Showing posts with label slow cooker. Show all posts
Showing posts with label slow cooker. Show all posts

Monday, July 7, 2014

Slow-Cooker Freezer Cooking!

Hey all! 

I have gotten some questions about my freezer cooking, so I thought I would take some time to share my tips/tricks/method to the madness. Well, there's a method, but it's still pretty much madness!

Just a warning, this post is a little on the longer side. But I promise, if you're interested in freezer cooking at all, it's worth it! 

I don't know about you, but I have a really hard time being domestic during the school year. I try to eat healthy, but after a long day of teaching, grading, lesson planning, dealing with parents, etc. I have zero desire to make dinner when I get home. And let's be honest, my husband is less than talented in the kitchen. Not to mention his idea of healthy is putting peppers on a pizza. I'm not even kidding. 

During my first year of teaching I realized that I wasn't eating well and that my wifely duties were slipping so I devised a plan! I scoured the internet for slow-cooker recipes. 
(If you aren't familiar with the term slow-cooker, it just refers to anything you can cook in a crockpot! That confused me at first!)  I  compiled the recipes I wanted to try, went grocery shopping and prepped everything! I even made a weeknight menu. I have to be honest though, my first attempt took forever. But have no fear, you can learn from my mistakes! I have learned some time saving tips and tricks!

Usually, I will do all my prep once a month! You heard right, once a month! It's wonderful to get it all done in one day. Then, I pull out a meal before I leave for work every day, my husband puts it into the crock pot at noon (it's nice having him home to do that, but not necessary!) and by the time I get home, there's a hot meal ready and waiting!

Since it's summer, I'm only doing 14 meals. We go out to eat and BBQ a lot in the summer. 

So here it goes!

Step 1: Gather your recipes! 
I don't need to tell you how amazing Pinterest is. I get a lot of the recipes I use from there. Below is a link to my freezer cooking board if you wanna peek around!

Another great resource that I have found is the book Don't Panic: Dinner's in the Freezer. This book has a lot of great recipes AND the best part is that it gives you the conversions in case you want to double, triple or even multiply a recipe by 6. I don't know what the word would be for that….It's very handy!

I like to switch up my recipes every month. Here are a few of the new recipes I used this time around!

Step 2:  Create a shopping list! 
When putting together your shopping list, don't forget to check for ingredients you already have. I know that sounds obvious, but I can't tell you how many times I've gotten ready to cook and then realized I didn't have enough of a certain ingredient. And it is super frustrating to have to stop in the middle to run to the store! 

Here is my little grocery list that I like to use! It helps (well, it helps me at least) to have my items broken down by the aisle they will be in! You can get the freebie by clicking on it below!

**When you're shopping don't forget containers for your freezer meals**

 Gallon Ziploc bags work best and store flat if you have limited freezer space like I do! I also use a lot of aluminum containers from Dollar Tree!

Step 3: Shop 'til you drop!
Hopefully not literally! Having your list outlined helps to make the trip quick and painless!

Step 4: Prep

Make sure your counters are clean and clear. This process tends to take up a lot of space!

Gather all of your ingredients on the counter to make the process go by quicker! That way I don't have to dig around for stuff once I get into full on bag stuffin' mode!

 Here are all my grocery store items! I forgot to take a photo after I pulled out the stuff I already had at home!

When I first started freezer cooking I tried to do one recipe at a time. And let me tell you, it took much longer than necessary. You have to clean cutting boards between items and it becomes a hassle! Now, I look for ingredients that are similar among recipes to prep all at once! Typically that will be your onions, peppers and meats!

 Get the meat going first. (note: most meats don't need to be pre-cooked but there are a few I like to pre-cook to save time the day of). If your recipe calls for ground beef or shredded chicken, those are the meats I would pre cook! 

While the meat is cooking, you can start dicing the veggies! 

Also make sure you get out your Ziplocs and a Sharpie to write with!

Step 5: Label bags
Most ingredients can be frozen but there are a few things that don't freeze well and need to be added the day of! Here are some of the no-no's for freezing:
- potatoes
- cheeses
- sour cream
- yogurt
- lettuce

**Most recipes will tell you what can freeze and what to add the day of**

On my bags I write the name of the recipe (obvs) and then anything that needs to be added the day of. I will also write what to serve it with (ex. if it is to be served over rice).

**You can freeze the water/milk in recipes, but I like to add it the day of! It's just a personal preference, it doesn't impact the outcome of the recipe!**

Step 6: Throw stuff in bags!
Yes, it is as fun as it sounds! It doesn't have to be pretty, in fact, the more mixed up the better! Here is where you can do one recipe at a time! All the ingredients that needed to be pre-prepped are ready to grab and go. Just throw it all in!

Lay bag flat and squeeze out as much air as possible. And voila! Done!

Now just repeat with each recipe!

**Another note, since it is just myself and my husband I get a lot more out of 1 recipe. Sometimes I can get 3 even 4 meals out of 1 recipe!**

Step 7: Enjoy!
Now you're done and don't' have to worry about dinner for awhile! Enjoy a glass of wine, or whatever beverage you like, and have your spouse do the clean up. Fair is fair, I think.

I hope that was at least mildy helpful! If you have any questions let me know!