It will happen, most probably sooner than you think – you will need to buy something new for the kitchen. It’s unlikely that you have ever been in a kitchen shop before or when you did you just played with your phone while someone else did the buying. Going in for the first time on your own can be quite daunting. But you have to do it.

Why the alternatives don’t work

Buying stuff unseen from Amazon, or anyone else on-line, is not a good idea if you don’t really understand what you are buying. You need to have advice available because – well basically you don’t know what you are doing and it’s easy to buy the wrong thing.

Buying from local pound stores or other low cost stores may be even worse than the internet – they most probably know less than you do and can give you bad “advice”. On top of that you are likely to end up buying stuff that doesn’t last long. This means that you have to make another trip to the store to buy a replacement quite quickly and spend more money. You can tell from the tone that this paragraph is based on painful personal experience.

If you are anything like me you will at this point have come to the conclusion that given the above there is only one answer. Get someone who knows what they doing to go to the kitchen shop and buy it for you. Sorry but this plan also falls into the short cuts to avoid category. They may buy things that you don’t like or can’t use because you don’t have their skill level.  Even more importantly they may be away on holiday the next time you need some urgent kitchen purchase. There are no shorts cuts – you have to go a kitchen shop by yourself. Fortunately there are a number of techniques to help you. But first….

Which shops to go to?

Only buy kitchen things from stores that:

  • Employ people who really know what they are talking about
  • Have a wide range of products and prices
  • Have a good reputation
  • Don’t try to just flog you the most expensive option
  • Have a good returns policy if you get it wrong or something breaks
  • You feel you can like and trust

So far I’ve found two. John Lewis and Lakeland.

How to make your first visit to the kitchen shop

Don’t start with Lakeland. You will keep putting off going there because it’s an alien environment. Even those brave enough to go through the door risk turning around and walking out again as they find themselves surrounded by products that they have never seen before. So avoid all of these risks by going to John Lewis first. You can graduate to Lakeland later.

Start with another reason to actually visit the store. Make it something that you feel comfortable going in to buy or just look at in John Lewis. For example it could be makeup or dresses for woman and for men it’s more likely to be TV’s and technology. Now you are actually in the store – well done. Go and have a quick look at the excuse you used to motivate you to go in, dresses, TV’s or whatever. Even buy some things if you want. Get yourself into a relaxed and comfortable mood.

Now ask the way to the kitchen department. It is an easier place to visit in John Lewis because you will also see other more familiar products such as toasters, kettles and washing machines around you. As you are walking towards the kitchen department keep saying this word to yourself in your head. YES, YES, YES. Please be careful not to say it out loud multiple times for obvious reasons.

So why did I ask you to keep saying YES? It’s so that when an assistant in the kitchen department asks “Can I help you?” the word in your head that comes out of your mouth the easiest is YES. By the way this has taken me some time to master so don’t be put off if it takes a few attempts to actually say YES.

What to say after YES

I should have told you this bit before but always write down at home what kitchen gadget you want to buy or, if you don’t know what it’s called, the task that you need something to help you do. Then take the piece of paper with you to the kitchen shop. This totally avoids a rather embarrassing silence and lots of humming and haring. Of course you can also use pictures from your phone or my list of the 20 things that you need to do 90% of our recipes.

What questions should I ask?

Rule number one. Never buy the first product that you are shown straight away. This can be quite hard but you want to ensure that you make the best decision and also learn from the experience. This will make re-visiting the store in the future much less daunting and will help you build towards being able to go into Lakeland too.

Here are a selection of questions to try out during your conversation with your helpful and knowledgeable store assistant. Remember you don’t have to use all of them but try at least three.

  • What is it about this product that makes it the best option for me?
  • Are there any similar products with different features?
  • Which one will last the longest?
  • Are there cheaper and more expensive versions? What’s the difference?
  • Does it work on all hobs? (This question is for pots and pans so only buy the product if the answer is yes. This avoids you having to try and work out what type of hob you actually have which can be quite hard.)
  • How do I clean it and avoid damaging it?
  • Can I safely put it in the dishwasher?
  • What’s the best way to use it?
  • What do most customers buy at the same time as they buy one of these?
  • What do you mainly use it for?

Can you now see the value of going to kitchen shops that meet the criteria listed earlier?

Well done. You have achieved more than most non cooks and some real cooks.  You have the foundation to start doing some real cooking. Time to move up to recipes.