**This post contains affiliate links. If you buy through these links you help support my family, so thank you! All opinions are my own.
This series, we are talking about waste. Or, more specifically, how to avoid it.
One way that I know makes many eyes roll and people mumble about lack of time and energy is to cut your expenditure and waste by making things yourself.
I know, I know, it can take time, which we in this modern world are sorely lacking.
But what if I told you there is a way around this? And it costs about £25?
Well, here it is.
Slow cooking has become very popular again in recent years, and for good reason!
The way I see it, for an upfront cost of £25 (that’s about $40 to you American readers), you get three amazing properties:
1. It allows you to cook healthy food with minimal effort* – because seriously, it cannot get much easier than placing ingredients in a crockpot (you could even prep and freeze them at the weekend and save yourself even more time during the week!) and turning it on! And this way, for not much more effort than it takes to buy a ready meal and stick it in the microwave, you get to cut the
crap unhealthy foodstuffs like sugar and salt, and instead eat lots of vegetables, good quality meat and minimal carbohydrates.
2. It saves you money – you can use cheap cuts of meat, as they all taste amazing once they’ve been slow cooked, trust me! You can also use frozen veg or the veg and bits that are just starting to look like no one might want to eat them even though you know they’ll still be ok to eat for a few days. You know, the ones that sit in the fridge and you keep picking out and then putting back because they look less than appetising? 😉
3. It saves you time – as mentioned above, it really does take very little time to use a slow cooker. Some recipes require more prep than others, but there are many many recipes out there that simply require you to place ingredients in the slow cooker. And if you get this model, you can even brown meat in the slow cooker (often done in a pan first) and just dump other ingredients on top!
And as the slow cooker climbs in popularity once more, the internet is ablaze with thousands of recipes, some for things you would not expect to be able to make easily in a slow cooker! I mean, who knew you could make bread, brownies and even chocolate cake and gingerbread in a crockpot?**
There is one thing that I use my slow cooker for more than any other, though, and that is yogurt. I make a batch at least once a month (more so now that we have a baby who loves some with raspberries first thing in the morning), and it could not be easier! There are some things I have found to be too expensive or too time-consuming to make from scratch (making your own butter, for example), but yogurt is definitely not one of them. And it saves us both a lot of money, and a lot of sugar in our diet (have you seen the amount of sugar in some yogurts?!).
It is also then really really easy if you want to make your own Greek yogurt or cream cheese from the yogurt you have (simply strain, and keep the whey that comes out as it is also really useful!). Or, if you wish, you could not make plain yogurt, but vanilla or fruit.
I can make 4 pints of organic full-fat yogurt for less than £2. It keeps for a few weeks in the fridge, and it tastes amazing! It can taste a little bland at first, if you are used to sweetened yogurts from the supermarket, but you can add your own flavours to make it better, and pretty soon you will actually prefer it to shop-bought yogurt, I promise!
Slow Cooker Yogurt
Recipe from Stacy Makes Cents
Makes about 4 pints
4 pints milk (full-fat works best, I use organic full-fat)
1 small (150g) pot of Yeo Valley yogurt or other “biolive” (cultured) yogurt – once you have made one batch you can use some of your homemade yogurt for this
Sweeteners of flavourings of your choice, to taste (vanilla pod/extract, sugar/sweetener, etc – if you want to make fruit yogurt stir the fruit puree in once it’s made rather than where you would add sweetener)
Start about 5 1/2 hours before you normally go to bed. I usually start around 4pm, that way if our beautiful baby has a bad day and I need an early night (9.30 or so), I know I don’t need to stay up an extra half hour or more to set it up for the night. You can wrap it up before you go to bed if you wish, but it should be close to 9-10pm.
1. Pour the milk into the slow cooker, and put on low for 2 1/2 hours, then turn off and unplug.
2. If you want to add sweeteners, this is the time to add it. Then leave with the lid on to cool slightly for 3 hours.
3. Add your culture – the best way to do this is to mix a small (150g) pot of yogurt with about half a pot to a pot of the milk from the slow cooker in a separate bowl, then return to the crockpot and stir again. But you can (I have done it before) simply stir the yogurt straight into the slow cooker, although it could more easily go wrong! Replace the lid on the slow cooker.
4. Wrap your slow cooker in a towel. It sounds strange, I know, but this is what will keep it warm overnight to keep it working, and without it you will just get warm milk in the morning!
5. In the morning (after 8-12 hours), unwrap the towel and enjoy your yogurt with some yummy granola. 🙂
6. If you want to make Greek yogurt or cream cheese, line a sieve or colander with a muslin (cheese cloth) or clean tea towel and place over an empty bowl, then pour some (or all, if it fits!) of your yogurt into it. Leave for about 5-10 hours for Greek yogurt, or up to 24 hours for cream cheese. Check the taste and consistency every now and then until it is right for you.
Please don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t work first time. It has worked for me about 99% of the time, but the first time it went wrong, and it was on the second go that I got it.
So there you go – it couldn’t be much easier than that! You can be enjoying your very own homemade yogurt by breakfast tomorrow. And if you do give it a go, let me know how you get on in the comments below.
*If you want to be able to leave the house and let your slow cooker turn itself on and off, you can either get a slow cooker that has an inbuilt timer, like this one, or you could do what I did and buy this timer plug for just over a fiver and just set it to do lots of yummy things like overnight oatmeal while you sleep, or make dinner for you when you’ll be out all day!
**If you want more recipes, check out my Slow Cooker Pinterest board.