I outfitted my entire kitchen for under $120 — here’s how

If you’re moving into your first apartment or home, it’s easy to go overboard buying items for your new digs — especially kitchen gear. Just wander into a Williams-Sonoma, Sur La Table or any other kitchenware store, and you could leave with hundreds of dollars’ worth of gadgets you never even knew you needed. (Culinary heat lamp anyone?)

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Outfit your kitchen for under $120
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Outfit your kitchen for under $120

Reach Out to Family for Hand-Me-Downs

The biggest way Branch saved money on gear for her kitchen was by asking her parents if they had items they’d be willing to give her. “They had nice things I knew they weren’t using,” she said. And they were more than happy to give them to her because they were looking for ways to declutter their home.

Branch got a variety of kitchen items from her parents, ranging from oven mitts and coffee mugs to an Oster rice cooker worth about $20 and a Hamilton Beach toaster worth about $40. Her biggest score was a Cutco knife set worth $332.

“I don’t think my parents even remembered how much they paid for this knife set,” Branch said. “And they weren’t using the knives because they had another set they got for a gift.” If you don’t have family members who are willing to give you their hand-me-downs, there are still plenty of ways to find great deals and save money on kitchen items, as Branch found.

Take Time to Compare Prices Online

It would’ve been convenient for Branch to head to just one store or website and stock up on everything she needed. But she opted to spend some time comparing prices online to find the best value for her money. “Since I started working [at GOBankingRates], I've become much better about … taking that extra minute to look for extra deals instead of succumbing to convenience,” Branch said.

She did a simple Google search for items she needed, then compared the top 10 search results to see which offered the quality she wanted at the lowest price. Another way to find the lowest prices on items you want is to use sites such as DealNews and Slickdeals, which find the best deals available online. You also can look for online coupon codes at coupon sites to score even better savings on the items you want.

Get Deals on Amazon

Branch often shops on Amazon because of the low prices this online retailer offers. When looking for kitchen items, she found it had some of the best deals.

For example, when she searched online for a pot and pan set, the search results showed that Amazon was offering the best price on the set she wanted. She got a Vremi 15-piece nonstick cookware set that included pots, pans and cooking utensils for $45. On the Vremi site, the same set was selling for $55, she said. Plus, she avoided shipping costs as a member of Amazon Prime, which offers free two-day shipping.

Related: 10 Features That Make Amazon Prime Worth the Money

Buy Budget-Friendly Dinnerware at Ikea

Ikea is a go-to retailer for many people looking to outfit a home or apartment for less. Branch found that this Swedish superstore had great prices on dinnerware.

She bought a set of four plates, four bowls, six glasses, four wine glasses and a 20-piece silverware set for a total of just $38. She opted for white dishes because they’re timeless and cost less than other options. For comparison, a single white dinner plate at Target costs $4.99 versus the $4 Branch paid for four white plates from Ikea.

Shop Smart: How to Save Time and Money on Your Next Ikea Trip

Head to Discount Retailers

When shopping for kitchenware, don’t overlook discount retailers such as Marshalls, and use these savings hacks to get even better deals. Branch discovered while shopping there for inexpensive candles that Marshalls had great deals on items such as the set of two baking pans she bought for $6 and an ice cream scoop for $5 rather than the regular retail price of $10.

“I happened to be in there,” she said. “I didn’t think to go there for these items.” She said Marshalls is a great source of cheap kitchenware. She also got a set of measuring cups that typically sell for $20 for just $7 and a set of measuring spoons for $7 instead of the regular retail price of $15.

Visit Garage Sales

Branch found that she could save money buying used rather than new. “I got lucky that a friend was having a garage sale,” she said. She scored a Black and Decker blender for $5 and a vegetable steamer for $4.

She cautions that garage sales can be hit or miss if you’re looking for kitchenware. She said you need to make sure items are in good working condition. However, she said she has seen new items still in boxes being sold at garage sales.

Buy Only What You Need

Branch kept costs down by being strategic with her purchases. “I took a look at my recipes and what I made on a daily basis and bought only what I need for those recipes,” she said. “I almost didn’t get a blender because I only make smoothies once a month.”

Branch also limited her purchases to avoid filling up her kitchen with unnecessary items. “I’m not a fan of clutter,” she said.

Re-Purpose Items

Rather than buy plastic food storage containers, Branch put the free restaurant carry-out containers she had to use. She has amassed a collection of containers in several different sizes that are sturdy enough to reuse, Branch said. “That probably saved me a good chunk of money,” she said. There are also websites that help you score free stuff.

Be Innovative With What You Have

Branch has found that she doesn’t need items that serve a sole purpose. “There are specialty items, but you can do without them,” she said. And that will help you keep down the cost of outfitting your kitchen.

For example, she doesn’t own a whisk — she uses a fork instead. She chops garlic by hand instead of using a garlic press. Recently, when making cookie bars, the recipe called for using a mixer. “We just used elbow grease and got through it with a spoon,” she said.

Don’t Feel Like You Have to Get Top-of-the-Line Products

Branch could’ve spent hundreds of dollars on a top-of-the-line cookware set, but she opted for the $45 set she found on Amazon. It hasn’t felt like a sacrifice, she said.

Branch said she’s used higher-end pans when cooking at her parents’ house and can’t tell the difference in the quality of the food she’s prepared. She said her lower-priced set has worked well so far, and she expects it to last for a while. Some high-end items just aren't worth the money.

Be Patient

Finally, if you want to save money outfitting your kitchen, Branch said being patient will pay off. “When you move into a place, don't feel like you need to buy everything and have your kitchen fully stocked,” she said. Take the time to hunt down deals and collect items from family.

“I had to tell myself to be patient,” Branch said. “I knew for the first few weeks or months I didn’t need a blender or a toaster.” She still doesn’t have a microwave. It’s been hard at times fighting the urge to fill her cabinets all at once. But she said she decided if she could wait to find the best deal, “I could stock up for much less.”

How to Save $557 on Kitchen Equipment

Generous parents and careful shopping helped Branch to save more than $500 when she outfitted her kitchen. One key takeaway from Branch's experience: Never pay top dollar for knives. If you aren't able to score a set as a gift or a hand-me-down, head to a restaurant supply store for great deals on basic but high-quality knives that chefs use every day.

Up Next: 35 Ways to Save Hundreds on Groceries

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But when Ali Branch moved into an apartment with her boyfriend and neither had any kitchen items, she resisted the urge to splurge. “It was our goal to do it as cheaply as possible,” said Branch, who is the integrated marketing manager for GOBankingRates.

Branch and her boyfriend were motivated to keep the cost of outfitting their kitchen low because they had to buy other, more expensive items for their apartment — like a couch and rug. Plus, she tries to be thrifty at all times. Branch managed to get about $675 worth of kitchen items for only $117 using savvy shopping strategies and cost-cutting tactics. Here’s how she did it.

Related: Make sure to always buy these at a restaurant supply store 

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Buy these kitchen items at a restaurant supply store
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Buy these kitchen items at a restaurant supply store

Baking sheets

I’m not sure there’s any baking tool that works harder than the classic cookie sheet—especially when it gets thumped against the oven rack. These sheets get used over and over and over again, so it’s worth investing in an industrial-grade product. That’s where your local restaurant store’s baking section comes in handy. These stores are packed with pans of all sizes (perfect for larger sheet pan dinners), and they’re all extremely affordable. A full-size sheet pan will likely run you under $10, and cookie sheet-sized trays under $4. Just be sure you aren't making these baking mistakes next time you whip up a batch of cookies!

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Cutting boards

Be sure to add cutting boards to your supply store shopping list. Available in multiple sizes for a fraction of what you’d pay at your local kitchen shop or department store, Little says that this kitchen basic is one of the most common items home cooks look out for.

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Cake decorating supplies

When it comes to shopping for cake decorating supplies, it can be hard to track down the right tip (is it just me, or is my local craft store always out of the one I want?). Restaurant supply stores offer a huge assortment of piping tips and pastry bags to satisfy all your creative decorating needs—and at more affordable prices than most shops. Oh, and if you’re in the market for a fancy decorating turntable for your most beautiful cakes ever, you’ll find those at restaurant suppliers, too!

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Whisks and other utensils

Whisks, spatulas, and wooden spoons are all easy enough to come by at traditional shops, but you definitely won’t find the same massive selection. Restaurant supply stores offer all these in dozens of sizes. Plus, these heavy-duty utensils are built to last—with high heat resistant spatulas, you don’t ever have to worry about one melting to your pan again! Find out more about these common kitchen utensils and the alternate names you never knew they had. 

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Knives

I’ll admit that I’m envious of all the beautiful knife sets I see online and when I shop kitchen stores, but sometimes these knife blocks can be on the pricey side. Instead of investing the big bucks into one of these kits, you can get a set of good, hardworking knives at a restaurant supplier for a fraction of the cost. Ranging from paring knives to meat cleavers, you can find an excellent variety.

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MIxing bowls

When it comes to the basics, like mixing bowls, there’s no need to splurge on a fancy set. Instead, shop your local supplier for dishes in every conceivable size. These stainless steel and glass bowls can withstand years of use and will cost you only a few bucks.

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Baking gadgets in all sizes

When it comes to finding multiple sizes of cookie scoops, batter dishes (perfect for filling cupcake and muffin pans) and offset spatulas, I struggle to find the options I need at a big box store. I just can’t bear to use a regular size scoop when I’m craving extra large cookies! That’s where restaurant supply stores come in so handy. You no longer have to settle for one-size-fits-all products. Instead, you can find a huge array of cookie scoops, dishes, spatulas, cupcake pans and so much more in a huge variety of sizes (and at better prices than traditional kitchen stores). Little also points out that when you find the right size tool for a given recipe “it provides a lot of consistency—you can know exactly how much a recipe will make every time.” Don't miss these 32 unique and weird kitchen gadgets you won't believe are actually real. 

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Frying pans

When I’m cooking up a storm, I find that I can never have enough frying pans. Whether you prefer nonstick, ceramic or stainless steel, restaurant suppliers offer plenty of affordable options so you can stock up and be prepared for those busy days in the kitchen. Find out more about the types of cookware you should be using at home

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Silicone mats

While I typically rely on parchment paper to line my cookie sheets, I can’t help but want a few reusable silicone mats to ease the process (is it just me or do you cut the wrong size half the time?). I’ve always been reluctant to invest in these silicone baking sheets because most department stores sell them for about $25 each—now multiply that by the number of trays you can pop into an oven at once and you’ve got a huge investment. Luckily enough, restaurant supply stores sell these silicone mats for about a third of the price. Little explained that they’re one of the most popular products she sees home cooks buy.

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Specialty tools

Some kitchen gadgets and tools are more difficult to find than others. Whether you’re looking for a madeleine mold for those delicate cookies, a crepe pan for French desserts or a giant pizza peel for homemade pies, restaurant supply stores are a great resource for these hard-to-find items.

While unexpected, these industrial suppliers are a great resource for even home cooks. You’re likely to find a few great tools at a great price, and at the very least, as Little puts it, “It’s just really fun to look around.”

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