As some of you might know, we’re a new homeschooling family at The Crumbs. At the end of last year, I started to feel like I finally got the hang of the whole thing. However, when we officially started our second year last week, it came with two big unexpected challenges…
1. My schedule didn’t get a little tighter. It got a lot tighter.
Maybe it’s because we switched curriculum. Maybe it’s because we added another child to the classroom. Maybe it’s the simple reason that with a higher grade, comes more work. In any case, nearly every hour in my day is accounted for and there’s not a whole lot of wiggle room.
2. We can’t spend any money. Zero. Zilch. Nada.
This is a temporary situation of course, and we brought it on ourselves. It was sparked by a conversation that my husband and I had after he read my post on how much food is enough. Agreeing with me that God has blessed us far beyond our needs, he suggested we challenge ourselves to 30 days without spending money. We’re now just over two weeks into the challenge (read about the first 10 days here), and we’ve been blessed at how this has grown our level of contentment and our point of view in terms of needs versus wants.
At the same time, it means nearly every single meal and food we eat is 100% from scratch. Even our peanut butter is made from scratch … and not only is it from scratch, it’s made from the random pieces of nuts left in the pantry. This means more planning and more prep time in the kitchen!
So in order for me to make best use of my time, and stay within our grocery budget (zero for now, then $330 for the four of us when the challenge is over), I’m going to have to work smarter, not harder with frugal slow cooker meals.
While we regularly incorporate frugal meals into our meal plans (frugal meals are those that can be made for $5 or less and feed the average family of four), they still take time to prepare. 10 minutes to chop, 10 minutes for noodles, 15 minutes to cook… Granted, we’re still eating in less than 30 minutes, but as I mentioned, there isn’t much wiggle room in my day for mistakes.
If any one of the from-scratch ingredients doesn’t go according to plan, we’re not eating anytime soon. As we all know, that doesn’t exactly make for a fun evening.
That’s why having a reliable list of slow cooker meals that can be tailored to what’s currently in the kitchen means I can breathe easy. So long as I hit “go” on the slow cooker, dinner will be on the table at a decent hour and the family will have full, nourished bellies.
My favorite slow cooker meal is salsa chicken, but this Slow Cooker Mexican Style Corn and Potato Chowder is gaining speed for first place (and fast) for these seven fantastic reasons:
- The two main ingredients – corn and potatoes – are readily available year-round, and we almost always have them both in the kitchen. (Note: If you’re avoiding GMOs, it’s important to purchase organic corn.)
- The recipe is very flexible. The corn can be fresh, canned or frozen (read about which option is most affordable here). Potatoes can be peeled or unpeeled, and any variety you have on hand. You can use more or less of any ingredient – essentially tailoring it to your own liking and your pantry – and the end result will be just as delicious.
- It can be made with leftovers too, saving me that much more time with the cook once, eat twice principle. It’s the perfect recipe for using up leftover grilled corn, or those two small potatoes sitting lonely in the bag.
- My secret weapon – creamy cauliflower sauce – is what creates the illusion of a creamy chowder. Using it in place of heavy cream reduces the cost and increases the veggie content too.
- It’s easily adaptable to most allergies. It’s already gluten-free, but swap bacon grease for the butter and it’s dairy-free too.
- A myriad of topping options allows the meal to be as simple, or as festive, as my pantry and budget allow.
- It’s frugal! This entire meal costs just over $2 if you buy your ingredients in bulk. Even if you bought just what was needed for the recipe, your total would still come in under the $5 mark to be officially considered a “frugal meal.”
When you’re crunched for time and money, what’s your favorite go-to meal?
Note from Kelly: Don’t miss all of the other great budgeting posts that Tiffany has shared here. Simply click here and keep scrolling through to see her many helpful posts on how to save money on your food budget. You can also subscribe to her newsletter to get exclusive money saving tips, a free eBook “22 Days to a Fresh Start,” five pages of budgeting printables and real food conversation delivered weekly to your inbox – for free!