I Love Crock Pots
I have been asked numerous times why I use so many crock pots so often.
With hungry, tired toddlers who all need a diaper change exactly at the time lunch needs to be prepared, I was desperate to figure out a way to have lunch "prepare itself" while I changed toddlers.
At the time I was looking for a solution, an online friend mentioned how she was glad her vegetables were already heating in a mini crock pot one day when there was a weather waring and she had to take her child care kids to the basement for over an hour. When they came back upstairs, it was almost lunch time and her veggies were warm, all she had to do was prepare the last minute items and lunch was done in a jiffy.
That really got me thinking on how heating in a crock pot would work? I went to the thrift store and found two mini crock pots (1 quart), and I bought a 2 quart crock pot at WalMart.
I started experimenting with different foods from frozen to cold; from cooked to uncooked; and everything in between. I learned that I could easily put frozen burritos or frozen meatballs in a mini crock pot first thing in the morning and by lunch time, they are defrosted and heated through. That's like no preparation on the day I need them. I learned that canned or even frozen vegetables heat fairly quickly (in crock pot time) and up to about an hour before lunch I can put them in the crock pot to heat and expect them to be heated through by lunch time.
Amazingly, lunch was heating itself up while I was dealing with toddlers at that very unruly time. I have found my answer. I usually have 3 crock pots going for lunch time: one for toddler vegetable, one for toddler protein, and one for my lunch (usually a turkey burger or turkey meatballs and I have a salad).
Well, if it works for lunch time, I started experimenting with dinner time, too. I'm only feeding myself for dinner. After working a long day with the toddlers, I have little energy left to cook. After lunch time, tossing a meal-sized portion into a mini crock pot is easy enough. As soon as daycare is over for the day, I have a home-cooked hot meal ready.
To be able to have the ready-made meals, I do have to precook or prepackage the meals. Usually on the weekends, I cook in bulk and package in meal-sized portions so they're ready to go each day. I record my favorite recipes on this blog, Leftovers On Purpose, and share with you.
It's also cost-effective to run a crock pot. Rates vary, but I've read it costs about 10 cents to run a crock pot for 8 hours. At that rate, I'm using about 25 cents a day to heat my meals.
This method has come in handy at other times, too. If I'm going grocery shopping on the weekend, I plan my lunch to be hot when I return by putting it in a crock pot and it heats while I shop. The same thing if we're going to a movie, running to the store, or working on projects around the house on a day off. If I think ahead a bit, I can have home cooked meals with little effort.