My husband and I made crock pot beef stew yesterday, and it turned out to be soooo tasty! He started it off by cutting a chuck roast into bite sized pieces, seasoning it with S&P (a little garlic powder would have been good, too), and searing it in a skillet in a small amount of olive oil. After a few minutes, he dumped in a bunch of sliced mushrooms, and let them cook a little. Onions and fresh garlic could have been added then to. When the meat was browned, he dumped in a can of beef broth (could have used red wine, but we don't like it) and let it cook a minute to deglaze the pan. Then he dumped all into the crock pot, added another can of broth, and let it cook on high for about 4 hours. When I got up from my nap (retired), I added a small can of tomato sauce and 2 bags Kroger brand frozen soup vegetables, which contained potatoes, carrots, onions, celery, corn, peas, green beans, lima beans and okra. I picked out most of the okra, because my husband doesn't like it, but I left some for it's thickening qualities. After that, I turned the heat down on low and let it cook a couple more hours.
After the vegetables were cooked through is when the dumpling dough could have been added.
Have you ever tried cutting canned biscuits into pieces and dropping them into the broth? I've heard it works pretty well. I prefer to cook the biscuits separately, and then a biscuit up into my soup bowl. IMHO, it's not so pasty that way.
We have about $20 in the dish, which will feed us several meals. The frozen vegies actually end up being cheaper (spent about $2) than using fresh ones, and had very good flavor. Since DH and I are both disabled, the ease of prep was a big factor.
We get by with a little help from our friends