Sunday, June 24, 2007

Hate cooking and want convenience? Try a bread machine and crockpot

Even if you hate cooking, you can still do largely “from-scratch” cooking, depending on your particular set-up, and rely only occasionally on convenience foods. Although convenience foods are wonderful, they do produce a lot of garbage and can be hard on the environment because of this. To balance things out and rely on packaged foods less often, invest in a crockpot.

I hate to cook myself, but I’ve gotten around this by using my crockpot and bread machine to keep me in homemade, “whole foods” dinners on what boils down to about four hours’ work a month. Whether you’re a full-time or part time veggie, the crockpot can be your best friend. For vegetarian folks, bean and legume-based soups and stews make a hearty meal with very little work. If you’re a meat-eater, you can also plop in some beef chunks in there or even do a pork roast and potatoes. Many sites online now have specifically crockpot-based recipes.

Another machine I can’t do without as a lazy vegan is my bread machine. In this case, it’s just because I don’t want to pay whole-grain bread prices at the store, but it’s also wonderful to have fresh hot bread at the touch of a button for pennies. It’s also a lot cheaper to eat “from scratch” than it is to rely on convenience foods. My own grocery budget runs at about $40 a month right now (up from about $30 before the gas hikes). I’m also lucky enough to have the room for a 13-cu-foot freezer, so I bulk cook about once a month and eat off of the results the rest of it. Even if you don’t have this advantage, though, you’ll still cut down on your time in the kitchen and ease up on your budget (as well as help the environment) with this kind of cooking.


  1. Hi Kim,

    I do love to cook but working for a living makes that love wane during the week so I've considered getting a crock pot. My only reservation about that is leaving it on during the day while I'm away from work, sometimes for 9 to 10 hours at a time. Many of the crock pot recipes call for leaving food in for 6 to 7 hours. Are some recipes more flexible? Do you leave it on when you're out of the house or just when you're home?

  2. Hi, Joselle:

    I do leave it on when I’m out of the house, on low, for up to 8-10 hours, but not overnight unless I'm home (I do a lot of overnight cooking when I'm sleeping; easy to take a detour to the kitchen for a brief check if I'm up for something else. I just get everything set up before I go to bed. Good for weekend cooking, too). Some tips: For bean-based dishes, preboil and get the bean sugar boiled off before you add other ingredients/spices, so there’s less chance of a boil-over. Just add the beans alone with water (two inches over the beans), turn up on high, boil for two minutes, cover and let sit for an hour and then drain and rinse, then add more water and boil until you’ve skimmed the rest of the foam off. Sounds like a lot of work, but that’s the hardest part; the rest is easy. Then add veggies, etc., all spices, fill with water to two inches below the brim, turn on low and cover with lid slightly ajar, to let steam escape. And if you’ve an electrical outlet close enough, put your crockpot down in a (clean, dry) sink to cook instead of on the counter, so that any boil-overs will just go down the drain (with a drain strainer if you don’t have a garbage disposal). I have two Kitchen Kettles from Presto and love them. I usually do two dishes at a time in them and then freeze. They’re 6-qt. each and that makes a good 22, 24 dinners for me, so I just cook something different in each twice a month or so for enough variety.

  3. >Many of the crock pot recipes call for leaving food in for 6 to 7 hours. Are some recipes more flexible?

    I should clarify that if you turn it on low, it will take longer to cook; I've beeen able to leave things unattended for longer just by turning down the temp. :-)

  4. Hi Kim,

    Thanks so much for the tips. I'll add the slow cooker to my kitchen wishlist.

  5. You're welcome; I don't know if you have a dishwasher, but if you do, look for one where the liner comes out or where the whole crockpot is immersible. I can just toss mine in the DW and love that I don't have to scrub them out by hand.