Slow Cooking During a Recession

I'm hopping on a plane in a little bit to head to Chicago for the 5th annual BlogHer conference, where I'll be speaking on the "Food Blogging During a Recession" panel. I look forward to reconnecting with the talented women behind Simply Recipes, and Lunch in a Box, and meeting those behind Show Me the Curry, and Wine Girl.

I'm both excited and nervous. I'm excited to be going to another BlogHer conference---my first was last year, and I had a ball. I had more fun in 3 days at that conference than I had in all 5 years of college.

I'm nervous to leave the kids for so long. I'm not nervous for them---they'll have an absolute ball with my parents, I'm nervous about being so far away and missing them. Dreadfully.

hang on, I need to blow my nose.

I'm excited that Adam is coming with me. We haven't gone away alone for about 6 years. I love that Adam has agreed to share his birthday and our 10-year anniversary with 1500 women bloggers.

I'm nervous about flying. Super nervous.

I really shouldn't talk about it, or I'll hyperventilate.

I'm also kind of nervous to be around so many people, who all seem to know each other. I'm a fairly new blogger, and I definitely get butterflies in my stomach at blogging events.

I'm thrilled to be speaking on the Food Blogging panel, but I feel a bit like I'm cheating since it's about Food Blogging During a Recession. Slow Cooking is pretty much built for recession (I hate that word) eating.

I first started slow cooking as a newlywed to save time and money. I loved it that I could throw in some forgotten and frostbitten meat with a jar of pasta sauce and come home to a tasty meal with literally no work on my end.
I love how you can save SO MUCH MONEY through slow cooking. It does take a bit of beforehand planning, I know, but the reward of not slitting your wrists at the end of the week is well worth it.

I've shared in the past that I didn't save any money last year with my year-long slow-cooking challenge. We knew that I would spend more money on groceries and planned accordingly. I'm so glad that last year was last year, because I'd have a hard time justifying the spices I bought last year and the duck and the haggis parts this year. It would just be wasteful.

Here are the top 10 ways that you can save money right this minute by slow cooking:

1) Plan your meals. Seriously. Take the time on Sunday night to plan your meals out. Many people do red meat on Monday, chicken on Tuesday, leftovers Wednesday, vegetarian on Thursday, and fish on Friday. It's up to you if you plan for the weekend days. We seem to always be out of the house for at least one of the weekend evenings, but I still try to have an idea for a dinner so we're not reaching for the take-out menus.

2) Use dried beans. They are filling, nutritious, freeze well, and are CHEAP.

3) Make your own yogurt. Yup, in the slow cooker. It totally works.

4) Make your own granola. Granola is wickedly expensive, and can be laden with preservatives and artificial sweeteners.

5) Make your own baby food. This is so easy, and really makes a whole lot of sense. The little jars are bad for the environment and your wallet.

6) Make your own take-out.
In my book (have I mentioned the book? It's oh so pretty, and frugally priced, I might add) I have a chapter I've entitled Take Out Fake Out.

here are some of my absolute favorites:

Mongolian Beef
Lemon Chicken
Thai Curry
Indian Curry
Chicken Makhani (Indian Butter Chicken)
Thai Coconut Curry Soup
Fried Rice
Chow Mein (this is SO SO SO good! great, now I want this. Now. have I mentioned I'm pregnant?)
Philly Cheesesteaks

7) Cook the lazy way.

8) Re-purpose leftovers. Cook a Rotisserie-Style Chicken. Then make Barbecue Chicken and Cornbread Casserole the next night. Then make broth. Then make Clean-out-the-Pantry Minestrone Soup, or Chicken Noodle Soup.

9) Stretch your wine budget by making mulled wine.

10) If you, or someone you love, has allergies, cooking from scratch is a necessity to ensure that you have safe food. There is no easier way to cook than to slow cook. I'm a complete fool in the kitchen, yet I can work a slow cooker. You can too.

For further reading:

Save Money By Using Your Slow Cooker
Meal Planning with the Slow Cooker
Frequently Asked "A Year of Slow Cooking Questions"
Alphabetical Listing of All Recipes

There are so many other great ways to save money through slow cooking, and I'd love to hear other great ideas---feel free to leave as many as you'd like in the comments, or a link to your favorite budget-friendly recipe.

If you're headed to Chicago for the conference, please come by the Food Blogging During a Recession Panel and say Hi! I look forward to meeting new people, and reconnecting with those I met last year.

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Posted by: Stephanie O'Dea | A Year of Slow Cooking at July 21, 2009

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What they say about this article

  1. ooh! Thank you for this round-up! I love the take out fake out section. I did make your chowmein about a month or so ago. It was so good, and nobody could believe I did it in the Crockpot.

  2. Have a great time.
    Happy Anniversary to you both, and Happy Birthday to you DH!


  3. I have really appreciated finding your blog since I've been trying to use the crockpot more. Thank you so much for sharing your recipes! I'm really excited to try making yogurt.

  4. Have a great time at the conference. They're great. I went to DC last fall and I'm headed to the Food Conference in Sept in San Fran. Hope you make that one too. Love all your ideas for saving money.
    I make a monthly menu and it saves me even more time and money and it only takes me 10 min. longer than the weekly one. I also take inventory monthly so I can make the menu based on what's already on hand. I already paid for that. When I'm shopping I purchase the things on sale and the store's loss leaders and freeze them. They will be on the menu next month. Have a great trip!

  5. Have a great time at the conference!

  6. you're gonna be great!!!

  7. Good luck! We all know you'll be great and a huge hit. We wouldn't keep coming around here if you weren't fabulous!! :-)

    Happy anniversary and happy birthday to your hubby! My hubby - also named Adam! - has a birthday on Saturday the 25th, so we'll also have big birthday plans to weekend. Have a great time!

  8. I'm sure that crockpots save energy, even though they run all day. I mean, compared to a burner for 30 min, they take more, but your not heating up your whole house from using the oven (not to mention you may even be able to put the crock in garage, porch or even less-used room so your not heating up your kitchen...

    Not to mention your not standing in front of an open refrigerator staring at the contents wondering what to make!

    Good luck on your speaking engagement! I can't wait to hear your recap :)

  9. Have a great trip/anniversary/husband's birthday celebration! The kids will do great I'm sure...and so will you! Thanks for the post and the topic. I've been terrible about using my crockpot lately, but I really want to try granola and yogurt. What I clearly need to do is that whole PLANNING my meals thing!

  10. Have fun at the conference. happy birthday to hubby and happy anniversary to you both!
    My hubbys family and us are going RVing for 4 days next week, and I am bringing the crockpot. Now, I just have to decide which recipes to use!
    Thanks again!

  11. I'm glad you liked it, Donna!

    Thank you so much for the birthday wishes for Adam, and the happy anniversaries!

    Hi Diane, I will be at the food blogging conference! I'll be sure to look for you.

    FrogMama, good point! I posted in the saving money by using your slow cooker post that I learned that it takes only a few pennies an hour to run a slow cooker. What a convenient way to go green!

    Just Call Me Mommy, that's one of my dreams----to get an RV and crockpot on the road! I'd love to go cross-country one day. Have a safe trip!

    xxo steph

  12. Your blog has already saved me from slitting my wrists at the end of SEVERAL weeks!! Thank you for your wonderful blog, and thanks for posting this list of reminders on how to save $$$. Plan on Sunday! Make great Take Out Fake out ;)

    You'll be the Belle of the Ball at BlogHer! Have fun, enjoy celebrating your hubby's bday, and HAPPY ANNIVERSARY! Hope you don't miss the kiddies too much -- just think of how fun bonding will be when you get home.

    Oh, you mentioned you don't like to fly. May I presume to suggest: sitting on an aisle seat, sitting toward the front of the plane, getting up frequently, and making friends w/at least one of the flight attendants! I used to be a sky waitress and whenever a friendly person mentioned to me that he or she was having a hard time flying I'd make it my mission to try and help them feel more comfortable and relaxed. Bring an iPod! Music helps too! ;) Have a great time in Chicago!!

  13. break a leg! (figuratively, not literally!)

    This post is gold - thanks for putting it all together.

  14. This is excellent! Thanks for streamlining all of this info!

  15. This is exactly what I needed to read to day. Unfortunately money has been scarce so I have had to be creative lately.

    Thanks! Keep it up!

  16. Anonymous7/22/2009

    I don't like to fly either! I am really enjoying getting caught up on all the good recipes you've posted. My daughter has made some of them, she and her roommates hate to cook.

  17. Steph -

    This was an absolutely fantastic post with so much information. I have come back to it several times in order to read more, and follow more links.

    Congrats on the coming baby, and the anniversary.

    I don't post often, but I do check your blogs regularly.


  18. I love your site and since I found it I have bought a new CrockPot (bigger and fancier than my old one) and cooked a CrockPot meal 2-3 times a week. I love it!

    One question: How do you freeze your beans after you cook them in the CrockPot? If they're drained, will they get freezer burn? Do you leave them covered in the liquid they cooked in?

  19. Thank you for all of your wonderful ideas! Have fun at the conference! And Happy Anniversary!!!

  20. Aw man, I live in Chicago and was off yesterday and had no idea this was going on in my own city!! bbooooo. ah well (sorry, I've been reading your blog for a bit, but never commented.)

  21. Anonymous7/26/2009

    Great blog!

    Can't wait to hear about Blog-her!

  22. Stephanie, How exciting for you to be going to the convention not to mention having for his birthday and your anniversary... Have fun!

    I read about your blog on another blog and right away the slow cooking recipes caught my eye... We live in our motorhome and do a ton of sightseeing... It is great to put on the crockpot and come home to a meal all cooked... I am looking forward to getting some new recipes to try from you... And I'll definitely look into your cookbook... Thanks again

    Come on over and visit me

  23. Hope you have a wonderful time at the blogging event. I am new to your forum (just joined yesterday). I made your chow mein recipe with a left-over chicken breast and I'm so excited to have a new, easy recipe! Did I mention that my husband loved it? And he's kinda finiky, so thank you!

    Happy Anniversary and keep up the good work. I need inspiration!

  24. Great meeting you again at BlogHer this year. If you're ever in London and need some restaurant tips, please let me know!

  25. Fried rice may never be the same around here. Thanks for sharing such terrific ideas!

  26. Hi Stephanie! I hope you had a good time here in Chicago. The Tribune has a short article about the conference in today's paper:,0,3148339.story

    Can't wait to hear about it!

  27. It was so great to meet you and your husband at the conference! And I'm definitely going to attempt to make my own yogurt - I can't believe what I've spent on Yobaby over the past year! :-)

  28. Thank you for the reminder of homemade yogurt in the crockpot. I use to make my own yogurt all the time back in the 70's and 80's by heating in a stockpot then leaving it in the warmed oven overnight. I sometimes used the carton yogurt, but mostly yogurt starter from health stores. This is so much easier! I am digging out all my mason "yogurt" jars (actually jelly jars with plastic lids) that I've had stored since the yogurt days. mmmmmm
    Hope your conference went well. And I wish you continued success in your writing, books and crockpot recipes!

  29. Anonymous7/28/2009

    Happy travels.
    Just want to say that your blog is fun and functional. I'm trying various recipes. We're living in India right now, and were able to find a crock pot in Dubai to bring over. It's a huge help because the meat is tougher here and cooking in a crockpot saves me from overheating in the kitchen, which doesn't have air conditioning and hovers between 90-103 F.

  30. Anonymous7/28/2009

    Stephanie, I just wanted to say don't be nervous about the other bloggers who've been blogging longer. I read tons of blogs, including a few food ones. Yours is the one that I get the most recipes from that I actually use AND like. You rock. Don't be intimidated. Stand tall and believe in your success. ~Aleisha

  31. I don't use my crockpot nearly enough and am soooo impressed that you completed this project! I'm going to browse through and starting adding a couple of your recipes to my menu plan each week!

  32. Steph, I planned on coming to your panel to hear you, Elise and the others but I wound up in the wrong room! The session I ended up in seemed interesting enough so I stayed, but am super glad that I read this post, now I feel like I got a sense of what your panel was!

    it was so nice meeting you in person, too! You are even sweeter and more adorable in person and I can't wait for your book :)

  33. Congratulations on your speaking engagement. I read on a couple of blogs that Blog Her was coming up.
    Have a great time. And we hope to read about it when you get back.
    Happy Anniversary!

  34. I just found your blog and LOVE it! This was a great post! Thanks a bunch!!

  35. Just found your blog and I am really enjoying it! I'm also due in January. Congrats on your pregnancy!

  36. Stephanie,

    Just found your blog! I don't use my slow cooker much, but I am bookmarking your site for use. I could definitely use some slow cooker recipes. Esp tried and true from another mom. I have 3 girls. Congrats on your newest addition to the family.

    I'm new to food blogging (almost 6 months now), and was floored when I found this community of like minded people online. The private/personal aspect has kept me from blogging for so long though I had been active in message boards for moms. I love to cook, so I was quite surprised to find everyone.

    I would LOVE to go to a BlogHer conference (specifically BlogHer Food), and just heard of Blissdom this past weekend in TN. I use to fly quite a bit before kids, but haven't flown since being a mom so I can relate to your flying comments. How did you get over that? I'm so ready to "spread" my wings and do something like this for myself this year (I'm turning 40!), but I'm kinda chicken about the flying part. My email is through my blog if you'd rather not tie up space here....any tips/sage advice from one blogging mom to another? THANKS!!

  37. Omgosh, made this tonight , amazing! Once all my stuff was cooked up, I poured all the contents including the juice and meat into my Kitchen aid mixer, cooped out about a half cup of juice placed it in a jar, and added a tsp of corn starch , closed the jar, shook it until the corn starch was dissolved, poured it back into the Kitchen Aid mixer bow, took my paddle mixer thing, and stirred for about a minute, it shredded the pork better than any fork could, and thickened the sauce..Best.pulled pork. recipe. ever! Thank you!!