The Slow Cooker Philosophy

I don’t actually own a slow cooker (a Crock Pot type contraption). I like the idea of it — throwing a bunch of meat and vegetables in a pot and having it all come out as a dinner hours later — though I am also unsure I would use it. Why is the idea appealing to me? I think it stems from this thought, which Trent blogged about over at The Simple Dollar:

“Simply put, a slow cooker moves your food preparation from a point where there are a lot of demands on your time to a point when there are fewer demands on your time.”

I like the idea of a Crock Pot because I like the idea of time shifting in general. There are certain points of the day (like right after work) where things are just crazy. Many of us are trying to throw together dinner, deal with small children (even if you can put them in front of Dora), and check email on occasion because the fact that it’s 6 or 7pm doesn’t mean your work is done for the day. People often have this idea that they’ll use that window to exercise as well, though you can imagine how often that happens in practice.

But many of these things can in fact be time-shifted to low-demand time. The work you would be doing from 5pm-7pm can perhaps be shifted from 8:30pm-10:30pm. Exercise can be shifted to the early hours, as can throwing food in a slow cooker. Indeed, when you think about the whole of 168 hours, the possibilities are endless. You can catch up on work or take a class on weekend mornings when older children would not miss you. You can order groceries at 11pm online (or during a conference call you shouldn’t be on, but somehow are). Socialize at lunch or do “date night” at breakfast. We often do things at certain times just because we’re used to them, but there’s no reason not to think outside the box.

What times of your day are craziest? What have you managed to time-shift out of that block?

(Photo courtesy flickr user Tammra McCauley)

14 thoughts on “The Slow Cooker Philosophy

  1. I have decided to let my kids get hot lunch at school this year, for at least the first few months, to see what they’ll eat there. I figure if they get a healthy breakfast and dinner, I can let lunch go. My time logs revealed that I spend waaay too much time on food prep, so I’m cutting in that area. I’ve started with more bagged lettuce and carrots, and like you said, we are all eating more of it b/c it’s there in front of us. I am trying to make repeat meals as well, chicken cutlets on Monday and chicken tacos or salad later in the week. I also have been doubling everything I can and freezing one for later, especially for my return to work.

    1. @Denise:
      Hey- if they’re getting 2 good meals a day, that’s better than many of us! I think school lunch often gets an undeserved bad rep. It has to meet certain nutrition guidelines (even if they’re anachronistic). The lunch you send from home does not.

      1. my nutrition standards are high. My concern is that they will keep choosing the bagel with butter, rather than the actual meal. We are now able to track what they get via the school’s online website, so I can check if I want to. (probably a time waster though)

        1. @Denise: if I got a bagel with butter and a piece of fruit, I think I’d accept that as a win. 🙂

        2. Denise, I also have high nutrition standards and have been struggling with this decision a lot lately. I also spend WAAAY too much time on lunch preparation for 4 of us each night. My daughter will be in first grade in just a few weeks, which means she’ll eat lunch there rather than at the daycare this year, which means I could allow her to each school lunches. However, I know they are not going to be anywhere near what I would actually serve at home or pack her, and I’m really struggling with making that choice to allow it every once in a while.

          1. @Emily and Denise: I think the concept of balance is a good one here. None of us eats perfectly 21 meals plus snacks per week. Two school lunches per week (which will likely have at least something going for them nutritionally) is a good compromise. Also, as kids get older, they can be given some of the responsibility of prepping their own lunches, which will save you time in the long run, if it will take more time in the short run as you’re teaching them.

    1. @Josie: Great post! I like the word “context.” I’d been debating how the fall schedule will work with bringing kids to preschool. Originally I thought that I’d bring them and have someone else pick them up, but I realize that mornings are very productive work time for me, whereas I’m often ready for a break around lunch. So that may make more sense. Figure out when you can only do certain things, and when things can be done at other times.

  2. Hi Laura,
    Great article by the way!!! Bravo!
    Get it trust me!!! Also look into Programmable v.s. Manual. I personally like manual, because I don’t have to worry about the digital piece breaking.
    As far as what Josie said: There’s a book called 5 Ingredients or Less Crock Pot. Also there’s Once a Month Cooking. But whatever you decide get one, there inexpensive. You can get a 3 setting manual and see if it’s something for you. In the end it’s worth especially if you have a family, it takes that equation out as far as cooking goes also, great on the electric bill!!! And not having to cook on a hot summers day.

  3. I used a crockpot heavily when I was working full-time. In our climate, hot meals are good for 9 months of the year. We eat mostly wild meat (venison, elk) that are low fat and tough and require hours of slow cooking before they are tender enough to be delicious. Most of the dishes I think are best in the crockpot involve meat, though I’ve used mine for quantities of brown rice to cook ahead of time. (My kids will eat canned beans and brown rice heated with cheese on top, made even better by crumbled tortilla chips at the end.) If you get one, I suggest a programmable one with a removable glass liner (vs. one piece) for easier cleaning.

    1. I agree with you about a programmable one. Mine only had certain hours for high and low. It is now in the attic, as my family hated that “everything tastes the same”. A variety of cooking times may have made things taste better.

  4. I use my slow cooker about twice a month when it’s cooler. The plastic bag liners are marvelous. I throw a hunk of beef in there in the morning with some seasonings and then 30 minutes before serving I throw in 2-3 cans of drained diced potatoes (the little cubes) and 1 drained can of sliced carrots.

    I will say that every family member will comment how much they like to arrive home to the smell of the crockpot cooking!

    1. @Mary – coming home to the smell would be nice… I think I’d most like to come home to the smell of someone *else* cooking!

  5. Thanks for the link! I’m slow coming to comment, but I’ll do so anyway. I use a crock pot, but usually only on weekends. My mornings are just as hectic as my after work/pre-dinner hours, and I find that the crock pot meals I like the best require more prep than I can do before work. And my all time favorite one (crock pot lasagna… yum) has a strict 6 hour cooking time. Let it go too long, and the noodles are mushy.

    I occasionally do some ahead of time prep, though. For instance, tonight’s dinner will be soup and pumpkin-parmesan scones. The soup is from a box (although sometimes, I have leftover home made stuff frozen, tonight I do not). The scones can be made in about 30 minutes IF I pre-mix the dry ingredients and premeasure the wet ones. So last night, I got everything ready and today, I’ll mix it together and bake the scones.

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