Too little time. Too many activities. These are the common complaints of today's working woman. And companies that make everything from faucets to microwaves to pre-cooked pot roasts are listening. This has led to innovations in the design of the kitchen and the introduction of a host of time-saving appliances.
"We are seeing more and more women in our showrooms searching for that certain something - a sink, faucet or appliance that is beautiful and functional. They want to get dinner on the table and get out of the kitchen faster so they can get back to the job of being a family," said Lin Parnell, a showroom consultant at Welker-McKee Supply Company, a plumbing and heating wholesale supplier.
"The sink is really the heart of the kitchen and we have seen steady changes happening in this area for the past few years," said Parnell. She noted that more and more women are selecting undermounted sinks like the MoenStone Granite line. "These sinks no longer have the lip at the counter that catches dirt and crumbs. Now, with the swipe of a sponge, debris is swept into the sink so that the counter can be cleaned faster," she said.
Faucets are changing as well. Pull down faucets, such as the Woodmere from ShowHouse by Moen, are growing in popularity for their looks and functionality. Pull the wand out and fill a vase on the counter, add water to your coffee maker, or even water the plants. Moen's patented pause button allows the user to stop the flow of water as the wand moves from the sink, saving time and allowing tasks to be completed faster.
Instant hot and cold water dispensers are also saving time for busy women. Cook pasta, hot dogs and the perennial kids-favorite macaroni and cheese in less time. The instant hot faucet emits water at near boiling temperatures, eliminating the time it takes to come to a rolling boil on the stove. Puddings and Jello can also be made in less time with the instant chill water feature, cutting down the time it takes to make, jell and refrigerate the desserts. It can be ready in the time it takes to finish dinner.
New cooktops and ranges have been developed that can use halogen light to cook food up to four times faster than a traditional oven. Electronic surfaces can reach full power in three seconds. Some stoves no longer require preheating time, while others can cook two different foods at different temperatures. Imagine cooking the rolls, vegetables and a roast beef all at the same time without moving foods while they are cooking.
Innovations in microwave technology allow many to be pre-programmed with food cooking times. Many people are accustomed to pushing the "popcorn" button for a perfectly popped bag of popcorn. Now, a swipe of the bar code from a frozen entrie is all that is needed for some ovens and the time and temperature are automatically set for that specific product. Or, envision a radio and voice-recorder as part of a microwave oven, allowing you to listen to music, cook dinner and leave to-do messages for members of the family.
Grocers have seen the shift toward meal solutions, prepackaged and self- contained kits that have the fixings to make complete meals. This includes pot roast with potatoes and gravy, taco kits, chicken stir frys and ready-to- heat meatloaf. Many of these products can go from refrigerator to microwave to the table in 30 minutes or less.
Refrigerators have stepped up the pace and can do more things - quicker. Many of today's refrigerators have been built with several new time saving features, including thawing bins, quick chill features and quicker ice-making freezers. The new bin can safely thaw frozen meat during the time that you are at work. No longer will you come home and have the chicken still frozen together, or the hamburger meat frozen rock solid. These refrigerators can also chill a bottle of wine in 17 minutes and a six-pack of beer in 30 minutes, eliminating the need to put them in the freezer, where they are often forgotten. Plus, these freezers have quicker ice refill times and sensors to let them know when ice is getting low so that they can replenish hourly instead of overnight.
A quick cup of coffee before running out the door -- that is the appeal of today's new one-cup coffee brewing systems. Using coffee-pods, similar to tea bags, individuals can brew a fresh cup of coffee in less than a minute. There is no measuring, no filters, no stale coffee, no grounds to clean up and no waste.
"This change in the way we cook and design our kitchens has been coming for years," said Carolyn Weber, building editor, Home Magazine. "Women today have the same work load in the home, but with full-time jobs. These new appliances and kitchen designs are just another way to help women carve out more time to be with their families."