Recently I've made a habit of making one crock pot (which is a trademark, so I guess I should say "slow cooker") meal per week. I do the weekly grocery shopping on Sunday after cutting out the newspaper coupons and checking for the grocery store deals, and I often find myself with a bunch of really good deals on cheap meat and veggies (fresh and canned).
I work hard to avoid eating out, but the convenience-factor is attractive. So I want to make something that's cheap, tastes good, doesn't take a lot of time, is forgiving for a bad cook, and doesn't rhyme with "Pamburger Pelper".
The answer to all of those was the crock pot. And the best part is, a full crock pot will not only feed you for dinner, but it'll give you enough leftovers for a week's worth of lunches.
For example, last week the local grocery had some boxed red-beans-n-rice mixes for about a nickel after the newspaper coupon. I grabbed two boxes as well as an extra can of red beans and some extra rice. I threw the whole mess into the crock pot around noon and let it cook all day. By dinnertime I had enough rice-n-beans for dinner as well as lunch for the rest of the week. And for a total cost of about $2.
The previous week the grocery had London Broil (a cheap but fairly tough slab of beef) for 99 cents a pound. I grabbed a large one, chopped it up, pan-seared it, and tossed it in the crock pot along with about $3 worth of potatoes, carrots, and celery and an envelope of stew seasoning (available where all those seasoning packets are for less than a buck). By dinnertime I had enough really good beef stew to feed an army for about the price of two cans of the Dinty Moore stuff.
So the Sunday Crock Pot has become my habit. With a $20 crock pot and about $5 worth of tupperware, you can eliminate a LOT of restaurant lunches and dinners. And now that even moderately-priced restaurants like Chili's are charging $12-$15 for entrees, eating at home is becoming more and more attractive.
And if you eliminate even one $20 restaurant visit per week, that's a thousand bucks over the course of a year. It really adds up.
Best thing is that IT IS REALLY EASY. The beans-n-rice and beef stew took maybe 15 minutes to set up. The only thing you need to do is plan ahead. Most crock pots have timers on 'em now so you can dump everything in the pot on your way to work and have it ready to eat when you get home.
. . .and trust me there's little better than walking into your house to the smell of a big pot of stew that's ready to eat.
I think I'm gonna do pot roast this Sunday. That's really good for sandwiches.
Crock Pot Cooking Hint: If your results are looking too soupy and you wanna thicken it up, throw in some rice and let it cook another hour. Rice will suck up about 3x its volume with water, so don't add too much.