Must-Have Kitchen Gadgets for Busy Parents

At under $25 each, these must-have kitchen gadgets will save you time AND money, while helping you prep healthy home-cooked meals for your family.
Want to save TIME and MONEY on food prep, while eating healthier? At under $25 each, these must-have kitchen gadgets will help you do all three; you can't afford NOT to try them!

Mamas (and daddies) who spend time in the kitchen, have you put together your holiday gift lists yet? These ten must-have kitchen gadgets should be on your list. They are game-changers, saving you time AND money while making food prep with little helpers more efficient.

I’ve raved about several items on this list in other posts. But with Christmas coming, I thought a roundup of all of them in one place was in order. They are among my favorite kitchen hacks, and I can’t imagine cooking healthy, homemade food from scratch without them.

And best of all, you can score each one for less than $25! Ready to add these must-have kitchen gadgets to your holiday wish list?

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Must-Have Kitchen Gadgets for Busy Parents

1. Mandoline

Are you daunted by home-cooking from scratch because of the prep time needed to slice vegetables? Never tried home-made baked potato chips or veggie thins because of the time needed to make all those uniform paper-thin slices?

That was me once. Now, I cannot imagine food prep without my mandoline. This item tops my list of must-have kitchen gadgets, saving me more time and money than everything else combined. If you’re addicted to the convenience of pre-thin-sliced veggies from your store’s produce section as a cooking shortcut, this one tool could cure you of that habit that adds up.

Having a good mandoline will shave tons of time off your food prep. With my mandoline, I can easily slice potatoes for baked chips, carrots and celery for soup, or peppers and onions for pizza, into uniform thin slices. All with a lot less time than using a knife. And far less effort (not to mention cleanup!) than using a food processor.

When choosing a mandoline, look for one with multiple interchangeable blades, plus a safety handle for holding whatever you’re slicing. Other good features include either a built-in box, or (like mine) a design that lets it sit easily on top of bowls of different sizes. While you can spend more if you choose, there are plenty of highly-rated models available for under $20.

2. Mesh glove

If you get a mandoline, you need a mesh glove as well. Otherwise, you (or children old enough to help with food prep involving sharp blades) risk slicing yourself on your mandoline along with your vegetables.

Although they are machine-washable and feel like fabric, mesh gloves are actually a 21st-century form of chain mail – that stuff soldiers used to wear.  The finely-woven metal and filament gloves resist cuts, meaning you can easily slice right down to the very end of whatever you’re slicing.

Mesh gloves are also a great precaution for kids who are learning to dice things with sharp knives. Holding the vegetable you’re cutting with a glove decreases the chances of accidentally cutting your fingers as well.. Consider getting several gloves in different sizes, so grownups and kids alike will have a glove that fits. At under $15/pair on average, they’re affordable enough to get several! (In fact, this top-rated glove is specially designed for kids and others with smaller hands!)

If both a mandoline and mesh gloves are now on your wish list, you can also buy them together, if you prefer.

3. Silicone lid

If you EVER cook in a microwave or on top of the stove, you need a silicone lid. (Or even better, a set of several in assorted sizes.)

Why? Well, for starters, by staying on top of whatever you’re cooking, silicone lids will keep you from splattering food all over the microwave or the stovetop. I don’t know about you, but anything I can do to eliminate messes before they happen (and thus spare myself cleaning) is a no-brainer.

Moreover, they’re a great shortcut to healthy cooking with less energy and waste. Instead of boiling or steaming vegetables on top of the stove, just pop some into the microwave, top with a silicone lid, and cook them in a fraction of the time. With a fraction of the energy, and less nutrient loss.

Same for such yummy treats as ten-minute baked apples. Or your kids being able to steam themselves a quick veggie snack or side dish, without using the stovetop.

On the stove, they double as a pot lid and splatter shield, whether boiling water or cooking sausage. (Again, less cleaning for you!) And their low profile and lightweight flexibility makes them an attractive alternative to regular pot lids when camping. Plus they’re dishwasher safe!

Best of all, there are tons of sets out there with multiple lids in different sizes for under $20! I recommend having at least one or two lids, including one at least 10-11 inches across. (It’s not uncommon for me to go hunting for ours when making baked apples for breakfast, only to find it’s in the dishwasher because my husband’s already used it for sausage!)

4. Immersion blender

As I noted here, immersion blenders are a multitasking powerhouse that can replace several larger items in your home, for less space and less money. Imagine replacing your blender, baby food puree-maker, hand mixer, and mini-mincer with a gadget that takes up practically no space in your cupboard, and you’ll see why I love it so much.

I’ll never forget the night I fell in love with our immersion blender. I’d gotten a little ambitious in my supper-planning for a weeknight, and realized I had several hot items that needed to be pureed. All at once. Using the blender would take too long because of needing to wash it between foods, and I wasn’t keen on having hot liquids in the blender anyway. But the immersion blender’s stick went into one food, got the job done, and was ready to go on the next dish after a quick rinse in the sink.

In short, our immersion blender saved my backside that night, not to mention our dinner.

If you get one with lots of bells and whistles, this will be your priciest gift on my must-haves list. But it’s still possible to get a well-rated model for less than $25, and if you’re willing to spend up to $35, you’ll have more choices of models that go beyond a basic stick. Ours has the basic blending wand, a food processor bowl with non-slip base, a whisk attachment, and a nice cloth storage bag to hold the components.

Before deciding which one you want, ask yourself which options are most crucial to you. If you never use a whisk and can’t see yourself ever using the mini-food processor, you might be fine with a basic blending stick (wand). But if you start every day with a smoothie, a model that also includes a clear blending/measuring cup might be nice.

5. Right-angle apple corer

I never thought about apple corers until a few months ago, when I taught my girls how to make baked apples. To me, apple corers had never seemed worth the trouble and space they took up in the drawer.

But when I tried the right-angle apple corer my husband purchased this summer, I became a convert. Here’s why:

  • It’s much easier to use than a traditional straight-handled one, because it’s easier to turn.
  • It has an easy-release function to eject the core when you’re done.
  • Its ergonomic design means that everyone from kids to grandparents can use it, safely and easily.

When we were visiting my in-laws over Thanksgiving, my elderly MIL was commenting on how she might have to give up making her beloved apple pies, because coring and peeling the apples had become so difficult for her. That’s why I’m getting her one of these for Christmas – it really does make the job easy-peasy for everyone, from preschoolers on up.

6. OXO Peeler

We love sharing our love of cooking with our children. And if there’s one tool that makes it easier for kids to “help” with dinner, it’s an easy-to-use vegetable peeler. That’s why my top must-have kitchen gadgets for cooking with kids are our two OXO brand peelers – one for each child.

OXO’s swivel-blade has a sturdy blade that’s sharp enough to get the job done quickly, but with a handle that’s easy for smaller hands to grab, and doesn’t get slippery when wet. Plus it has a built-in tip designed for digging out potato eyes.

OXO also makes a Y-shaped peeler that’s great for peeling round things, like apples or kiwis. (We’re getting one of these for my MIL for Christmas, too!)

7. OXO Can Opener

Close behind our OXO peeler is our OXO Good Grips can opener. Like the peeler, the OXO can opener is an easy-grip, easy-use item that even our kids can successfully operate. Its black rubber handle is easy to grasp, and easy to hold onto even when wet

Moreover, its opening mechanism turns easily. This makes it a no-brainer for everyone from little kids, to grownups with arthritis or other hand issues. As someone who’s had wrist surgery and continues to have periodic bouts of carpal tunnel issues, having a can opener that’s easy to grab and turn is essential. That’s why I’m glad I no longer have to fight with a can opener that’s hard to turn and doesn’t do the job. The OXO Good Grips is a major improvement on both fronts.

8. Digital Scale

Do you like to save money by buying meat in bulk and then freezing it in smaller portions? Or do you tend to cook with metric cookbooks rather than “English” ones?

Either way, you need a good digital scale. My husband uses ours all the time for precise measurements on spices and when baking bread. I most often use it when portioning up a bulk package of meat into smaller portions before freezing for later use.

However (bonus!), I also use our digital scale a lot when printing postage at home instead of going to the post office. (This time-saving option only works if you know the precise weight of what you’re mailing!) So if you don’t like holiday lines at the post office – or if you moonlight as a power seller on Ebay – you also need a compact digital scale.

While you can certainly spend more, there are plenty of top-rated options out there for under $15, making this a bargain as well as a smart buy.

9. Curved silicone “spoonulas”

I love silicone scraper-spatulas so much, I bring one whenever we travel anywhere we’ll be cooking for ourselves – camping, eat-in lodgings with stocked kitchens, etc. They are so handy in every aspect of food prep. Especially the double-curved-edge ones sometimes called “spoonulas“:

  • When baking, they can help you mix the batter, then make sure you get every last drop into the baking pan.
  • Being made of silicone, they’re also good for stirring pots on the stove and for getting pan juices out of your cooking pots.
  • When it’s time for cleanup, they’ll help you get plates and bowls cleaner (less work for your dishwasher!), and waste less food when you package up leftovers.

Besides coming in assorted vibrant colors, the Rachael Ray 3-piece Spoonula Set is top-rated. And the fact that it includes the three most handy sizes makes it a super value, too!

10. Long oven gloves

The last thing busy parents – or budding chefs – need is a burn from a hot oven or rising steam. Long oven gloves can help everyone in your family avoid burns.

Long gloves are superior to potholders and regular oven mitts for several reasons:

  • They provide better protection against heat than any potholders or ordinary mitts I’ve tried.
  • Their silicone surfaces make it easy to grab hot, heavy items without accidentally letting them slip.
  • Their length can help protect adults’ arms from accidental contact with oven racks, as well as extra protection when grilling or draining hot water over the sink.

What about you? What’s your must-have kitchen gadget under $25? Let us know in the comments!

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92 thoughts on “Must-Have Kitchen Gadgets for Busy Parents”

    1. Now that my daughters have their own little ones, they’re always game to help with dinner prep like slicing veggies!

  1. This is an excellent list. I keep planning to buy an immersion blender, may be I should just go ahead and buy it. Thanks for sharing this useful list.

    1. Would you believe that after using ours almost daily for a DECADE, our first one just finally broke? Second one on the way – we can’t live without it!

  2. I find myself saying quite often that I need a mandoline slicer and an immersion blender. I need to just buy them already!

    1. YES! I cannot believe how many years I wasted time with hard-to-use can openers til we got this super-effective one!

    1. I could NEVER use the one I used to own. I’ve had wrist surgery, and the old straight-handled one was too hard/painful for me to use. But the right-angled-handle one is so easy to use, even kids can use it – one of the reasons I love it.

    1. I know people who have them and never use them, so you’re not alone LOL! Me, I use mine almost every time I cook 🙂

    1. They are total game-changers! Makes it safe for even our kids to use the mandolin (not to mention sharp blades in general)

  3. Excellent list! I have many of these and they are great kitchen accessories. I had an immersion blender once and loved it but it broke. I’ll look at the ones you suggest because they look better than the one I had!

    1. The one we have is slightly different than these, but ours isn’t available anymore either – I like how it’s sturdy quality and has the same extra attachments as the ones I showed here. Truly never appreciated this the first few years after my husband bought it (for his own food prep mainly, not as a gift for me) – but the first time I used it, I was sold.

  4. 100% the peeler! These have been a “thing” in Europe for years, I’m amazed it took the US so long to catch on. I also LOVE my immersion blender this time of year for making soups!

    1. We have long had peelers, BUT they have long NOT been good quality. At least in my experience. This one is one of the best I have ever found.

    1. It is such a simple thing that makes a HUGE difference, esp when you’re a crazy mama rushing around trying to keep kids on task with homework WHILE prepping dinner…

    1. Tell me about it! I LOVE that the girls can easily fix themselves an apple for a snack now, without leaving a half-eaten core around the house somewhere!

    1. Have not tried yet, my dear! Some day maybe – but we have a moratorium on buying new larger cooking gadgets right now for lack of storage space. But I KNOW you have that most excellent comparison knock-down review post, for when the time comes that we’re ready to commit 😉

    1. You read it here, folks – Stephanie (who is far more of a domestic goddess than I am) agrees 100% with this list! 🙂

  5. I need the mesh gloves!! I am the butt of jokes in my family because I once cut myself with a dull pocketknife and no one could figure out how I did that! Taking away that risk of cutting myself might make me actually use my mandoline more! Great list!

    1. You’re welcome, Amber! As for kitchen klutziness, I am the EXACT SAME WAY – hence why that glove has been a life- (and finger-)saver! 🙂

    1. So glad you liked the list, Cynthia – hope you get some of these under your Christmas tree if you’re celebrating in a few days! 🙂

  6. Ah I might need to get one of those immersion blenders. I have most the other items. I like the glove idea as well, didn’t know about those. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Great list! To add to it – an Instant Pot! My goodness that has revolutionized my eating habits. I love being able to dump everything in my pot, turn it on, and walk away to do something else, and come back to perfectly cooked food. My husband just got me hooked on silicone tools too, so I’ll be adding the silicone lid to my amazon list.

  8. I could definitely use a corer! And I can definitely attest to needing a good can opener. We were having the hardest time finding a good one and it is seriously so frustrating and such a waste of time. We even tried a few electronic ones, but there are always issues with can sizes or thickness, etc. I much prefer the new, good quality handheld one we finally found! It’s like a whole new cooking experience, lol!

    1. Isn’t it amazing how something like a decent can opener can make all the difference? You will feel the same way about the silicone cover if you get one 🙂

  9. Okay. I need that Mandoline in my life!!! And the glove! Thanks for sharing… I hadn’t heard of those before until your post!

  10. Thanks for taking the time to review these products! I like the mandolin and mesh glove- once I make my gift list, I may come back and use your links to get some items! When did you start getting your kids to chop vegetables and things like that? My daughter is eight and I started having her practice with a butter knife, but I like the idea of getting her the mesh glove!

    1. So glad you liked the list, Taylor, and sorry for taking awhile to reply to the comments – last week got away from me somehow! I started letting my kiddos use butter knives for food prep around 3 (over my husband’s objections), and at the table at 4 – they graduated to sharp knives at table at, I think, 6 and 4 (the older one is not as good at fine motor skills as the younger, hence the age difference/letting them start at the same time). We still don’t let them do a ton of food prep with sharp knives per se, but they use the peelers and corer a LOT, the mandoline/glove a fair bit, and are using sharp knives on their own more and more now – with that, the concern is less the knife than whatever they’re trying to cut being too slippery/hard to hold with their little hands 🙂

    1. So glad you liked the post, Hannah! And yes, the glove is a must for use w/the mandoline – my kids LOVE using mine but I don’t let them near it unless they have the glove on, too!

    1. So glad you agree, Terri – you are definitely someone who should know, with all the fabulous things you crank out in your kitchen! I am totally surprised by how much of a convert I’ve become to the immersion blender since that first desperate night I gave it a whirl! 🙂

  11. I so need all of these items in my kitchen asap! Our mitts are so old and now burn us! Putting these on my list this Christmas!

  12. This is such a great list of kitchen gadgets! I’m interested in checking out the immersion blender because I’ve tried a couple of different ones in the past and the didn’t work like I expected.

    1. Hmm – did you get one with all the different attachments? I think ours actually gets used the most for the mini-mincer bowl – so nice for quickly chopping up herbs, garlic, etc. 🙂

    1. Honestly, many of them either I or my hubby was using before we got married/became parents – you should def give them a try! 😉

  13. I think I need to check out those silicon lids! I love when kitchen gadgets can be used for more than one thing. Oh, and the kitchen scale is something I LOVE! I use it in the kitchen a lot, but I also use it for some of my kids’ science experiments, and one of my favorite uses – use it to weigh mail, so I can print off shipping labels at home! No trips to the post office. 🙂

    1. ME TOO re: the scale – best. use. EVER! Do get some silicone lids (and/or put on your gift list) – they are the best!!!

  14. The metal gloves I might have to try…I love OXO everything! Very high quality. My favorite appliance is the Ninja blender. I use it every day. Wish I could afford a Blend Tek, though!

  15. I have a good amount of these but I need a mesh glove FOR MYSELF! Oh, the blood let in the name of thinly sliced food. I have been meaning to get an immersion blender, I use one at a community kitchen I cook for and it is wonderful. Maybe Santa will bring me one this year! The one thing I would add is a pizza cutter! I use mine for cutting all kinds of things (turkey patties into sticks, cookie dough for biscotti) and for little ones they can be less scary.

    1. Oh, metal gloves are THE BEST! I found one when doing my bridal registry and have never turned back!!! (and my fingers have been grateful for this discovery!) And I have to admit, I’d never thought of some of the uses you outline for a pizza cutter – these are excellent hacks/ideas! My foodie husband ensures that we have lots of quality knives around that stay sharp, but this is still a bit much for the girls sometimes. A pizza cutter would make short work of some of the things they cut when “helping” us or “cooking” for themselves, so will have to suggest this to them! *Thanks*! 🙂

  16. Must admit I don’t own any of those gadgets – and I’m a mumof 5 who cooks from scratch! ? My main faves are wooden spoons for stirring, colander, measuring jug, measuring spoons, whisk, grater, rolling pin. I did have some kitchen scales but they broke & I haven’t replaced them yet – the digital scales you feature in your article are quite tempting though!

    1. I’m so glad you commented, Linda! I guess I considered all of those things that people would already have (at least, I had a lot of them before I had many of these). Wooden spoons are the best! And I admit, I miss my own mama’s old-fashioned scale and managed with a newfangled, less-precise non-digital one for a few years – but my hubby convinced me in short order that digital is much better! (especially when it comes to weighing things and printing postage at home, vs. having to stand in line at the post office – that alone makes it worthwhile for me!)

    1. True! (and confession, several of these items predate my children by quite a few years – others, my dear husband introduced me to after we met 😉 …)

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