Updated on 06.25.07

Cook Once, Eat Twice With A Crockpot

Trent Hamm

My wife and I regularly check out cookbooks from our local library to scavenge for new ideas for our cooking repertoire. While most of the time, the recipes are complex and the ingredients expensive, we occasionally check out an interesting one that really hits a frugal sweet spot.

This week, we checked out Cook Once, Eat Twice because it promised a pile of recipes that you can make in a slow cooker and then reuse the leftovers in another distinct recipe. Generally, we use recipe collections like this one to learn techniques and things that go well together, so we were hoping to learn more about making reusable foods in the crock pot.

How does it work? The recipes in the book come in pairs, one on the left page and one on the right page when you open it. The one on the left is a slow cooker recipe; the one on the right takes the leftovers from the slow cooker recipe and applies them to another dish.

For example, Saturday evening we had chicken succotash (basically, a chicken stew with corn and lima beans), then on Sunday evening, we used the remaining succotash to make a chicken and cheese casserole. Each one took about fifteen minutes of prep time.

How can this fit into my day? The workflow that we found that works best for us is to prepare the crock pot meal one morning before work and set it to cook while you’re at work. Then, in the evening, enjoy that meal, then prepare the second meal for tomorrow. The next evening, just come home, pop it in the oven, and you’re ready to go.

How tasty is it? What we found was that in terms of required effort, most of the recipes in this book were incredibly easy and also (for the most part) quite tasty. We both expected that all of the recipes would taste the same both the first time around and the second time around, and this was true for at least one of them (the crock pot beef stew that turns into beef stroganoff), but then we tried the chicken succotash / chicken and cheese casserole and found it to be far more tasty.

What’s the cost? The chicken succotash meal pairing cost about $17 in ingredients all told. It provided three meals each for my wife, my son, and I, making the average meal cost slip below the $2 mark. Considering these were complete dinners with good nutritional value (chicken, beans, corn, carrots, other vegetables, etc.) and they didn’t take long to prepare, this was a very impressive cost.

We’re looking forward to trying out more ideas from the book in the coming week, but so far we’re impressed with the quality and simplicity of the meals and their inexpensive nature. Give it a shot by stopping by your local library and checking out a copy.

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  1. Heather says:

    This sounds interesting! It’s definitely going on my “want” list for cookbooks (of course, that’s a mile long…).

  2. Cheryl says:

    I LOVE my crockpot! Just made pot roast with it last night, which will feed us for a few days between leftover and sandwiches for lunches!

  3. mmmmmm pot roast. Cheryl just made me add pot roast to my shopping list.

    I went on a crock pot binge a few months ago. So easy, so inexpensive, such good smells, and great leftovers. A win win situation and a good way to start food in the morning so I know I have to go home to eat instead of stopping to eat something I shouldn’t be eating or paying for.

  4. kleanchap says:

    I disagree with this method of cooking to save time/money. The food will get boring really quick and you would want to try something else. If you don’t have something already cooked, then very likely you will end up eating outside. This happened to me. I ended up spending at the cafeteria etc.

    My advice is to cook for 3 days at the most (preferably 2 days dish) and then try something else during the next cooking session. Or cook 2 separate dishes which will last 2 days each. This will keep your food part of your life a little bit more interesting.

    My .02 cents/euros or whatever….

  5. Adam says:

    We also use our crock pot on a regular basis. We very often use it on Sundays; putting something on before church and having a hot, healthy meal available when we get home. As a preacher’s family, that is a major help–so we can have Sunday afternoon to rest as much as possible.

    Thanks for the book recommendation, and (still) great work on the site!!!

  6. I haven’t ever actually used a crock pot. I love to cook, and it always seemed like the crock pot would take the fun out of cooking. But I like the sound of the cookbook. I might check it out!

    One of my favorite cooking activities is to go to the library, check out a random “ethnic” cookbook (ethnic means not American in this case) and make a recipe from it. It is usually more expensive than my own meals because I have to buy special ingredients, but it helps with variety.

  7. ammb says:

    sounds like a good book :) we just picked up our 1st crock pot & are looking forward to using it. are there any other good books like this out there or even a website?

  8. Mardee says:

    Don’t forget your computer – I find most of the best recipes online now. There are some excellent healthy recipes at places like http://www.sparkrecipes.com or allrecipes.com. Lots of them have comments and/or ratings, too, so you can see how other people enjoyed them (and also find ideas for tweaking the recipes).

  9. m360 says:

    It sounds like the crock pot thing would get boring over time. My suggestion is to take some of those basic recipes and modify them. Add different veggies, seasonings, etc. I don’t really know about the whole meat thing, but I’m sure you could mix that up too.

    I love to cook and experiment a lot. When I make something, I think of how I could improve it or change it around a bit. Form a hypothesis as if you were a scientist. Like the chicken and succotash, you could say, how would that taste if I used green beans instead of limas?.

    Herbs are a good way to keep it interesting. I found a food dehydrator at a yard sale for $1 a few years ago. It collected dust for a while, but lately I have been dehydrating herbs, fruits, etc. in it. The stuff you get in the store has little taste and is far more expensive in my opinion.

  10. m360 says:

    Oh, yeah, and for us forgetful folks…If you come up with a new creation as a result of experimentation, write it down! Sometimes I make something that I can’t duplicate because I threw a little of this & that in it and couldn’t recall all the ingredients.

  11. Will says:

    Thanks for your posts on food, Trent. It’s nice to get a take on the subject from someone who is not a professional food writer. Often, when articles like this appear in newspapers and magazines, they leave you wondering if the writer lives in the same world as the rest of us!

    There is also some evidence that the slower, lower heat, method of cooking is much healthier as long as we pick good ingredients to go into the pot. I just wrote an article on my site about the frustrations of trying to find quaality fish in the supermarket. Then yesterday, the Associated Press reported that 3 types of fish imported from China for supermarket sales contained unapproved drugs and chemicals. Guess I will have to write a follow up on that!

  12. Jude says:

    If you *really* want to save money, stop eating all that expensive meat. Vegetarianism is much cheaper.

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