Back in 1999, I received a shiny chrome crock pot from my Aunt Helen that has since remained in the back of my dusty kitchen cabinet. That is until a couple of months ago when I decided to try to stretch our dollar and our meals and pulled out the ol’ beast. I’ll admit, I was a skeptic and assumed things would end up soggy or overcooked. How much time could this really save me? Would it save any money?
After experimenting with various recipes and numerous delicious dinners, I am a believer. My kids are satisfied, my husband is happy to be greeted by more adventurous dinners and they all assume I’ve spent way more time in the kitchen than I actually have. Now, I know what you’re saying—that’s so 1970, this is 2010! Repeat after me, “Your crock pot is your friend.” Check out some of these recipes and give them a try when you are strapped time…and cash.
Recipe #1: Slow Cooker Sweet and Spicy Chicken for Tacos (Estimated Cost: $3.00)
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 (14 ounce) can petite diced tomatoes, undrained
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Instructions: Coat inside of crock pot with non-stick cooking spray. Place all ingredients in crock pot. Cook on high for 4-6 hours or on low for 8-10 hours or until chicken shreds very easily with a fork. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Chicken will absorb liquid after it is shredded.) Serve in tacos.
Frugal Family Alert! Chicken is one of those things that can cost you a little or a lot, depending on the sales that week. I stock up when it’s less than $2/lb.
(Recipe and photo used with permission from Prudence Pennywise)
Recipe #2: Overnight Steel Cut Oatmeal (Estimated Cost: $3.00)
8 cups of water
2 cups steel cut oats
1/3 cup dried cranberries
Instructions: Coat inside of crock pot with no stick cooking spray. Combine water, oats, dried cranberries, dried apricots and salt in a 5- or 6-quart slow cooker. Turn heat to low. Put the lid on and cook until the oats are tender and the oatmeal is creamy, 7 to 8 hours.
Steel Cut Oats Alert! Steel-cut oats, sometimes labeled “Irish oatmeal,” look like small pebbles. They are toasted oat groats—the oat kernel that has been removed from the husk that have been cut in 2 or 3 pieces. Do not substitute regular rolled oats, which have a shorter cooking time, in the slow-cooker oatmeal recipe. You can also use brown sugar, raisins and cinnamon in place of the cranberries and apricots.
(Recipe and photo from Eatingwell.com)
Check out more great crock pot recipes online, in cookbooks and in your favorite magazines and remember, “Your crock pot is your friend…your crock pot is your friend!”
About the author: Jessica Lane is a penny pinching mama of two living on the Seacoast. She runs a blog www.barefootbysea.blogspot.com, where she discusses the trials of motherhood.