50 Slow-Cooker Recipes to Feed a Family of Four for $20 or Less
Slow cookers are a busy cook's best friend, especially with an entire family to feed. Many of these easy recipes are dump-and-set, requiring just a few minutes of prep time, and all can feed a family of four for $20 or less. To cut costs even more, use homemade broths, leftover veggies and meats, frozen produce, and inexpensive cuts of meat.
An Indian lentil dish from EatingWell is full of heart-healthy nutrition and vegetarian protein for a quick and easy meatless meal. Lentils are also one of the least expensive sources of protein. This recipe uses $1 of lentils, $3 of vegetables and spices, and $3 of canned tomatoes and beans. The dish serves eight for only $7.
This takeout-dish-turned-homemade-family-meal requires three steps, saving time and effort amid a busy schedule. A recipe from the blog Platings & Pairings calls for $3 of chicken, $2 of spices and seasonings, and $2 of vegetables for a $7 entree that serves six, leaving room for additional vegetables, rice, or noodles on the side.
A hearty and flavorful Mexican-inspired dish made with instructions posted on Allrecipes works in any season and is ready in just a few hours. Making eight servings requires $7 for vegetables and canned sauces, $1 for spices, $1 for tortillas, and $2 for chicken. The total cost: $11.
The blog Immaculate Bites offers a combination of spices and seasonings that meld in a spicy broth for cooking chicken. Start with $4 of vegetables and spices, and $6 of chicken. Finish by caramelizing the chicken under the broiler for flavor and textural contrast. This $10 dish feeds five.
Tangy and mildly spicy chicken makes a quick and easy meal when made into sandwiches. Instructions posted on Allrecipes call for $4 of chicken, $5 of seasonings, and $4 of bread, making six portions for $13.
Dishes with eggs -- about 25 cents each -- are among the cheapest, most nutrition-rich ways to feed a family. A breakfast casserole from the blog Family Fresh Meals uses $6 of eggs, $3 of vegetables, $7 of cheese and meat, and $1 of seasonings to create eight hearty portions for $17.
Related: 10 Simple Ways to Cook Eggs
This Italian stew combines pasta with beef and beans for a nutritionally balanced meal with satisfying flavor. MyRecipes' slow cooker version calls for $1 of pasta, $8 pounds of ground beef, $3 of vegetables and seasonings, $2 of tomato sauce, and $5 of canned beans and broth. For $19, you get a full eight servings.
A flavorful recipe off WebMD is part of a super-healthy Mediterranean diet packed with lean protein and zesty vegetables. To make, combine $3 of chicken, $7 of vegetables, $3 of seasonings and broth, and $1 of eggs. The saucy, carb-free dish costs $14 to make and yields six portions.
Even coming out of a super-easy, hands-off slow cooker, smoky chicken from the blog RB and Mindy has all the flavor of an outdoor grill. The recipe calls for an $8 roasting chicken plus $2 of spices and aromatics for a $10 meal that feeds four and leaves plenty in the budget for bread or rice and vegetables.
A rich combination of flavorful beef, tomatoes, and aromatics sits atop a bed of soft polenta for a warm meal that works well in cold weather. The recipe from the blog Pinch of Yum calls for $15 of beef, $2.50 of vegetables and seasonings, $5 of tomatoes, and an extra $2.50 for the polenta. The $25 portion serves 10, so cutting it in half to feed a family of four (with some left over) brings the cost down to $12.50.
This low-country dish, a hearty way to start or end the day, is packed with flavorful meat and nutritious beans. A recipe from the blog Deep South Dish calls for $2 of beans, $2 of seasonings, $7 of pork, and $2 of rice. The $13 recipe yields five servings.
Preparing this taco-flavored dish in a slow cooker makes it quick and easy for any night of the week. Simple instructions posted on Recipe 4 Living combine $6 of ground beef, $6 of canned vegetables and seasonings, $3 of tortillas and cheese, and $1 of toppings to make a six-serving casserole for $16.
The warming spices in curry are healthy and tasty, and a slow cooker gives the impression you slaved over the stove for hours. To prepare a recipe from the blog Hummusapien, pick up $3 of tofu, $2 of coconut milk, $2 of aromatics and seasonings, and $4 of vegetables and rice. The $11 ingredient list makes four servings.
This Hungarian beef stew is like a hug in food form, with rich and comforting flavors that seep deep into tender chunks of slow-cooked meat. The recipe from the blog A Farmgirl's Dabbles calls for $15 of beef, $4 of seasonings and broth, and $6 of vegetables. For $25, it can feed up to eight people, so making a half batch to feed a family of four brings the total to $12.50.
One of the easiest things to make in a slow cooker, pulled pork is a versatile and well-liked dish for easy family meals. A sandwich recipe from Food Network Kitchens calls for $10 of pork shoulder, $3 of additional seasonings and spices, and $5 for buns. The $18 yields four very hearty portions.