While children may feel sad about summer ending, parents feel stress about back to school when it comes to meals. Dinner time can be chaos with parents returning from work, children coming from practice and after-school programs and every one just plain hungry. These five kitchen helpers all get a boost from a smartphone app, connecting to the internet to bring more control to how you plan — and prepare — meals.
Let's be honest, we seriously don't understand how our parents led us astray on these kitchen gadgets. You just toss everything in and it cooks? On its own? Whether you call it a slow cooker, Crock Pot or hot pot (and yes, we get these are a bit different) these one pot cookers are a gift to families, including the WeMo Crock-Pot. You can actually control the slow cooker from your iOS or Android phone — anywhere you are, letting you turn it off, set the pot to warm or even jack uptake temperature because you're going to be home sooner than you thought and you're hungry.
Sous-vide is a way of cooking food by giving it a warm bath. It's not poaching: you're actually encasing the food in a plastic sleeve and then putting it in water. But the entire operation is pretty cool in terms of food chemistry — and extremely helpful in terms of getting dinner on the table. Mellow is a $399 sous-vide device that partners with a smartphone app. You can put your food into the bath, which will keep it refrigerated until it's time to start cooking — so your meal is ready when you want.
We know you're wondering how a trash can helps simplify meals — unless it takes itself out, right? GeniCan's skill is scanning what you're tossing away, so you know what you've used, and what you need to pick up at the market so you're not staring at an empty fridge at 6 pm. You connect the $150 GeniCan to your wireless network, then swipe the barcode of your trash against the reader, and that item goes to your list in the app.
This oven looks like a microwave — but is actually a steam oven. After linking Tovola to Wi-Fi, the steam oven then cooks any of its own pre-packaged meals just by having them scanned in front of its reader. You can also bake and broil and the $299 Tovola has a 180-day free trial. Oh and you can use your own recipes with the device as well. You can operate the oven from your smartphone, or from the controls on its front.
Preparing meals, as we know, can be stressful, but being able to pick your dinner from a garden? For those who live in cities that wasn't really possible. New indoor gardening planters are a big step above those small herbs pots from the grocery store that die within a week. Miracle-Gro's AeroGarden is a counter-top garden that comes in multiple sizes, some that can grow lettuce and even cherry tomatoes. Yes, that means fresh salad is at the ready when there's really nothing in the refrigerator. You can also connect to the smartphone app for reminders and tips on how to get the most from your crops.