A butcher knows how to wield a knife, but you don’t need to be your own butcher to have a need for knife skills. The first rule of saving money in the kitchen is to buy the best knife that your money can afford. And the second rule is to spend time learning how to use it. The more comfortable you become in using a knife in the kitchen, the more food you’ll be able to prepare in less time, while saving on costs associated with ready-made and processed foods. In order to be proficient in preparing fresh produce and meats for different dishes, knife skills are a necessity.
Start with one 6-8 inch chef or Santuko knife, one 3-4 inch paring knife (ceramic works well as a paring knife). For cutting up meat you’ll need a longer slicing knife; for chicken, use an old knife to slice between joints in separating pieces. A filet knife will help make boning chicken and filleting fish easier but is not absolutely required. A sharpening steel will help keep an edge on these tools, so that you’ll always be working with the sharpest knife in the drawer. A sharp boning shears can do wonders for herbs, celery, and green onions.
To some extent, a food processor may be used to supplant knife skills, but a good cook will often prefer the use of a sharp knife, even if it takes a little longer to get the job done, just to avoid the extra dishes that require washing after the meal preparation is complete.
Proper sharpening and storage matters. For slicing bread, slicing tomatoes, and a variety of other uses dust off the old electric knife and use it. Large steak knives are a staple in my house.