What if I told you that I have a special Recession Fighting Machine and that it cost me less than $30? In fact, you can probably find one at a local thrift store for a lot less than that, or the odds are pretty good that you may already have one hidden away in your kitchen cupboard.
If the status-appliance of the last decade was a $10,000 Viking gas range, then the good old-fashioned Crock-Pot AKA "slow cooker" is the kitchen appliance du jour for today's tight economy.
My mom still has and recently drafted back into active duty the avocado green one with the funky paisley designs from which I fondly remember her serving up a myriad of lentil concoctions in the 1970s. I guess those were relatively lean times too, at least for our family, but I'd be hard-pressed to name a time in my life when I was any happier. Maybe I'm just waxing nostalgic, but that Crock-Pot is no small part of the slow-cooked memories from that simpler time in my life that I still cherish to this day.
Crock-Pots, particularly today's models, are energy-sippers compared to most other cooking methods like a traditional oven, stovetop, or toaster oven. Slow cookers use just 100 watts of electricity, which means that if you use it once a week for eight hours at a time, it'll only cost you about TWENTY CENTS a month in electricity! (See 7 More Easy Energy Savers for the Home.)
Save on Groceries
Slow cooking is the key to transforming inexpensive, sometimes tough cuts of meat into tender, fall-off-the-fork morsels. Chances are that the least expensive cuts of meat in your butcher's case are perfect for the Crock-Pot. And of course Crock-Pots are perfect for cooking beans and other legumes, among the healthiest and least expensive foods you can eat. Check out the 1,400 slow cooker recipes at southernfood.about.com. (Also see my tips for saving 25% on food bills by eliminating waste.)
Slow cooking is even faster than fast food! Most Crock-Pot recipes involve only a few minutes of prep time maybe chopping up a few veggies, stirring together some basic ingredients, and then turning on the slow cooker and forgetting about it. Forgetting about it, that is, until you return home after a hard day's work and you're greeted by that heavenly aroma of a home-cooked meal ready for the table.
Save on Dining Out
While you can cook smaller portions in a Crock-Pot, most of today's models hold anywhere from four to eight quarts. Cook a full pot, and even for a large family you're likely to have more than one meal's worth of a dish. Freeze the leftovers or serve them again later in the week, or package them in small containers for lunches.
Save Your Health
Because very few Crock-Pot recipes call for adding extra oil or using grease, most slow cooking dishes are relatively low in fat. Professional health writers Chet and Josh Day share some particularly healthy and delectable slow cooking recipes. (Cooking up your own concoction? Start with these superfoods.)
Save Your Sanity
There's no denying that these are stressful economic times for most Americans. Rarely has comfort food been so essential. We may not be able to afford the kind of luxuries you buy with money, but maybe we afford something even more valuable: the luxury of slowing down and enjoying a delicious slow-cooked meal with family and friends. As my mom always says, "The only thing more important than what's on the table is who's sitting around it."
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