“Give us the tools, and we’ll finish the job.”  Winston Churchill

Outfitting a kitchen is no different than outfitting a work room.  In fact, it’s so similar that Julia Child’s kitchen, which is now at the Smithsonian Museum of American History, has pegboard walls, so she can hang the tools right on the wall.  So does mine.  But for now, your’s just needs a simple set of pots and pans, and a couple of dozen simple tools, and a decent set of knives. 

I’m going to assume that she took it all and you are outfitting a kitchen in an apartment or house that has the basics: stove, oven, fridge, dishwasher, and a bunch of empty drawers.  So my list for you will also include plates, glasses and silverware.  I’m also going to give you a first shopping list for having the kids over for a weekend, and suggest a plan for the weekend. 

Weekends are a common initial foray into single parenting for men.  Many couples end up with a much more evenly balanced custody arrangement, but at least in the beginning, when everyone in the family is still very much in shock, a weekend visit is a good place to start.

The best place to outfit a kitchen is going to be a department store, or big box housewares store.  Wall Mart, Target, Bed Bath & Beyond and Ikea are a good place to start because they carry a large selection and have lots of package deals.  Most major department stores also have excellent house wares sections.  Don’t have time, order online.

Here are the basics, and don’t forget; you don’t have to spend a lot of money because if you ever remarry, chances are she got the good stuff too.

  • Dishes.  Get a complete service for eight.  It’s a lot cheaper than buying individual place settings. Though you think you only need it for four, unlike paper plates, you have to wash these things every time you use them and then if one or two breaks, you don’t want to have to buy them again.  Get a basic set of “every day” dishes that comes with a dinner plate, a salad plate, and a bowl.  Fancy dishes that your wife registered for when you got married and definitely went with her come with a tea cup and saucer.  Try to find a set that comes with mugs instead, or better yet, nothing.
  • Mugs and Glasses. Get eight tall water glasses, and eight juice glasses.  I got a set of pint glasses at Costco for next to nothing.  Juice glasses should be the size of a cocktail glass.  A set of four mugs is fine if your kids don’t drink coffee or tea, eight is better.  Avoid tea cups and saucers.  Does anyone’s finger fit in those things?
  • Silver Ware.  Fine silver ware is sold by the place setting, less expensive stainless steel is often packaged as a complete set, with a few serving pieces.  Get the set, but make sure it fits in your hand the way you like it.  I bought one and got it home only to find I hated the way it felt in my hand, kind of like a set of metal twigs. 
  • Kitchen Knives.  This is the one place I’m going to recommend you spend as much as you can afford.  Good knives hold their edge, so you don’t have to constantly sharpen them.  They also are much better balanced in your hands and as a set, usually come with a wood block to keep them in so they are safer.  Henkel  and Wusthoff excellent ones.  I bought a set from Cuisinart that was half of the price and just as good.  Sometimes you can find a great deal at Costco or Sam’s Club.  Look for the kind that has metal rivets holding the handle to the blade.  Get the one that comes with a set of steak knives so you don’t have to buy those as well.
  • Pots and Pans.  Buying a set of pots and pans is a lot easier than it used to be.  You can spend as much as you want or get a full set for the price of one professional sauce pan.  Generally, the more you spend, the better the quality, but a mid-priced set of five pieces won’t break your budget and is all you need for now.  Cuisinart, Calphalon and All Clad make several lines of different quality, so you can stick with a name brand and still save money.  You don’t need them all to be nonstick, since you’ll be buying a frying pan and that’s the only one that really needs a nonstick surface.  So you don’t have to do it again, get the ones with a metal handle so it can go in the oven.  You won’t need it now, but you might later.
  • Frying Pan.  This an important purchase because you’re going to use it nearly every day.  It should be nonstick and come with a lid.  If you get one, get the 10 inch one.  If you get two, get a 12 and a 10 or 8.
  • Appliances.  Some rentals come with a toaster and microwave.  Some houses have a microwave built in to the kitchen.  You won’t need two.
    • A Hand Mixer.  It’s one of those electric tools that have two wire things coming out of it.  If one comes with extra tools like a whisk, that’s great.  You don’t have to spend a lot of money on this, but it will come in handy a lot.
    • A Blender.  Whether your making daiquiris or popovers, it’s a must have.  Don’t bother with the one that comes with a food processor attachment.  It won’t be big enough if you really need one, and for now you don’t need a food processor.  When you do, you’ll want a good one, not an afterthough on top of a blender.
    • A Toaster.  Don’t buy one if you don’t like toast.  There’s nothing else you can do with them and a toaster oven is a waste of money.
    • A Microwave Oven.  If your kitchen doesn’t come with one, get one that has a turntable inside.  It cooks food more evenly.  When it comes to the controls, try to get someone to demonstrate how it works.  Some are ridiculously complicated and they are best in simple applications anyway.
  • Kitchen Utensils.  This is where it can feel overwhelming because they generally don’t come in sets.  This is what you need to get started.  Later in the book, as the suggestions are a little more involved, I’ll recommend a few other things.  At a minimum, you need the list below, but think of it like buying tools off the sale table at the hardware store.  If you see something that’s cool, what the hell, you’ll find a use for it.
    • A set of wood spoons.  They usually come in a bag with six or eight of different sizes or shapes.
    • Pyrex measuring cup (2 cup size)
    • Stainless Steel measuring spoons
    • Stainless Steel measuring cups
    • Nonstick muffin pan
    • A Spatula.  Get the plastic kind and get three, two sizes in plastic for nonstick cookware, and one in metal.
    • A Ladle.  A big spoon for soup or pasta sauce or pancake batter.
    • Stainless Steel Mixing Bowls.  They sell individually or in sets of three different sizes.  Get the set.  Like everything else, the heavier the better.
    • A few ceramic or glass mixing bowls.  They are useful for cooking later, but you can use them for serving bowls now.
    • Cookie sheets.  You’ll need two.  Get the nonstick ones.  Don’t get the kind with a double bottom because while they are less likely to burn the bottom, they won’t cook as well either.
    • A cooling rack.  Get one or two that are close to the same size as the cookie sheets.  You’ll be making cookies for your kids and they make a big difference.
    • A Salad Spinner.  It’s the easiest way to wash salad and you’ll always be in hurry. 
    • A Pasta server.  It’s like a spoon with fork teeth all around it and a hold in the bottom of the spoon part.  It makes serving spaghetti really easy.
    • A whisk.  They’ll have all kinds.  Get one that looks like you can mix eggs in a cereal bowl with it.  You will.
    • A can opener.  If you get the hand kind, it should be big enough to fit comfortably in your hand.  The cheapest ones don’t work and you’ll be pissed later.  If you get an electric, make sure it has a knife sharpener in the back.
    • A veggie peeler.  You’ll be peeling simple vegetables like carrots or potatoes.
    • A colander.  It’s one of those big bowls with holes in it.  You put the pasta in it and the water goes out of the holes.  Make sure you put it in the sink before you use it.
    • A vegetable peeler.

That’s it.  I know it sounds like a lot, but you’ll use it all in the first month.  It’s the biggest purchase you’ll make but if you do it once, you’ll never have to go back.

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