Delicious Cheap Crock-Pot Recipes You Can Eat at Lunch
Bringing your lunch to work is a good way to slash your food budget. But salad and sandwiches get old after a while, and making something more elaborate may eat into your already limited time. Whether made at home or your office kitchen, you can create tasty, inexpensive lunches in your Crock-Pot that are easy to put together and require little clean up.
1. Lentil Soup
Take a stroll down the legume aisle of your grocery store. Compared to meat, beans, split peas and lentils are a much cheaper source of protein. This soup helps you not only save money, but also keeps you full. In a 6-quart Crock-Pot, add 1 cup chopped onions, 2 teaspoons minced garlic, 1 cup chopped celery, 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper, 3 cups dried lentils, 5 cups vegetable broth, 1 teaspoon thyme, 1 teaspoon oregano and 2 bay leaves. Cover and cook on high heat for 4 hours. Serve your soup hot with crackers or bread.
2. Crock-Pot Beef-a-Roni
Beef-a-roni isn't just for kids, but you may want to save some so they can eat your lunch leftovers for dinner. In a 6- to 8-quart Crock-Pot, add 1 pound ground meat, 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, 1 jar tomato sauce, 3 cups beef broth, 3 teaspoons minced garlic, 1 cup chopped onions, 1 teaspoon oregano, 1 teaspoon basil, 1 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Mix the ingredients, cover and cook on high heat for 4 to 5 hours. During the last 30 minutes of cooking, add 2 cups elbow macaroni and 1 cup water. Cover your Crock-Pot and cook for the remaining 30 minutes. Ground turkey or soy crumbles can be substituted for the ground beef.
3. Herbed Chicken and Potatoes
Use dark meat chicken in this recipe as a money saver. In a 6-quart Crock-Pot, add 6 chicken thighs, 3 cups quartered red potatoes, 2 teaspoons olive oil, 2 teaspoons oregano, 2 teaspoons rosemary, 2 teaspoons minced garlic, 1 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Stir chicken and potatoes in the Crock-Pot to spread the seasonings. Cover your Crock-Pot and cook on low-heat for 4 to 6 hours or until chicken is fork-tender. While dark meat may be a little less expensive than chicken breast, you can easily replace the chicken thighs in this recipe with 4 boneless chicken breasts.
4. Meatball Sub
This lunch requires a little prep work to make the meatballs before the cooking starts, and a little post Crock-Pot cooking to put the sandwich together. In a 6- to 8-quart Crock-Pot, pour a 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes and a 6-ounce can of tomato paste. In a large bowl, mix 1 pound of ground meat, 1 egg, 1 cup breadcrumbs, 2 teaspoons garlic, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, 1 teaspoon oregano, 1 teaspoon basil and two dashes of Worcestershire sauce. Be careful not to over mix. Roll meat into 24 meatballs and place in the sauce. Cover your Crock-Pot and cook on low for 4 to 6 hours. Once your meatballs are cooked, place 3 meatballs in a 6-inch sub roll and cover in mozzarella cheese. Place on a baking sheet and put your sandwich under the broiler to melt the cheese, about 2 to 3 minutes. A toaster oven also works to melt the cheese.
5. Pulled Pork Sandwiches
The Crock-Pot is key in not only making the pork fork-tender, but also flavorful. To help costs down, this recipe uses an inexpensive cut of pork. In a medium bowl, mix together 1 cup barbecue sauce, 1 teaspoon paprika, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, 1 tablespoon kosher salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper. Cut a 2 to 3-pound pork shoulder in half and place in a 6-quart Crock-Pot. Cover the pork with the barbecue sauce mixture. Cover your Crock-Pot and cook on high-heat for 5 to 6 hours. Once cooked, use two forks to shred the meat and serve on a hamburger bun or soft roll.
6. Chicken and Veggie Lo Mein
This lunch is so bright and delicious, your co-workers are going to want the recipe. Start by cooking spaghetti noodles per package directions, drain, store in an air-tight container and place in the refrigerator. In a 6-quart Crock-Pot, put 1 pound of boneless chicken breasts or thighs. In a medium bowl, mix 1/2 cup chicken broth, 3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 2 teaspoons minced garlic, 1/2 tablespoon fresh ginger minced and a dash of hot sauce. Pour sauce over the chicken, cover the Crock-Pot and cook on high for 1 to 2 hours. Once chicken is cooked, shred with a fork and add 1 cup of shredded carrots, 2 cups sliced bok choy, 1/2 cup of sliced red peppers and your cooked spaghetti to the Crock-Pot, and cook for another 30 minutes. If you like your sauce thicker, mix cornstarch and water and add to the chicken when you add the veggies and noodles.
Jill Corleone is a registered dietitian and health coach who has been writing and lecturing on diet and health for more than 15 years. Her work has been featured on the Huffington Post, Diabetes Self-Management and in the book "Noninvasive Mechanical Ventilation," edited by John R. Bach, M.D. Corleone holds a Bachelor of Science in nutrition.