One of the main benefits of a slow cooker is that you can put in your ingredients, leave home and return to a delicious meal! The low setting on the slow cooker maintains a safe temperature for cooking food. However, all food that you place in the slow cooker, especially meat, should be at refrigerator or room temperature -- never frozen -- to avoid dangerous bacteria growth. Add thawed frozen vegetables during the last 20 to 30 minutes of cooking time so they don’t turn mushy.

To answer your second question, slow cookers are as economical as they are easy to use. The long, moist cooking is great at tenderizing less expensive, tougher cuts of meat. In side-by-side tests, I found the flavor of the cheaper cuts was actually superior to that of the more expensive ones. There was little difference between browned versus un-browned meats, which means you don’t have to waste time with browning -- and dirtying an extra pan.

Slow cookers also save money because they use less energy than range cooking. They actually operate on a low 120 wattage -- just slightly higher than a lightbulb! All these factors make slow cookers a great choice for busy families who want to save money. Try this easy recipe -- one of my favorites, created by my friend Judy Pompei -- to see just how easy a slow cooker will make your life:

Slow Cooker Coffee Pot Roast

Makes 8 to 10 servings


2 large onions, sliced

1 beef rump roast (about 3 pounds)

1 cup strong coffee

¼ cup soy sauce

1 clove garlic, minced

1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves

2 bay leaves


1. Place half the onions in slow cooker; top with roast and remaining onions. Add remaining ingredients; cover and cook on low 6 to 8 hours. Remove bay leaves and serve beef with broth.

Sue Spitler is coauthor of 1,001 Best Slow-Cooker Recipes: The Only Slow-Cooker Cookbook You'll Ever Need

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