As a chef, I know (and will tell anyone willing to listen) that if nothing else, you need to have the proper knife for every kitchen job. This includes the size of the knife in relation to the board, and the type
of knife as well. A good knife is fine for the home cook, around forty bucks a piece, but at least at home you only need a few: Say, a paring knife, a French (or chef's or santoku) knife, a carving/slicing knife, a bread knife, and any one knife that is very long and thin to reduce drag in hard-to-cut foods. You should only buy your cutting board after you buy your knives, and it should be as long diagonally
as your longest knife.
After your pans, your knives should be the most expensive part of your kitchen. For home use, I am a HUGE fan of Chicago Cutlery, the ones with wooden handles because the black composite handles can get very slippery, very fast. As stated, home-use knives should be about forty dollars per knife, totaling around $200-$250 tops. Which may sound like a lot! But considering that many chefs pay that amount per knife
, it becomes much less of a price, and it doesn't have to be paid all at once. Get what you can at first, then improve your set piece by piece, learning how to use each knife properly along the way.
Your hands will thank you, and your cooking speed will increase (not to mention you will gain confidence) all because you have the right knife for the job!