The Newlywed’s Basic Kitchen Essentials: What You Truly Need for Everyday Survival

Marriage can be overwhelming. Especially once the wedding vibes come off, and you move into your first rented or purchased home with your husband. If you’re anything like me (young, still looking for a stable job, income enough for comfort but not enough to go on shopping sprees every week), then very soon you’d start to already plan your finances while working on furnishing the house.

I’ll be honest and say that I have been truly, truly, truly blessed the moment I got married. My husband had already prepared the basic furniture for the house, and my mother-in-law had already furnished my kitchen with basic utensils and tableware. And from both sides of the wedding, we were given sooo many various gifts, many of them kitchen-related, that I was able to really save to buy other items.

Last week, we bought a new fridge. A bigger one, with separate doors for the fridge and freezer compartment. Before this, we made do with Hafiz’s fridge from his bachelor days, which only had one main door for both the fridge and freezer. But when I started to read up on breastfeeding and storing EBM (expressed/pumped breast milk), I found out that a single-door fridge can only keep frozen EBM for two weeks. A double-door fridge keeps frozen EBM for three months. So a new fridge purchase was in order for me to build a small stash of frozen EBM.

We decided to go fairly big with the fridge, because typically a fridge can last ten to fifteen years. It kinda put things into perspective when we asked ourselves, what would we keep in the fridge once Fahim turns 15 years old?

For those already planning to marry and have their own homes, to save you from purchases that doesn’t pay off in the long run, here is my absolute list of kitchen essentials that I would personally need for a basic kitchen, which I pretty much use every day.

1) Two good knives. My sister actually lugged this incredibly heavy set of knives from NZ as my wedding gift, but if I didn’t have a set of knives, I’d tell you now, the most basic that you need is only two knives. Good, sharp ones. One with a slightly broader blade to cut meat, another slightly narrower for veggies. Get a good cutting board too.

2) Basic dishware. The one my MIL left for me has around 5 standard plates, 5 bowls, and 5 small plates. These, plus a jug and several glasses, some mugs, enough spoons and forks and maybe a butter knife or two, are enough to start with, because while you may have guests around from time to time, for the majority of 365 days, it’s just you and your husband.

3) A semi-deep non-stick pan. This was one of my first purchases as a wife. I invested in a medium-sized Tefal non-stick pan, and to date, this is the only pan I use on a daily basis (I have two woks which my husband owned since before marriage, and a larger non-stick pan I received for my wedding which I only use when we have guests over and I need to cook for more people). I have no need to purchase any other pan. I fry fish and eggs in this thing, and cook my pasta and sauces in it too. Get one which has a dip rather than a flat pan so it’s multipurpose.

4) A pot (or several different sized ones). I have a set of pots from my MIL, and also received a set for my wedding (which is now in storage). Sometimes you use a small one to just boil an egg, and a bigger one to make soup. Me, I typically just use the medium-sized one, so you can get away with just having one. Make sure yours come with a lid.

5) A long-lasting can opener. From the get go, I invested in Tupperware’s can opener for around RM80 because I haaated the all-metal can openers that cost RM5 and breaks within two weeks. I also hate that they open with sharp edges. The Tupperware one opens cans with a blunt, safe edge. You can get away with opening cans with your knife, but this will damage the knife (and is also incredibly dangerous).

6) A metal spatula, a wooden spatula, and a ladle. Even when I received others as gifts, I still reach for only these same three and nothing more. You can get tongs if you want – those are helpful too.
7) A fridge. If you don’t have one when you moved in with your husband, take my advice and buy a small or medium-sized fridge which has two doors – one for the freezer, the other for the fridge. My husband bought our fridge when he was still renting with his friends, and it only has one main door, with a smaller door inside for the freezer area. Size-wise, it has never let us down (we don’t like storing a lot of food in general and are always checking expiry dates and throwing out old food – ew), but with my intention to freeze breast milk, a one-door fridge can only keep your breast milk safe for only two weeks (apparently). If you have a fridge with a separate freezer door, it can hold up to three months.

8) A blender and/or a pestle and mortar. Although you can survive with one of these rather than both, but I definitely prefer having both. A pestle and mortar, for example, can’t do what my blender does when I want to make air asam. And my blender definitely can’t give the effect my pestle and mortar gives when I pound my onions, anchovies and chillis to make awesome fried rice. Plus, I believe that our grandmother’s stone pestle and mortar which she had used with so much love for fifty, sixty years actually preserves flavours in the stone, so I’m targeting to keep mine for life.

9) A rice cooker. No need to elaborate on this one. I’d say buy a small-to-medium rice cooker. For me and my husband, we’d usually consume two cups of rice a day for lunch and dinner, so a bigger rice cooker may end up giving you a crust at the bottom because you’re cooking so little. If you have a bigger budget to buy a second, somewhat larger rice cooker to cook for more people, I suggest you purchase item #12 below instead.

10) A kettle. I prefer electric ones rather than kettles you need to put on a stove. If you don’t enjoy hot drinks, feel free to boil your water in a pot and save from buying a kettle. Me, personally, I love hot drinks, so a kettle is a must-have.

11) A toaster. Again, this is my personal must-have because I love toast. If you’re not a big bread person, you can definitely do away with this one.

——

So there you have it! Items #1 to #11 are my cave-wife version kind of kitchen. If you want to start investing more for the kitchen, here are the things I believe you should start off with:

11) A microwave. I recommend one which has a defrost function, especially for the many times you will forget defrosting your chicken or fish and you need to cook like, ASAP. Mine is a medium-sized Sharp brand, which I’m blessed to have received as a wedding gift from my aunt. It’s a life-saver to reheat meals or when I’m too lazy to cook my instant mac and cheese on the stove.

12) A multipurpose pressure cooker. If I hadn’t received this as a wedding gift, I would never have known how insanely awesome this thing is. It’s an electric pressure cooker, which can soften your beef and mutton in soups and curries in less than 40 minutes. It can steam veggies, so you don’t need a steamer. It can bake, so you can survive without an oven. It can cook rice, so this can transform into your bigger rice cooker. It’s just sooooo… wonderful, and I am all for multi-functional items. -fangirl sigh-

13) An oven. This was also a wedding gift, from my brother-in-law. Mine is the small oven. I’ll be honest: I was sceptical at first, because I’ve always used my mom’s full-sized oven to bake cakes and cookies and brownies and make pizza and shepherd’s pie and lasagne. But I’ve already used this oven, so I can say I’m very happy with the functionality of this small oven, especially because I don’t have the need (yet) to bake in larger batches or bigger sizes.

And that’s it. My basic kitchen essentials, though you can go much more stone age than this. If you’re truly furnishing your kitchen from scratch, I suggest getting items #1 to #9 first, then work from there. The first two months of marriage, I wanted to buy a juicer and steamer, but held off the desire to first explore the things I have. I may purchase the juicer (I’ve had my eye on the Juist Tupperware for months now), but I know I don’t need a steamer because my multipurpose cooker can steam.

The more you cook, the more you’ll discover what you like to cook and eat, which will guide you to explore what other kitchen items you need to make cooking easier and more fun. There are things that seem fun to have, but which you might not use as much. For example, among my other wedding gifts for the kitchen were a slow cooker, a waffle/sandwich maker, an electric grill and an electric mixer. Personally, I much prefer the pressure cooker than the slow cooker. I love pancakes more than waffles, though I do love that waffle maker. The electric grill I use occasionally to grill meats or make garlic bread, but I can also use a grill pan over the stove and the toaster to cook the same things. And I hardly bake these days, so the electric mixer is not used as often (this may change soon).

For me, I was blessed to have received these things as wedding gifts. If you feel like purchasing them, first ask yourself if you truly need it and if you’ll really use it later on. I prefer a functional kitchen with stuff I truly use rather than a big kitchen full of stuff I hardly make use of. #minimalist I’ve wanted an air fryer for months now, but still held the desire off because I’m not sure how much I’d use it (probably not that much).

Anyway, there’s no right or wrong way to build your dream kitchen, and it’s supposed to be one of the places you love most in the house so you can cook good food. These are just my views and hacks for starting as small as possible, and working your way up as you get better with your culinary skills.

Let me know what your favourite kitchen item is. For me, mine is definitely my Tefal non-stick pan.

Happy cooking!

Maibreakstheice is a blog where I like to tackle life questions through my personal experiences and, where applicable, through my knowledge as a graduate in family counselling. Keep your eye out for updates every Tuesday, or subscribe via email to receive updates straight to your mailbox!

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