Re: Quality knives and cookware items??
One way to save on pots and pans is look at places such as cookwarenmore, where they sell All-clad with "defects". I have yet to find what the defects are. I have a set of All Clad MC2 which I love. I would recommend whatever you do, buy pieces as you go along and not sets. There was a sale on All-Clad french skillets at Williams-Sonoma a couple of days ago that was pretty good, 2 skillets for less than $100.
As far as knives. There was a big sale on the Bob Kramer Shun knives a little while ago (it may still be around at different places) and I have that for my chef's knife and its been great. I have found good sales on the Shun Classic knives at times as well. I have a couple of those and they work well. For a really good knife for really cheap, I highly recommend the Forschner knives. They are under $20 bucks and Cooks Illustrated magazine has done testing where they stand up just as good as the Wustoff Classic knife. I had one for several years and liked it. If you are going for a European style knife, as opposed to a Japanese style, I would go with the Forschner.
I mentioned Cooks Illustrated magazine. They do a ton of testing and if you are really interested in cooking, they are a great resource for recipes (the narratives and just or more useful than the recipes) and a great resource for finding cookware. They test everything and always give a best buy. I have really yet to go wrong with something they recommend for cookware.