Inside: Tips for planning slow cooker meals to save you time and money on your busiest days.
Do you have a busy day coming up this week? Do you and your family have a busy week that’s going to keep you away from home until dinner? Days like these are perfect days to plan a slow cooker meal.
I’ve found that if I’m going to have a busy day it’s so much easier for me to get dinner done by starting the meal in the slow cooker in the morning. Rather than needing to find time later in the day, before everyone is starving, to get dinner prepared.
If I plan ahead a little and get dinner going in the slow cooker, I know dinner will be ready and waiting when we get done with our busy day.
Not only does making slow cooker meals help me save time at the end of the day to get dinner done, it also saves me money. Because we all know eating out is so much more expensive than eating a home cooked meal.
Plus eating out always seems to take longer than eating at home. So you’ll be saving time and money.
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Planning for Slow Cooker Meals
I usually do my meal planning for the week on Sunday nights or if I’m planning for a whole month, I’ll do it at the beginning of the month. If you do regular meal planning like I do, then you might want to include a slow cooker meal at least once a week to ensure if you have a busy day you can get dinner going in the slow cooker in the morning.
Picking Slow Cooker Recipes
Pick a one pot dish and get it going in the morning. If you don’t have many slow cooker dishes you can find my favorites here or try the Fix it and Forget it Cookbook, it’s one of my favorite slow cooker cookbooks.
Set it up in the Morning, Dinner is Ready When You Get Home
Put the ingredients into your slow cooker, turn it on and go about your busy day. When you get home, be ready to walk into a home that smells like home cooked dinner. Grab some crackers, make some toast and dinner is ready to be served.
It doesn’t get much easier than that and all it takes is a little bit of prep work in the mornings.
Busy Morning, Prepare the Slow Cooker Meal the Night Before
If it’s going to be a busy day from start to finish you might want to get the ingredients ready the night before. You can toss everything for the slow cooker meal into a large plastic storage bag and store it in the fridge overnight.
In the morning just put the already prepared ingredients into the slow cooker and turn it on.
My slow cooker insert is metal and I don’t have a problem with storing it in the refrigerator overnight and then heating it, but I’ve heard of the crock type inserts breaking when left in the refrigerator overnight and then heating them the next day.
If you have a crock type slow cooker to be safe I would place the ingredients in a bowl or zipper bag and then add them to the slow cooker in the morning. Instead of placing the crock into the refrigerator overnight just to be safe.
Try a Few Slow Cooker Recipes to Find What Your Family Likes Best
Of course, this type of meal prep takes a little bit of planning. Start by trying a variety of different slow cooker meals and find out what your family likes and doesn’t like.
Pay particular attention to those recipes that don’t call for a lot of prep work before everything is ready to go into the slow cooker.
Our family loves slow cooker roasts. I love how simple they are to make and how tender and delicious the meat comes out. Plus to make a roast a full meal I add baby carrots and cubed potatoes to the slow cooker and it all cooks in one dish.
Slow Cooker Recipes to Try
Keep a list of your Favorite Slow Cooker Recipes
Once you have your list of meals, write out the recipes and keep them somewhere handy. I like to print my favorite recipes and add them to my recipe binder. It keeps them all together making for easy meal planning.
When you know you need to plan one or two slow cooker meals for the week, go through that stack of recipes. Make sure you shop for everything you need well ahead of time. Don’t forget to check on seasonings, spices and another shelf stable stuff that you don’t’ usually, buy.
If you’re already planning your dinners and making out your shopping list based on what you’re planning to cook for the week, this will be an easy process. Just plan slow cooker meals a few days per week. If you’re not meal planning yet, give it a try and at least plan these particular meals.
Get Prepared Ahead of Time
Prep what you can as soon as you get back from the store. For example, if you know you’ll make beef stew in the slow cooker tomorrow and it calls for browning the meat before you add it, go ahead and do that now. Then store the browned beef in the fridge until you’re ready to assemble your stew in the morning. The same goes for chopping veggies.
Believe me, you’ll be glad you did in the morning.
Slow cooking and planning slow cooker meals are all about making it easy for you to get a delicious home-cooked meal on the table even on the busiest of days.
Give it a try I’m sure you’ll love this way of cooking as much as I do on my busy days.
I think you’ll find it a huge help not to have to worry about throwing something together when you finally walk in the door at 7pm. And no matter what you make, it will be healthier, less expensive, and better for your family than the fast food you usually pick up on crazy days like this.
What’s one of your favorite meals to make on busy days?