Next Week's Meal Plan

A Week of Cheap and Healthy Slow Cooker Dinners

updated Oct 20, 2022
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NWMP photos of five-day plan of cheap and healthy slow cooker dinners
Credit: Photos: Joe Lingeman, Christine Han (Bottom Left)

There are a lot of reasons I love regularly slotting slow cooker dinners into my meal plan. A big one, of course, is that they make for mostly hands-off cooking that can feed my whole family and help me stock the freezer with leftovers.

But another place the slow cooker really excels is in cooking meals that feel healthy and nourishing without totally killing my food budget. This week’s meal plan leans on the slow cooker to use cheap and wholesome pantry staples such as whole grains, beans, and legumes, along with lean protein, as the cornerstones of these five comforting dinners.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

Monday: Slow Cooker Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Mondays always call for an easy-as-can-be dinner to get the week started. These cabbage rolls are especially easy since they’re made with a no-cook beef-and-rice filling and no-cook tomato sauce. Get a jump on dinner by prepping and assembling the cabbage rolls on Sunday afternoon. Then add them to the slow cooker Monday morning and set them to cook on low all day long.

Recipe: Slow Cooker Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Credit: Joe Lingeman

Tuesday: Slow Cooker Golden Chickpea Soup

This recipe asks for about five minutes of your time in the morning, then you can leave it to cook undisturbed for the next 10 hours. Blend it up before serving, either with a stick blender or regular blender. Just don’t forget to add the Greek yogurt, lemon, and cilantro right before serving. It gives this protein-packed soup a big pop of bright flavor.

Get the recipe: Slow Cooker Golden Chickpea Soup

Credit: Joe Lingeman

Wednesday: Slow Cooker Chicken Posole

Cook up a giant batch of posole in your slow cooker, and after an all-day simmer you’re in for a dinner packed with warm spices, rich flavors, and meaty shredded chicken. This version leans on budget-friendly chicken thighs, which hold up to a lengthy cook time in the slow cooker much better than chicken breast.

Get the recipe: Slow Cooker Chicken Posole

Credit: Joe Lingeman

Thursday: Slow Cooker Black Bean Chili

When I plan to make this chili on a weeknight, I give myself a head start by sautéing the onions, peppers, and spices ahead of time — sometimes just after dinner the night before. I’ll stash them in the fridge, then dump everything in the slow cooker before heading out the door in the morning. By the end of the day, the beans are tender and the chili is packed with a deep spiced flavor, and ready to hit the table.

Get the recipe: Slow Cooker Black Bean Chili

Friday: Slow Cooker Italian Chicken and Broccoli Bowls

This hearty Italian-inspired rice bowl always feels like a good way to end the week. Especially since the leftovers make a great lunch option over the weekend.

Get the recipe: Slow Cooker Italian Chicken and Broccoli Bowls

Meal planning isn’t always easy — especially if you’re just getting started. But we’re firm believers that it’s the secret to stress-free weeknight dinners. We want to help you find inspiration and ease some of the pain points that come with getting dinner on the table night after night, whether you’re cooking one or a family of four or five. Every week we share a new meal plan solution specifically customized for you from reader requests or from a guest contributor, for Next Week’s Meal Plan!

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