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.”
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 2 Tbsp bacon grease
- 1 Tbsp unsalted butter (if DF, substitute with additional bacon grease)
- 1/2 cup diced celery
- 2 cup corn kernels (if avoiding GMOs, use organic)
- 1 cup diced potatoes
- 1/2 cup creamy cauliflower sauce (or heavy cream)
- 1 1/2 cups chicken stock, or corn stock if you have it (.05)
- 1 cup water, or additional chicken stock
- 2 Tbsp taco seasoning
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp cayenne
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- Combine all ingredients in a 6-quart slow cooker.
- Set cook time to low and cook for 6-8 hours.
- Stir chowder, then taste. Season to taste, as needed. (I generally find the chowder needs about the same amount of seasoning after cooking as I added to it prior to cooking.)
- If desired, lightly mash a portion of the chowder with a potato masher, pastry knife or with a large fork. This will help to thicken the liquids a bit and make it more of a soup than a stew.
- Serve with optional toppings (see notes).
This chowder is a simple meal turned festive with optional toppings. Consider adding fresh cilantro, diced green chilis, black beans, shredded cheese, sour cream, diced bacon or salsa to a hot bowl of chowder to give new flavor twists to an instant family favorite.
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!
Aishah M says
This is definitely going into my recipe files! Perfect for those days when you need to eat from the pantry and I’m trying to do more of that these days.
So glad this is a keeper for you too, Aishah. By the way, I so appreciate all the positive comments you make here and at The Nourishing Home community. You are a blessing! 🙂
Aishah M says
Thanks, Kelly. And I must thank you. I’ve always done real foods, but not necessarily in the healthiest ways and until recently, I never had a food budget. Trying to change has not been easy, but you and Tiffany have been a wealth of information and made my life so much easier. Your recipes and meal plans and blogs have been a blessing to me.
It truly is our pleasure and honor to help. And thank you again for all your positive, encouraging comments. You are such a blessing! 🙂
I made this tonight. Turned out great ! My 4.5 yr old daughter, our Vietnamese home stay and my picky husband, they all had seconds. I didn’t have time to make the cauliflower sauce, so I did use cream. And served it with a nice big green salad on the side.
Thank you, Lavi. So glad you enjoyed it. Appreciate you sharing that cream worked well. 🙂
Sarah Mueller says
Anything with bacon grease is ok in my book! I’m saving your recipe for my next meal planning session. Thanks!
Thanks so much, Sarah! 🙂 Love your site!
The grocery list for this week lists cream for the chowder but I don’t see it in the recipe above. Can you help me?
Hi, Kathy, thanks for your note. You reminded me that I didn’t add a note in the recipe. In the post, under point #4, Tiff mentions that the cauliflower sauce is in lieu of heavy cream. So I just added that to the recipe. Thank you again for point that out. As far as the meal plan, since we used heavy cream to make this, instead of the puréed cauliflower, but you can certainly omit the heavy cream and purchase a head of cauliflower and follow Tiff’s recipe for created the cauliflower sauce. Thanks again for catching my oversight! Blessings, Kelly 🙂
Hi, Kelly! I am putting this recipe together now. Do you think it is 1/2 cup cream (or cauliflower sauce)? I don’t see a measurement beside the 1/2 cup. I just put that amount in, so I hope I didn’t ruin it! It smells good! 🙂 Thank you!
Yes, it’s supposed to be 1/2 cup. Thanks for pointing that out. I am going to fix that right now! Enjoy! 🙂