One of my goals for 2011 was to stop considering cereal as typical and acceptable dinner fare.  Sure, in a pinch, a bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats is better than say…a wedge of cheese with a side of potato chips (not that I’ve done that), but still, I’m a believer that dinner should be hearty, flavorful, and nutritious.  Shane and I have made great strides in our meal preparation this month, since it is indeed frugal month for us, and we cannot trade in our Cheerios for a yellow curry from our local Thai place, or burritos from our favorite taco stand.  The crock pot we bought the day after Christmas has proved invaluable in helping us prepare simple, delicious, multiple-serving meals.  Today I threw a whole mess of stuff into the crock pot, flipped it on, took care of a bunch of Sunday to-do’s, and come dinner-time, voila!  Vegetable beef stew.  Fabulous.

A couple of crock-pot tips and tricks, based on our limited experience:

–  If you are crock-potting on a weekday and plan on your dinner cooking while you are at work, make sure the crock pot is actually on when you leave the house.  Otherwise, you are due to come home to a pot of raw, devastatingly wasted pork loin.  Lesson learned the hard way.

–  I pulled ingredients from a few different stew recipes today, and threw in a couple of strips of orange zest on a whim.  The subtle tang was a nice addition.

–  Serve stews with a slice a crusty bread, and follow up with a piece of home-made carrot cake.  Your spouse will adore you.