I was extremely excited to live on my own until I realized how expensive it was going to be to have my own place with all of my own items of which I had none. Fortunately for me, I have siblings that gave me items they didn't want anymore and my oldest sister threw a housewarming party. Prior to that moment, I had never heard of a housewarming party and it was amazing. If you aren't getting married (no wedding gifts) and have zero items going into a place of your own, I highly suggest you have some sort of housewarming get together or party to help you get some essential items that you need in your new place.
I love cooking and baking and I had absolutely zero kitchen items therefore majority of my housewarming gifts were kitchen gifts. This list is solely my opinion based on my cooking/baking preferences and what I personally found most useful in my first year of living on my own. I mostly make soups, breads, and casseroles my first year since they make excellent leftovers and I had a limited food budget. There's only so many ramen noodles I can eat before I go insane (and kinda unhealthy).
With the help of my sister (who also loves cooking and baking), here were the top 13 essential kitchen items that were most useful starting out when you have nothing:
1. Cooking and Baking Utensils (spatula, slotted spoon, regular cooking spoon, pasta server, ladle, whisk, scraper, baster, tongs, measuring cups/spoons)
2. Cookware Set (big pot for soups, a dutch oven, frying pans, and saucepans). Dutch oven is probably my most used cookware since you can cook on the stove top and bake with it.
3. Bakeware Set (baking sheet, muffin tin, bread loaf pan, casserole baking dish, pie or cake pan). If you aren't much of a baker you probably only need the baking sheet and casserole dishes since you can roast veggies, make casseroles, cookies, and cakes with just those two items alone. I love muffins and bread so those were necessities for me.
4. Knife Set and Sharpener Kit. (4" paring knife, 8" chef knife, and 5" serrated knife are most often used). Do not go super cheap with knives! They are one of the most essential kitchen items you can have that will make or break your cooking experiences. Dull knives that don't cut well put you more at risk of cutting yourself even if you have your hands in the right place. I have yet to cut myself using a sharp knife; it's only been with dull knives.
5. Kitchen Towels and Cleaning Materials. Dish towels, sponges, or whatever you want to clean with. Many people neglect kitchen cleaning items as useful gifts but you will use these items every time you cook because guess what comes after cooking? If you hate cleaning like I do, I hope you have a dishwasher. Keep in mind when you are kitchen shopping or making party lists to see if the items are dishwasher safe or not.
6. Cutting Board. Cutting boards are important so you don't destroy your counter tops while cutting stuff up. If you rent, your security deposit may depend on cutting boards. Wood cutting boards also are more gentle on your knives, making them sharper longer. Check out my blog about the benefits of wood vs. plastic vs. glass cutting boards. Also have a blog on wood cutting board care as well.
7. Can Opener. Not all cans come with the tab to open and manual can openers (you can get fancy magnetic ones later) are relatively cheap and you'll use it pretty often.
8. Mixer and Mixing Bowls. Hand mixers are cheaper and can do most all of your baking needs. I used a hand mixer for the first year then was given a nice standing mixer with different attachments for Christmas one year. Start out with a hand mixer then upgrade to a nicer one later if you like baking. If you aren't much of a baker, you could probably use this on your secondary list.
9. Pot holders/Oven Mitts. No explanation for why you need these. Check out budget friendly, decorative, and handmade ones here: https://www.thehandycupboard.com/collections/handmade-cookware
10. Food Thermometer. If you eat meats and frozen dinners a lot, this is very useful and you'll use almost every day.
11. Storage bags. You can also ask for storage containers too but you can store/freeze most anything with the baggies. Just have something to store left over foods in.
12. Misc. Items that are important to you. For example, I'm a coffee/tea drinker so mugs, coffee maker, and kettle were must haves for me but will not be if you don't drink coffee or tea. Check out my blog on "second kitchen essentials" for other ideas of what you need too. What is on my second list may be on your first depending on your personal cooking/baking style.
13. Don't forget the items you need to eat/drink with either (silverware, bowls, plates, cups)!
This list is what I found the most useful for starting out on my own. I also have a "second kitchen essentials" blog that describes items I got after I settled in a little that were also useful. Most of the items on the second list are items that you use occasionally as opposed to all most all the time like this list. In addition, I also have a "fun kitchen gadgets" blog that have items that are useful, but not a necessity. They are more for enjoyment while cooking/baking.
These are all items on a budget too. With kitchen items (like with any other products), cheaper usually means it's not going to last very long. I have definitely noticed with any utensils, cookware, and bakeware, the expensive stuff tends to last a lot longer than any of the cheaper items. And as much as I don't care for Amazon (I like more of the "mom and pop" shops), it is a great place to get beginner cooking items when you have a limited budget.
In a nutshell, know your baking/cooking style and needs. If you bake a lot more than cook, you will need more bakeware and baking utensils than this list