Slow cookers are generally a budget-friendly way to prepare food as it is, but when you use lots of vegetables, pulses and cheap meat cuts in them, the cost-cutting credentials are even higher. We’ve picked eight frugal recipes that each cost less than £1 per head. We’ve even got pudding sorted.
Make sure you’ve got the best kitchen kit for the job with our review of the best slow cookers on the market.
Our best cheap slow cooker recipes…
Sweet potato & coconut curry
This beautiful slow cooker curry might have a long ingredient list, but most of the components are storecupboard staples. Add to that red peppers, red cabbage and sweet potato (all robust veg that can handle a long stint over heat) and you have yourself a nutritious, gluten-free spice pot that’s flavoured with luxurious-tasting coconut milk and peanut butter.
Try making our creamy sweet potato curry
Slow cooker ribs
Despite their renaissance on the restaurant scene, spare ribs are still one of the cheapest forms of meat you can buy – although the gnawing required to eat them does mean physical expenditure instead. This recipe uses a classic barbecue sauce and the low-and-slow cooking method ensures a meltingly tender finish. Serve with baked potatoes and homemade coleslaw.
Try making our barbecue pork ribs
Spaghetti with garlic mushrooms
While we love cooking rich, meaty Bolognese sauce in a slow cooker, simple vegetarian sauces also intensify in flavour the longer they’re cooked. This vegan sauce can be left to cook all day, ready to be tossed with freshly-cooked pasta as an easy supper on those nights when you just can’t face chopping and prepping.
Try making our tomato & mushroom pasta sauce
Slow-cooked Irish stew
When it comes to eating meat, we can’t extol the virtues of getting to know cheaper cuts enough. Middle neck of lamb is one prime example as like many other budget cuts it requires cooking on low to help the meat break down over time. This classic Celtic dish is bulked out with cheap pearl barley and hearty spuds, and the beauty lies in the highly-moppable natural cooking liquor.
Try our slow cooker Irish stew
Veggie shepherd’s pie
This meat-free creation is packed with one of our all-time favourite cheap ingredients – lentils. You’ll need to make the cheesy mash on the side, but the sauce gets a good stint in the slow cooker to let all the herby, garlicky flavours melt into one super tasty melee.
Try our vegetarian shepherd’s pie
Homemade beans with potato wedges
You can make this student-friendly recipe even cheaper by omitting the bacon or, on the flipside, stir through sausages for an extra meaty hit. This could be served for breakfast, lunch or dinner, and you could switch the wedges for toast and a fried egg. Handily, it can also be frozen.
Try our slow cooker baked beans
Herby bean sausage stew
This is one of the cheapest, easiest recipes you’ll find. The only fresh ingredient you’ll require is chipolatas, the rest can be pulled straight from your larder – cans of beans and tomatoes, plus dried herbs and a touch of sugar. Serve with baked potatoes, wedges or crusty bread for dunking.
Try our cheap and cheerful sausage casserole
Slow cooker crumble
With a bit of creative thinking, you can make pudding in your slow cooker too – we have genius recipes for cheesecake and treacle sponge, but it’s crumble that really wins on the budget front. Stew apples with jam and orange juice, then top with an oaty, spicy ‘flapjack’ crumble mix. There are few better ways to end a meal…
Try our apple flapjack crumble
More on budgeting…
12 ways to cut your food costs
How to cook with cheap cuts of meat
10 gadgets to save you money in the kitchen
Cheap ways to get your five-a-day
Visit our budget section
More on slow cookers…
The best recipes for your slow cooker
Best slow cookers to buy
Video: How to use a slow cooker
Healthy slow cooker recipes
Family slow cooker recipes
10 top tips for using a slow cooker
What do you like to make in your slow cooker? We’d love to hear your recipe ideas below…