My mom doesn't just have a full range of kitchen utensils. She has a kitchen arsenal. When she conscripts us to help her with special meal preparations, we often find ourselves having to ask, "What is this?" (while holding up some fabulous contraption and pointing at it). Suffice it to say my kitchen tends more towards the basics (as does my budget).

Whether you’re just setting up a new kitchen or yours is ready for an upgrade, here’s what you need to know about adding kitchen utensils, including when to scrimp and when to spend!

Your must-have utensils

Here’s your go-to list of utensil basics. Depending on what you like to cook, you may find other items (whisk, boning knives, slotted spoon, etc.) to be essential for your particular kitchen.

Beside each item is a reasonable retail price per item (if you can get it for less, bonus!).

  • Set of flatware – $10.00
  • Cutting board (plastic) – $2.00
  • Knife set – $10 per knife
  • Knife sharpener – $6.00
  • Salad tongs – $3.50
  • Vegetable peeler – $3.00
  • Box grater – $1.00
  • Silicone spatula/scraper – $7.00
  • Measuring cups & spoons – $8.00
  • Can opener – $4.00
  • Corkscrew – $3.00
  • Thermometer (all-purpose, instant-read) – $5.00

When to scrimp 

Experts claim you can outfit an entire high-quality, basic kitchen for less than $200, of which utensils is only one part.

  • So the message here is simple: Scrimping isn’t about sacrificing quality. Scrimping is about price comparing on quality items until you find a deal that blows your socks off!

High-quality scrimping relies on these 3 keys:

  • Picking the right pieces for your needs. It doesn't matter what a great deal you go if you never use what you buy. Rather, start with your must-have list (use the list here as a brainstorming example) and then price compare quality items to find the best deal.
  • Shopping in the right places. Here’s where your price comparing skills are essential. Here’s your motto: "Why pay more for the same piece when you can pay less?"
  • Opting for multi-use items—always. The more ways you can use a utensil, the better. You save money, space, and time – the perfect trifecta!

When to splurge 

Just as there’s a time to price compare down to the final penny, there’s a time to realize that some specialty items will just cost more. As well, if you’re tempted by a knock-off version of the real deal, your "great deal" may not be so great if it only lasts you a year as opposed to a decade.

4 Kitchen utensils to splurge on:

  • Knives. Steer clear of shoddily assembled knock-offs and "self-sharpening" or "never needs sharpening" blades (i.e., once dull, they stay dull). If need be, buy one great knife (a chef's knife being the preferred choice) and use that for everything until you can afford to buy more.
  • Heavy-duty versions. Spatulas, scrapers, spoons, and mashers all work much more efficiently and last longer when they are made of durable, thick wood or silicone.
  • Digital thermometer. Digital is easier to read (aka more accurate down to the single digit degree), which makes your kitchen creations much more likely to turn out great!
  • great multi-tasker. If you find a fab gadget that can do 3 or more tasks, think of it like buying three utensils for the price of one – totally worth it! 

Score high-quality utensils for less

Here’s a list of some of the most common places KCLs find high-quality utensils for less.

  • Goodwill/thrift stores
  • Estate/garage sales
  • Craigslist
  • Freecycle
  • IKEA
  • Restaurant supply/chef supply store (the wholesale versions)
  • KCL's deals and coupons pages!


Kitchen Utensils: What You Need, What You Don’t and When to Spend Extra Cash