Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Slow Cooking to Save Money

Discover How One Kitchen Appliance Saved My Family $400 Per Month
By:Leah T.

When I went back to work after my 3rd child went into kindergarten, I was more than eager to get back into the work force after a 10 year absence.  The days flew by but I worked at least until 6:30 pm.  By the time I picked up my kids from after school care, I was exhausted. I was really too tired to go home and cook and besides I worked all day and deserved a little break, right?

So, I began to start picking up dinner to-go at least one night per week to make things easier for us.  I enjoyed having everything already cooked for me so much, that one night per week of eating out became two, and then three, until it was pretty much every weeknight we ate out or brought take-out food home.  My husband enjoyed it too because he didn't have to wait long for me to cook a meal when he arrived home from work.

It wasn't until things were really tight for us financially one year,  and after going over our monthly expenses one night, did my husband and I really grasp at how much we were spending a month on take-out food.  We were spending about $600 each month just by ordering take-out food 4 to 5 days per week to feed our family of five!

It was then when we both realized that this spending must stop.  I needed to start cooking more meals at home. I was determined to find a simple and fast way to do it.  I then remembered a cookbook my friend gave me a long time ago that just featured slow cooker recipes.  I remembered going to her house smelling the wonderful aroma of Chicken Noodle Soup simmering away  in the middle of the afternoon.  

So that night, I brought my Crock Pot down from the pantry shelf and decided that I would prepare at least two meals per week and get the recipes from this cookbook. The other two nights of the week, I'd prepare simple meals when I got home, and then Friday night would be our pizza night.

I found the recipes were so simple and easy to follow, and my family loved the dinners that I was making.  I found that preparing dinner in the slow cooker was a breeze.  I loved the feeling of knowing when I arrived home from work, my dinner was cooked and ready for my hungry family.  I loved slow cooking so much, that I sometimes used it three nights per week.

It did take a small amount of preparation on some recipes, like chopping the vegetables or trimming the fat off the meat, but I did all of the small prep work the night before while my kids sat at the kitchen table doing homework.  It was such a good feeling knowing that I was providing a great home-cooked meal to my family.  It was also a good feeling knowing that we were saving about $400 per month by not eating take-out food every weeknight.

Oh, and besides the money you will save, the healthy meals may cause you to shed a few pounds by not eating out  as much.  After 7 months of not eating restaurant food four nights per week, and not doing anything else different in my diet, I shed 12 pounds!

Besides the two great reasons I mentioned above for using a slow cooker, here are some more good reasons to begin slow cooking your dinners at least 2-3 times a week:

More Reasons I Love Using A Slow Cooker:

Time Saver: As mentioned previously, they are great for working moms and dads. Prepare, go to work and dinner is cooked by the time you arrive home.
  Overcoming Overcooking: On a low setting, you won't  need to worry about overcooking and burning your food for up to one hour after the desired cooking time is done.
  Less  Dishes=Less Cleanup:  Rather than the usual pots and pans used in a typical dinner, the slow cooker is usually the only one you'll need to cook your meal in making clean-up a breeze.
  Perfect Party Guest: They are great for buffets and parties because it'll keep your food warm for hours.
  Cool Kitchen: Does not heat up your kitchen like an oven does so you can use it all year round, even during those hot  summer months.
  Energy Efficient:  They are cheaper and more efficient to run than using your oven, grill and stove.  Using it saves energy because at it's lowest setting (200 degrees) it uses less energy than some light bulbs do. It stays warm using less energy because you have a warmer that is heating a clay pot.  Clay holds and stores heat for a longer period of time.
  Reduced Fat Cooking:  You'll find that the slow cooker can help you make lower-fat meals because you won't be needing to saute or stir fry with oil and butter.
  Cost Efficient:  Vegetables are really inexpensive, and so are rice, pasta, and beans which are some of the key ingredients in a lot of meals.  Also, the meats that you are using for slow cooking are the less expensive varieties like chuck coast and chicken.  These meats come out so fork-tender, you'll be amazed at the flavors from the juices.
  Variety: You can cook so many different types of meals in it and it's not just for soups and stews.   One of my family's favorite meals are Slow Cooker Layered Enchiladas. Yum!

My Simple Plan To Start Slow Cooking Your Meals

When first getting started, limit yourself to one good cookbook with nothing but slow cooker recipes.  This will help keep you focused and narrow your decisions so you can quickly decide what to make.  If you have too many choices at first, it can be overwhelming and all your time is spent browsing through hundreds and hundreds of recipes on the internet. One good book helps make it easier to decide.
  Decide how many nights per week you are going to use your slow cooker and select your recipes.
  Purchase ingredients for all meals at one time.
  Do prep work ahead of time for all recipes at one time.  Slice, and chop vegetables, trim the meat etc. Store the ingredients in their proper place until needed.
  Once you have your family's favorite recipes bookmarked, I like to make copies of them and slip them into a sheet protector cover.  I bought a little folder and I am placing them all in there.  I have quite a collection now.  It makes it so easy to know what meals are instant hits with my family.

Happy Slow Cooking!

Leah is a full-time working mom who loves writing articles in her spare time. She loves cooking and baking, playing tennis and most of all spending time with her family and raising her beautiful German Shepherd Dogs. Please visit her other site about safe car travel with dogs, protecting them using a simple dogcarharness [] or dog car seats [] that could save your pets life.

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