I’ve been sucked in by more than one gee-whiz gadget or appliance in my day.
I tried to live the bread-maker lifestyle for years. There was a time when my panini-maker enjoyed regular workouts. And my “baby” is 12 now, but if I could look back at our baby registry, and our wedding registry years before that, I’m sure I’d laugh at what we considered want-worthy.
The truth is that we don’t need a large percentage of the products being hawked to us every day. Big companies are adept at convincing us that their products will improve our lives.
There are some indestructible products that are worth their price. But the products here are ones you can easily do without, either because you already own something that can serve the same purpose or because they are simply unnecessary to begin with.
1. Banana slicer
You don’t need a banana slicer. Even the dullest knife can slice a banana into tasty little rounds.
Instead, take some time out to read the hilarious reviews of banana slicers on Amazon, because they boast plenty of humorous a-peel.
“Ordering one for my nephew who’s in the Air Force in California,” wrote one reviewer. “He’s been using an old slinky to slice his bananas.”
2. Baby wipe warmer
When I was pregnant, my husband and I lived 1,500 miles away from my family and 1,000 miles away from his.
I had no clue what baby products I’d use and which were a waste of cash. But I never bought a baby-wipe warmer, and I never regretted it.
Yes, you need baby wipes, and you’ll go through plenty. But the wipes don’t come out of the container frozen! If you don’t store your baby wipes in an unheated garage, the temperature should be just fine, even on the baby’s delicate skin.
3. Panini press
I love paninis — pressed toasted sandwiches — from simple ham and cheese to corned-beef Reubens to apple-and-Brie mixes. But I hate storing and cleaning my panini maker.
You can make a pressed sandwich in a frying pan easily. I place anything flat and somewhat heavy — a dinner plate, or the ceramic tile I use as a spoon rest — on top of the sandwich as it cooks. Much easier to clean and put away.
Wondering what other appliances you can easily do without? Check out “7 Small Appliances You Don’t Need — and What to Use Instead.”
4. Avocado slicer
Perhaps you’ve seen the stories about how “avocado hand” is a common injury, caused when people try to cut through an avocado and somehow slice their own hand in the process. So, it makes sense that someone invented the avocado slicer.
These devices differ in design, but usually have a sharp blade to cut into the avocado, and a rounded section to remove the pit.
But I’ve been cutting avocados for years and never drew blood. Simply set the avocado on a cutting board or towel — don’t hold it in your palm — and slice it with a knife. Then whip up some delicious fresh guacamole.
5. Passport holder
I’ve traveled to a variety of countries, from Japan to Iceland, and have never, ever needed a passport holder.
The cover on my passport is sturdy all on its own. When I pop my passport into a purse or carefully watched tote, it doesn’t get wrinkled, bent or lost.
I also happen to think that the travel-document holders that people wear around their necks look pretty dorky, but that’s a personal preference.
6. Stand-alone GPS
My sister Anne was the first person I ever knew to have a stand-alone global-positioning system. She and her husband nicknamed it “Alice.” When we traveled together, she would carefully set it up on her dashboard, we would punch in an address and ask “Alice” to help us find our way.
Alice has long been retired. My sister, like many of us, has a car with a built-in GPS. She also has a smartphone that not only capably offers directions, but can send them to a smartwatch that gently vibrates on your wrist as a turn approaches.
7. Shoes for newborns
There’s a famously tear-jerking story just six words long: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”
That tale works because our mind immediately assumes the mysterious baby never lived long enough to wear shoes, and, yes, it tears me up, too.
But then I snap back and think, maybe the person just bought baby shoes and their kid outgrew them when they were still too little to walk. Because the fact remains: Baby shoes are mostly for parents to coo over and capture forever in cute family photos. Babies are happy in socks or bare feet until they’re toddlers.
8. Crib bumpers
I can still picture our crib-bedding set, decked out with purple butterflies. But I never bothered to use the crib bumpers that came with it. Crib bumpers are simply soft fabric pads that tie to crib slats, supposedly to protect babies from banging themselves or getting stuck between the slats.
But listen to this: The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends against crib bumpers:
“There is a clear risk of injury or death associated with padded crib bumpers.”
Safety first, especially in the nursery.
My sister-in-law gave us a juicer for our wedding. I remember being really touched by her choice of gift. It seemed to speak to an inspiring lifestyle that a newly married couple should seek out, making our own healthy, fresh juices. No more Tropicana for us.
But we used it fewer than 10 times. Cleaning the different parts was a headache — and all for a small amount of juice I could make with a citrus reamer or squeezer. I appreciate the healthy image she apparently had of us, and I still strive to live that way — just with smaller kitchen accessories.
10. Pizza scissors
Confession: Sometimes I do cut homemade pizza with scissors.
I love fresh mozzarella on pizza, and the slippy, gooey cheese and toppings sometimes slide off when I use a pizza cutter.
Now you can buy specially marketed pizza scissors, some even with extra-long blades and a sort of built-in spatula base. But, no matter how you slice it, I can’t justify buying a pair of scissors that’s useful only on pizza. I can use a regular pair of kitchen scissors.
11. Barbecue claws
Barbecue claws (or meat claws) look kind of like props from the movie “Wolverine.” They’re meant for shredding barbecued meat or to lift a big chunk off the grill.
As tempted as I am to get to pretend I’m a wild animal, I can use regular forks for this, thank you.
12. Biscuit cutter
Few things are better with breakfast than a flaky, fresh-out-of-the-oven biscuit, dripping with butter and honey.
Although I’ve purchased simple round biscuit cutters in the past, they’re far from necessary. Flatten out that homemade dough, flour the rim of a thin-rimmed drinking glass and punch out the biscuits. You’re on a roll.
13. Hamburger patty mold
Unless you run a White Castle or a McDonald’s out of your kitchen, you probably don’t need a burger mold any more than you do a biscuit cutter.
Just eyeball the burger bun you plan to use and make a circle of meat somewhat larger than the bun (because the meat will shrink during cooking). If you want, save a right-sized lid from a peanut-butter or other jar, and you’ve got a burger mold for free.
14. Herb stripper
I really, really wanted my herb stripper to work. It’s a plastic leaf-shaped gadget with a variety of different-shaped holes in it. You find the hole that fits your herb, slide the branch through, and let the plastic strip off the tasty leaves.
Sounds great, but I’m way too impatient to do this. Just using my fingers to pick or strip off the rosemary or thyme leaves is simple and fast.
15. Post-it Note holder
I’m from Minnesota, home of the 3M Co., where Post-it Notes were invented.
I proudly support my home-state product, with pads of Post-its in my kitchen drawers, roll-top desk, coffee table drawers and probably more places I can’t even remember. But the pads are self-contained. I’ve never once wished I had a special holder for storing them.
16. Bread machine
I still own a bread machine and a few bread-machine cookbooks. But, much as I love a fresh-baked loaf of sourdough, I’ve never taken to using the machine.
I don’t mind kneading bread — it’s kind of soothing, actually, to feel the dough transform from sticky and lumpy to glossy and smooth right under my fingertips.
And if I bake it in the machine, the bread comes out with awkward holes in the bottom of the loaf, created by the appliance’s paddle. I haven’t given away my bread maker yet, but can see a day when it might be toast.
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