I grew up with a stay-at-home mom until I was about six-years-old…
The first time I ate Kraft Dinner I was about twelve and we only had home baked cookies. When I tell people this they think my mom was like Snow White and Martha Stewart in one.
Truth was though she was one of the busiest women I knew. She handled two kids, and participated in volunteer work at our public school. My brother and I respectively played hockey on separate teams along with other extracurricular activities. When she went back to work it got even more hectic, but she always managed to have a hot dinner on the table.
Her secret was her crock pot.
Now that I’m in college and living on a budget and with a hectic schedule myself, my crock pot has been my saving grace, my beacon of hot home cooked meals, and my shining light of comfort food. This little guy has made my room-mate and a few of our friends’ tummies rather happy.
It’s one of my absolute favourite ways to cook, because it’s just so easy! I can throw a combination of simple cheap food in this little guy and it will cook a great smelling and even better tasting meal that’s ready as soon as I walk through the door.
Since I love my Crock Pot so much, and the internet is a broad place, I thought I could narrow down a few of my favourite Slow Cooker recipes. Most if not all of these have the potential to be not only cost effective, but also super easy for college students to do themselves.
Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta (Prep time 10 minutes)
I found this recipe on Betty Crocker a few years back, and by far not only my favourite recipe, but my room-mate’s as well. The only really pricey items that are in this recipe are bacon and boneless skinless chicken breast. I typically substitute the chicken breast for boneless skinless chicken thighs, which tend to be cheaper and go on sale more often. For a little bit extra I tend to dice up some tomatoes and mix them in after everything is cooked.
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast or thighs
6 slices of bacon cooked and diced
2-3 cloves of garlic finely chopped
1 package (1 oz) ranch dressing and seasoning mix
1 can cream of chicken soup
1c sour cream
½ tsp pepper
½ c water
8 oz cooked spaghetti
- Spray 4-quart slow cooker with cooking spray; place chicken breasts in cooker.
- In medium bowl, mix remaining ingredients except spaghetti. Pour over top of chicken.
- Cover; cook on Low heat setting 6 hours or on High heat setting 3 to 4 hours.
- When about 15 minutes are left, cook and drain spaghetti as directed on package.
- Just before serving, shred chicken with 2 forks, and toss creamy chicken mixture with cooked spaghetti.
Pork Tenderloin (Prep Time 7-8 Minutes)
I love coming home to the smell of this recipe cooking. It reminds me of my childhood, and walking through the door on a cold day to a hot meal. Pork tenderloin has the potential to be pricey, but can go on sale and is cheaper than most other pork products.
1 lb pork tenderloin
1 can diced potatoes
2 cans sliced carrots
2 tbsp powdered chicken broth
1 tsp Pepper
¾ c water
- Place pork tenderloin in the bottom of the Crock Pot.
- Drain liquid from canned potatoes and carrots, and then put the vegetables on top of the pork.
- Mix water and powered chicken broth together. Pour into Crock Pot, add pepper and stir.
- Cook on high heat for 6 hours, or low heat for 8. You can tell when it is done when the pork will start shred as you stir.
Crock-pot Lasagna Soup (Prep Time 20-25 Minutes)
Okay this recipe is amazing, and courtesy of familyfreshmeals.com. It has a longer prep time, but to make things easier I suggest preparing it before bed and refrigerating it overnight. As with the other recipes the main concern is ground beef, and once again it is another item that goes on sale from time to time and easy to stock up on and store in the freezer.
1 lb ground beef (or vegetarian crumble)
3 cups of beef broth (or vegetable broth to make vegetarian)
4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 TB dried parsley
1 TB dried basil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1, 28 oz can of diced tomatoes
1, 6oz can of tomato paste
1 c V8 (or any vegetable drink)
2 c uncooked shell pasta
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1 c water
- First mix together the can of tomatoes, and tomato paste in crockpot.
- Next add broth, beef, garlic, parsley, basil, onion, V8 and salt/pepper.
- Cover and cook on LOW for 7-8 hours or on HIGH for 4-5 hours.
- When 30 minutes are left of cook time, add in the 1 cup of water and noodles. Stir to combine. Put lid back on and continue cooking for 30 minutes.
When it comes down to it, cooking can be as easy as you want it to be. It’s just a matter of finding the right recipes and using the right methods of preparing them. Crock Pots are amazing for cutting down on effort and time in the kitchen, and also a peace of mind that you can easily have dinner on the table with a hectic schedule. Really when you think about it, who wouldn’t want their life to be a little easier?