It’s been another long day at work, and you’ve come home tired and hungry. The rest of your family is feeling the same way. Everyone is ready to eat something delicious.
Fortunately, a hot dinner is ready and waiting in the slow cooker, which has been gently simmering away all day. Instead of stressing about what to make or spending time prepping and cooking ingredients, all of you quickly sit down to eat and spend time together.
Many people have a slow cooker languishing in the back of a kitchen cabinet. But this humble little appliance deserves to be brought out and dusted off. But they’re not just convenient. There are several ways slow cookers can help you save money on meals and give you more time with your family in addition to helping you create diverse, healthy, and flavorful meals.
Why You Should Get a Slow Cooker to Save Time & Money
1. It Helps You Avoid Takeout
Having a hot, cooked meal waiting at home means you don’t have to cave to the temptation to get takeout. You can serve your family a healthy dinner for much less than you’d spend eating out and have plenty of leftovers for the next day or two — or longer if you learn to freeze and reheat leftovers safely.
2. It Makes Low-Cost Meals
Slow cooker meals are well known for being frugal because they often rely on beans and less expensive cuts of meat, such as chuck or roasts, for flavor and depth. Because of the long cooking time, these ingredients are tender and well cooked by the end of the day.
You can stretch your meat purchases into more meals with a slow cooker. For example, 1 pound of ground meat typically serves four people. However, when you use it to make chili in the slow cooker, you can feed eight people one meal or four people two meals.
You can also save money by purchasing more substantial cuts of meat. Large portions of meat are often cheaper per pound than smaller cuts. The slow cooker can cook these larger pieces of meat without the risk of drying out. The low, slow cook time also lessens the chances food gets burned, forcing you to throw it out.
3. It Makes Homemade Stock
You can use your slow cooker to make homemade chicken, beef, or vegetable stock instead of buying it at the store.
Homemade stock is easy to make using foods you’d typically throw away. For example, freeze leftover bones from a roast chicken to use later in stock. Vegetable scraps such as onion skins, carrot tops, and celery leaves can also be collected, stored in the freezer, and then used to make stock.
Not only does making homemade stock save money, but it also helps you cut down on food waste and get more use out of the food you buy or grow.
4. It Streamlines Meals
A slow cooker is an excellent tool when you’re busy or need more flexibility when it comes to dinner preparation or cook time.
For example, you can chop vegetables and assemble the meal the night before. The next morning you can throw it all into the slow cooker and let it cook on low all day. Most slow cookers also have programmable settings, which you can use for greater flexibility when it comes to timing your meal.
Coming home to a meal that’s already cooked feels terrific, and it saves a significant amount of time in the evening. Instead of chopping and cooking when you get home, you can instead spend that time with your family or relax.
You can also assemble and prep all ingredients at night and start the slow cooker when you go to bed. In the morning, you can either spoon the food into a thermos for lunch or take the pot out and transfer the food to a glass or plastic container and let it air cool while you get ready for the day. Once it’s cooled down (not more than two hours for safety purposes), put it in the refrigerator and reheat it at dinnertime.
5. It Speeds Up Breakfast
The slow cooker can also simplify your breakfast routine and help you get out the door faster.
You can assemble breakfast casseroles, huevos rancheros, oatmeal, breads, and breakfast tacos the night before and cook them in the slow cooker while you sleep. When you wake up, your family has a hot and healthy breakfast waiting.
6. It Reduces Cleanup Time
Cooking a meal in a slow cooker involves one pot, which makes dinner cleanup quick and easy.
You can also buy liners for your slow cooker to make it even faster. Put the liner in before you add your ingredients, and then throw it away once you’ve eaten and transferred leftovers to the refrigerator. Then, all you have to do is wipe down the pot with a wet rag.
Find disposable slow cooker liners in your grocery store near the plastic zip-close bags or on Amazon.
7. It Uses Less Energy
Slow cookers are an energy-efficient way to cook because they use a fraction of the energy of a gas or electric oven.
Every slow cooker model is a bit different in the amount of energy it uses. However, the EPA says many modern slow cookers use 200 watts per hour on the low setting These 200 watts equal 0.2 kilowatt-hours (kWh), which is how your electric company bills for energy consumption.
That means if your electric company charges 12 cents per kWh, which is the national average, the slow cooker costs 2 cents per hour in electricity.
Now let’s compare that to an electric range. Power consumption for ranges varies greatly. Small burners pull around 1,200 watts per hour, while large burners can use up to 3,000 watts per hour or more. If we use the lower estimate of 1,500 watts per hour, a burner on your stove costs 18 cents per hour to use, significantly more than the slow cooker.
8. It’s Easy to Use
The beauty of the slow cooker is that anyone can use it, regardless of their cooking experience. Novice cooks can easily prepare tender beef stew, while more experienced cooks can use the slow cooker to create more elaborate meals. It opens up the world of home cooking in a nonthreatening way, and it can help boost confidence in people who think they can’t cook.
This confidence means you’re less likely to head to a restaurant or buy expensive premade meals because you don’t know what to cook or how to cook it.
Slow cookers help take the pressure and stress out of cooking because they’re so easy to use. With just a bit of planning, you can have a hot meal ready and waiting for you at the end of the day.
The trick to using the slow cooker successfully is to find some great slow cooker recipes that your family loves and keep those on rotation during times when you need some easy, delicious meals. It can help to have a book of slow cooker recipes, such as “Fix-It and Forget-It” by Phyllis Good or “The Complete Slow Cooker” by America’s Test Kitchen.