Since the purpose of this blog is to provide delicious yet wallet-friendly entertaining recipes for those of us who are becoming more acquainted with our kitchens, I thought a good place to start would be, well, the beginning.

While each recipe varies from the next, there are a variety of basic ingredients every well-stocked kitchen should have. I’ve included a grocery list that will help set first-timers on the right track. I’ve provided the cost of each ingredient as well as a grand total, and moving forward, the total cost of each subsequent recipe you’ll find on this site will assume your kitchen is stocked with the basics.

All prices have been garnered from Fresh Direct, a New York City-based food delivery service; prices may differ slightly by region and are probably higher here than in many other locales. I figure it’s better to have you happily surprised in your grocery store with cheaper prices, instead of vice-versa.

Dried Herbs & Spices: Spices and seasonings can quickly add up, so your best bet is to buy a pre-stocked spice rack. Mine’s from Kamenstein, which comes fully loaded and will get you started on the right foot. It can be ordered online from Amazon.com for $25.

If you choose to forgo a fully-equipped spice rack, bear in mind, the following is a list of most commonly used seasonings. And these can really take a toll when they’re purchased a la carte.

Bay Leaves $2.79
Cayenne $3.99
Chili Powder $0.79
Cinnamon $2.99
Crushed Red Pepper $2.69
Cumin $0.79
Cilantro $3.79
Curry Powder $4.99
Garlic Powder $1.99
Ground Ginger $4.79
Nutmeg $5.79
Oregano $2.99
Onion Powder/Salt $0.79
Paprika $3.79
Rosemary $4.49
Sage $4.99
Thyme $0.79
Coleman’s Mustard $3.49
Old Bay Seasoning $3.49
Sea Salt $1.39
Kosher Salt $2.19
Coarse Ground Black Pepper $1.49
TOTAL of Spices a la carte: $65.28 vs $35 for the spice rack.

Utensil Kits: You’ll be surprised how many times you’ll wish you had a meat tenderizer or a good whisk, so you might as well invest in the whole kit and kaboodle. Sears carries a 20-pc set from Basic Essentials that has just about everything you need for $19.99.

Cupboard Classics: A well-stocked kitchen is nothing without:
Extra Virgin Olive Oil $14.49
Canola Oil $5.49
Light Brown Sugar $1.50
Honey $3.29
Granulated/White Sugar $2.99
Vanilla Extract $4.59
White Flour $2.50
Baking Powder $2.79
Corn Meal $1.99
Low-Sodium Chicken Stock (Organic) $3.49
Low-sodium Beef Stock (No MSG) $3.49
Canned Corn $0.75
Balsamic Vinegar $6.99
White Vinegar $1.79
Cider Vinegar $2.39
Red Wine Vinegar $3.49
Dry Sherry Wine $1.99
Dry White Cooking Wine $1.79
Soy Sauce $2.19
Tabasco Sauce $3.99
Worcestershire Sauce $3.29
Dijon Mustard $3.19
Walnuts $5.29
Molasses $4.27
Maple Syrup $3.49
Unsweetened cocoa powder (for baking) – $3.79
TOTAL of Cupboard Classics: $96.30

From the Fridge: Keep on ice, or pay the price:
Unsalted Butter $3.79 1 Lb
Milk $3.29 gallon
Sour Cream $1.50 16 oz
Eggs $3.19 1.5 dozen
Head of Garlic $0.75
Mayonnaise $5.59 30 oz
TOTAL of From the Fridge: $18.11

GRAND TOTAL of a Well-Stocked Kitchen (assuming you sprung for the spice rack): $169.40

While there may be some initial sticker shock, with the exception of the refrigerator items, most of these basics will last you months and months and months. It’s a necessary upfront cost, but in the end, you’ll find you’re saving a ton of trips to and fro’ the grocery store. And to reiterate, unless you’re cooking in the Big Apple, prices will probably be a bit lower where you’re shopping

Addendum: The Asian Edition: A list of commonly used ingredients for flavorful Asian fare.
Peanut Oil – $4.49
Sesame Oil – $2.99
Soy Sauce – $2.19
Peanuts – $2.49
Rice Vinegar – $1.99
Coconut Milk – $1.89 *Note: You often only need a small amount of coconut milk per recipe. Pour the leftover milk into a traditional ice cube tray and freeze. Defrost a cube at a time (about 2 Tablespoons) as you need them. You can do the same with chicken and beef broth or stock and eliminate waste.
Creamy Peanut Butter – $1.74
Asian Fish Sauce – $3.19
Hoisin Sauce – $2.09
Tamarind Sauce – $5.99
Palm Sugar - $3.79
Hot chili sauce (Sriracha)- $3.69
Mirin or rice wine – $2.99
Grand Total of Stocked Asian Pantry: $37.28

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