Sometimes you need to bring a dish to a potluck or birthday party. Or there’s a big game on and you’re hosting. Or maybe you just want to try something different for dinner, but don’t have the energy or time for something complicated.
Allow me to help!
This recipe for sweet and sour meatballs is a longtime classic in my family. There are only three ingredients, though one of them may be surprising to you. Trust me, the finished product is delicious!
Using a slow cooker makes this as simple as: pour, mix, turn on. Done.
1 jar cocktail sauce
1 bag mini meatballs
1 ~12oz jar jelly (grape or blackberry work best)
Optional: You could add some vinegar for more tang, or some cayenne or other red pepper for a bigger bite.
Step 1: Pour the meatballs in the crock pot. I poured them in right from frozen and it works just fine.
Step 2: Pour in the cocktail sauce & jam, and mix well. Turn to low for at least 4 hours, up to 12 hours.
You could serve these on buns, or with toothpicks, or on skewers like a kebab. The flavor is surprisingly complex for just two ingredients!
One of my all-time-favorite money-saving appliances is the handy dandy slow cooker. It is amazing at taking tough (cheap) cuts of meats and slow cooking them to tasty perfection. It is great for making wicked frugal soups and stews. It makes dinner a breeze on crazy weeknights, keeping me from just ordering a pizza or take out. And it allows me to make staple items, like beans, for literally pennies per serving.
Beans aren’t usually listed on “top 10s” of superfoods, but I think they should be. There are so many kinds, black, pinto, navy, chickpea, green… And they are a fantastic source of protein for a very pocketbook-friendly price, I can usually find them about $1 per pound. And since beans plump when you cook them, you get much more than one pound out of that bag. If you find a good sale or buy in bulk, that price drops even lower. You can’t beat that in a can!
However, you also can’t beat the convenience of canned beans. Just sitting on a shelf, ready and waiting for a taco Tuesday or a last-minute decision to make minestrone. All you need is a can opener and you’re in business.
But you’re paying a premium for that convenience.
Someone else took the time to soak and cook dried beans ahead of time, and stick them in that can. They also may have chemicals or preservatives or flavorings or way too much sodium in the can. When you cook your own, you are in control of all these things.
So here’s the big secret: You can cook your own dried beans at home, with just a few minutes of effort, and have delicious beans ready to toss into whatever any time! For, like, a dollar!
Enter the slow cooker.
Almost every Saturday, I toss a half pound or a pound of either black, navy, chickpeas, or pintos into a slow cooker with water to cover them, and let them soak overnight. Then on Sunday, I change the water and add some spices and let it simmer all day. The finished product gets canned, separated by cup into individual bags and frozen, or put in the refrigerator for use that week.
Slow cookers are such a blessing to a busy cook! Whether you don’t like cooking, don’t want to spend hours in the kitchen, are feeding just one or an army, slow cookers can make healthy, quick meals a snap. With a small amount of planning, you can have dinner ready and cooking in 10 minutes or less before you run out the door, and come home to a hot, home-cooked meal at the end of the day.
Enchiladas are a favorite in my house, because they are customizable, economical, and delicious! Tortillas are cheap, and can even be made at home, corn or flour, for pennies. You can use chicken, beef, or keep it vegetarian with tofu or beans. And beans are great money savers! Especially if you buy dried, and cook them at home (another thing slow cookers are great at!).
In this recipe, I used burrito-sized flour tortillas, because they happen to be the exact size of my slow cooker. You can use smaller corn tortillas and layer them, or even roll individual enchiladas and pile them up in the sauce. Whatever makes you happy!
1 pound ground beef or turkey
1 bell pepper, diced
1 onion, diced
1 can diced tomatoes (or diced whole tomatoes)
1 cup frozen corn (or canned)
1 can black and/or pinto beans, drained
1 jar enchilada sauce
Shredded cheese to taste
Step 1: Brown your ground meat in a frying pan, and drain. Add the pepper and onion, saute until softened. You can add any spices you like here, such as cumin, taco seasoning, chili powder…
Step 2: Spray the crock pot with cooking spray, if you like. Line the bottom with a tortilla. Layer on the meat, tomatoes, corn, and beans. Top with sauce, cheese, and another tortilla.
Step 3: Continue layering 2-3 times, until the crock is full. Top with some more cheese, and the enchilada sauce.
Step 4: Set to low for 4-6 hours, or high for 1-2 hours. A programmable crock pot is best to ensure you don’t burn it. Cut yourself a nice slice, and enjoy!
Sidenote: If you don’t have a slow cooker, or just want to try something different, do the same thing but in a pie pan or 8×8 pan. Layer all the ingredients, cover with foil, and then bake at 350 for 1 – 1.5 hours. Still an enchilada casserole! You can also then freeze this for re-heating easily later.
Do you ever wish you had more time? Do you feel like you spend too much time at the grocery store, or in the kitchen, or waiting for delivery? Does you bank account look emptier because of all the ordering out you do? Do you want an easy way to make a week’s worth of homemade meals, for less than $100, with minimal prep and cook time from one grocery trip?
I thought so. Here is your answer!
This post is created to show you how to get a week’s worth of dinners (with some leftovers for lunches too) from a single 4 pound pork roast. All recipes easily feed 2 adults, with many recipes making much more food for leftovers and re-make meals.
By planning ahead to use one main dish all throughout the week, you can get creative and ensure that none of your food dollars get wasted by literally throwing them away. You will save time throughout the week by not having to go to the grocery store to pick up “just one or two things” and not having to worry what to make for dinner, it’s already planned out. And you can eat healthy, whole food, home cooked meals all week long!
Here is the list of recipes you will be making if you follow this plan:
As far as cooking equipment, you will need at least a frying pan, and preferably a slow cooker. You can slow cook the pork in the oven, and make the casserole in the oven as well, but that requires slightly more hands-on time from you. The full grocery list can be found at the bottom of the post, and you can go to individual recipes by clicking on the links throughout.
The first thing you’re going to need to do is assess your pantry and freezer situation. If you have plenty of Italian dressing, some frozen mixed veggies, noodles, and plenty of spices, you’re already halfway there on this week’s grocery list. Then make your list of what you still need to make the recipes, and head to the store.
You will need to pick up a nice pork loin roast, or other pork roast. I recommend 3-5 pounds for 2 adults for one week’s worth of meals. You can adjust to larger or smaller sizes if feeding a larger crowd, or just one, or if you wish to double recipes or omit certain recipes this week.
Once you have your pork roast, use a sharp knife to cut 2-4 pork chops off the end. You can also ask your butcher to do so if you go to a regular grocery store. These pork chops can be frozen for later depending on when you want to make the Italian Pork Chops.
Once you have your chops cut, take about 1 pound off the remaining roast. This will be diced up into cubes. You can also freeze these chunks for later, depending on when you want to make the Pork Lo Mein Stir Fry.
As for the remainder of the roast, put that guy into your crock pot. This is gonna become one delicious, fall-apart pot of BBQ Pulled Pork. If you’re game, add a sliced onion and a can of beer, then cook on low for 8-10 hours or high at least 4 hours.
Shred the pork roast with two forks. I recommend removing half of the meat to a container in the refrigerator, and adding 1 cup BBQ sauce to the rest and cooking another hour on low.
Now you have about a pound each of plain pulled pork and BBQ pulled pork! Plus 2-4 chops, and a pound of diced pork in the freezer. And that’s after less than an hour total of hands-on prep time.
Now you can use the shredded plain or BBQ pork for:
Pulled Pork Burritoes (above) or Quesadillas:
And slow cooker pork and rice and broccoli casserole:
And the diced pork chunks for a delicious homemade lo mein:
And the best part is, you can choose when to make these recipes and in what order, because the pork chops, diced pork, and shredded cooked pork all freeze very well. You can turn these into breakfast and lunch too, pulled pork omelettes are great, as are BBQ pulled pork sandwiches on nice thick buns. Enjoy!
Full Grocery List
1 4-5 pound pork roast
1 cup Italian dressing
1 can diced tomatoes
Frozen or fresh vegetables of your choice
1 cup BBQ sauce (or more, to taste)
1 package tortillas
~1 cup white or brown rice
1 can beans (black or pinto)
1 package lo mein noodles
Fresh or frozen broccoli
1 cup milk (optional)
Burrito toppings – sour cream, guac, salsa, etc.
And seriously, that’s it! I guarantee you can buy all of these items for under $100 (at least everywhere I’ve lived from Colorado to Connecticut).
Also, if you’ve read this far and you’re curious, I also have a post explaining all the cuts of a pig. So next time you go to the store, you can know the difference between a rump roast, shoulder roast, and a loin. 🙂
Burritos are a staple in my house, I’d say we have them at least once a week if not more often. They are just so simple to put together, yet always delicious and hit the spot. You can use basically any meat you have, just add rice and beans to bulk it up, and whatever toppings you prefer.
These burritos use pulled pork, with or without BBQ sauce, of which you should have plenty if you’re doing One Week of Meals from One Pork Roast. I would recommend the BBQ, but it is not required. And of course, always customize to your preferences.
1 large tortilla
1/2-1/4 cup pulled pork
1/4 can pinto beans
1/2 an avocado
1/4 cup cooked rice
Sprinkle of shredded cheddar
Step 1: Put the pork loin in a slow cooker with about 1/2 cup of liquid. You can use beer, cola, or stock. Cook on low for about 8 hours, it won’t hurt to go a little shorter or longer. Shred the meat with 2 forks. If you want BBQ pulled pork, add 1-2 cups sauce and cook another hour.
Step 2: Layer all your ingredients in the tortilla. Make sure there’s a good distribution so that once you roll it up, you get a little of everything in each bite!
Step 3: The best way to roll is to flip 2 opposing sides in just about 2 inches. Fold the corners over on both sides. Then take one open end and roll it towards the other, scooping the fillings under. Roll it tight, and enjoy!
I don’t know about the weather elsewhere, but the weather here in Connecticut seems to be very bi-polar. One day it is in the 50s and sunny, and I am getting cabin fever and want to plant everything in the seed catalog immediately, the next day we get almost a foot of snow dumped on us overnight. What’s going on here?
I am so thankful that CT has some amazing farmers who have hoop houses, green houses, store rooms, and other ways of extending our crazy growing season, so that we are already getting some of the first tender crops of the springtime. Though not quite yet asparagus season, we have access to several root crops (beets, parsnips, onions, potatoes, leeks…), winter squash, eggs & meats, and tender fresh greens (grown inside of course).
Usually I plan the week’s meals before going to the store, but I decided to get crazy this week, and let the market make my meal plan. Whatever was fresh and available, I will form the week’s meals around that. This is one small step on my lifelong journey to be a locavore (to eat whole seasonal foods grown as close to me as possible as often as possible).
A big bag of fresh microgreens, spinach, and head lettuce means tons of fresh salads. Healthy brown eggs means breakfasts, frittatas, and quiches. CT grown oyster mushrooms may be grilled, sauteed, added to soups, or stir fried. The fingerling potatoes will complement just about anything, and the beets too have many many options.
The first dish I decided to make (after a giant fresh greens salad, because I couldn’t wait and helped myself almost as soon as I got home) was a slow cooker soup. I had obtained leeks, parsnips, and fingerling potatoes. Combined with onions I had over-wintered, fresh ground spices, and canned turkey broth (from Thanksgiving!) it would be the perfect thing on a chilly snow-covered day.
1 large parsnip (or carrot)
1 large leek
3-5 small potatoes
1/2 medium onion
2-3 cups bone broth, vegetable broth, or water
Optional spices: black pepper, fennel, cumin, sea salt, garlic
Step 1: If using fresh whole spices, grind them up in a coffee or spice grinder. In a crock pot or small soup pot, add the broth. Wash the outside of the produce, but leave the skin on. Dice up the potatoes, parsnip, onion, and leek and add to the pot. Add water to cover.
Step 2: Cook in crock pot on “high” for 4 hours or “low” for 6-8 hours, or bring to a boil on the stove, and simmer for 1-2 hours. Serve fresh with a drizzle of olive oil and maybe some thick bread or rolls.
Curry is one of my favorite meals ever, because you can make it in a crock pot and basically do no work, or in a sauce pot and also do almost no work! I’m sure that there are curry recipes which take many exotic ingredients and hours of preparation, but for a basic recipe, and an American palate, curry is super simple.
This curry incorporates chickpeas, sweet potatoes, and other aromatic vegetables for an amazing, nutritious, tasty recipe. I used basically a jar of salsa starter that I had canned earlier in the summer, but you can also use frozen veggies, or fresh diced veggies. This is very filling, especially if served over rice. If you must have meat, feel free to also add some pork or chicken or beef.
1 can chickpeas, drained
1 medium sweet potato, diced
1 medium white or yellow potato, diced
1/2 bell pepper, diced
1/2 onion, diced
1 can crushed or diced tomatoes
Optional: 1 tbsp turmeric, 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp red chili pepper, 1 tbsp garam masala
Step 1: Dice up the potatoes and throw them in a sauce pot or crock pot. Add the diced tomatoes and vegetables. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce to a simmer and cook 20-25 minutes. (Or set to low and cook 2-4 hours).
Step 2: Open the chickpeas and drain. Add to the pot, along with any spices you want to use. Cook just until everything is heated through, if using a crock pot, add about 30 minutes before serving. If desired, boil some rice and serve with the curry, or you can serve with flat bread.
One of the things I was most excited about when moving to New England was of course the seafood! The beautiful thing about being near the sea is the abundance of affordable and fresh seafood. From salmon to crab to scallops to, of course, lobster, Connecticut is a playground for those who are pescatarian.
The recipe here calls for cooking the potatoes and clams most of the day in a slow cooker, then creating a roux and adding it in just before serving. I have added in my own Polish/Slovak flair by switching the cream for sour cream, creating what we call a “zapraska” (used to make Hungarian chicken paprikush soup) to deepen the flavor of the roux and lend a creamier final flavor.
You could instead cook all the ingredients but the sour cream together all day, and then simply add small amounts of hot liquid to the sour cream and flour until thickened and stir it in just before serving. That would be the ultimate hands-off chowder recipe.
12 oz clams, fresh or frozen, preferably in their own juice
2-3 tbsp olive oil or butter
2 large baking potatoes
2-3 cloves garlic
2-3 ribs celery
8 oz fish sauce or clam juice
8 oz sour cream
1/4 cup flour or cornstarch
Step 1: Dice the potatoes and put into the slow cooker. Add the entire contents of the clams (or fresh and add the clam juice). Add water to cover. (Add more for thinner soup, add just enough to cover potato pieces for thicker soup). Put the slow cooker on “low” for at least 2 hours, or up to 8 hours.
Step 2: Dice the celery, garlic, and onion into small pieces. Add the oil and veggies to a frying pan, and cook for 7-10 minutes, until translucent.
Step 3: Add the flour to the pan with the oil, stir for 2-3 minutes. Then add the fish sauce and a little water from the slow cooker until it forms a thick paste. Mix in the sour cream, and whisk it all together well. This is the roux (pronounced “roo”) you will add to thicken the soup.
Step 4: Add your roux to the slow cooker and mix well. Now your soup is ready to serve! Add more flour and less water to thicken, or add more water to make a thinner soup. Serve with nice hearty rolls and/or a fresh green salad.
Peanut butter is a great source of health protein, as long as you don’t go overboard the fat content isn’t a deal-breaker. It is also a very cheap staple to keep in the kitchen. But even the most devoted lover of peanut butter sandwiches can get bored of them in time. A simple peanut sauce goes great with chicken (or pork!) and when made in the slow cooker, it is a breeze to whip up something exotic in no time at all with basic staples.
This sauce is a complex mixture of creamy, salty, spicy, and peanuts. Obviously do not make it or eat it around people who have a severe peanut allergy, as it contains both peanuts and peanut butter. You can control the level of spice by choosing what kinds of pepper to add, if any. Feel free to tweak the seasonings to your preferences.
2-3 pounds chicken
3 tbsp peanut butter
2 tbsp peanuts, crushed
4 tbsp fish sauce
4 tbsp soy sauce
1 lime, juiced, or 1 tbsp lime juice
4 tbsp plain yogurt
2 tbsp sour cream
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, diced
1 inch fresh ginger, diced
1 tbsp curry powder
Optional: 1 tsp Thai chilie
Step 1: Mix all wet ingredients in a bowl.
Step 2: Add chicken and all of the spices. You could either mix this in an oven-safe container and bake at 350 degrees for 2 hours, or mix in a crock pot and bake on low for 5-6 hours.
And here you have the chicken and sauce in a crock pot.
The crushed peanuts are added on top, then cooked on low.
The peanut sauce thickens over time, and is delicious served over pasta or rice.
This post is about my newest addition to my Kindle offerings: “10 Crock Pot Freezer Meals”! You can see for yourself at my Budget Epicurean Kindle Author page. The eBook contains a complete grocery list, with the items categorized in order to easily breeze in and out of the store in minutes, as well as ten of my best & most loved slow cooker recipes, including Cranberry Spiced Chicken, Orange-Glazed Pork Chops, and White Bean Chicken Chili. I even added some handy, easy printables to label your bags, so you know what you have days or weeks later!
To watch the short video on how easy it is to shop for and assemble everything, check it out here! Of course ALDI was the store I went to (I just love them for their focus on providing the best prices over flashy ads or in store perks). I had my list in hand, and the total for everything that was going into these ten meals (minus just a few pantry staples) was $87. Given that each meal is made to serve 4, that is only $2.18 per meal!!
Of course, you can substitute as needed, such as if you have a hatred of a specific type of bean, swap it for a different kind, or if you do not eat pork, use chicken or beef instead. Definitely the highlight of the trip was finding this little bonus deal: $0.35 for canned, organic, reduced sodium black beans!!! Oh yeah, I bought 2 cases. That doesn’t count towards the meal totals…
The entire shopping trip took me probably about a half hour. And that is with writing down prices of things, and forcing my significant other, who was such a trooper, to take pictures and help me double check that I hadn’t forgotten anything. 🙂
As a reminder, you can purchase the nice printable ebook HERE.
First things first, I got everything organized. This means putting all the ingredients for each recipe into a pile. Some ingredients were used in multiple recipes, so I put those piles next to each other. Then I cut out the labels, and taped them onto a bag.
Next, take a cutting board, and for each recipe that requires dicing, chop up the peppers, or onions, or whatever, and place the raw veggies in the corresponding bag. It is best to get all that out of the way first. I actually ended up wearing goggles, because the onions were so strong and stung my eyes so that I couldn’t see for all the watering they were doing!
Next, take a can opener, and open up all your cans. Drain things like beans if you like, I didn’t even bother, just dumped the whole thing in there. Pour the canned goods into the bags. Any seasonings like chili powder or honey, pour those in next. Finally, open the meats (if using) and add those to the bags last. Be sure to keep meats separate otherwise so as to not cross-contaminate, and wash your hands after touching them.
Orange-Ginger Glazed Pork Chops
BBQ Pulled Pork
Crock Pot 5 Bean Vegetarian Chili
Creamy Italian Chicken
Spiced Cranberry Chicken
White Bean Chicken Chili
Garlicky Sweet Lemon Chicken
Garlicky Sweet Lemon Chicken
Once you have your bags filled, you can take them to your freezer. Ideally, freeze them laying flat so that you save freezer space. You can also put any of these recipes straight into the crock pot, as I did with the garlicky sweet lemon chicken.
The day before you plan to eat one of these meals, just take the bag from the freezer and put it into your refrigerator. Preferably put the bag onto a plate or in a bowl, just in case it leaks or drips water as it thaws. The next morning, pour the whole contents of the bag into your slow cooker and cook as instructed. You can use each recipe’s suggestions, or serve with whatever you have handy. And there you have it! Ten meals that serve 4, from cans to freezer to cooked!
Freezer meals assembled and ready to go!
You can purchase this list of ten slow cooker, freezer-approved recipes, plus a complete one-page shopping list, serving suggestions, and printable freezer bag labels on Amazon!
Just search “Budget Epicurean”. Or visit this link: http://goo.gl/VtfKOq
I’m hoping to expand these meal plan offerings soon to include a vegetarian option, diabetic meal plans, gluten-free meal plans, and more! Please let me know if you have any feedback, questions, or something else you want to see in the future in the comments below or by email at budgetepicurean (at) gmail (dot) com!
You can view the video of how easy the shopping & assembly is here:
Many many food bloggers and regular people alike love this method of cooking! It is hard to overstate how much time, energy, and cash you can save by cooking this way. If you’re already experienced with meal planning based on grocery store sales, or want to try coming up with your own recipes, here’s a great article from one of my favorite frugal sites, the Simple Dollar, fully explaining the process!
The fusion of food, fun, frugality, and curiosity.