Save Time and Money with a Slow Cooker

Slow cookers, or “crock pots,” were extremely popular in the 1970s and 1980s. They fell a little out of use in many households after that, but with tough economic times causing financial hardship everywhere, people are constantly looking for ways to save. A slow cooker is a great tool for saving time and money.

It saves money in two ways. Slow cookers use far less electricity than ovens do, even though they require anywhere from four to eight hours to cook anything. The second is that slow cooking recipes are often the same recipes recommended when trying to stretch a food budget. The time savings come in cutting out the part of cooking that requires standing over a stove or frequently checking the contents of an oven.

Traditional crock pot recipes are soups, chili and pot roasts, but many recipes can be adapted for them. They are even usable for making desserts. Roast chicken or Cornish game hens, for instance, come out of a slow cooker just as well as they come out of an oven. Vegetables also roast well in them, and they are great for making big batches of pasta sauce.

To cook vegetables, simply put them in whole or chop them as needed for different recipes. It is possible to toss meats in raw, but giving them a bit of a sear in a skillet first helps them retain flavor while giving them a nice texture. Use very little water when using a crock pot to roast meat and vegetables or they will wind up quite rubbery. Though piecrusts do not cook properly in a slow cooker, savory pies such as shepherd’s pie cook really well, including the slight crisp on the potato peaks.

Not all desserts can be cooked in a slow cooker. Fruit pies have the same crust problem as meat pies, but cobblers and apple crisp recipes do very well in a crock pot. Some people also have success with cake recipes, and the shape of some slow cookers provide a way to make interesting cakes without all the tedious building.

Preparation takes only a few minutes for most recipes. Prep the night before or first thing before work and put everything into the slow cooker. Slow cooking recipes take all day to cook, so they are ready when the long work or school day is done.