Slow cooker meals are amazing! I made them when I was single but working and taking university classes and time and energy were short. Now I find them even better with a husband and children in the mix. I want my family to have healthy homecooked meals, but I also don’t want to be a slave to the kitchen. Slow cookers make this happen.
At one time, slow cooker meals were thought of as a stew or chilli, but these days, there are so many more options and I’ll share my favourite go-to place for slow cooker meals with you.
Think of any one-pot dish, such as stew, chili, or a chicken casserole, and you can easily make it in a slow cooker. Simply throw the ingredients into your slow cooker in the morning, turn it on low, and continue along with your day – either at home or out and about. When you return home later in the day, all worn out, you’ll walk into a home that smells of a delicious dish – no having to slave over a hot stove now as it’s already done for you. Make some toast or a fresh roll and it’s ready to plate out for supper. What could be easier?
If you’re not a morning person (I never have been and am getting worse), there are ways of making things even easier. You can prep ahead the night before by chopping your veggies and refrigerating them over night, ready for the morning.
Slow cooker meals do take some prep and a little planning, and this is how I do it. Slow cooker meals have come a long way since the ’70s, and now there is so much variety in what you can cook. You can take almost any recipe and adjust it a little to make it slow cooker compatible. The meals with a minimum of prep work are the best when you really want to save time.
First, make a list of meals that your family enjoys. This Intentional Bites Planner is my go-to. If you’re new to slow cooking, may I suggest MyFreezEasy…this is my favourite site for recipes. I go through and choose the meals I want to make for the upcoming month and move them into my menu (ingredient amounts are adjusted automatically depending on if you choose 2, 4, 6, or 8 portions.
There are various ways you can print these recipes. Simply print the recipes as they are, or watch Erin’s videos to learn how she preps for the prep and can create 10 freezer meals in an hour by doing it in an organised fashion. Erin preps up 10 meals (5 recipes of 2 meals each) each month proving it can be done, and you can prep along with her, or watch to see her techniques and apply them to your prep.
You can further save time by using frozen sliced bell peppers, frozen sliced onions, etc., or have your kids help slice everything along with you so they can learn important kitchen skills.
Once you’ve decided on your meals, put any necessary items on your grocery list, and prepare to have your groceries delivered or shopped for the day before your meal prep so you aren’t too tired. Trust me, this definitely makes a difference in motivation. MyFreezEasy has these lists prepared for you, separated by meal, or all amalgamated into one list that contains every recipe in your meal plan of 5 or 10 recipes (definitely a great feature of this subscription).
After your freezer meals are prepped and bagged, simply freeze them and then when you have planned for a slow cooker meal, take it out of the freezer the night before to thaw in your fridge, or alternatively, take it out of the freezer in the morning and thaw in a bowl of cool water for 20 minutes. Then slide it out of the bag and into the slow cooker, turn it on, and you’re good to go for the day.
Once you have your meals prepped and in the freezer it’s very easy to plan ahead and slot these meals into your weekly/monthly menu.
I find that taking a morning or afternoon to prep our freezer meals, usually making about 20-30 meals at a time, makes daily life much more under control. I often do not take meals out of the freezer the night before, nor most of the time plan which meals to have on which days. With a freezer full of a variety of meals (ranging from flavoured pork chops to lasagne to chicken enchiladas to beef stir fry, and everything in between, we can decide on the day what we would like to eat. If we don’t use the slow cooker in the morning, we can cook our meals on the stove in a cast iron pan, or in the oven.
We know we will always have a home-cooked meal, even on the busiest of days. Slow cooking and planning meals in advance is all about making it easy for you to get delicious home-cooked meals on the table with the minimum of effort.
What’s your favourite slow cooker meal?