Slow-Cooker Meal for a Crowd

Last night I had my siblings, their spouses, and my parents for supper (11 in all). It was one of those times that I invited everyone and then started thinking about what I could make. The menu was a little trickier since my oven stopped working last week and I don’t have a replacement. I didn’t want to spend all day preparing the meal or spend lots of money—plus I wasn’t sure what time we would actually sit down to eat.

Here’s the menu I planned:

Stew in my slow cooker
Mashed butternut squash
Apple slices
Italian bread
Assorted desserts (My sister provided these from her freezer.)

The only foods I purchased were the meat, carrots, apples, and Italian bread. Using those costs, plus estimating what I used on hand, the meal total was around $16 (not including the squash harvested from the garden). 

Pork steak was $1.59/pound while beef stew meat was $3.29/pound. I bought 3 pounds of the bone-in pork steak. It took 20 minutes to cut it into bite size chunks. It took another 20 minutes to peel and cut up the potatoes, carrots, and onions. (I used about 2.5 pounds potatoes, 1 pound onion, and 1.5 pounds carrots.) The recipe I found on allrecipes.com used bay leaf, Worcestershire sauce, beef broth, salt, pepper, and wine. I choose this recipe since it did not use a seasoning mix. I also added a can of diced tomatoes.

I had two large butternut squash left from the garden which needed to be used, so I cooked them in the microwave and mashed them with a little brown sugar and margarine.

The apples I sliced right before we were ready to eat, so they wouldn’t brown.

For an appetizer, I had a package of a knock-off chex mix. Since this didn’t look like enough for everyone, I made several batches of popcorn. Interestingly enough, the chex mix was left and the popcorn was eaten. Next time I’ll just do popcorn, which is super cheap when you pop it on top of the stove.

Here are the savings tips from this meal:

  • Plan menus around what you have on hand.
  • Cut the meat yourself—you frequently pay a premium for the butcher to cut it for you.
  • Soups and stews stretch your meat dollar because you can add more vegetables and use less meat.
  • You can skip the cost of seasoning packets when you use a recipe with the spices included.
  • Simple foods like apples, popcorn, squash are inexpensive and healthy.

-pointers from Peggy

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