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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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What do you like to make in your slow cooker? We'd love to hear your recipe ideas below...