As much as I love preparing healthy, home-cooked meals for my family, I hate spending hours in the kitchen. Fortunately, kitchen gadgets that simplify and streamline the cooking process are easy to find these days, and these special tools can be a smart investment for busy parents.

What should you have in your kitchen? Here are a few of my favorites.

An immersion blender

Sometimes called a wand or stick blender, this handy gadget is especially helpful if you make a lot of soups or sauces. You can use an immersion blender to puree ingredients in the container they are already in (like right in the pot on the stove) instead of needing to transfer them.

It's also a great tool to use when you want to add undetected extra veggies to family favorites like spaghetti sauce.

A slow cooker

A slow cooker is more of an appliance than a gadget, but the ease with which it allows you to prepare meals earns it a spot on this list. Every kitchen needs a slow cooker, especially in a house where needy kids make it so darn hard to prepare a simple meal.

An egg white separator

I'm actually pretty proud of my ability to separate an egg without using a fancy gadget, but it's always nice to eliminate the margin for error. And egg separators are cheap, so it never hurts to have one in your kitchen drawer.

A single serve blender

You probably need a full-size blender too, but those single serve blenders — especially the ones where the cup lifts right off the base and turns into breakfast on the go — are almost guaranteed to simplify your life. With this neat gadget, a smoothie becomes an instant grab-and-go breakfast for any family member who needs it.

A food chopper

Slicing and dicing veggies can be tedious work, but it's a pain to bring out the food processor every time you need a small batch chopped. The solution? A food chopper. Try one like this Ninja Express Chopper and you'll never chop with a knife again.

A hand grater

With a hand grater, you can grate fresh herbs into your stews and fresh spices (think nutmeg) into your baked goods. You can zest citrus fruits. You can easily turn zucchini into zucchini bread. A hand grater might seem like a kitchen tool you can do without, but I'm constantly amazed by how frequently I find myself using mine.

A digital timer

Maybe your stove already has a timer, but when you're preparing multiple dishes at once an extra one can be a lifesaver. Kids can be a big distraction in the kitchen, so stop trying to keep track of everything in your head and embrace the peace of mind that a digital timer can offer.

Poach Pods

Poach Pods are hardly a kitchen must-have, but if you enjoy poached eggs and struggle to make them, they're a helpful gadget to keep on hand. Eggs are a highly nutritious, quick and easy meal, and it's always nice to have multiple ways to prepare them.

What are your favorite gadgets to use in the kitchen? Which ones make your life easier?