Slow cookers are a busy cook's best friend, especially with an entire family to feed. These recipes are designed so that you can truly "set it and forget it." That means no extra pans to clean after browning meat, no soaking beans the night before, and no fancy knife work involved. Just add your ingredients, set, and go. To cut costs even more, use homemade broths, leftover veggies and meats, frozen produce, and inexpensive cuts of meat. The slow cooker is the perfect opportunity to take what's left in the fridge and make a masterpiece.
Alternative grains are all the rage. This quinoa morning porridge is a great alternative to your classic oatmeal, and adds a hearty boost of protein. Using coconut milk in place of regular milk makes it dairy-free too. Add your favorite fruit toppings and sweeteners to customize.Recipe: iFoodreal
Subbing turkey for ground beef in a chili recipe is an easy (and nearly undetectable) way to cut a few calories. It may cost a bit more than beef, but by using canned tomatoes and beans in this recipe, you'll still be saving a ton. Skip the optional step of browning the meat to save even more time.Recipe: Allrecipes
This slow-cooked chowder develops layers of flavor as the slow cooker does all the work. Vegetarians can use vegetable stock instead of chicken in this recipe, and even water would work, as spices and cream add loads of flavor and richness. This elegant soup works in any season using frozen corn, though fresh corn is a nice touch in the summer.
Recipe: Damn Delicious
With this super-simple macaroni and cheese recipe, you don't even have to pre-cook the pasta. Cook up some extra bacon for breakfast, and use the leftovers to make this a quick 'dump and go' recipe. Vegetarians can substitute sautéed mushrooms for the bacon too.
Recipe: The Kitchen Is My Playground
Pork shoulder is one of the cheapest and most flavor cuts of meat out there. It truly shines when prepared the carnitas way for an epic taco night. Subtle spices like cumin and oregano perfume the meat with a Mexican flavor that works in burritos, enchiladas, and tortas too.
Recipe: RecipeTin Eats
This one-dish meal is both a guilty pleasure and a classy entrée at the same time. With all the tangy flavor of sloppy Joes and none of the cholesterol, this veggie-friendly version appeals to meat eaters and vegetarians alike. Adding spaghetti squash is a cheap and nutritious way to flesh out the meal and make it sophisticated enough to enjoy with a glass of wine. To spice it up, add a fresh chili.
Recipe: Ambitious Kitchen
When summer approaches, we're all looking for light, vegetable-filled dishes that are easy to make and still full of flavor. This seasonal succotash is a stew-like combination of summer produce that melds into a one-dish supper. Slow cooking succotash develops flavors in layers, makes for a quick and easy cleanup, and requires minimal effort and time spent actually cooking. Add a Mediterranean twist, incorporating olives, cannellini beans, feta, and inexpensive couscous to make a complete meal.
Using berries fresh from the market before they go bad or combining odds and ends from bags of frozen berries helps reduce waste while reaping delicious benefits. Try an easy-as-pie slow cooker cobbler, which uses cheap, basic ingredients such as flour, sugar, cinnamon, milk, and egg. You can even whisk all of the dough ingredients in the slow cooker to save cleaning an extra bowl.
Recipe: Taste of Home
Comforting in its simplicity, this hearty recipe has played a part in many classic summer meals. With their low price and high nutrition, beans are a welcome addition. This savory recipe takes mere minutes to throw together and relies on the slow cooker to meld all the flavors together with minimal effort.
Recipe: Family Fresh Meals
Cheap, easy, and indulgent, creamed corn is a nostalgic treat for many families. Loaded with good-for-the-soul butter and dairy, a slow cooker version hits all the right flavor notes: sweet, earthy, and buttery rich. Paired with a salad, or grilled meats and veggies, this traditional dish completes any summer meal.
Recipe: The Kitchn
An essential at Hawaiian luaus or Tiki-themed parties, this crowd pleaser is simple to prepare. Made from the inexpensive pork shoulder, the long cooking time ensures depth of flavor and a succulent final dish. Easy to make and quick to clean up, it's likely to become a new family favorite.
Generally dark meat and fattier cuts turn out best in a slow cooker, because they don't dry out, but lean meats take on an appetizing texture and flavor with the right recipe. This chicken and vegetable coconut curry is made from boneless chicken breast and coconut milk, which tenderizes and flavors the meat. Chicken stock, sweet potatoes, chickpeas, and onion bring more flavor and richness to the stew.
Recipe: The Lemon Bowl
Bone-in turkey breast is inexpensive (about $3 for 2 pounds), as is the onion soup mix added for flavoring. Simply rub onion soup mix all over the turkey, over and under the skin, and cook on high for an hour before turning the heat to low for seven hours. The recipe serves 12, and leftover turkey slices can be used for a healthy lunch sandwich the next day for even more savings.
You might think that, without a stove, the only option for mac and cheese is the packet of yellow powder and microwaved noodles, but there's a better way: A slow cooker recipe that turns out rich and creamy with the press of a button. Starting from scratch saves money compared with the box version.
A decadent take on a breakfast standard uses a slow cooker instead of a griddle, combining cubed challah bread with sliced strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, heavy cream, and syrup for an easy Sunday brunch option. Just spoon it out and add a dollop of whipped cream.
Billed as costing "less than 72 cents per person," this dish relies on cheap staples such as chuck roast, potatoes, carrots, onion, and spices with the slow cooker doing its magic. If you want to save time, forgo browning the meat and simply place the roast in the slow cooker.
Recipe: Grocery Budget 101
Stretch a small hunk of pork shoulder by making soup out of it. Black bean soup is a classic, and this recipe uses a slow cooker loaded with ingredients such as beer, cumin, and chipotle. After spending about five hours in the slow cooker, the black bean soup is topped with sour cream, salsa, and cilantro.