With gifts to buy and wrap, a tree to decorate, greeting cards to send and travel arrangements to make, a cheap, healthy meal can seem impossible.
Who has time?
You do—so long as you have a slow cooker.
Slow cookers are an excellent investment for this time of year, and not just because holiday sales push their prices below $20 in some cases.
They’re a versatile device for cooking everything from punch and bread to entrees and desserts. Plus, they do it all with little active prep time.
You can toss a few ingredients in and come home or wake up to a hot meal that’s ready to eat.
9 to try:
It’s an unusual stew recipe that calls for sweet potato, honey and orange juice, but this recipe from Pam Howard of BeHealthyBeHappyWellness.com works all three into a savory meal.
Crock Pot Chicken & Dumplings
“This is one of my favorite crock pot meals,” says Lauren Weber of Mrs. Weber’s Neighborhood.
Her recipe is loaded with veggies, and includes extra optional steps for a healthier sub to the called-for cream of chicken soup.
The low temperature of a slow cooker makes it perfect for baking items such as bread.
Cubed stew meat gets a makeover with peppers, paprika, sour cream and other ingredients in this stew from FoodNetwork.com.
Chicken Tortilla Soup
“I love this recipe because I can make it so fast and cheap,” says Teri Gault, the founder of The Grocery Game. “I go ahead and stew the whole value pack of chicken breasts.”
Making a batch costs just $9.
Banana Upside-Down Cake
Got a few almost-gone bananas?
Instead of mashing them for banana bread, use them in this slow-cooked cake.
Braised Lamb Shanks
This recipe works well for beef shanks, too, says Jackie Keller, founding director NutriFit. To prepare, stem and coarsely chop a bunch of rosemary.
Make slits in three pounds of beef or lamb shanks and place slivered garlic in each slit. Sprinkle the shanks generously with ground pepper and rosemary, and then place in a slow-cooker.
Add one and three-quarters cups low sodium beef broth. Cover and cook on low heat for 3 hours.
Favorite Fall Soup
Great Northern beans and ham take center stage in Howard’s simple, flavorful fall soup.
One of Frugal Foodie’s favorites, this overnight recipe costs just 36 cents per serving, and makes enough for several days’ breakfasts.
Frugal Foodie is a journalist based in New York City who spends her days writing about personal finance and obsessing about what she’ll have for dinner. Chat with her on Twitter through @MintFoodie.