When it comes to making affordable, nutritious meals on a tight schedule and/or budget, the crockpot is a girl’s REAL best friend! Slow cooking allows you to come home at the end of a long day and not have to spend a lot of time cooking, and it keeps you from giving in and ordering out when you’re exhausted. It also allows you to make tender, delicious meals with cheaper or leaner cuts of meat. So here’s a roundup of 6 cheap crockpot meals that each serve four people.
- Taco Chicken – I got this recipe years ago from a friend, and it has become a regular staple at my house.2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
16 oz chicken stock (remember, I make mine for FREE using chicken bones! Click HERE for that recipe)
1 packet of taco seasoning
optional: sliced white onion and/or peppers
It’s really that easy, three ingredients tossed in the crockpot and cooked all day (4-6 hours) on low heat. When you’re ready to eat, shred the chicken with two forks, and you’re all set for quesadillas, chicken nachos, tacos, or healthy taco salads.
- Basic Rice & Beans – My friend Heidi, whom you know from her guest post a while back, kicks off every week with a basic rice & beans dinner. Like our Food Shelf Friday meals, her rice & beans Mondays are a cost-saving measure that allows her family to support kids through Compassion International. It also reminds them that this is reality for much of the world. You can read Heidi’s inspiration – We Are That Family’s blog about rice & beans Mondays HERE.bag dry black beans
Put dry black beans in the crockpot, and fill the pot with water. Let it soak overnight without turning on the crockpot. The next morning, rinse the beans, add fresh water just to cover the beans, and a sprinkle of salt. Cook on low until dinner. Make plain rice according to package directions right before you eat.
Heidi and her family eat the rice and beans plain, because most of the world does, but if you want to take this basic recipe to a new level, try adding some cumin, salsa, or diced onion and peppers to the beans, add lime juice to the rice, or top the dish with salsa, cheese, avocado, or cilantro.
- Crockpot Bean with Bacon Soup (from Money Saving Mom)– I know, ham and bacon are not exactly cheap. But if you buy a ham for a holiday dinner, the leftovers can go a long way. This soup is warm, filling, and uses the ham bone – stretching the value of that holiday ham and turning leftovers into a new meal.Ham bone
6-8 cups of water
1 (1 lb.) bag of navy beans (2 cups)
2-3 bay leaves, depending on size
salt and pepper, to taste
4-5 pieces of bacon
Small amount of chopped ham (optional, the bone will probably have a good amount still on it, so it’s not necessary to add more unless you have some more leftovers to use up)
1 small onion
3 stalks celery (optional)
1/2 cup heavy cream, (optional, I usually use whole milk that I keep on hand for cooking)
Bring ham bone to boil in water. Add salt, pepper, celery and bay leaves, reduce and simmer for 1-2 hours. (You can use plain water, but the bone gives it some more flavor, and bone broth is super good for you) Strain broth, add to crockpot.
To prepare beans, soak overnight or for a quick soak, bring 6-8 cups water to boil, add beans and boil for 2 minutes, remove from heat, cover and let stand for 1 hour. Drain and rinse, add the crockpot.
Cook bacon for a few minutes, then add chopped onion, sauté until golden brown and bacon is done, but not crisp. Remove from pan and chop, add to crockpot. Add ham to crockpot, if desired.
Cook on low in the crockpot for 8-10 hours or on high for 5-6 hours. Add heavy cream, and continue to cook about 15 minutes more. Remove bay leaves.
- Crockpot Baked Potatoes – this is another terrific way to make leftovers feel like a fresh new meal.Potatoes
in the crockpot on low heat for about 8 hours, and that’s it! Let everyone top them with leftovers, canned stew or chili, or just cheese for a quick, warm, personalized meal everyone will enjoy.
- Slow Cooker French Dip Sandwiches – I love the Six Sisters Stuff They have lots of great freezer meals that you can make up on your day off and throw in the crockpot when you need it. That’s where I found this beef sandwich recipe. While beef roast doesn’t exactly equal “cheap,” a little research on Grocery 411 taught me about the most affordable cut of beef for this recipe – a skill that will help you cut down on grocery spending. Check out the link to learn more about saving money by buying the right grade and cut of beef.2-3 lb select grade beef chuck roast
2 cans (14.5 oz each) beef consommé (it is right next to the soups and beef broth)
6-8 buns (croissants are delicious with French dip, but can be overpriced)
Place roast in the crockpot and pour beef consommé on top. Cook on low for 8-11 hours, or on high for 5-7 hours. With 2 forks, shred roast and serve meat on buns. Top with Provolone or Swiss cheese (optional), and serve the juice from the crockpot on the side.
- Crockpot Roast Chicken – Lately I have found whole chickens at the grocery store for $5-7. That’s not a bad price for feeding a family of four. In contrast, a rotisserie chicken at the same grocery store is $9 now. Prepare ahead and get the same roast chicken dinner for almost half the price!1 whole chicken, baggie of neck, giblets, etc. removed. Rinse and pat dry with paper towels
salt, pepper, and seasonings to taste
Slice the lemon and place the slices on the bottom of the crockpot. This adds a little flavor, but more importantly it keeps the chicken from sticking to the bottom of the crockpot. Place the chicken breast side up in the pot, sprinkle with seasonings, and cook on high for about 4 hours or until the chicken reaches 165 degrees.
You can shake this up a bit by changing out the seasonings. You could cut a garlic clove in half and stuff it into the chicken before cooking, add sprigs of fresh rosemary, or place additional lemon slices under the breast skin or on top of the chicken.
So there you have it, a hot, tasty, easy roundup of slow cooker recipes that are, or can be, affordable. Do you have a favorite crockpot recipe? Share it in the comments!