The Best Single-Use Gadgets: A Biased Guide

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It isn’t all about the Swiss army knife, people (so stop saying that, okay?). Sometimes, you just need a great single-use gadget—a tool meant to accomplish one particular task. Below, some favorites, many of which have great money-saving potential. (Many are also food-centric. A comment on single-use gadgets or my psyche? This is for you to decide.)

Ice Cream Maker

Best party pleaser in the book: ice cream personalized to your guests’ taste. Best Friday night: ice cream made to your taste! Ginger/pistachio? Ketchup/hot dog? Go for it. A good ice cream maker will cost you upwards of $50, but two pints of fancy-pants ice cream from a store could run you $17 (seriously, I paid that once), so figure huge savings down the line. If you’re feeling frisky and also really upset that you can’t use your ice cream maker for another purpose, there is this thing, which is some kind of ball you kick around and out of which ice cream subsequently emerges. (Okay, that “gadget” is asking for a double entendre.)


Book Light

If one more person says “e-reader,” I’m gonna throw a punch. The only electronic device you need for reading is a book light. (Not a book lamp, which seems to be interpreted as a lamp made out of a book. Also cool?) Clip your book light onto the pages or cover of your book, snuggle under a quilt, and feel nostalgic for childhood sleepovers. (Sleeping bag not included.) This is practically free fun, people. Tired? No need to get out of bed to hit the switch—simply turn off your book light. Nighty night.


Slow Cooker

Like I said: food-centric. I’d venture that no gadget offers a higher quality-to-effort ratio than a slow cooker. You throw ingredients into it, turn it on, leave for a few hours, and come back to a full meal. (The original Crock-Pot is selling for about $90 right now, but you can get a cheaper knockoff—mine is a Rival, and it works fine.) Crock-Pot’s website offers many recipes and helpful cook time guidelines. Make a big mess of stew on a Sunday and eat it throughout the week to save money, or freeze some for later. Plus, time is money, and a slow cooker will save you hours of cooking every week.


French Press

If you’re a coffee drinker, a French press can help you make the perfect cup of coffee. It’s also crazily easy to use: spoon in your favorite coffee grounds, pour in hot water, let it steep for a few minutes, press, and you’re ready to get caffeinated. Since French presses don’t require filters or electrical outlets, you’ll also save some money over the long run.


Vacuum Sealer

First, there are vacuum sealers you use to squeeze air out of a pile of clothes or other squishables, for packing or storage purposes. Then, there are vacuum sealers used for food—either for airtight storage, or for sous-vide cooking (far beyond my skill level, but which involves dropping said food-baggie into hot water for a while). How many times have you thrown away rotten produce? Keep your food fresher, and save some cash. Plus, no matter how you use your vacuum sealer, you get to pretend you’re a Jetson. Not that the Jetsons used vacuum sealers (did they?) but the whole thing feels kind of cartoon-futurish to me.


Egg Slicer

This is as single-use as single-use gadgets get. Hard-boil an egg, place it in the little round divot of your egg slicer, and lower a handle with metal threads. Voila: egg-circles of even width for salads and sandwiches! And, holy crap, this egg slicer has a face. I’m not going to pretend this one saves you money, but it’s under $10, so I feel okay about that.


Tire Pressure Gauge

If you have a car, a tire pressure gauge is of practical import. Check your tires monthly to make sure you don’t go spiraling off into a ditch somewhere. See this very detailed Consumer Reports guide for help on the type and brand of gauge to buy.


Lint Roller

If you’ve got a pet that sheds, God help you. And by God, I mean a lint roller. Grab the handle, roll it all over your clothes, and it picks up the lint. In fact, even if you don’t have a pet, your clothes could probably stand to be cleaned up—and it does wonders on your furniture, too. (Actually, I use mine on my lampshade, too, to get the dust off. Multiple uses!) Lint rollers cost a few bucks, and is a must-have at the office to get pet hair off your clothes before meeting with people.


Rice Cooker

Yeah, I had to end on a food gadget. You can, of course, cook rice in a pot, but as this amateur cook knows, it’s pretty easy to burn or otherwise screw up. Rice cookers automate the process, which allows for both delicious grains and an unburdened mind. No rice waste here. And, of course, this is the ultimate cheapo’s dinner.


Jessica Gross is a writer based in New York City. She’s contributed to The New York Times Magazine, The Paris Review Daily, Scientific American Mind, and elsewhere.

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26 Comments / Post A Comment

RachelG8489 (#1,297)

Egg slicer: not single-use! It can also make pretty perfect slices of other food items of the same consistency as hard-boiled eggs. I suggest perfectly sliced mushrooms.

TARDIStime (#1,633)

@RachelG8489 Also: avocado.

Kate (#1,408)

Plus the egg slicer has a face! Which is kind of amazing.

norawallis (#999)

Rice cookers are also excellent for steaming veggies! Many come with a pre-fitted basket; you can also buy them easily. Best part: you can steam the vegetables WHILE you cook your rice!

Don’t sleep on Roger Ebert’s rice cooker cookbook. I don’t have one (because cooking rice in a pot is pretty easy) but if I did, I would definitely buy this book, too.

@norawallis I have been making frittata (frittatas? frittatae?) in my rice cooker because my oven is broke–suuuper easy. Not quite as browned as a regular frittata but that’s probably because I put way too much in my weensy little machine and it takes so long to cook.

Megano! (#124)

I do not consider a crock pot single use! Neither is a French Press, as you can also use it to make loose leaf tea!
But, as anyone who watches Good Eats knows, you shouldn’t buy single use kitchen gadgets, they are a waste of money.

@Megano! ALTON!

and yes, a crock pot can be used for a bajillion things. You wouldn’t call a saucepan “single use.”

mangosara (#1,211)

Ooh! I was also just about to write about the French press as teapot. However, I can still add: another way that a crock pot saves you money is that you can cook dried beans in it! One bag of dried beans basically costs the same as one or two cans of cooked beans. You can freeze them and then they are READY TO USE.

iffie (#1,911)

@mangosara Beans cost what … $1/can?

ennaenirehtac (#199)

@iffie Dried beans are much cheaper than canned beans. Like $1/lb.

bibliostitute (#285)

@iffie also some of us live in countries where dried beans run something like $.50/lb and canned are $3: so, it is a real thing.

Stina (#686)

Other benefits of the French Press: Drip coffeemakers don’t make the coffee strong enough. Espresso/cappuccino makers sometimes make a stronger brew but are a)freaking expensive and/or b)break way too fast.

oiseau (#1,830)

No, no, no, THIS is the best single use coffee maker. I love my little Bialetti moka. I look forward to drinking of its nectar each morning. It brings light (and a really strong caffeine buzz) into my life and I LOVE IT. It is easy to clean, you just fill up the bottom with water and the middle with grounds, put it on a low burner while you do other getting-ready things, and then you hear a little bubbling… a rich aroma… and VOILA it’s ready for you to drink.

@oiseau oh, it’s so cute, too.

thatgirl (#1,965)

When I moved, I left my rice cooker with my old roommates.

I haven’t made rice since. I think I’m going to invest in a nice simple one if I am under budget at the end of the month, because that is a Responsible Use Of Money.

Sass (#1,248)

@thatgirl Try this one – I have it and it is AMAZING. Brown rice, and all I have to do is dump in rice and water? YES PLEASE. It also has a timer, which is a sweet option I have yet to try.

You want to talk single-use? LET’S TALK SINGLE-USE. This is a container just for bananas.

JessicaGross (#2,367)

@Anna Jayne@twitter That is amazing.

I have one of these (from a different brand, but it’s the same thing) that I got as a gift. It is the most useless one-use kitchen item because it can only be used for one thing that you only consume for about a season and a half and even then not every day. But it makes the hot chocolate so fluffy and the mechanism is so much fun to use!

alinny (#2,366)

Kyocera ginger grater — greatest single use gadget of all time. Ginger is really hard to grate!

Tefal makes a combo rice cooker/slow cooker/steamer which is probably the best idea ever on the planet. I have one but the slow cooker function is now broken (it’s old and I dropped it once because I store it above head height and I’m a klutz), so I’ve wanted to buy a replacement FOREVER. I will eventually. So: not single use! And when I manage to get a new one, I’ll just keep it on the counter so it never breaks and use it ALWAYS.

shannowhamo (#845)

On first glance, I thought this said “The Best Single-Use Gadgets: A Based God” which seemed like a really random Lil B reference!

hollysh (#2,108)

Even better than a book light? A head lamp! And it’s multi-use! My dad has a small business that imports flashlights to the U.S. (mainly for outdoors and hunting companies) so we’ve always had piles of flashlights of various types in our house. I find the headlamp to be better because it doesn’t actually mess with the pages of your book, whereas with a book light you often have to take it off of the book and put it back on when you want to turn the page if you are at the beginning or end of the book. Also, camping. Also, power outages. The cult of the headlamp lives strong in my family. Headlamps forever!

ennaenirehtac (#199)

Totally agree about the rice cooker and French press, but for me book lights and lint rollers are “single use” in the “buy, use once, then store in drawer for the rest of my life” sense of the phrase.

sony_b (#225)

Immersion blender – creamy soups, homemade mayo in under two minutes, superfast pesto, minimal cleanup. I kill mine every couple of years and purchase a new one within 24 hours.

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