A few weeks ago I moved in to my new apartment which meant that I had to go shopping for food. Luckily, the kitchen is well equipped so all I had to buy was food. But it made me think. ‘What do I really need in my kitchen?’ It’s been the fourth time that I had an empty kitchen to fill and I realised that the first things I always buy are salt, pepper and basil. What are the three spices/things in your kitchen that you can’t live without?

Moving to a new country or town isn’t cheap, especially when all you have is a suitcase. Last week, I wrote about how to pack your mini closet. This time I’m going to give you some tips on how to equip your kitchen in a cost-effective way.

Firstly, it’s not worth bringing a lot of stuff from home (unless you have a lot of space in your suitcase and/or have something special that you can’t live without). The things I usually put in my bag:
– A small jar of honey (I use it almost every day and it can be tricky to find real honey in some countries so I want to make sure that I have some before I can find out where to buy it.)

– Paprika from Hungary. Because nothing tastes better than home (or Hungarian paprika). Unfortunately, the last time I had paprika it got mouldy. It was a very painful discovery that put me off of paprika for a while but now that I’m in Italy and the climate is friendlier I’ll give it a try again.

– Bicarbonate of soda. I use it when I have a stomach-ache, I mix it in my shampoo… Basically, bicarbonate of soda is good for everything.  My family often makes fun of my love for bicarbonate of soda but they don’t know what they are missing out on…

– Herbs. I’m surprised how some developed countries don’t have a huge selection of herbs. Or if they have they can be very expensive. So I always make sure to put a few bags of my favourite herbs in my bag. Whenever I move to a new country I catch a cold so it’s very handy to have some herbs on me that are often better than local medicine (see fake medicines in Vietnam).

– Preserves and jams from home (IF I have enough space!) It’s nice to have home made goods in your cupboard but it’s not worth carrying them most the time. I know from experience that they won’t last for long and they won’t save you money. I know, they are probably much better that the ones you can buy in a supermarket but it’s impossible to take your whole pantry with you. My suggestion is that if you visit home take a more or less empty suitcase and pack it with all the yummy goods you missed so much but when you move the first time save that precious space for something else.

Once you are settled to your new home you’ll probably need to buy some stuff. If you’re lucky you’ll already have the basics, such as plates, knives, pans, etc… If you’re not you might want to invest into a sharp knife, chopping board, a smaller and a bigger pot, a frying pan, a wooden spoon, a ladle and a grater. Or at least these are the things that I can’t live/cook without. I also like to have a big mug (for my tea) and a sealable box for my lunch.

I try to live with less plastic so I try not to buy those plastic containers but it’s not easy as they are very handy. To replace them I use empty containers such as yoghurt tubs and jars. I know it’s not the most elegant way to store food but it saves me money and it’s better for the environment. I try to choose food that comes in a reusable, recyclable, biodegradable package but it’s not always possible. So whenever I can, I try to re-use the package or at least recycle it. I find that glass is the  best and if I have a nicely shaped jar I can use it as an alternative lunchbox. (If you want to do the same make sure that you wrap the glass in something soft so it won’t break.) When I have my own kitchen I’ll probably spend more on nice-looking, ecofriendly containers but when you have to move in every year or so it’s not worth spending a tone of money on these things. So be creative and use what you have!

One last thing that I always pack is my shopping bag. I actually have a collection so I don’t want to waste my money on buying a new one every time I move so I always make sure to pack one or two of them. In some countries it’s almost impossible not to use plastic bags. In Vietnam, I usually got a  surprised stare when I told them I had my own bag but it was much easier to balance my shopping home on my motorbike in a sturdy bag.

Another useful tip that can save you money is shopping locally. I know it’s tempting to have food from home, especially when you live in a country that is completely different from yours, but if you learn how to use the local ingredients you won’t need to cram your bags with food or spend a lot in the supermarket. Plus you’ll learn something new and exciting. Although, Italian cuisine is not that different there are still a few things that I need to learn. I’m excited to find out how to use all those fresh spices and herbs and I’m looking forward to show off with my new cooking skills when I go home to visit.

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