Cheap slow cooker recipes

Slow cookers save time, money and energy, but what are the most budget-friendly dishes to make in them? The BBC Good Food team show you easy, frugal recipes.

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. 

Our best cheap slow cooker recipes...

Sweet potato & coconut curry 

Sweet potato 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

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 

Spaghetti with 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

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

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 

Baked beans
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

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

Apple 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
Which slow cooker 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... 

Comments, questions and tips

Sign in or create your My Good Food account to join the discussion.
Be the first to comment...We'd love to hear how you got on with this recipe. Did you like it? Would you recommend others give it a try?
13th Feb, 2017
The cooking instructions for the vegetarian shepherd's pie does not relate to slow cooker instructions. Is this an error or am I being thick. Please provide the details I am looking for Many thanks
goodfoodteam's picture
17th Feb, 2017
Hi there, Thanks for your question. If you look at the end of the recipe, there's a tip section. You need to scroll through this and the slow cooker instructions are there. Just in case you still can't spot them, here they are: Fry off your onions, celery, carrots and garlic for 15 mins in a frying pan. Tip into your slow cooker with the mushrooms, herbs and lentils. Pour over the stock and wine, cover and cook on High for 5-6 hours. Meanwhile make the mashed potato according to step 2. Turn off the slow cooker, season and stir in the tomato purée. Divide the lentils between dishes, top with the mash and cheese and cook for 30 mins until piping hot. Enjoy!
Be the first to suggest a tip for this recipe...Got your own twist on this recipe? Or do you have suggestions for possible swaps and additions? We’d love to hear your ideas.