One of the biggest hurdles for making slow cooker meals is often the planning! But once I started figuring out these tips, I found planning slow cooker meals and getting dinner on the table so much easier.
Planning Slow Cooker Meals Made Easy!
Do you know you’ll have a day this week when you’ll be running around all day? Do the kids have a full schedule of after-school activities that have you driving from one ball field to the next? That’s the perfect day to plan for a slow cooker meal.
Just Pick One Dish
Sometimes a huge hurdle to using your slow cooker is actually figuring out what recipe you want to do. Getting started shouldn’t be difficult. Just pick one single recipe to start planning your slow cooker meals. If that’s the only recipe you get done this week or even month, then it’s a victory! We all have to start somewhere.
Pick a one pot dish like beef stew, chili or a chicken and rice casserole with broccoli and get it going in the morning. Some of my family’s personal favorites include Sweet and Sour Chicken, BBQ Chicken and Crockpot Meatballs.
Just put the ingredients into your slow cooker, turn it on low 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.
Prep the Night Before
If your mornings are too crazy or you just can’t see yourself assembling a slow cooker meal at 7am (it really isn’t that bad), do it the night before. You’re probably making the kids’ lunches anyway, right?!?
You can either toss everything into a large plastic storage bag, or mix it right in your slow cooker crock insert and store it in the fridge overnight. In the morning just put it in the slow cooker and turn it on.
Of course this type of meal prep takes a little bit of planning. Start by trying a variety of different slow cooker meals and 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.
Keep Favorite Recipes Nearby
Once you have your list of meals, write out the recipes and keep them handy somewhere. When you know you need to plan one or two slow cooker meals for the week, go through that stack of recipes.
This will make planning slow cooker meals for the family so much easier. I actually have our favorite recipes on my phone so I always have the ingredients if I’m grocery shopping.
Make Sure Your Cabinet is Stocked
Make sure you shop for everything you need well ahead of time. Don’t forget to check on seasonings, spices and other shelf stable stuff that you don’t usually buy. There’s nothing worse than realizing you’re out of stock of some spice you need in the middle of putting the contents together.
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 a slow cooker meals a few days per week.
Personally, I like to double everything — it makes for easy meals for me and my husband during the week. If you’re not meal planning yet, give it a try and at least plan these particular meals.
Don’t Wait to Prep
Prep what you can as soon as you get back from the store. For example, if you know you’re making 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 and then store them in an air-tight container. Believe me, you’ll be glad you did in the morning.
Slow cooking and planning slow cooker meals is all about making it easy for you to get delicious home cooked meals on the table even on the busiest of days. Give it a try! 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 and better for your family than the fast food you might usually pick up on crazy days like this.