50 Slow-Cooker Recipes to Feed a Family of Four for $20 or Less


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mother and smiling daughter to preparing dinner at in kitchen with a slow cooker
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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.

Hearty Oatmeal
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With a recipe posted on Food.com, a super-healthy breakfast of steel-cut oats practically makes itself. The oats and butter cost only $1; add another $1 for optional dried fruit.

Related: 20 Ways to Jazz Up Your Oatmeal

French Toast
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An indulgent breakfast or brunch recipe from the blog Recipes That Crock works well for holidays or large family get-togethers. Start with a loaf of French bread for $3, $1.50 in eggs, and milk, butter, and seasonings that total no more than $2. The cost of the entire dish is $6.50.

Barbecue Chicken
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Super-simple barbecue chicken posted on Allrecipes is a time-saver for weeknight meals. The recipe calls for $3 of chicken and $4 of seasonings to simmer slowly together, infusing every bite of low-fat chicken, and serving four for $7.

Dal Makhani
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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.

Bean and Barley Soup
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Protein-packed and nutrient-dense beans combine with hearty barley to make a thick vegetarian stew. A recipe from EatingWell calls for $2 beans and seasonings, $3 of barley and broth, and $1.50 of vegetables. The $6.50 pot of soup serves six.

Kung Pao Chicken
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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.

Split Pea Stew with Ham Hock
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Ham hocks put big, satisfying flavor into humble ingredients such as split peas. A recipe off Chowhound calls for $1.50 of split peas, $2 of vegetables and spices, and $6 of ham hocks and broth. This pot of thick and creamy soup costs $9.50 and serves eight.

Vegetarian Chili
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Vegetarian chili from the cookbook "Cooking Light Slow Cooker Tonight" is a low-carb, low-fat, but satisfying meal. The recipe uses $7 of broth and canned beans, $2 of vegetables and spices, and $1.50 of toppings, totaling just $10.50, and the process couldn't be simpler.

Bacon and Pinto Bean Stew
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Bacon and beans are an irresistible combination. A protein-laden soup from the blog The Food Charlatan uses $5 of bacon, $1 of beans, $5.50 of vegetables and seasonings, and $2 of garnishes. For $13.50, it's a hearty pot of beans that serves 10.

Chicken Tortilla Soup
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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.

Related: 50 Chicken Recipes That Won't Break the Bank

Quinoa Morning Porridge
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Alternative grains are all the rage. A quinoa morning porridge from the blog iFoodreal is made from $1.50 worth of quinoa, $2 of coconut milk, and $2 of fruit toppings and sweeteners. Using thawed frozen fruit for toppings can bring the cost even lower than $5.50.

Turkey Chili
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A simple chili made from instructions on Allrecipes uses $6 of canned tomatoes and beans, $4 of ground turkey, and $2 of spices and cooking oil to make a large batch that serves eight. The total cost is $12, which leaves plenty of room in the budget for fixings.

Tuscan Kale Stew
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A filling stew from Cooking Light is packed with nutrient-dense kale and beans and flavorful hot sausage. The recipe calls for $3 of broth, $4 of vegetables and seasonings, $4 of sausage, and $1 of beans for a $12 pot of stew that serves eight.

Stuffed Cabbage
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An old country recipe, stuffed cabbage is a comfort food classic that lends itself well to gentle slow cooking. A simple recipe from the blog Sugar Apron calls for $4 of meat, $1 of vegetables and seasonings, and $2 of rice and sauce to make four large servings for $7.

Lemon Herb Chicken
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A recipe posted on Food.com lets herbs and lemon flavor infuse chicken as it cooks slowly over 8 hours, all hands-off. Gather $2.50 of vegetables and seasonings, $1.50 of butter and stock, and $3 of chicken for a $7 preparation that serves four.

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Time-saving instructions from Southern Living allow you to make a classic comfort food dish while out running errands or at work. Combine $8 of ground beef with $3 of supporting ingredients such as eggs and seasonings. The dish serves six for $11.

Chicken Noodle Soup
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Handy when the whole family has a cold, or just needs a familiar, warming meal, a recipe from the blog Family Fresh Meals combines $5 of chicken and broth, $3 of vegetables, and $3 of noodles. The dish costs $11 and serves six.

Barbecue Beef Stew
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Instant coffee adds extra depth of flavor to a beefy meal off Food.com. The easy recipe calls for $8 of beef, $5 of vegetables, and $1 of seasonings. For just $14, this stew feeds eight.

Vegetable Omelet
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Start the day on a healthy note with a time-saving breakfast from the blog Diethood. The recipe uses $1.50 in eggs and $4 worth of veggies, plus $2 of cheese and milk -- a total cost of $7.50.

Chicken Tikka Masala
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The ultimate Indian takeout dish is easy and inexpensive to make at home in a slow cooker with a recipe from Real Simple. It calls for $3 of vegetables, $1.50 of rice and seasonings, and $3 of chicken. This is a complete four-person meal for $7.50.

Jerk Chicken
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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.

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This Middle Eastern dish can be a spice-laden breakfast or a light dinner served with bread. A recipe from Tasting Table calls for $2 of oil and seasonings, $4 of vegetables including canned tomatoes, and $2 of eggs. The $8 dish makes four servings.

Eggplant Parmesan
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Eggplant parmesan is a vegetarian favorite. Instructions posted on Allrecipes call for $8 of eggplant, $3 of sauce and breading, and $5 of cheese and eggs. The entire dish costs $16 and serves eight.

Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches
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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.

Related: 15 Simple and Tasty Sandwiches That Cost $1 or Less to Make

Vegetable Lasagna
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A classic dinner favorite, lasagna is even more convenient with a slow cooker. An easy recipe from EatingWell calls for $3 of pasta, $6 of cheese, and $8 of vegetables and seasonings. The veggie-loaded meal costs $17 and yields eight plentiful servings.

Breakfast Egg Casserole
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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

Beef Stew
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There's little more comforting than slow-cooked beef stew. A homestyle version from the blog Damn Delicious calls for $10 of beef, $4 of vegetables, $2 of seasonings, and $2 of broth. This hearty stew costing $18 to make easily serves eight.

Sloppy Joes
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Sloppy Joe night is a family favorite made even easier with a slow cooker. Southern Living makes the filling with $6 of ground beef, $6 of sausage, and $3 of vegetables and seasonings. Add $4 for buns, and the $19 spend yields eight plentiful sandwiches.

Italian Wedding Soup
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Loaded with vegetables and homemade meatballs, this soup is a complete meal. A recipe from the blog Gather for Bread calls for $4 of veggies and seasonings, $1 of pasta, $4 of beef, $1 of cheese and bread, and $4 of broth for a $14 pot of soup serving six.

Minestrone Soup
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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.

Greek Chicken and Vegetable Ragout
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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.

Thai Coconut Fish Curry
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The Thai-inspired flavors of a dish on the blog Serendipity and Spice transform a cheaper fish such as tilapia into a gourmet meal. The recipe calls for $4 of seasonings and broth including coconut milk, $3 of vegetables, and $12 of fish. The $19 dish serves eight.

Smoked Chicken
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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.

Shepherd's Pie
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Finishing this dish in a slow cooker allows the flavors to meld into a cohesive meal of meat and potato goodness. The ingredients listed by Recipes That Crock are $12 of ground beef, $6 of vegetables, and $2 of seasonings. The entire dish costs $20 and serves eight.

Beef Ragu
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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.

Cajun Pork and Beans
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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.

Related: How to Feed a Crowd 15 Ways With a Cheap Cut of Pork

Beef Taco Casserole
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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.

Tofu Vegetable Curry
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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.

Chicken Tacos
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Tacos can be made for a fraction of the price of takeout and restaurants with a recipe from The Kitchn using $4 of chicken, $1 of seasonings and spices, and $6 for toppings. With $11, you can easily feed four hungry people.

Baked Ziti
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Cheesy baked pasta is a winning dish among even the pickiest eaters, and a true time saver. The recipe from the blog Build Your Bite combines $2 of pasta, $7 of tomato sauce, $7 of cheese, and 75 cents of eggs and other seasonings. For less than $17, the pot yields six massive portions.

Chicken Biryani
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This homemade Indian dish is full of fragrance and flavor from inexpensive spices. A recipe from the blog Naive Cook Cooks uses $1 of rice, $6 of vegetables and spices, and $2 of chicken. At $9 for three servings, doubling the recipe would bring the total cost of the dish to $18.

Spicy Noodle Soup
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For an Asian-inspired soup that combines fresh herbs, hot sauce, and tangy sauces, Cooking Light calls for $5 of chicken, $5 of vegetables, seasonings, and broth, and $2 of rice noodles. The $12 pot of hot and spicy soup yields four large portions.

Ranch Chicken
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A flavor-packed chicken and vegetable dinner takes just a few minutes to prepare before setting the slow cooker to do the rest. The recipe site 12 Tomatoes calls for $3 of chicken breast, $4 of vegetables, and $5 of seasonings for a $12 dinner that feeds four.

Saucy Sausage Sandwiches
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Spicy sausage and vegetable heroes are a treat any night of the week and need just 5 minutes of prep time. Instructions posted on Allrecipes call for $2 of vegetables, $4 of bread, $2 of sauce, and $12 of sausage. The recipe makes six large hoagies for $18.

Whole Roasted Chicken
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A whole chicken is an easy and beloved way to feed a family, and a recipe from The Little Kitchen will likely leave leftovers for other weekday meals. It calls for a 4-pound chicken for $8, plus $3 of vegetables and $1.50 in seasonings -- just $12.50 total.

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This traditional Italian-American dish is even easier with a slow cooker and instructions posted on Allrecipes. The recipe calls for $1.50 of vegetables and egg, $6 of ground beef, and $5 of breadcrumbs and tomato sauces. The total cost for 16 meatballs is $12.50.

Beef and Broccoli
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This Chinese takeout classic is easy and cheap to prepare at home in a large family-style slow cooker batch. A minimalist recipe from Damn Delicious combines $12 of beef, $1 of broth and soy sauce, and $6 of vegetables and other seasonings. The $19 batch yields six full servings.

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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.

Coq au Vin
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This sexy dish is easy to perfect with the help of a slow cooker, fresh vegetables, and inexpensive wine. To make, gather $4 of dry red wine and broth, $8 of meat, and $4.50 of vegetables and seasonings. This $16.50 recipe from Delish serves four.

Pulled Pork Sandwich
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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.

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