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.
This Indian lentil dish 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. This recipe 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.
Recipe: Platings & Pairings
Here's 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.
Recipe: Immaculate Bites
Tangy and mildly spicy chicken makes a quick and easy meal when made into sandwiches using $4 of chicken, $5 of seasonings, and $4 of bread, making six portions for $13.
This Italian stew combines pasta with beef and beans for a nutritionally balanced meal with satisfying flavor. This 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 from an unusual source 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, this smoky chicken 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.
Recipe: RB and Mindy
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 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.
Recipe: Pinch of Yum
The warming spices in curry are healthy and tasty, and a slow cooker gives the impression you slaved over the stove for hours. Pick up $3 of tofu, $2 of coconut milk, $2 of aromatics and seasonings, and $4 of vegetables and rice — an $11 ingredient list that 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 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.
Recipe: A Farmgirl's Dabbles
One of the easiest things to make in a slow cooker, pulled pork is a versatile and well-liked dish for easy family meals. This sandwich calls for $10 of pork shoulder, $3 of additional seasonings and spices, and $5 for buns. The $18 yields four very hearty portions.
Recipe: Food Network Kitchens