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By Grace Ling and Meaghan Sutherland

slowcookerHere is a scene you may know well: you’ve come home late after a long day, peeled off your heavy winter layers, and now you’re trying to come up with an answer to, “What’s for dinner?!”

We know that homemade meals are better for our health and our budget. But, when we are tired and hungry, cooking from scratch is not so appealing. Wouldn’t it be easier to just order takeout from the place down the street? Enter the slow cooker. It has been quietly working away while you’ve been gone, and now a hot and flavorful stew, soup, or chili is ready as soon as you walk in the door.

Slow cookers save time

Slow cookers are – you guessed it – slow. They use a low heat and need about 8 hours to turn ingredients into a mouth-watering meal. This means you can simply turn the slow cooker on in the morning and go about your day. The only work you need to do is get the ingredients ready, which usually means chopping veggies and measuring out spices. Place in a covered bowl or food storage container and refrigerate overnight. The next morning, add your ingredients to the slow cooker, turn it on, and look forward to your tasty dinner at the end of the day!

Slow cookers save money

Planning ahead to get your slow cooker started in the morning can be a game changer for your bank account, especially if you eat meals out often. Even relatively cheap takeout for two can cost $20 or more, and that adds up quickly over time.

Ok, I’m sold! How do I get started?

When starting out, there is no need to invest in the slow cooker with all the bells and whistles. The simplest model will still get the job done. Here are some things to keep in mind.

  1. Size
  • Size ranges from 2 quarts to 8 quarts.
  • 4-6 quarts is best for a family of 4.
  • Larger slow cookers let you double recipes for leftovers.
  1. Programmable or manual?
  • Programmable models automatically time the cooking process and switch to a lower temperature once the time is up. This prevents overcooking if you are running late or do not want to keep track of the cooking time.
  • Manual slow cookers require you to change the slow cooker settings yourself, but they are less expensive.
  1. Price
  • Depending on the size and features you want, prices range from $20 to $100
  • Check with friends and family – someone may have recently upgraded their slow cooker and have an older one to give away.

Ready to get started? Try one of these great recipes:

Turkey Chili

Vegetable Lentil Stew

Slow-cooker Hamburger Stew

Grace Ling is a Dietetic Intern with Tufts Medical Center

Written By:

Nutrition Education Specialist for the Massachusetts WIC Program

Nutrition Education Specialist for the Massachusetts WIC Program

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