Cook at home to save money!
We’ve all heard the savers out there constantly promote cooking at home to save money, and I admit I’m one of the. According to the latest polls and statistics, the majority of people eat out at least once a week.
A crockpot is an easy, cost effective way of saving time and money cooking at home. You can just throw a few ingredients in the slow cooker and let it go all day. Then when you get home from work – voila! – dinner is ready to be served!
Picking a Crockpot
There are a lot of different options out there for crockpots ranging in price from $10 to over $100. I would suggest one that is programmable, so that you can set it in the morning and let it cook all day. It turns off at the selected time, 6 hours, 8 hours, etc., and then keeps the food warm until you are ready to eat. My favorite crockpot, and the one I use is a Hamilton Beach programmable crockpot. I’ve had it now for almost 10 years and it works just as well now as the day I got it. It’s also big enough to make a large batch of chili or works for small portions as well. You can make so many different things in a crockpot from breakfast to dinner, and even dessert!
Yes, You Can Use Cheaper Ingredients
When using a slow cooker, it’s actually better to use cheaper ingredients, like less expensive cuts of meat. You can use a whole chicken or a value pack of pork, chicken drumsticks, or chuck roast. A slow cooker will cook meat nice and slow sealing in the juices or the sauce you make it with, so it’s generally always tender and flavorful. It’s also great for bulk items such as dried beans, lentils, and rice.
Even as a single adult, I can cook a 4-5 pounds of meat on a weekend, and then use it for meals during the rest of the week and freeze it for later. I love to utilize my freezer for ready-to-eat meals, and I encourage you to invest a good set of storage containers.
When I’m ready to make something in the crockpot, I scan the grocery store ads for what’s on sale. You can often find pork or chicken for less than $1 per pound on sale. Compared to regular price of $4 or more, you’re talking big savings! You can easily make several meals out of an entire batch. Head over to Living on a Dime for some great crockpot recipes for $5 or less.
Additionally, for bulk items like dried beans, you can easily soak them and cook them for less than half the price of canned beans. It requires a little more effort than just opening a can, but the cost savings and health benefits (less sodium) are worth the extra sweat in my opinion. Here’s a basic slow cooker recipe for dried beans.
Seriously, Use Your Freezer!
You come home from work, tired and exhausted from a full day (or more) of work. Make dinner? No thanks! We’ve all been there. Often, after debating with your family or just with yourself, you decide you don’t really want to make anything and decide to just order out instead.
However, with a slow cooker, you can have a freezer full of homemade ready-to-eat meals. It takes most of the decision making and stress out of the question: “What should we eat tonight?”
One of my favorite freezer meals is chili. It’s cheap and super easy to make, and after making a big batch it’s easy to divide up and freeze in individual portions. It’s a great lunch, dinner, or snack when you are trying to figure out what to make. You can add extras on top if you have them – cheese, sour cream, avocado, or tortilla chips. Or you can top it on a make potato or nachos. Chili is one of those super-versatile freezer staples that is great almost anytime.
You can make so many different things in a crockpot – lasagna, teriyaki chicken, stew, soup, and they are all great freezer meals.
Plan Ahead for Big Savings
The slow cooker is also great for meal planning, helping reduce your food budget. Meal planning helps you focus your grocery shopping on sale items from the weekly grocery store ads, helping reduce the impulse buys and building your meals around the best deals at the store.
Boneless chuck roast on sale this week? You can Google some recipes online to make a roast in the crockpot or use it to make a stew. Add the ingredients to your list, and opt for substitutions if things are on sale. There are so many options available if you plan ahead.
You can also load up your pantry for things that work great for the crockpot and weekly meals. I like to stock up on chicken stock, tomato sauce, diced canned tomatoes, pasta, spices, and seasoning. When your pantry is well stocked, you can easily pull out various ingredients to make your own recipe based on what you’ve already got. It’s also a great way to use up random ingredients you’ve had for awhile in a soup or stew and make a great meal too.
Having a plan is a great way to focus more on making meals at home, and less on the take out menu. You’ll save money, and if you are open to using your freezer, you also cut down on food waste by freezing, rather than throwing away leftovers.
Creativity Pays Off – Literally!
Your crockpot can also open up a whole new world of vegetarian recipes, which are usually much cheaper than meat based meals. Instead of having vegetables, beans and grains as a side dish, try making them the highlight of the meal.
Additionally, crockpots can be used for much more than just dinner. Try breakfast options and dessert options too! For breakfast, try overnight oats, a French toast bake, or even pancakes. For dessert, you can make a cake, cookies, or a fruit crumble or cobbler.
Explore Your Options
It’s easier said than done, but you can start a habit of making more meals at home. If you explore the different options to buy, make and freeze meals, you will find that the excuse to order out tends to go away. If you’re trying to save money, using a crockpot is a way to make great quality meals at a low price, and with very little time investment!