The holidays are the perfect time to stock your kitchen with everything you need to cook and eat delicious food all year long. Whether you're looking for stocking stuffers or big ticket items for under the tree, there are plenty of options ranging from gadgets to appliances to pans and knives. The price range varies so there's something for every budget. Plus, this post is being listed on Black Friday, so now is the time to get the deals (Especially the Instant Pot, which is currently 47% off!)! Whether you're buying something for someone you love or adding things to your own wish list for Santa, the Millennial Menu's Holiday Wish List has anything you could need (and want). Everything on this list is something that I find either immensely helps with my efficiency, budget, or enjoyment in the kitchen.
1. Kitchen Scissors
I grew up watching my mom chop things up with kitchen scissors all the time, and I now use my own pair daily. They're strong and sturdy. I use them most often for cutting meat (whether I'm trimming chicken breasts or portioning out chicken strips for stir fry) and snipping fresh herbs. These are the most useful reasons to own kitchen scissors - but you'll find yourself reaching for them for so much more. They're great for opening packaging, breaking down bone-in meat and cutting raw bacon, and with bread (think quesadillas or croutons). For less than $15 for a quality pair, you'll be glad you put them on your list.
2. A Quality Travel Mug
You probably know that it's expensive to buy coffee every morning. It's one of my first recommendations of things to cut out of your spending to save money. Plus, I strongly believe that you can make tea & coffee at home that is just as good as what you can buy for $5 at a fancy coffee shop. The secret is actually getting yourself to a point where you prefer to drink what you make at home. The first step to doing that is having a quality travel mug that can go with you as you run out the door to class or work. Go with something that will keep your drink hot (or cold) for hours and is spillproof. Functionality is the move here. Anything from Contigo is a safe bet - like this basic 16 oz. model. It's the first step in saving yourself around $800 a year.
3. Garlic Press
This handy gadget saves time and hassle. The press minces garlic with a squeeze of your hand, keeping your hands from reeking of garlic for hours after you've finished dinner. I use it for anything and everything - shrimp scampi, making a sauce, roasting vegetables, and more. I grab this gadget almost every night when I cook dinner and I'm grateful for it every time.
4. Boston Shaker
Making high quality drinks at home is an art - and makes you feel like a real grown up when you do it right. Plus, if you're trying to save money, cutting back on the number of drinks you buy out is one of the quickest ways to reign in your budget. You'll be enjoying whiskey sours, cosmos, and margaritas on your couch in no time. A Boston shaker comes in two pieces and requires a strainer to strain your drink when you're done - but trust me, this model is much better than the 3 piece shaker-strainer contraptions that get stuck and frozen together thanks to the ice cubes. Go for this one, where both pieces are metal (as opposed to the bottom being glass, which can shatter). Wondering where to start? Add The Craft of The Cocktail cocktail book to your list as well. In the meantime, you can also check out Cocktail 101: How to Shake a Cocktail and subscribe to the blog for a post coming soon about how to stock your liquor cabinet.
5. Meat Thermometers
The best way to cook high quality meat is to avoid over-cooking. But many cooks (including myself) tend to err on the side of caution and overcook food because we're afraid it isn't done yet. A thermometer fixes that problem with one simple purchase - you can cook your meat to a perfect safe temperature (with little effort and absolutely no guessing and crossing your fingers). I was shocked at how quickly meat actually cooks to a safe temperature and realized I'd been overcooking almost everything I ate. Now, I stick the thermometer in, set it to the correct internal temperature (depending on what I'm cooking, safe food temp info is available on the web), set the alarm to beep when it reaches that temp (I LOVE this feature. No need to worry about watching the stove and wondering if it's done!), and walk away. And, it's not just for meat - you can also use it for baked goods like cheesecakes, bread, the temperature of water for poached eggs, or a foray into homemade yogurt (with your Instant Pot). I recommend this model that beeps when your food is at the correct temperature and has a long cord so you can keep things in the oven and the reader on the counter.
6. Tupperware Containers
Nothing will save you money like not wasting food, bringing your own lunch, and eating leftovers. Those three things are much more appealing when they're properly, cleanly, and safely packaged. My moms swears by the Tupperware brand, and although I have some leftover plastic takeout containers and such, I appreciate tupperware for its sturdiness and reliability. Opening up your lunch to leaked salad dressing everywhere is a major bummer. I tend to use Tupperware to pack my lunch, but I do keep a variety of Glad and Rubbermaid food storage containers in my cabinets for extra leftovers in the fridge. If you're looking to buy some starter Tupperware, get a few different sizes:
- I love the 6 for $15 2 oz. Mini's set for no-leak salad dressings, peanut butter/almond butter, and ranch dip for veggies.
- The 4 for $25 Microwave "Cereal Bowl" Set is my go-to for any leftovers - I bring my lunch in these to safely re-heat in the microwave, and even pack sandwiches in them to keep the bread from getting squished!
- I use the Snack Cups for all of my snacks, from almonds in my purse to goldfish to hummus (4 for only $9.99 on Amazon!).
- Last but not least, the $9 Soup Mug makes it super easy to re-heat warm soups, stews, and chilis in the microwave and I don't have to worry about soup getting all over my lunchbox.
7. Liquid Measuring cup
A liquid measuring cup is something that might not be on your basic kitchen outfitting list, but is actually necessary for accurate liquid measurements (versus the more-common dry goods measuring cups). It's also a useful way to check for reduction if you're making a sauce, whisk up a homemade salad dressing, or melt something in the microwave (like butter for baking). A high quality glass version will withstand many years of use.
Under the Tree
1. Instant Pot
I've already written a whole post about why you can't live without the Instant Pot. That post is your perfect resource for in depth information about why you need to buy this appliance and how it will make your life so much easier. In short, you need it because it's a slow cooker (meaning you can walk in the door at the end of a long day at work and dinner is already sitting ready for you) and a pressure cooker (meaning you can walk in the door having forgot to think about dinner and have something delicious on the table in minutes) all in one - and so much more. I LOVE my Instant Pot a little too much, and I can promise you'll be so happy you have it. In my longer post about it, I did agree that sometimes people only need a slow cooker, but if you can get it at a price like today, it's basically the same as a slow cooker and does so much more. The DUO60 model (the newest, average-sized model) is currently on sale for Black Friday for $68.95. That's almost 50% off! Read my post The One Appliance Every Twenty-Something Can't Live Without and buy yours today.
If this appliance is important enough that I wrote a whole post arguing Why Every Millennial Needs a FoodSaver, then you should definitely put a FoodSaver on your list. A FoodSaver is a vacuum sealer that will keep your food fresh for longer. I love it for so many reasons, including sealing fancy cheese, but it's most useful for freezing meat. I buy meat on sale in bulk and freeze all my meat in single portions. It makes my life so much easier and saves me so much money. There are a ton of fancier models, but the one I have that's linked here works just fine and is small enough to fit in your kitchen. This FoodSaver model is only $60 and is simple and intuitive to use.
3. Good Blender
If you know me, you know I'm all about budget but this is the one case where I really go overboard. I have a certified refurbished Standard Vitamix and it cost me $249 and I have no regrets. Vitamix is the gold standard of blenders, known for their impressive power and high quality design. I make smoothies every day and the texture is perfectly smooth in seconds. This all being said, a brand new Vitamix is uber expensive, so I really recommend Vitamix's certified refurbished program. Mine came like new, and it comes with a 5 year full warranty!
In addition to making actual blended things, like smoothies, you can also use it as a food processor. Blenders facilitate eating healthfully and cooking quickly, all on one convenient appliance. Subscribe to the blog for a future post all about my Vitamix and why it's worth your investment!
4. Carbon Steel Pan
A good pan will take all of your cooking to the next level, almost easier than learning technique or perfecting a recipe will. You need one quality pan in your kitchen cabinets, and carbon steel is the way to go. It's what's used most in restaurants to cook the food you love paying for so much, replaces heavy and unwieldy cast iron, and is beautifully and naturally non-stick. They also heat evenly, unlike many pre-coated non-stick pans, meaning you can get a wonderful sear on meat or seafood. Carbon steel pans are also oven safe, so they're great for finishing off a dish in the oven. To get the full scoop, check out the trusted Cooks Illustrated review or their demo video testing out the various pans here. Subscribe to the blog to get more info about the Carbon Steel Pan and why I love it in a future post.
5. Good Knives
A good knife makes cooking so much easier. I didn't believe it until I saw it myself - food is actually easier to prepare with a sharper, higher quality knife like this budget-conscious option will meet the majority of your needs. You can buy a cheaper set of different, multi-purpose knives but having a high quality chef's knife is worth it because you'll reach for that knife the most. America's Test Kitchen has consistently rated this knife as the best frugal choice if you'd like a lot of bang for your buck. If you're looking to branch out or splurge a bit, check out this guide from Serious Eats.
Note: This post contains affiliate links for products I recommend. That means if you click on a product link in this post and choose to purchase the product on Amazon, I earn a commission. I only recommend products I use and love organically. This means that if you are going to purchase a product that I recommend, I encourage you to do it through the direct link from the blog so that I (and the blog) benefit. The rest of the products I own and love. I do not earn anything from the items on Vitamix or the Tupperware websites. Read my full affiliate disclosure.