1. My first suggestion is to invest in a Programmable Slow Cooker. This type of slow cooker lets you set the cooking temperature (HIGH or LOW) and cooking time. When the cooking time is up, the cooker automatically switches to “warm” setting that will keep your meal hot until you are ready to serve it.
When using a programmable cooker, set your crock pot to cook for the lower number when a range of cooking times is suggested. If the recipe says to cook for 5 to 7 hours, set the cooker to cook for 5 hours and then let it automatically flip to “warm” until you get home. There’s less chance your food will be overdone that way.
I know they’re pricey, but I think it’s a worthwhile investment when you consider all the money you save cooking at home compared to eating out and/or grabbing takeout.
2. Try to choose recipes with long cooking times on your especially long days. Many soup, stew, chili, roast, bean and lentil recipes will hold up well to long cooking.
3. Cook ahead on the weekends. Often, I’ll have 2 or 3 slow cookers all simmering away on the counter on Saturday and Sunday. When the food is done I pack it up and place it in the fridge for quick and easy weeknight meals that can be easily reheated in the microwave.
4. Cook tomorrow’s meal after work tonight. There are many recipes that will cook in the few hours you have between getting home and going to bed. Get the crock pot going as soon as you get home. When the food is done, remove the crock from the cooker, transfer the food to a storage container and let it cool as long as you can. Then pop it in the fridge. Your dinner will ready and waiting for you to quickly reheat when you get home from work the following day.
5. Begin with cold food in a cold crock pot. This should extend the cooking time by at least 1 hour. Get everything prepped and into the slow cooker before you go to bed. And then place it in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, pull it out, set it in your slow cooker and switch the flip to cook, last thing before heading out the door. Or use your lunch hour to come home and turn on the cooker. Or ask a friend, neighbor, or family member to do it for you.
6. If you have kids who are old enough to take the ready-to-go crock of food out of the refrigerator, place it in the cooker and flip it on when they get home from school, ask them to do it 🙂
I hope these crock pot tips help. I know what a challenge it can be to eat well when faced with long days filled with working and commuting.