Spending money to save money seems like a bit of a contradiction, but one example of where it makes sense is buying a slow cooker. A slow cooker can help you save money on groceries while filling your family's bellies with warming winter dishes.
And what's even better, you don't need to spend a fortune to get in on the slow-cooking goodness. Even cheap models can do the trick if you buy the right one.
We talk you through the ways a slow cooker can save you money, plus, for CHOICE members only, we'll reveal the top-scoring budget slow cookers from our rigorous lab testing. If you're not yet a member, join CHOICE to get instant access to all of our expert, independent reviews.
Slow cookers turn cheaper cuts of meat into tender, melt-in-your-mouth meals.
How much should you spend on a slow cooker?
Slow cookers usually cost anything from $20 to $250 (or sometimes more), depending on brand and features.
But does buying a more expensive slow cooker give you better results? It depends what you're after.
Some of the top scorers in our slow cooker reviews are cheaper models, but more expensive models will have extra features that can make your slow cooker even more convenient and easy to use.
If you're buying a slow cooker, CHOICE kitchen expert Fiona Mair says there's one feature in particular that's worth having.
If you want a complete one-pot cooking appliance then I would recommend a slow cooker that searsCHOICE kitchen expert Fiona Mair
"If you want a complete one-pot cooking appliance then I would recommend a slow cooker that sears," she says. Searing before slow cooking allows for caramelisation, which helps you develop more flavour.
"If you can sear your ingredients in the slow cooker, then it saves you having to do it in a separate pan on your stovetop – which will save on washing up."
If you want all the bells and whistles, you could opt for a multicooker, which combines several appliances into one, such as a rice cooker, slow cooker, pressure cooker, and sometimes even an air fryer and breadmaker. But all these extras come at a price: the multicookers we've tested range in price from $79 to $400.
CHOICE tip: If your ceramic slow cooker bowl is stained or smelly, you can sort it out with vinegar. Add half a cup of vinegar to a litre of water and soak.
How a slow cooker can help you save money in the kitchen
Even a cheap slow cooker can revolutionise the way you cook. Slow cooking allows the food to develop a depth of flavour that you just can't get from 'faster' methods of cooking, and the 'low and slow' approach can transform tough cuts of meat into tender, juicy morsels that melt in your mouth.
- Batch cooking: by buying and cooking in bulk, you can save money at the supermarket and have a freezer full of delicious meals ready to go for much less than cooking on a smaller scale.
- You can buy less expensive meat: cheap cuts of meat like blade steak, chuck steak and lamb shanks aren't great for BBQing or roasting, but after six or so hours in the slow cooker become delicious, melt-in-your-mouth meals.
- You can add cheap proteins: to stretch out a slow cooker meal, you can add dried or canned legumes, beans and pulses. (Just make sure you boil dry beans for at least 10 minutes beforehand, or soak overnight then drain and rinse before adding.)
- It'll help you break your takeaway habit: coming home to a dinner that's ready to eat can save you from those "can't be bothered" nights that invariably end in buying a takeaway dinner.
- It saves time: because we all know time is money! If you can save yourself hours of slaving over a hot stove by letting a slow cooker do the work for you, we call that a win.
What are the best budget slow cookers?
We recommend slow cookers with an overall score of 80% or more.
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