The Frugal Magic of the “Five Ingredient Crock Pot Meal”

crockWe use our crock pot all the time. Rarely does a week go by when we don’t use it at least twice. It enables us to simply put some ingredients in the crock pot in the morning, turn it on “low,” leave it for the day, then enjoy a home-cooked supper with our family at dinner. Often, we’ve got enough food left over that it serves as a solid lunch for me and my wife the next day (or the day after that).

A long time ago, I wrote an “introductory” post about crock pots entitled The Art of the Slow Cooker. In it, I mention the following:

Don’t have any idea what to cook? I’d recommend starting off with one of the spice packets sold in the grocery store, usually near the soup mixes. McCormick’s slow cooker packets are quite good for what you pay for, and the recipes usually involve dumping in the packet and four or five ingredients, turning it on low, and walking away for eight or nine hours. If you need to be away longer than that, add a quarter cup of additional water to the mix.

What’s amazing is how easy it is to create a truly tasty meal with minimal ingredients. Even if you don’t choose to pick up a spice packet at the grocery store, you can still create a wide array of great recipes with just a few ingredients in the crock pot.

In fact, my wife and I often strive to come up with great crock pot meals that require only five ingredients. With such a small list of ingredients, it takes only a minute or so to pull the crock pot out of the cupboard, toss in the ingredients, turn it on “low,” and leave for the day, only to come home to a deliciously prepared home-cooked meal.

Here’s one such recipe from The Art of the Slow Cooker:

here’s the simplest really tasty recipe I know of for a slow cooker.

1 can condensed cream of chicken soup (chicken & herbs if you can find it)
1 small can mushroom pieces (a 4 ounce can, drain off the water first)
1/2 chopped red onion
1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts (cut into strips if you’d like)
1/4 cup white wine (optional)

Put them all in the crock pot. Turn it on low. Walk away for four hours. For every additional two hours it will cook, add a quarter cup of water.

This makes for a delicious little chicken dish that I like to call “creamy chicken casserole.” It takes about two minutes to prepare in the morning and fills your belly right at night.

Like that one? Here are five more recipes, all of which we’ve eaten in the last few months. The directions for each are easy:

Combine all of this into a crock pot. Add salt and pepper to taste. Turn it on low and walk away for eight hours. Add a quarter of a cup of water for every additional two hours you intend to cook it.

Got that? That’s all you have to do for each one. Here are the ingredients.

Crock Pot Chili
1 large can tomato sauce
1 pound lean ground beef
2 cans beans (kidney beans are fine, but you can use whatever you like)
2 tablespoons chili powder
1/4 cup diced onion (or onion salt)

Simple Pot Roast
1 2 to 2.5 lb. roast
2 cups chopped carrots
2 cups chopped potatoes
1 cup chopped celery
3 cups beef broth or beef stock

Ham and Potato Casserole
4 red potatoes, sliced
2 red onions, finely chopped
1 1/2 pounds cubed ham
1 can condensed cream of celery soup, diluted according to can directions
2 tablespoons flour

(This one is very good with cheese on top just before you serve it.)

Shredded Beef Sandwiches
2 pounds beef brisket
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 1/2 cups beef broth or beef stock
2 cloves minced garlic
1 chopped red onion

(Serve this on buns – magnificent!)

Breakfast Apple Cobbler
4 medium-sized apples, peeled and sliced (try Honey Crisps)
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 cups granola cereal

(Start this one at 10 or 11 PM – ready for breakfast!)

It takes only five ingredients and a few minutes to come home to (or wake up to) a delicious home-cooked meal that doesn’t cost you very much money at all.