Updated on 10.15.08

The Simple Dollar Weekly Roundup: Crock Pot Edition

Trent Hamm

Over the last two weeks, I’ve started really experimenting with our crock pot, trying out different crazy ideas just to see how they work. Here are two we’ve found that are really easy and quite tasty.

Beef Burgundy Two pounds of beef stew meat, 4 ounces of mushrooms (fresh or canned), two cups of milk, a half cup of chicken broth, a half-teaspoonful of corn starch, and a cup of red wine. Put it on low for eight hours. Serve it over egg noodles.

Italian Chicken Three chicken breasts, a packet of Italian salad dressing seasoning, a teaspoon of melted butter, and a cup of water. Throw it in on low for six or eight hours. Right when you get home, add half a cup of milk, half a cup of chicken broth (or stock), and a package of Philadelphia cream cheese, stir it, and let it cook for another hour or two. Serve it over rice.

Both of these were excellent and very easy!

Once-a-Month Shopping: Save More by Shopping Less This works well if you have good storage space and don’t mind a lot of prepackaging. (@ get rich slowly)

A Good Home Inspection Is Worth the Money This is a spectacular example of why a home inspection is worth the cash. (@ gather little by little)

Is Cash Still King? I think cash will always be a safe investment. Dollars in a savings account or a CD might not get huge returns, but it’s very liquid and safe. (@ frugal dad)

Making Your Own Household Cleaners I tend to use baking soda and vinegar to clean a lot of things around the house. (@ money saving mom)

8 Nifty Tips for Getting the Most from an All-You-Can-Eat Buffet I actually found this post to be quite funny. It actually reminded me of the rare occasions when I was a kid and my parents would take the whole family to a buffet. “No lunch today, we’re hitting the buffet for supper!” (@ wise bread)

How to Control Pre-Baby Clutter The best tip? Go minimal at first. Trust me – I’ve had two babies at home in the last three years. You’re better off having less at first and then getting what you need than having everything and not needing most of it. Plus, it’s way cheaper. (@ unclutterer)

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  1. Laura says:

    Those recipes sound great I can’t wait to try them!!

  2. Trent,
    The crock pot is amazing for those of us with busy lives!
    The easiest and tastiest recipe that I have found is to add a few chicken breasts to the crock pot with a can of cream of mushroom soup – yes, that’s it!
    5-6 hours and you’ve got a delicious and simple chicken dish. I’ve also added potatoes to the pot when I am too lazy to make anything for a side dish.
    Gotta love the crock pot!

  3. ChristianPF says:

    I have had terrible luck with the crock pot every time I have tried it. With about 4 bad meals under my belt (with the assistance of the crock pot) I am up for about anything. Thanks, I will give these a shot!

  4. Kevin says:

    Both those sound good, Trent. We’re still eating through our whole chicken (bought for $4) I cooked in the crock pot on Monday. That night we had the chicken and scalloped potatoes. Last night we had BBQ Chicken french bread pizza…very tasty! And I’m having chicken salad all week for lunch. Now that’s frugal.

  5. topcrock says:

    I’ve started using my crockpot as well now that the weather is cooling off a bit. I’ve recently found some crockpot breakfast recipes too.

  6. Sara says:

    I got my crock-pot as a “you’re an adult now” gift from my grandmother when I went off to college, and it is still the best going away gift I’ve ever had. Especially when I’m having a bust week it’s a great way to still have home-cooked meals.

    My newest favorite crock-pot meal might be the easiest one yet: chicken wings! I get the value pack from the store, cut them up (that part is a little gross), dump them in the crock pot with a marinade, and let it go for 6-8 hours. So delicious, healthy (more or less so depending on the marinade) and easy.

  7. MegB says:

    @Christian PF

    Are you by chance using one of the programmable crockpots? If so, I recommend getting just a plain old regular crockpot with low and high settings. I had an old 70s style crockpot for years and never had any trouble with it. Then, my mother-in-law bought us a new one that was programmable. I thought it would be great until we kept coming home to scorched food. It didn’t matter how much water we added or how full it was. We finally went back to the “old fashioned” ones and never had another problem. Just a thought if you’re not having much success.

  8. Kelly says:

    I made up a crock pot dish on Sunday… I got some chicken thighs on reduced price (4.5lbs for $2.50). I also found some clearance garlic flavored buffalo wing rub, though I imagine garlic powder and some other spices could be substituted. 1 can cream of celery soup, 1 can cream of chicken soup, some chopped onions, the garlic rub/substitute, mix it all up and throw it in the crock pot with the chicken. Cook for five hours on high, or 8 hours on low. Came out delicous, cost about $6 total, and as a single person, it’ll feed me all week. I love my crock pot.

  9. Stacey says:

    Sounds delicious!

    We do “15-minute Italian chicken” when we get home late. Pour enough Italian dressing into a pan to coat the bottom, and then brown chicken breasts for 4 minutes each side. Add chicken broth or water and a small glug of Italian dressing, and simmer for another 8-10 minutes until done.

    I usually cut each breast into three pieces, and with the smaller sizes everything cooks in 15 minutes or less.

    Where we live, boneless skinless chicken breast goes on sale for $1.69 a pound. I stock up when it goes on sale and freeze it!

  10. Daisy says:

    your comment on the buffet cracked me up. that’s exactly what my parents, uncles, and aunts used to say. and since they’ve beaten us over the head with it so many times and my cousins are more grown-up now, my cousins are the ones saying that bit about not eating days in advance. XD

    I got a really cheap crockpot cookbook once, and yes, it is amazing what it can do!

  11. stacy says:

    I’ve had great money-saving, food fixing success with the crockpot cookbook “Fix it and forget it cookbook” and using the old-fashioned low/high crockpot. :>

  12. onaclov says:

    I need to learn to write recipe’s down, I make chicken stuff all the time, but haven’t ever been able to duplicate from one dinner to the next, they’re usually good, but in different ways….

    I may have to try these recipe’s


  13. Battra92 says:

    Oh wow does that buffet post bring back memories. ^_^;;

    As a child we’d go to the Ponderosa or later the Golden Corral (I never much cared for Old Country Buffet) and we would be told to skip lunch to eat at the buffet and were encouraged to “get your money’s worth.” It’s no wonder my parents are obese and I was too (I’ve lost 50 lbs in a year)

    Crock pots are awesome for big families, especially. They are also super cheap. You can find one at a tag sale for $5 or at Wally World for $20. Honestly, alongside an electric fry pan and after cast iron pans I think that it is the one of the best cheap cooking appliances a frugal cook can have.

  14. Anne says:

    If you’re looking for more crock pot ideas check out: http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/ I don’t even have a crockpot, I just really like reading her blog :)

  15. beth says:

    I <3 my crockpot. We cook dinner in it at least once a week, usually more. It’s great for any tough cut of meat- even frozen- and come home to dinner, done! Great for eating on a budget. Tuesday night’s dinner: chicken breasts with cubed potatoes, a can of cream of mushroom soup w/ a can of milk, and a packet of onion soup. Threw it in in the morning, and came back to dinner with gravy after work. Yum! This weekend was BBQ beef roast, last week- chicken & dumplings.

    To the folks who are finding that their newer crocks are burning their food: I read that the cooking temps were raised at some point in the 80’s or 90’s, so the newer ones will behave a little differently than your mom’s crock pot. Usually a little extra liquid will fix this, or cooking everything on low. The only times I’ve ever had anything burn were due to the food drying out (especially if it’s something that absorbs liquids like beans or grains).

  16. BonzoGal says:

    Hey, has anyone seen that heinous KFC TV commercial that’s been running recently- the one with the Mom and kids who claim that they could NEVER buy all the ingredients for a KFC $10 dinner deal at a grocery store for under $10? The kids say things like, “A chicken costs HOW MUCH? A bag of flour costs HOW MUCH?”

    Hellooo KFC, you don’t use a whole bag of flour for one meal… Sheesh… this kind of short-sighted consumer push really bugs me. They try to make it sound like it’s cheaper to eat a huge greasy fast-food meal than it is to cook and have leftovers and a pantry full of ingredients.

    One reason I love this site is that it’s the antithesis of that horrible ad. $10 worth of groceries could make many more healthy meals than a big bucket o’KFC!

  17. Anna says:

    Trent, I am sorry to have to tell you that Beef Burgundy does not have milk in it. It never, never has — not in all the many years of its existence as a traditional dish. A French cook would be horrified. Try it without the milk, please. Please? Pretty please?

    Oh, yes, and do include plenty of onions. That, too, is traditional for this dish.

  18. chitra says:

    My mom makes yogurt using a crockpot and it turns out really well.. Need to try it.

  19. Jeff says:

    Does anybody have any good crock pot recipes that take more than 8 hours? Like say 11-12 hours?

    It seems that every recipe I ever see is 6-8 hours. And with the train rides and typically working a little late, I’m usually gone for about 11 hours every weekday.

    If the recipe is 6-8 hours, I’m assuming that all these people that use the crock pot work part time or from home or something. I would love to use mine, but I can’t seem to find any recipes that call for over 10 hours of cooking.

  20. doc S says:

    That Itaalian chicken sounds quite delightful! I am going to have to try it, nothing better than Philly creme cheese. I am a homer. Be easy!

  21. MegB says:

    You know, I printed out another Beef Burgundy recipe that Trent posted sometime last year, and I don’t think it looked anything like the one he posted today. I’ll have to go back and find it because it also looked super yummy.

  22. Cash is far from “safe” over the long term when you consider the effects of inflation.

  23. Glblguy says:

    Thanks for the crock pot recipes and for the link!

  24. Margaret says:

    The package of cream cheese in the Italian Chicken recipe– I assume we’re talking an 8 ounce “brick”??

    And for those of us too cheap to buy a dried packet of salad dressing mix, can I presumably throw in the stuff I’d use at home to make my own salad dressing? :-)

  25. realtychic says:

    I consider myself an evangelical crock-potter. My favorite and by far easiest recipe: boneless, skinless chicken breasts (2-3 lb if you want good leftovers, which I usually do) and about 3/4 or so bottle of barbeque sauce. 8 hours on low. Shred the chicken w/ a fork, and serve as sandwiches. Everyone I have ever served this to loves it, and you can be as basic or as fancy as you want with the sauce.

    Another fav: 2 cans green beans, several raw potatoes, and a pound of kielbasa. Makes a complete meal, and the sausage adds great flavor to everything. A bit of chopped onion is great in it, too. 6-7 hours on low.

    Way to go, Trent, on mentioning the crock pot. It really has saved me a tremendous amount of money since I started using it. When I know I have a wonderful, hot meal waiting at home in the evening, I don’t even think about “grabbing a bite” on the way home!

  26. michelle says:

    My favorite crockpot recipe I thought I would share, if you like Indian food, you must make this, only 4 ingredients:

    1 package chicken thighs
    1 jar salsa
    i cup sour cream
    yellow curry powder

    Remove skin from chicken put in crock pot, cover with jar of salsa and plenty of curry powder, I use around 4tbs. cook for 8 hours, stir in a cup of sour cream and cook for 1/2 hour. The chicken shreds naturally if you stir ut up, just fish out the bones and you have shredded curry chicken. I mix in some brown rice and this feeds the two of us for 3-4 meals each. It also freezes really well.

  27. Karen says:

    I didn’t think you could put milk in a crockpot until the last 30 mins? I thought there was a risk it might spoil. Apart from that though I do agree with you, the crock pot rules, not only can you make wonderful frugal meals with it, but you get to enjoy the great aromas of dinner all day long!

  28. Ryan McLean says:

    What is a crock pot?

  29. Lisa Hetherington says:

    You are right MegB.

    By Request: Five Essential Crock Pot Recipes
    Posted: 20 Mar 2007 01:30 PM CDT

    Beef Burgundy

    2 slices bacon – cooked and chopped
    2 pounds sirloin tips cut into small cubes (one inch or so)
    1 garlic clove

    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
    1/4 teaspoon marjoram
    1/4 teaspoon thyme
    1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
    1 beef boullion cube, crushed
    1 cup red wine (Burgundy if you have it)

    2 tablespoons corn starch
    2 tablespoons water
    4 ounces fresh mushrooms (optional)

    Chop up the bacon and sirloin tips and cook them in a skillet for several minutes along with the garlic clove (make it two cloves if you like garlic flavor). While the meat is cooking, put everything else together except for the mushrooms, corn starch, and water in the crock pot and stir it. Dump in the entire contents of the skillet, stir the mixture, and set it on low. Leave for work. Come home, mix together the corn starch and water, pour that in, add the mushrooms, and kick it up to high for 15 final minutes. Serve.

  30. almost there says:

    I work nights so make 3-4 crock pot meals a week. That way while I sleep the dinner is cooking for my wife to eat when she comes home in the evening. I then take the leftovers into work the next night. I rarely follow a recipe, mostly gundeck it. But thanks, I will try these out.

  31. Margaret says:


    a crock pot is also known as a slow cooker. It consists of heavy inner “crock” made of (I think) porcelain that fits inside a larger electric crock, with a lid that fits. The outer electric crock has a heating element which heats the porcelain fairly evenly, at a slow temperature. Crock pot meals are typically of a stew-like or chili-like consistency, as cooking slowly over low heat with a lid on tends to retain moisture.

    Wikipedia has a good summary: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slow_cooker

  32. Margaret says:

    That should be “at a LOW temperature.” :-) Sori!

  33. JustEloped says:

    I love Italian Chicken! My mom makes it all the time with mashed potatoes. The sauce makes a yummy gravy.

  34. Anna says:

    Ryan #18: Google for crock pot. You’ll get plenty of information.

    (I was going to include a link — but hey, there’s an old proverb about teaching a person to fish versus giving a person a fish…)

  35. You might THINK you’re in to crockpotting, but you’re not. The lady over at “A Year of Crockpotting” is in to crockpots. She made a goal to use her crockpot every day in 2008, and she’s pretty much on the money so far.

    She’s got great recipes, and her writing is very amusing. She was even a guest on the Rachel Ray show a few months back.

  36. Dan says:

    Here’s a Vegetarian Nugget I recently created that has amazing results with our kids:

    1/2 block tofu pureed (comes out like cream)
    1 large cooked carrot significantly pureed
    1/4 zucchini cooked & significantly pureed

    Mix those 3 ingredients together thoroughly adding your choice of spices (mine are Worcestershire, creole seasoning, black pepper, garlic powder, and a couple drops of liquid smoke).

    In a separate container, combine:
    1/4 Cup Nutritional Yeast
    1/4 Cup Breadcrumbs
    3 Tbsp Flax seed meal
    1/4 Cup Flour (any type)

    Drop teaspoon size scoops into the breadcrumb mixture and very gently & lightly roll to coat completely. They will not be pretty! simply drop into the frying pan (we simply use cooking spray instead of oil) and they will mostly flatten and you can easily flatten with your finger. Let cook until golden, then flip.

    The kids chomp these down with no questions asked – even after revealing the ingredients half way through the meal. These nuggets really are very tasty!

  37. Claire says:

    My favorite easy crockpot recipe calls for skinless chicken thighs, one packet of taco seasoning, two cans of canned tomatoes w. green chilies. 6-8 hours on LOW. Sometimes I add one can of water, to make it more of a stew consistency. If I am making a stew, I might also add canned corn and black beans at the end. I like to melt shredded cheese on top, and/or a dab of FF sour cream and/or cut-up avocado cubes, serve w. corn chips.

  38. Conor says:

    Here’s an interesting crock pot resource. A blogger took on the task of crock potting daily; she turns the recipes and results over to the internet here:

  39. rachel says:

    Slow cookers are great! This is a recipe for roast pork and gravy that my husband and I love with mashed potatoes.

    You will need a Boston pork butt, a small carrot, a stalk of celery, a small onion, a few tablespoons of flour and a lump of butter plus salt, peppercorns, garlic, bayleaf and thyme.

    First, in the morning, rub the pork with salt, pepper and garlic, and put it in the slow cooker on high. (You may have to cut it into one or two pieces to help it fit in the pot.) After 30 minutes, turn the heat down to low, and leave it for 9~11 hours (Time depends on the size of the cut and the heat of your model of slow cooker.)

    When the pork is done to falling-apart tender, remove it from the cooker and place it on a covered platter.

    Remove the liquid that has cooked out of the pork from the slow cooker, and measure it after skimming off the fat. (I use a gravy separator.) The last time I made this, I got three cups of liquid from a 5~6 lb. butt.

    Mince or grate the vegetables very small. In a large saucepan, melt the butter and sautee the minced vegetables in it until they’re soft and quite brown. Add 1 tablespoon flour per 1 cup of meat juices to the saucepan, and cook, stirring constantly for about 5 minutes more or until the vegetables and flour become very dark brown. (This is what gives the gravy its rich color.)

    Whisk in the de-fatted meat juices plus a bay leaf, a large pinch or two of dried thyme and some peppercorns. Let the gravy simmer on low for 20~25 minutes until it is the desired thickness. Strain the solids out with a fine meshed sieve, pressing on them with the back of a ladle or spoon to remove as much gravy as possible. Add salt to taste, and there you have home-made gravy that’s better than anything from a can or package!

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