Spending money to save money seems like a bit of a contradiction, but it makes sense when buying a slow cooker.
A slow cooker can help you save on groceries and save you time, all while feeding your family satisfying, warming winter dishes.
And what's even better, you don't need to spend a fortune to get in on the slow-cooking goodness. If you shop smart, you can pick up a quality slow cooker for less than a pineapple.
We talk you through how 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 our expert, independent reviews.
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.
Slow cookers can turn cheaper cuts of meat into tender, melt-in-your-mouth meals.
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 sears," she says. Searing before slow cooking allows for caramelisation, which helps you develop more flavour.
If you want a complete one-pot cooking appliance then I would recommend a slow cooker that searsCHOICE kitchen expert Fiona Mair
"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 multi-cooker, which combines several appliances in one, such as a rice cooker, slow cooker, pressure cooker, and sometimes even an air fryer and bread maker.
But all these extras come at a price: the multi-cookers we've tested range in price from $99 to $700.
CHOICE tip: If your ceramic slow cooker bowl is stained or smelly, you can freshen it up 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 lets the food 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.
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 barbecuing or roasting, but after six or so hours in the slow cooker, they 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 them 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.
Which are the best budget slow cookers?
We recommend slow cookers with a CHOICE Expert Rating of 80% or more.
Only CHOICE members can access our detailed slow cookers testing data. If you're not yet a member, join CHOICE to get instant access to all our expert, independent reviews.
Or log in to unlock this article and find out which slow cookers turn up the heat in the kitchen.
Unlock this article and more
- Information you can trust
- See the best brands
- Avoid the worst performers
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.