Welcome to lessons learned from a month living out of my slow cooker.
During the month of October we made the choice to live out of our slow cooker and make 100% Paleo meals from our slow cooker at the same time. It was a planned choice. We wanted to eat healthier, we wanted it to be easy and we wanted to have delicious meals everyday that didn’t break the bank.
We also started it the day after we came home from hospital with our third child. At a time in life when you’re stressed out over all the sleepless nights and trying to be organised when you are as far away from organised as you could possibly be.
But we did it, mainly to prove that we could and how easy it is for the regular family to focus around their slow cooker so that eating home cooked meals everyday wouldn’t be a problem.
But what mistakes did we make? And if we could do October again, then how would we do things differently?
Well here is what we would say to any family thinking about using their slow cooker more for the benefit of their health.
#1 – Is Your Slow Cooker Up To The Job?
This is the first thing you need to think about before you consider eating more from your slow cooker. I remember my mum gave me her slow cooker when we moved in together. I had never used one until that point and remember after 12 hours my beef stew didn’t even have colour to it and I had to finish it in the oven. My aunt checked it and informed me that the slow cooker was broken and past it!
So that was me done with that one!
Since then though I own both a Lakeland Family Slow Cooker as well as a smaller white crockpot style one. My old one (which is at least 2 decades old) is a lot smaller and because its old it uses a lot more electric. But it’s the perfect size for cooking sides in or for making a lasagne because it’s the perfect shape for it. However my big one is really economical and perfect for all kinds of cooking but is a bit big for a small side dish.
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#2 – Not All Dishes Are As Simple To Make
I find that some dishes are easier than others to make in the slow cooker. Some of them would fall under “dump meals” where you just dump easy to buy ingredients into your slow cooker, and then the slow cooker does the rest for you.
These “dump meals” are amazing but sadly not all recipes fall under this. I have some delicious meals that are dump meals but my favourites are the ones that require some work. It’s a case of the more of the effort you put in, then the bigger the rewards you get.
If you plan to eat regularly (or even daily like us) out of your slow cooker then you have to consider mixing up dump meals with hardcore effort recipes.
Here are a few examples of some of our dump meals:
#3 – You Don’t Have To Be Traditional
A lot of recipes are traditional for the slow cooker. You expect to see people making pulled pork, pot roast and loads of stews and casseroles in it. But most people don’t think beyond that, have some fun with your slow cooker and go outside of your comfort zone.
One of my favourite recipes that we have recently done in our slow cooker is our Greek Moussaka Recipe. It is delicious and is about layering up lots of traditional vegetables along with mince and a nice sauce. It works best in our smaller slow cooker and the whole family loved it.
#4 – It Is All About Routine
The best thing you have to learn is that the slow cooker is there to make your life easier, not harder. If you have a full time job get your slow cooker on low before you go to work and then come home to a lovely home cooked meal. Or if you are like us and work from home put them on at lunchtime on high and then come the evening you will have a delicious home cooked meal.
Get into the habit of pre-planning what you are going to be cooking the next day in your slow cooker and have your ingredients ready and then it will save you a lot of time.
Also if you like to be frugal and like to save money, then have a list of go to recipes and then choose your recipes based on what meat is on special offer at the supermarket.
#5 – Slow Cooker Leftovers Make Great Breakfasts
We will often have our pulled pork recipe for supper. We will have it with salad, maybe some sweet potato fries and probably something else as well. Because of the sides it is very rare we will finish our pulled pork. The leftovers will end up in the fridge and will make amazing breakfast dishes without us having any food waste.