One night at our dinner table my twenty something grandson, Matt asked if we had a list of things people should buy if they wanted to try making our recipes. Indeed we do. He said “GET THAT LIST UP ON THE BLOG”. And then added “if people like me knew what to buy, they would be much more likely to give cooking dinner at home a try”. So for all of you “would be” beginner cooks, young and old, here are your lists. Hope you are pleased with how short our lists are. You don’t need much to make Ricky’s dinners.


Start your grocery shopping list with these 3 PRIMARY INGREDIENTS. You should have these in your kitchen all the time. Most every recipe we have will use one or more of these ingredients. These three ingredients alone can make a meal. We will show you how when we post Ricky’s Aioli recipe.



PASTA (various types of dry or fresh or frozen)

Then add these cabinet staples. When you have one or both of these and the 3 primary ingredients, you will be well on your way to putting together a meal.

28 ounce can whole plum tomatoes (with basil if you can find it)

28 ounce can crushed tomato

Depending on which recipe you are making, you may need any of the following ingredients. As you can afford them, buy them. When you have them all, you will be able to make most of our recipes from what is in your kitchen. All of these ingredients have some “shelf life” so they will be around long enough to make many meals.

Russet Potatoes
Ground Ginger
Dried Oregano
Dried Basil
Red pepper flakes
Parmesan Cheese
Soy sauce
Sesame seed oil
Brown Rice

Here is a list of other INGREDIENTS FROM THE PRODUCE SECTION that are used in Ricky’s recipes. The produce department can become your friend. We know it is not cheap to shop in fresh produce, but it is a mountain of money cheaper than buying junk food. Only buy what you will use. When a recipe calls for a certain weight of an ingredient, such as 1/2 pound green beans, use the scale to weigh out what you need. I am not a good judge of how much I need. A lot of money my money has been squandered in fresh produce from overbuying.

Green bell pepper
Red bell pepper
Fresh green beans

And that brings us to the idea of “making it your own” when it comes to what you buy in the MEAT or PRODUCE section. Buy what is on sale. Buy what is in season. Buy what looks really good to you, and create your meals around those items. It is our hope that you use Ricky’s recipes as a framework for recipes you customize to your own taste preferences. There may be a combination of ingredients or cooking style that may really bomb. But, if you are buying everyday ingredients, that you like, how bad can it be? If you are not ready to venture into the great unknown when it comes to making it your own, pick up those sale, in season, or things that look good to you ingredients, and then look for one of our recipes you can make with them. You can stick to the script for the first few times making a recipe. Once you gain your bearings in the kitchen, you will find making your own substitutions pretty easy. That’s when you know you are well on your way to serving economical meals, at home, with very little time or trouble, using what ingredients you have on hand.


Here is our short list of basic cookware and cooking tools you should have in your kitchen, if you are planning on cooking dinners. There are some that you can consider an investment, because quality counts. Others you can buy at any discount store for very little money and it will work as good as any other. We will let you know which category each tool belongs in.

DO NOT USE CHEAP PANS Whether it is skillet or saucepan, you are much better off with quality rather than quantity. Burning and after taste, are issues related to pots and pans of lesser quality. Some lower priced sets of pans made pretty on the outside don’t cut it. Your pans are tools, not decorations. You should be looking for heavy glass, cast iron or stainless steel pans. Buy the best you can afford. Buying good quality cookware may be the best investment you will ever make. THEY LAST when most everything else is gone and forgotten.

A 12 INCH SKILLET, 3 inches deep, and a 10 INCH SKILLET. The 12 inch is more versatile, so start with that and add a 10 inch when you can afford another. A 10 inch skillet is usually called for when ingredients are going to be submerged in cooking liquid. The smaller the skillet, the higher the liquid will be in skillet.

Pictured are my heavy bottomed stainless steel skillets. They are not cheap to buy, but you have them for life. These are about 50 years old. You can’t beat that for value.

CAST IRON SKILLETS These are Ricky’s 10 inch and 12 inch cast iron skillets. They, like my stainless steel skillets, have been used and abused for decades. They conduct heat very well, both on the stovetop and in the oven.

Some people have reservations about using cast iron skillets on flat top electric ranges. Ricky uses his all the time, and I use mine fairly frequently and there has never been a problem. But if you are concerned, by all means pass on using cast iron and go with a stainless steel skillet that is oven safe. If you do buy a cast iron skillet, don’t overlook the instructions for preparing the skillet for use and the care of the skillet. They are unique in the way they are maintained. Once purchased, cast iron will last a lifetime and then some.

Heavy bottomed skillets conduct the heat from the stovetop burner and the oven, thereby providing even temperature. Many of Ricky’s recipes start the cooking process using the stovetop and then cooking continues in the oven. When we refer to a skillet being oven safe, it means that the handle and/or any coating on the skillet is safe to use at high temperatures. If you are buying a skillet, the label should indicate if it is oven safe or not. Some will give you the maximum temperature they will tolerate.

SAUCEPANS Are a must. A big one for pasta, a medium one and a small one will probably be all you need for general cooking. Buy good ones, thinner bottomed pans burn food. Your saucepans should have tight fitting covers. The little pan in the front is newer, but the two behind it are from the same set as the skillets and they are also 50 years old. And believe me when I say, those 50 years were served doing hard labor. These pans have been workhorses. You just can’t go wrong buying good cookware.

CHEESE AND CHEESE GRATERS. Block cheese is real cheese. Nothing has been altered. Block cheese has the intended flavor and consistency. Grating block cheese yourself, is the way to go. The pre-grated fresh cheese, bought from the block cheese case, is better than canned or bottled. But it is a whole lot more expensive then buying a block or wedge. Compare the price per pound. That tells the story. Pre-grated is full of air, not cheese. And it is certainly not as fresh. It has already been grated and exposed to air to dry out.

Here are a couple of graters worth having on hand. The grater in front, with the handle, you use at the table to grate cheese right onto your plated dish. That is when it is at it’s best, freshly grated over the dish, as much or as little as you want. It melts over the top and becomes a major contributor to flavor. The grater in the back is a box grater. There used to be one in every kitchen. I doubt if that is true today. But if you are going to cook dinners, and you want to stop throwing money away, you should buy a box grater. Each of the 4 sides has a different size grate. You rub the cheese on the outside to grate, and the shredded cheese is waiting for you in the middle of the box when you lift it up. They are very inexpensive.

SHARP KNIVES You are far more likely to hurt yourself with a dull knife, than a sharp one, because you are applying more pressure when using a dull knife. If the knife slips and you are bearing down on it, you have the blade coming at your hand with momentum. Even a dull blade will easily cut through skin. You are not tugging and pushing with a sharp blade. You can control it a lot easier. I am certainly not saying you can’t cut yourself with a sharp knife, or it wouldn’t be a heck of a cut if you did. You need to be careful any time you are using a knife. A paring knife is a small knife, and we would recommend you have one. A paring knife is on the far left, the smallest one, and it is used for peeling and coring. The knife we use to chop, is what we call a cutting blade. It may have a fancier name. The middle knife is a 6 inch cutting blade and the one on the right is an 8 inch blade. To keep a knife sharp, you need to have something to sharpen it. There are many tools available to sharpen a blade. That’s another topic, too big to go into here. Maybe we will do a post on that subject for our discussion library. Quality is much more important than quantity when you invest in knives. Buy the best you can afford. A good quality knife will last a lifetime. Good tools make less work. Honestly they do.

SPATULA AND TONGS These are a must have. You probably are familiar with a spatula. It’s the tool is that flips burgers. I think tongs are pretty universally known too. But just in case you are getting your first look at either of these tools, the spatula is on the left, the tongs are on the right. You do NOT need to buy the best or even modestly priced ones. You will do just fine with cheap ones, until you want to upgrade. There are all kinds of sizes, and colors. You don’t need fancy ones. They all do the job. But, the ones shown are stainless steel. Whenever you can afford to buy any stainless steel cooking tool, do so. They are always well made and make the task at hand easier.

LADLE and SLOTTED SPOONS The 2 spoons on the right are ladles without slots for drainage. You may not use a ladle often, but if you are serving something from a deep vessel like a large pot of soup, they sure come in handy. The middle spoon is a slotted ladle, and the other 2 on the left are slotted spoons. They are used when you need to “fish” something out of the liquid of a cooking vessel, but you want to leave the liquid in the pan, like if you were lifting an egg out of hot water or better yet, snagging meatballs out of Italian gravy. A ladle and slotted spoons can be found for very little money. Wait till you see them cheap if you are pinching pennies. Ricky and I both know all about pinching pennies.

COLANDER You can find them just about anywhere. It is used to drain pasta and to rinse fruits and vegetables. They come in many sizes and materials. They all work. Buy one big enough to drain a pound of pasta and you are all set. No need to spend a lot of money on a colander.

This picture really drives the point home that Ricky and I aren’t fancy cooks! This is my colander. It’s almost embarrassing. Usually my older, beat up stuff has sentimental value. This doesn’t. I picked it up at a flea market for 50 cents, many years ago. It occurs to me that I have owned probably 15 colanders in my life, and I don’t know where any have gone. I am wondering why THIS colander has made the cut, to be the last colander standing. Was this beat up relic destined to be my colander, forsaking all others?

measuring cups and spoons

MEASURING SPOONS and MEASURING CUPS Dry goods like flour or sugar should be measured in the measuring cups, as pictured on the right, that you fill and level off when your ingredient reaches the top. Each cup will hold a given amount when filled. The measuring cups used for liquids is the clear or transparent with various measurement lines along the side of it. It looks like a little pitcher. Measuring spoons, as pictured far left, are a must. You can’t use tableware spoons for cooking and have your recipes turn out right. They are not made for measuring purposes and could hold a heck of a lot more or less than a measured teaspoon or a tablespoon. Any measuring tool you buy will work just fine. I used plastic ones most of my life. The food quality is not sacrificed because you used cheap measuring tools. But I will admit I love my glass liquid measuring cups, and stainless steel measuring spoons and cups now that I have them.

KITCHEN SHEARS Kitchen shears are NOT your average pair of scissors. They look similar, but in functionality they are not at all alike. You should not expect regular scissors to do the job of kitchen shears. If you try, it is most likely your scissors will never again perform their intended task as well as they did before. That pin in the middle of the tool will expand, get loose and there is a good chance the 2 blades will never again meet close enough to do a good job cutting paper. Kitchen shears are much sturdier than scissors. They are meant to cut through chicken bones, and they make light work of that. What they are not good for is cutting paper. You should consider getting them. Look at the pair in the picture. They look pretty rough and tough, don’t they? They are. You may not want to get the very cheapest you can find, because you want decent shear blades. In any case, a good pair is not a lot of money.

GLASS BAKING DISHES They can be any color, shape or size. It does not have to be transparent glass. A 9 inch baking dish would be a good size to start with, that is the one in the front. The baking dish in the back is 13×9 inches. That is also an often used size. These 2 baking dishes will give you a good start. In the case of our recipes, you will use the baking dish to marinate. You can serve in a baking dish too. They are used often for baking. Maybe that is why they are called a baking dish.? They are pretty darned cheap in your average discount store, but having a variety of sizes is nice. I have found yard sales to be a great place to find glass or pottery bakeware. You can get 4 for the price of 1 if you hit the right yard sale.


WOODEN SPOONS They will never be outdated. Wooden spoons are the cheapest kitchen tool there is. They are as close to indestructible as you can get. You can go to a dollar store and get a multi-pac for a couple of bucks! You can spend lots of money on wooden spoons too. The big one in the middle is my mother’s. It is rustically hand carved. I bet she paid extra for that. And I know of someone who carves spoons of beauty and sells them for hundreds of dollars. But they are all of the same value in the kitchen.

Does the sight of a wooden spoon bring back memories of the past for you, perhaps not cooking related? I know my son proudly wears his “survivor of the wooden spoon” tee shirt. No hate mail please. It was a tap on the butt maybe 3 times in his life. Ricky is a card carrying member of the wooden spoon survivors club too, but it sounds like Tess was swinging hers around more than I ever did. He said she could throw her wooden spoons with frightening accuracy 😣. I can picture it! Fear of the flying spoon was one of those things that could happen to a kid back in the day; before parents knew it was THEM who were supposed to be behaving. Hummmm

Of course there are countless other cooking tools that are great. These tools are basic tools, necessary to have in the kitchen when you are cooking dinner.

Hope our lists help!

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