NEVER did I think that I would be a slow cooker convert – but it has happened.

For some inexplicable reason I seem to have avoided the common kitchen appliance for a while - perhaps because of its not-so-pretty exterior.

But having put shallowness aside, it is fast becoming my best culinary friend.

And this is reflected no better than its overuse in the past week.

Irish stew, beef goulash and dumplings and veggie curry have been feasted on and let’s just say there is plastic-container-full-of-food a plenty in the poor freezer.

As well as cost-cuttingly cooking in bulk, the slow cooker is the answer to bringing out the best of flavours in all food.

And despite having to do all the same preparation work, the ease of slow cooking is leaving it as you head out for work and walking in to the smell of your good-to-go tea.

The possibilities are endless so there will be a slow cooked dish for everyone - it's just a case of chucking in what you like and leaving out what you don't.

Experiment with traditional stews, casseroles, tagines, curries and soups.

You can even make cakes, crumbles and rice puds too.

If you're a meat eater, head to Higginsons of Grange where they have stewing steak at £11.99/3lb.

Throw it in your pot with peppers, onions, tinned tomatoes and heaps of smoked paprika for a melt in the mouth goulash.

Don't fret if you don't have a slow cooker because they also have an American style rindless pork joint at a special price of £9.99/kilo.

Slow cook it in an oven for four to six hours, mix in their sauce, shred it and add honey for succulent pulled pork.

Watson and Woollard, Kendal, has Gressingham duck at £6.45/kilo.

Why not make a delicious bean casserole and roast the duck to enjoy alongside?

Alternatively, opt for their mixed game at £10.77/kilo and (slowly) whip up a red wine and vegetable seasonal stew.

You can also get your meat from Burton Community Stores where they have fresh neck of lamb at £4.50/kilo, perfect for slow cooking with carrots, onions, potatoes and their leeks at £2/kilo. Add barley an hour before eating.

They also have parsnips at £2.50/kilo, ideal for a curried soup.

Finish it off by crumbling over light and fresh Anster cheese from the Courtyard Dairy, Settle, where they also have bake in the oven Vacherin Mont D'Or at £12.95.

Dip honey and spelt bread into either, which comes in at £2 a loaf from Hazelmere Cafe and Bakery, Grange.

If you want something extra easy, they also have a range of ready made meals including rich beef in a red wine stew at £3.50 and pork in an orange and brandy sauce at £4.85 per portion.

For vegetarians among you, Growing with Grace, Clapham, has tomatoes at £3.50/kilo and summer squashes (like courgettes but a different shape) at £2.50/kilo.

Just add any veg like aubergine, potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut squash and chick peas for a hearty and healthy vegetable curry - made with paste and stock and completed with fresh coriander.

Finally, Kendal Fisheries has red bream at £14.99/kilo or coley at £8.85/kilo, great for a Thai curry comprising ginger, chilli, garlic and coconut milk.