot if it was actually your kitchen or a dream kitchen.
Might be a bit late, but can I recommend tongs as a tool if you don't have them? My parents never had them in our house, so I never considered buying them for my kitchen, but I recently moved in with somebody who has multiples. I never knew that you didn't have to burn your fingers when you are flipping foods in the pan.
elainevdw August 11, 2015
The kitty was definitely your best kitchen addition!!!! :)
Debra H. August 11, 2015
I totally disagree about not purchasing cast iron. That is the one thing you should always have in your arsenal. The biggest skillet that will fit your burner and stove (I accidentally gave one as a gift that was much larger than the cooking surface, but still does the job! I think he has he same size stove you have and he's in the UK!) ... Where did you get the magnetic knife rack?! I love the mini spatulas for getting stuff out of jars.
Lynell I. August 11, 2015
Looks like a great start to many tasty meals. My only other fav kitchen must have is thick and sturdy wooden spatulas. I use them for nearly everything I do on the stove top.
And... your kitty is adorable.
Chris H. August 11, 2015
looks great, except for the spice rack...way too small. And stainless bowls rather than pyrex would have probably been a better use of money.
Jenni August 10, 2015
I'm surprised by the store bought spices.
I would've thought you a fresh spice store kind of gal.

My electric kettle (my grandmother was British), and Le Creuset pot, are out all the time. I couldn't live without them. Toaster oven is a must. And lots and lots of cutting boards.

it looks fabulous. I might need that island.
Leslie S. August 11, 2015
I've actually always identified as an SBSG (Store-Bought Spice Gal)!

And the island is my favorite part too!
Abby S. August 10, 2015
Stocking your pantry with spices can be very expensive. When I moved into my first apartment my mom gave me a few teaspoons of all of her spices in labeled plastic baggies. These lasted me a few months so that I could restock them over time rather than buying them all at once!
Rick August 10, 2015
If you can, buy them in bulk. Usually MUCH cheaper. And buy whole spices if you can (and it makes sense, like nutmeg, pepper, etc).
Olivia B. August 10, 2015
What a homey, cozy kitchen :) Wishing you many delicious meals in there!
Clayton August 10, 2015
I actually said that lightweight metal mixing bowls were ideal for a small kitchen, but Pyrex is good too!
jessicamclement August 10, 2015
i will have my first real kitchen since childhood in about 5 months ! i'm very excited and will come back here for some tips... it looks great. it's very funny because in paris (france) we normally have tiny kitchens, but it's quite rare to see 1) a microwave and 2) a dish washer (... although i do know people with both!) unless you have an apartment graced with a big kitchen. i have lived without them for four years now. it's a funny difference! congrats on the new kitchen :) !
Leslie S. August 10, 2015
Yes it's very exciting! And the butcher block made a tiny kitchen seem much larger! And having a dish washer is wonderful though I never use the microwave so I might as well not have one! Enjoy your new kitchen!
Margaret L. August 10, 2015
Completely agree about the microwave -- for me, it is an appliance that doesn't provide enough benefit for the space it takes. A heavy pot and a spoon of olive oil makes popcorn, 1 or 2 gratin dishes in the toaster oven heat leftovers in 10-20 minutes, and who wants warmed-over coffee? Plus, my dishes have a gold band, so ix-nay on the microwave.
Jane August 9, 2015
Love your kitchen! Add a good offset spatchula, and a silicone one for your lovely mixer.