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May 14, 2017 |

Archive for » May 14th, 2017«

Motley Fool: Whirlpool should appeal to value investors – The Spokesman

Whirlpool (NYSE: WHR), the largest appliance manufacturer in the world, is trading at an appealing price for long-term investors. After years of growth, the company has experienced a few hiccups that have caused skeptics to flee its stock, dropping the price.

Whirlpool has had to deal with weakness in Europe, partly due to Britain’s looming exit from the E.U., along with adverse currency fluctuations. While these factors have tempered growth for its appliances business, they’re likely to be just temporary speed bumps for Whirlpool.

With North America accounting for about half of total revenues, Whirlpool’s long-term strategy to infiltrate faster-growing emerging markets in Asia, Africa and the Middle East is unaffected by currency fluctuations and the growth hiccup caused by Brexit.

Investors should care most about how the company is performing from an operating perspective, and on that count, it’s doing well. Revenue in its latest quarter grew by nearly 4 percent over year-earlier levels, while earnings per share growth approached 5 percent. Importantly, revenue from Latin America and Asia grew by double digits.

Whirlpool’s dividend grew by 10 percent this year, yielding 2.4 percent. With its strong and diverse brands such as Maytag, KitchenAid, Jenn-Air, Amana and Hotpoint and a forward-looking price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio recently near 12, Whirlpool should appeal to value investors.

Ask the Fool

Q: When investing, should I look for or favor companies with high earnings per share (EPS)? – G.M., Fort Myers, Florida

A: In isolation, a company’s EPS doesn’t mean much – except that, if it’s positive, the company has earnings rather than losses.

Imagine that Excelsior Hair Growth (ticker: SPROUT) has total net income of $50 million this year. If it has 50 million shares of stock outstanding, then its EPS is $1. ($50 million divided by 50 million is $1.) If it issues more stock, though, and suddenly has 60 million shares outstanding, its EPS will be lower, at $0.83. ($50 million divided by 60 million is $0.83.)

Now imagine two equally wonderful companies with identical net income. If one has half as many shares as the other, its EPS will be twice as big. That doesn’t mean that it’s a better or worse company. There’s no perfect number of shares for a company to have, either. Some have millions, and some have billions.

It’s more important to check whether the EPS has been rising over time. Examine many other numbers, too, to get a fuller picture. After all, a company’s earnings can be manipulated legally via various accounting maneuvers.

Q: I’m a small investor. How much should I invest when it costs me $7 per trade? – T.C., Warren, Ohio

A: Aim to spend no more than 2 percent of your investment on commission costs. So if you’re spending $7 on a trade, you should be investing at least $350. Some years ago, commissions could be $25 or much more. A $25 commission would require aiming for an investment of $1,250.

Remember to diversify, too, spreading your money across a handful of stocks – or opt for a broad-market index fund.

My dumbest investment

I’m not ashamed to admit that my dumbest investments were when I got into penny stocks. I subscribed to a newsletter that offered “advice” on penny stocks for quick wins. I spent a whopping $85 on Valentine Beauty. Today I can’t even unload it because nobody wants to buy it. Ha.

Around the same time, I was working for a small company, and a co-worker said he had a hot tip: Creative Edge Nutrition. It was going to make a fortune in the marijuana business. The stock hardly moved from what I bought at. I sank $300 into that one.

I still have these “oopsies” in my portfolio as a reminder not to believe anyone about anything, to do due diligence before making a move and that penny stocks are very risky. I’m lucky that my losses were insignificant as I gently eased into the pool of investing. Four years later, I feel much better about playing the game of stocks. – D.B., St. Clair Shores, Michigan

The Fool responds: Even though a particular industry might seem like it’s poised to grow briskly, not every company in it will succeed. For best results, look for companies that have track records of growing revenue and profits. And try not to think of the stock market as a game to play. Remember that your hard-earned dollars are at stake. You can grow wealth without unnecessary risk.

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KitchenAid Pro Line Series Blender review:

If all you want from a blender is food-mincing muscle and premium build quality, then KitchenAid’s $630 Pro Series (£489 in the UK, roughly AU$848 in Australia) should certainly be on your short list. Equipped with a monster-size 3.5 peak horsepower motor set inside a massive die-cast metal base, this machine has blending power and then some. Unfortunately it also has a sky-high price tag to match.

Sheer brawn and good looks aren’t everything, either. The best kitchen blenders are also easy to operate and keep clean. While the KitchenAid Pro Line gets some of this combination right, sadly you can’t rely entirely on its few automatic blending functions. For the smoothest blends possible, you must actively employ the Pro Line’s tamper as well. To enjoy a less-manual experience you’re better off buying a more-capable Vitamix 7500 blender or an advanced Blendtec Designer Series machine. Both ask you to do less work and are mighty blenders, too.

Design and features

KitchenAid definitely wasn’t kidding around when it designed the Pro Line Series Blender. The base of the appliance is molded from a gigantic block of die-cast metal, which tips the scales at a substantial 15 pounds, 14 ounces. Thankfully the blender’s engineers cut handle holes on each side of the base, otherwise picking this beast up would be a tall order.

kitchenaidblender-2.jpgEnlarge Image

This blender has huge, heavy die-cast metal base.

Chris Monroe/CNET

KitchenAid’s use of die-cast metal extends to the blender’s controls. On the front of the Pro Line are a pair of switches for “Start/Stop” and “Pulse H/L” that flip both up and down. The latter activates the machine’s pulse mode, toggling between either high or low blade speeds. The third and final control is a big metal dial that selects three blending presets (soup, smoothies and juice) along with manual speeds that range from 1 all the way up to a maximum of 11. (Spinal Tap fans, take note.)

A square silicone pad sits on top of the base and helps to secure the blender jar within its mounting. The 87-ounce “thermal control” jar is big, too, and sports double plastic walls for insulation. The last piece of the puzzle is what KitchenAid calls the “Flex Edge Tamper,” a chunky rectangular stick encased in a rubbery silicone skin.

Performance and usability

The KitchenAid Pro Line Series blender relies on a powerful electric motor with a rated output of 3.5 peak horsepower. Even so, my experience testing the appliance was disappointing. I imagined that the blender’s steel blades would pulverize all food items I threw at it, and with minimum effort from yours truly. In reality though, the Pro Line often needed the aid of its tamper to push material trapped at the top of its jar down toward the whirring blades below.

Competing blenders handled our tests with much less difficulty and better results. Specifically, the Blendtec Designer Series Wildside and Vitamix 7500 blenders both plowed through our test ingredients in less time and with little or no tamping necessary.

Spinning at top speed, the Pro Line’s engine is quite loud as well. It emits a high-pitched whine that I found painful and distracting. The heavy die-cast metal base serves as an excellent anchor, however, and holds the entire blender apparatus rock-steady, even when running at full tilt.

kitchenaid-pro-lineice.jpgEnlarge Image

The blender crushes ice, but some larger chunks can escape the blender blades if you don’t use the tamper.

Brian Bennett/CNET


Using its smoothie setting, it took about 45 seconds for the KitchenAid Pro Line Series to turn 2 cups (16 ounces) of refrigerator ice crescents into small ice pellets. At the end of the cycle, however, a few large chunks of ice remained. Running the machine at high speed for an additional 15 to 20 seconds while pushing with the tamper successfully pulverized the remaining ice fragments.

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Enter for a chance to win a grilling essentials package

This season’s Food Awards is among us and it’s your guide to the best products for your kitchen. And with so many different products on the market, we wanted to make sure you have the best ones. From juicers to skillets and other unique gadgets — check out our favorite kitchen essentials here.

We love these products so much that we’re giving our loyal readers the chance to win selections from this year’s nominees!

It’s easy to enter, all you have to do is follow @AOLLifestyle and retweet 1 of 5 promotional tweets for a chance to win!

Official rules:
• Open to legal residents of 50 United States and the District of Columbia who are 18 and older.
• To enter, retweet (true retweet, quoted retweets will not be counted) 1 of our 5 tweets stating “Retweet for a chance to win grilling selections from this year’s Food Awards! #FoodAwardsGiveaway”
• Contest begins on May 14th, 2017 at 12:01 AM EST and ends on May 14th, 2017 at 11:59 PM EST.
• You may enter up to 5 times.
• 1 winner will be selected in a random drawing at the end of the contest.
• 1 randomly selected winner will win (1) Pampered Chef Indoor-Outdoor Portable Grill, (1) Pampered Chef Grilling Set, and (1) Pampered Chef Meatball and Slider Grill Basket with a total approximate value of $240.50.

By entering, I confirm that I have read and agree to the Official Rules.

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Antiques King Rau Of New Orleans Ready For A Royal Expansion

Whenever Academy Award-winning actress and moderator of ABC’s “The View” Whoopi Goldberg travels to New Orleans, she plans a pilgrimage to Royal Street to shop at M.S. Rau Antiques.

“It’s a wonderful place to go and dream,” she said. “I think of what rare and extraordinary things I’m going to find there that I’m not going to find anywhere else.

Goldberg is one of many loyal clients excited to learn M.S. Rau is expanding its 105-year-old business, doubling its showroom space to 36,500 square feet and tripling its storefront imprint along the 600 block of Royal Street.

“When a building adjacent to yours in the French Quarter is available, you have to take advantage of it,” Bill Rau said. “It may happen once in a generation.”

Rau, CEO and third generation owner of the acclaimed store known worldwide for its American and European antiques and objets d’art, is presiding over the fourth expansion of his family’s empire that employs 50 and generates $70 million a year.

In the past two years he has quietly acquired two buildings near his 630 Royal St. business and is in the process of combining them to create one of the largest antiques, jewelry and fine art galleries in North America.

Rau is successfully bucking the trend at a time when brick-and-mortar stores all across the nation are shuttering due to the increase in online shopping. Instead, Rau is supersizing his showrooms to showcase his high-end inventory.

“The trend does not affect us to the same degree as other businesses because of what we are selling,” said Rau, who currently has three Monet paintings, several majestic Sèvres palace porcelain urns and a 10-carat blue diamond in stock.

“The fact that M.S. Rau is expanding in today’s increasingly digital marketplace speaks to not only the incredibly wide variety of objects, jewelry and art they offer but also to their emphasis and dedication on expertise in each of these fields,” Elizabeth Beaman, senior director of American art at Christie’s auction house in New York, said.

Client and CEO of Michigan’s KM Machine Fabrication Michael McLoughlin bought a one ton marble sculpture at Rau. The 35 B.C. original “Laocoön,” is housed at The Vatican, and McLoughlin’s version, which was sculpted between 1650 and 1780, measures more than eight feet tall and four feet wide on its base. He said what Rau sells can’t be appreciated on the internet.

“We can buy shorts, shirts, TVs, refrigerators and so forth online because we are familiar with them,’ he said. “What Rau presents is an experience that you must be present to enjoy. When you go into M.S. Rau it’s like a museum, but stuff’s for sale.”

Benjamin Doller has sold close to $2 billion in art during his 35 years at Sotheby’s. Now a chairman at the famed international auction house, Doller said M.S. Rau is an outlier, still advertising heavily in print publications and investing in more retail space.

“Rau’s becoming one of the few places where you can still go and see everything,” Doller said. “It’s become a destination. New Orleans is really the Southern hub for shopping. Some dealers specialize in just one thing like Impressionist paintings, but at M.S. Rau you find the gamut from paintings to jewelry to furniture to silver. He’s got to be No. 1 in the nation.

“Retail is changing, but you must give customers a great experience,” Rau said. “The most exciting part of this expansion is we’ll get to exhibit our things the way they should be displayed and the way we don’t have the room to do so now.”

M.S. Rau Antiques is named after founder Max Simon Rau who opened the antiques emporium in 1912 at 719 Royal St. In 1931, he moved the store to a larger space at its present location at 630 Royal St. The second and third expansions took place in the 1940s and early 1990s when the Raus, Bill’s Dad Joe and Uncle Elias, combined buildings along St. Peter and Toulouse Streets respectively to their Royal Street structure, making up the total expanse of what the store looks like today.

Customers will soon be able to walk through the existing 18,000 square feet of showroom space at 630 Royal St., as well as an additional 18,500 square feet in the new buildings where items will be on sale from the upper hundreds to the mid-millions.

“It’s really unique to have this many structures all connected in this way,” project architect Jonathan Tate said of the entire Rau property which circuitously stretches through the entire block. “How to maintain the eccentricities of the buildings and make them look like a modern showrooms while looping in all the properties is an extraordinary prospect. We’re planning a relatively quick renovation, and when we’re done we’re going to give the old space a facelift as well. We anticipate a 2019 opening.”

“It’s about time,” billionaire businessman Red McCombs said. “You can’t walk in there now. He has treasures stacked on top of treasures.”

The 89-year-old chairman and CEO of McCombs Enterprises fondly remembers doing business with Bill’s grandfather Max 60 years ago.

“When I first stumbled into that store, my wife Charline and I bought some beautiful and colorful Imari Japanese serving dishes,” McCombs said. “I’m the buyer in the family. Charline doesn’t care that much. Her big concern is where are we going to put it!”

“He likes my money,” McCombs said of Rau, “and I make it pretty easy for him to take it. Whenever the mood hits me, I get on my plane and I’m there in an hour. His store is a museum in itself with hand-picked items that Bill invests in and then makes possible for the public to see and buy. He ought to charge admission.”

At M.S. Rau, author and comedienne Goldberg purchased 12 place settings from a circa 1860 dinnerware set, with a multi-colored floral pattern and ornate gilding, that once belonged to the King of Hanover.

“You can really buy something magnificent there, but it’s pricey,” she said of M.S. Rau. “It takes a lot of money, but they work with you and you can deal with them. That’s why I like them so much.”

“Quality is quality,” she said. “You find a place that you trust and believe in, and you keep going back for true antiques with a pedigree.”

Rau has one more secret weapon for success, even more valuable than the WWII Enigma German four-rotor cypher machine he has on display – his 28-year-old daughter Rebecca Rau. She is in charge of strategic development, represents the fourth generation of the Rau family and is helping to steer the company’s fourth expansion.

“I’m grateful to be a part of my family’s business, and I’m excited about the expansion,” she said. “We’re committed to finding the next generation of collectors and find them pieces that feel relevant in a world that’s changing. Once the new space is up and running, I see visiting M.S. Rau as the reason to come to New Orleans.”

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Giving the best gift of all | |

What do mothers really want for Mother’s Day?

The answer is poignantly expressed in a post that has been circulating on Facebook from an unknown author. It says that all we really want is time with “you,” our children. We want you to stop by, give us a call, and let us know what is going on in your life.

We just want that person-to-person communication that started from the moment you were born when we held you in our arms for the first time and so easily gets lost in the busy shuffles of our lives as you grow up and head out the door.

We don’t want to text, although we will talk on the phone. But what we want most is to spend time with you, to hear from you, chat with you, our children, who we love with all our heart.

That is the gift that makes our souls sing.

For those of us whose mothers no longer are on this Earth, we wish we could have just one more conversation, one more hug, one more word of advice. One more chance to say I love you, and to ask for forgiveness for the times we weren’t kind enough or thoughtful enough.

Although it has been almost 15 years since my mother died, I still miss her so much and think of her almost daily.

Our relationship was not always the easiest, but maybe that was for the best. Maybe I needed a mother who would set me straight when I needed it and hold me to a set of standards, that, even though I often failed to live up to, I learned to respect and appreciate.

My mother believed in manners, and she worked hard to teach them to me. She expected a lot of me, including that I always did my best in school, made good choices and was faithful in my faith.

After my own children were born, she always expected me to be a good mother. I can still hear her voice on the phone asking me what I was serving for dinner, and the slight inflection in her response, “Pizza again?”

My generation brought a different way of parenting to the job. We were easier on our children, more outwardly loving, I think.

My parents came up tough in the Depression, both served in World War II and everything they ever had they earned themselves.

Although my mother could be a bit of a drill sergeant, there was no doubt she loved her three children to distraction. And we were all a bit spoiled by her. She did everything for us, the cooking, the cleaning, the ironing. She looked at it as her life’s work and she took it seriously.

Her love came through in her cooking. She was an amazing cook and we had a home-cooked meal around the kitchen table every night growing up that I can remember.

She loved her black iron skillets and Dutch oven, and it was in those that she cooked the most delicious dishes. Her chicken and dumplings, fried chicken, soups and stews kept us coming back for more.

She loved to fish and she loved to fry fish. One of my friends even came up to me at my mother’s funeral and told me that she remembered how she made the best hush puppies.

I almost never saw my mother cry, and if she did, I knew things were serious. She really didn’t get mad either, she just got very stern.

One thing I wish often is that I had told her more often how much she meant to me. How much I loved her.

Like the Facebook post says, that is what mothers really want. Not a new scarf or a bottle of perfume.

Time together is the best gift of all.

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Gracious Home: Greenwich resident tries to beat dim retail odds

  • Gracious Home CEO and longtime Greenwich resident Robert Morrison stands in the middle of the luxury home goods store's re-opened location on the Upper East Side in New York City, N.Y., on Friday, April 28, 2017. Gracious Home went bankrupt in December 2016 and has since re-opened with hopes of attracting an investor to give the brand new life. Morrison is hoping to use his executive retail experience to turn the brand around. Photo: Macaela J. Bennett / Hearst Connecticut Media



On an abruptly warm April morning on the Upper East Side in Manhattan, it’s the newly named CEO of Gracious Home who signs for a few FedEx boxes filled with store inventory. Minutes later it’s also him, Robert Morrison, who answers a knock at the locked front door after checking his watch that shows 9:57 a.m. and mutters, mostly to himself, “close enough,” before letting the customer in a few minutes from opening.

“Do you have dinnerware?” the woman asked Morrison, a 20-year Greenwich resident.

Just a few months ago, Morrison could have said yes and guided her to an expansive selection of luxury dinnerware, tucked away in Gracious Home’s 55,000 square feet of retail space laid out over a block of pricey real estate near Central Park. But on this Friday morning, standing in the bankrupt store’s remnants — a mere 3,000 square feet of selling space — Morrison kindly replied no and consulted one of his sales associates about where to direct the customer. “Probably Bed Bath and Beyond,” he ended up saying.

The business’ struggles fit a wider pattern. More than 3,500 retail stores have shuttered this year, according to a Forbes compilation. The sector appears to have a dim future, as store closings this year are set to surpass those in 2008 at the start of the last recession, according to analysts at Credit Suisse.

At Gracious Home, Morrison is drawing from a lifetime of retail executive experience and a slew of new business tactics to keep Gracious Home from joining that death count. Still, if he can’t convince investors to cough up somewhere between $2.5 million and $5 million to pay Gracious Home’s way out of bankruptcy, the store will likely close by fall, he said. “But I’m very confident,” Morrison said. “There’s a lot of talk and paper flying around, but no one has written a check yet. … There are a lot of eyes on our digital results.”

If all goes well, Morrison hopes Gracious Home’s next stop would be opening a small storefront on Greenwich Avenue.

Thriving on generosity

For much of Gracious Home’s 54-year history, it prevailed by being a one-stop shop for home goods. A 1993 New York Times profile of the store, which then occupied both sides of Third Avenue between 70th and 71st streets, described Gracious Home as a “housewares and hardware emporium.” It highlighted the best of Gracious Home, said Nancy Wekselbaum, who helped her husband run the business for years after he founded it with his brother in 1963.

The Wekselbaum brothers were Cuban immigrants who launched Gracious Home while throngs of newcomers were moving to the Upper East Side and needed a store for all the needs that arise during a move. Foundational to the brand, Nancy Wekselbaum told Hearst Connecticut Media in a recent interview, was how she and her husband cared deeply for their employees and customers.

To her, business success is defined by generosity.

The Wekselbaums left Gracious Home following its 2010 bankruptcy. Since then, it’s undergone several leadership shakeups and, Morrison said, poor decisions sent Gracious Home screeching into bankruptcy again last December.

Lifetime of experience

The new CEO’s career highlights include more than a decade at Lord Taylor, launching Loft under the Ann Taylor umbrella, attempting to start a sports store in the Midwest, helping Danbury-based Waterworks grow its storefront presence and taking Lumber Liquidators through its initial public offering.

He always saw himself running a company, Morrison said during an interview in his new office, which doubles as a corner copy room. Leading a company as it navigates its second bankruptcy filing in six years wasn’t how he imagined his dream coming to fruition, he added.

“This is a journey I never saw coming,” Morrison said.

He joined Gracious Home as its chief operating officer early in 2014, he said. By Morrison’s account, he soon after diagnosed Gracious Home’s problems. “No one had invested in the company since 2007, which was by its original owners,” he said, adding his advice went unheeded.

Two years later he was named CEO, and within a week the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy for the second time. “I learned everything I know about bankruptcy on Dec. 11,” he said.

In the months following, Gracious Home sold all its inventory and laid off all but 20 of its more than 100 employees while Morrison began courting vendors to see which would be willing to support a re-opening.

“They’d now been burned twice,” Morrison said. By March, enough vendors agreed and Morrison and what remained of his staff opened shop in a small space on the corner of Third Avenue and 70th Street.

“Never, ever, ever in my career would I have opened a store that looked like this,” Morrison said. “But that’s where the perfect can’t be the enemy of the good. We had to open.”

Re-opening has been a slow process as Morrison convinces more vendors to try again and spreads the word that Gracious Home is open again, he said. At the end of April, inventory was still rolling in, with Gracious Home’s new website launching in May as staff explored new and cheaper ways of marketing the brand.

Focused merchandise

Unlike the Gracious Home of 1993 that offered most everything for everyone, Morrison is transitioning into cornering the ultra-high-end market for bedding and bath items. “Even in the city, there’s nowhere to buy this stuff,” Morrison said, gesturing to thousand-dollar duvets, “so that’s why it’s our focus. Department stores don’t want to touch this stuff.”

The change hasn’t gone unnoticed as comments section on recent news stories about Gracious Home are filled with criticisms of the brand’s move to selling only top-dollar items. Morrison has fielded these criticisms, but said it’s the direction the brand needs to go to survive in the age of Amazon.

Perhaps the biggest change in store for Gracious Home is Morrison’s plan to make the brand a web-focused business supported by a series of small, boutique-like shops — with excellent customer service, he emphasized — instead of a website supported by lots of square footage. According to the National Retail Federation, this sort of plan is the future of American retail.

Despite the dire times Morrison has been through in just a few months of CEO experience, he’s confident that he and the staff are on the right track.

“I don’t see how this doesn’t work,” he said.

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How-to guide on stocking first kitchen

Making the move from a dorm or your parents’ house to your first solo place can seem intimidating, especially when it comes to outfitting the kitchen.

Yes, you’ll have to put some money into it – although maybe not as much as you think. In fact, if you spend wisely, you’ll save money on eating out and have kitchen equipment that will last for years – and maybe even someday end up in your future offspring’s first kitchen.

Pro tip: Check out yard sales for kitchen equipment – you can find amazing bargains on everything from dishware and cutlery to skillets, blenders and handmade rolling pins.

Pantry ingredients: $150

Your pantry setup will lay the foundation for everything you need to feed yourself from a pre-workout breakfast to a late-night snack and even Sunday brunch.

Oils/sauces/condiments: A few basic staples provide the basis for pasta, stir-fry, curry, chili and soup.

• Olive oil

• Vegetable oil

• Sesame oil

• Soy sauce (low-sodium, dark)

• Vinegars (white, balsamic, red wine)

• Honey or light agave syrup

• Canned tomatoes

• Tomato paste

• Chicken/vegetable broth

• Coconut milk

• Mustard (Dijon, whole-grain)

• Hot sauce

Easy shelf-stable proteins: Fill your larder with both canned and dried beans – canned for when you need a super-fast meal of rice and beans at the end of a long day, and dried for making more luscious soups and stews. Raw nuts can be pureed into pesto, tossed onto a salad or sauteed with veggies for a burrito filling.

• Dried/canned beans (black, kidney, navy, etc.)

• Dried lentils

• Raw nuts: cashews, walnuts, pine nuts

• Canned tuna in oil (look for an Italian brand, like Cento)

Starchy bases and additions: Stock up on super-thin capellini pasta when you want to cook dinner in 10minutes flat, and grits (or polenta) make a great base for eggs and roast chicken alike. Different varieties of rice are often sold in bulk.

• Rice (basmati, jasmine and brown, but also bamboo, black (forbidden) rice, arborio, etc.)

• Pasta (wheat, rice, etc.)

• Grits/polenta

• Potatoes

• Panko bread crumbs

Spices and other flavor-enhancers: A few dashes of spice, even just salt and pepper, can totally change the flavor of any dish, along with a squirt or two of lemon juice. Start with these basics, but expand your spice and flavor pantry each time you shop, picking up 2-ounce quantities of ginger, smoked paprika, nutmeg, tarragon, thyme and whatever else strikes your fancy.

• Salt

• Pepper

• Chili powder

• Paprika

• Cinnamon

• Cumin

• Oregano

• Garlic

• Onions

• Lemons

• Vanilla extract

Baking supplies: It’s incredibly easy to whip up a batch of biscuits or chocolate chip cookies, so don’t be afraid to flex your baking muscles.

• All-purpose flour

• Sugar (white and brown)

• Unsweetened cocoa powder

• Baking powder

• Baking soda

• Fast-rise yeast (store in the freezer to extend shelf life)


Good tools in the kitchen can mean the difference between success and failure, so start with the essentials, and then add more items as your skills grow and you’re ready to tackle new recipes and techniques.

The essentials: $150

• Dry measuring cup set, preferably stainless steel

• 16-ounce liquid measuring cup

• 1/4 cup plastic measuring cup (our favorite is the Mini Angled Measuring Cup by OXO, $4.99)

• Measuring spoon set, preferably stainless steel

• Stainless steel mixing bowls (three graduated sizes)

• Large colander

• 9-inch metal tongs (locking)

• Wooden spoon (any kind)

• Silicone spatula (good for mixing batters or to use in a nonstick pan)

• Thin metal spatula

• Peppermill

• Antibacterial cutting board or mats


Every cook needs a few good knives, like a basic eight-inch chef’s knife and a small paring knife. A set of kitchen shears is handy for breaking down a chicken, snipping herbs and cutting off those pesky heavy-duty rubber bands binding the broccoli.

The essentials: $75

• 8-inch chef’s knife

• Serrated paring knife

• Corkscrew (the winged corkscrew is practically foolproof for a novice, but a waiter’s corkscrew is a classic)

Pots and pans

Pots and pans can be a big expense, but most cooking can be handled with a skillet, a stock pot and a sheet pan. Yard sales are a great place to look for cast-iron or enamel skillets and Dutch ovens, which can often be easily reconditioned at home at a small fraction of the cost of purchasing new.

The essentials: $100

• 6-inch cast-iron or nonstick skillet (ovenproof)

• 12-inch cast-iron skillet

• 9-by-13-inch baking glass baking dish (a half-sheet-pan-size stainless steel hotel pan can also be a good budget option)

• Rimmed baking sheet

• 6- to 8-quart stock pot

Electrics: $175

There is a dizzying array of appliances that could easily fill up an entire kitchen, but there are a handful that can be useful on an almost daily basis. Use an immersion blender for everything from smoothies to soup; a scaled-down food processor frees up counter space and speeds up chopping veggies or whipping up hummus.

• Immersion (stick) blender

• Mini food processor

• Rice cooker (dish up rice and steamed vegetables for a quick meal in 20 minutes)

• Slow cooker (come home to ready-to-eat chili and stews)

Baking essentials: $80

Once you get bitten by the baking bug, it’s easy to obsess over handmade French porcelain pie pans and high-end stand mixers – which someday may be worth investing in. Until then, a simple rolling pin – if it’s not tapered, it’ll be easier to roll out dough evenly – is a must-have, and a bench scraper is useful for other tasks besides baking, like scooping up chopped ingredients to throw into a hot pan.

• 9-inch round cake pan

• 81/2-inch loaf pan

• 9-inch pie glass plate

• Rolling pin

• Bench scraper

• Kitchen scale

• Handheld mixer

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