You’ve had a long day at work. Or you've been on your feet chasing your tot for hours. Or maybe you’re knackered from tackling that huge load of laundry.
However you spend your day, the last thing you want is to toil in a hot kitchen for hours making dinner… not like your screaming toddler will allow you to anyway. But because you’re determined to whip up nutritious meals your finicky feeder will actually eat, you press on.
Scroll through the buyer's guide below to find some time-tested kitchen appliances that parents count on to help them accelerate meal prep.
EUROPACE ELECTRIC LUNCH BOX WITH VACUUM PUMP, S$59.90
Where to buy: EuropAce
What it is: This two-tiered, electric lunchbox consists of a stainless-steel rice bowl, a dish plate and a steaming bowl, so you can steam at least two different dishes. After steaming, use the vacuum pump to remove the air, so that food will stay fresh longer. The automatic cut-off function also prevents food from burning.
Parents say: The lightweight lunchbox is handy to take to work. But it is also large enough to hold food for two or three people. The three tiers mean that you can prepare rice, plus two other dishes - as Ms Priscilla Chua does for her daughter while she is at work.
“I'll place the prepped meat and vegetables, and uncooked rice into the lunch box about half an hour before I knock off work. As the food cooks in 20 minutes, it is ready to eat by the time I pick up my daughter."
THERMOMIX TM5, S$2,320
Where to buy: Thermomix Singapore
What it is: This German-made kitchen machine does everything: Cooking, mixing, steaming, chopping, blending, stirring, kneading and emulsifying. It even has a built-in electronic scale to measure your ingredients.
Get recipes from its website - all you have to do is throw in the ingredients for a specific recipe, programme it and you’re set. Use it to cook anything, from cakes to soups and salads. The downside: The mixing bowl only holds 2 litres.
Parents say: This gadget may have a hefty price tag but because it can do so many things, it can replace your other appliances - which also means it can save you a whole lot of washing to do. “I love baking, so this was really fun to play with. I can make a mean chocolate cake, or even ciabatta with it easily,” says Ms Theresa Chew, a mum of two.
WMF PERFECT PRO PRESSURE COOKER, S$459
Where to buy: Lazada
What it is: This pot uses extreme pressure and high temperatures to cut your cooking time by up to 70 per cent, while halving the electrical energy needed. You use the all-in-one control knob to pre-select a cooking level, release the steam, and even to open or close the appliance. It can hold 6.5 litres - a scale on the inside makes measuring amounts easier.
Parents say: The WMF Perfect Pro looks great in your kitchen and is easy to clean, thanks to the removable handle that you can easily run under the tap.
Says Ms Serena Tan, a mum of one: “I love this pressure cooker. My son loves Chinese soups. Thanks to this, I can serve it at least three times a week. It only takes about half an hour of cooking to get a really tasty and nutritious soup.”
TEFAL FOOD STEAMER, S$99
Where to buy: Courts
What it is: The steaming starts in just 15 seconds, and it has an external pull-out drawer for you to top up the water. The easy-to-use timer ensures that you don’t overcook your food.
Parents say: This value-for-money steamer is compact and efficient. The three tiers let you easily prepare a healthy and nutritious meal by steaming rice in one tier, veggies in another, and meat or fish in the third. Ms Ho uses it to prepare purees for her eight-month-old baby.
“I steam a different type of fruit or vegetables in each tier, then use a hand blender to blend them all into purees which I then freeze. It’s faster than using a steam-blender for baby food,” she said.
TIGER 3.0 LITER THERMAL MAGIC COOKER, S$299
Where to buy: Momorice
What it is: Save time and electricity with this thermal cooker. Bring your soup or stew to a boil in the inner pot for around 15 to 20 minutes, place it in the heat-retaining container, and set it aside - the food will continue cooking in the latent heat. The pot is able to retain a temperature of about 62 degrees Celsius for six hours.
Parents say: This pot is great for soups, stews and sauces (like bolognese, for instance). Place the boiling food into the pot in the morning, and you’ll have a nice, hot meal ready for you at lunchtime. Unlike a slow cooker, it saves on energy and your utility bills.
TAKAHI POT 2404 ELECTRIC CROCKERY POT 3.5L, S$68
Where to buy: Lazada
What it is: This pot is a great addition to any kitchen, especially if you love soups and stews with tender, fall-off-the-bone meat. The glass lid lets you peek into the stoneware inner pot. Choose from three settings: Low, high or auto-shift.
Parents say: As it takes almost two hours to bring liquids to a boil, it uses far more electricity than a thermal cooker. However, some parents feel that the longer cooking duration gives soups and stews a richer and more robust flavour than a thermal cooker. The auto-shift function is great too, as you can let your food cook overnight without worrying about food boiling over.
PHILIPS AVANCE COLLECTION AIRFRYER XL, S$439
Where to buy: Philips
What it is: You’ll love this digital air fryer if you like fried food without the excess oil. The digital touch-screen controls the adjustable temperature up to 390 degrees Celsius, while the patented rapid air technology lets you fry up fries and chicken wings with far less oil. Dishwasher safe, it comes in black or white.
Parents say: Besides the health benefits, air frying also results in a less greasy kitchen. Some foods may require you to spray a small amount of oil, but it’s still far healthier than deep frying. This is a larger version of the earlier models, so it would probably suit larger families.
PHILIPS VIVA COLLECTION FOOD PROCESSOR, S$169
Where to buy: Philips
What it is: Food preparation is a breeze with this all-round food processor. The powerful dual-speed motor and pulse function let you do everything from blending purees to whipping cream, and kneading pastry and bread dough.
A stainless-steel chopping knife lets you prepare meat and vegetables. And thanks to the various disc inserts, you can also shred and grate fruits and vegetables - and even grind beans and nuts with the chopper mill.
Parents say: If you feel that chopping and slicing are the most arduous part of meal prep, this food processor is for you. Though it’s pricey compared to a manual food processor, its versatility makes it worth the price.
“With two young kids, there’s no way I have the time to chop raw ingredients like onions and garlic. With this, I can do it even while carrying the baby,” says Ms Ho Li Ying, a mother of two.
This article first appeared in Smart Parents.