Put your slow cooker to work

With slow-cookerafterschool activities back in full swing, your car may be naturally gravitating towards the drive-thru. With a little planning, you can steer your car back home to find dinner waiting for you in your slow cooker.

Not only is using your slow cooker a convenient way to cook that is full of flavor and possibilities, it can be a great way to save money. Slow cookers are cheaper to use than your oven and because of its “on-demand” cooking features, it is versatile and ready for dinner when you are. You can cut back on your grocery budget too, because you can buy less expensive meats that are typically tougher, but benefit from the long, low temperatures that slow cooking provides.

Here are some ideas on what to cook tonight.

Slow cooker lasagna

In a skillet, brown a pound of ground beef, along with one chopped onion and 2 chopped garlic cloves. Drain. Add a teaspoon each of oregano, basil and balsamic vinegar. Add a jar of tomato sauce and a small can of tomato paste. Stir until bubbly. Add about a cup of water, a little bit at a thyme. You don’t want it too runny.

Combine a carton of cottage cheese, four cups of mozzarella cheese and a cup of parmesan cheese.

Layer a quarter of the meat sauce on the bottom of the cooker. Cover with a layer of no-cook lasagna noodles, followed by the cheese mixture. Repeat three times. Cover and cook on low for about 4 hours.

Beef Stew

Cube four cups of assorted veggies (carrots, potatoes, onions and celery). Cube two cups of stewing beef and coat in about ¼ cup of flour. Place it in the slow cooker. Add veggies, a clove of garlic minced, a bay leaf (remove before eating) and salt and pepper to taste. Add two tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce and a cup and half of beef broth.

Cook for 4-6 hours on high or 8-10 hours on low.