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10 Quick and Healthy Freezer to Slow Cooker Meals (NO prep cooking needed!)

This is one of those blog posts that you are going to come back to again and again. I dare say it might even change your life. 10 Quick and Healthy Freezer to Slow Cooker Meals is just as convenient as it sounds, but it gets better. There’s no cooking needed on your prep day which saves you tons and tons of time, and even better, these meals are all really healthy. I have spent weeks on this post! I researched, made lots of recipes, and my family and I ate our way through every single one. The original 20 recipes I started with have gotten paired down to our very favorite 10 recipes. Four of the recipes are vegetarian, four are chicken dishes, one is pork, and two are beef. I feel like I got a lot a variety and delicious flavor without needing any exotic or expensive ingredients. Processed foods were kept to a minimum, and there’s tons of vegetables included!

I can’t get over how easy this cooking method is! You dump all the raw ingredients into a freezer bag and pop it in the freezer. On cooking day you add the contents of the bag and maybe a little water or broth to your slow cooker and then just let it do its thing!  My sister was in town a few weeks back and she helped me prep all of my freezer meals. I had no idea that my kids would end up being sick and staying sick (due to a misdiagnosis…) for the next 5, almost 6 weeks! I was so grateful to have food in the freezer that I didn’t have to think about or run to the store to get ingredients for. These meals were a lifesaver and even now, when we’ve gotten back to feeling better again, I have found myself enjoying them and feeling glad they are in the freezer when I need them. The prep day is a little long and messy but the benefit of having so much of the work done is very worth it.

About half of the meals are one dish wonders (soups and stews that can stand alone as a meal or just need a little bread on the side to round them out). The other half are parts of meals like Teriyaki Chicken and Beef Stroganoff. They need rice or noodles and a vegetable or two served with them to make them a complete meal. I like having both types of meals in the freezer. If I make too many soups and stews my family gets tired of them, and they start to moan a little when they see the slow cooker on the table. When I am adding fresh elements like the freshly cooked pasta or rice and some kind of fresh salad and steamed or roasted vegetables it makes the meal feel like less of a “slow cooker” meal. I still love making the main dish in the slow cooker though because I know it’s going; when 5pm rolls around getting a little rice cooked and some veggies prepped doesn’t feel like a big deal. All the thinking is already done. Isn’t that half of the dinner time battle? Deciding what to make!?

The serving size for each meal is 6 to 8 people. They are pretty big meals but the beauty in that is that you get to cook even less. For my family of 2 adults and 4 small children who eat (I have a nursing baby too but he doesn’t get put into the food count yet) each recipe made almost 2 full meals. I love leftovers and didn’t mind at all having them around. If there wasn’t quite enough for a full supper then we ate the leftovers for lunch. A bigger family or one with kids who eat a little more than mine will love the serving size.

10 Quick and Healthy Freezer to Slow Cooker Meals (NO prep cooking needed!)

Instructions:
1. Decide how many and which meals you plan to make.
2. Make a shopping list. The shopping list provided is to make all 10 recipes but does not include any of the serving suggestions.
3. Shop
4. Day of freezer meal prep- collect all needed supplies, wear comfortable clothes and shoes, fun music and snacks are always smart too.
5. Print out recipes to have handy without having to worry about spills getting on an electronic device.
6. Label gallon zipper-top freezer bags with recipe name, date, ingredients that will need to be added to the slow cooker (such as water or broth and how much) on cooking day, and cook time.
7. To make the freezer meals: Place all of the ingredients that are listed under the recipe title into the corresponding labeled gallon zipper-top freezer bag. Fold the top of the bag over and freeze lying flat.
8. On cooking day, take the meal bag from the freezer, run it under warm water to loosen the contents from the bag, add the contents of the bag to the slow cooker, add additional ingredients as needed (broth or water), and cook according to directions.
9. Salt and pepper have been added sparingly, so taste and adjust seasonings before serving.

10 Quick and Healthy Freezer to Slow Cooker Meals (NO prep cooking needed!)

 

Vegetable Beef Stew
2 pounds stew meat
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, sliced
2 cups green beans, broke into bite-sized pieces
1 cup sweet corn
2 tablespoons beef stock base (I like Organic Better than Bullion)
1 teaspoon salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup apple juice
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Day of: Add 1 1/2 cups of water to slow cooker before cooking
Cook Time: 8 to 10 hours on low
Serve with: fresh bread or biscuits
Serves 6 to 8

Beef Stroganoff
1 pounds stew meat
1 pound sliced baby bella mushrooms
1 onion, diced
½ cup apple juice
1 tablespoon beef stock base (I like Organic Better than Bullion)
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced

Day of: Add 1 cup water to the slow cooker before cooking. Stir in 1 cup of sour cream just before serving.
Cook Time: 8 hours on low
Serve with: egg noodles or rice and green beans
Serves 6 to 8

Cranberry-Mustard Pork Roast
2-3 pounds pork roast (lion, butt, or shoulder)
2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
½ cup orange juice concentrate
1 tablespoon brown or Dijon mustard
1 onion, diced
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon, optional

Cook Time: 8 to 10 hours on low
Serve with: mashed potatoes and steamed green vegetables or side salad
Serves 6 to 8

10 Quick and Healthy Freezer to Slow Cooker Meals (NO prep cooking needed!)

Mushroom Barley Stew
1 pound Baby Bella mushrooms, sliced
2 carrots, sliced
1 rib celery, diced
1 onion, diced
1, 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 cup uncooked pearl barley
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon black pepper

Day of: Add 6 cups of vegetable stock to the slow cooker before cooking.
Cook Time: 8 hours on low
Serve with: hot crusty bread or rolls
Serves 6 to 8

Black Bean Chili
3, 15-ounce cans black beans
1, 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 ½ cups chopped onion
1 cup pumpkin (optional)
1 cup assorted chopped bell pepper
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
2 cloves garlic, minced

Day of: Add 4 cups stock (I used vegetable stock) to the slow cooker before cooking.
Cook Time: 6- 8 hours on low or 5-6 hours on high
Serve with: Tortilla chips and top with sour cream, cheese, and/or hot sauce
Serves 6 to 8

Hearty Lentil Stew
1 onion, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 cups peeled and diced (1/4 inch cubes) sweet potatoes
1 cup red lentils
½ cup washed quinoa
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 teaspoon oregano

Day of: Add 5 cups stock (I used vegetable stock) to the slow cooker before cooking.
Cook Time: 6- 8 hours on low or 5-6 hours on high
Serve with: fresh breadsticks
Serves 6 to 8

Lentil-Butternut Squash Curry
1 onion, diced
2 cups red lentils
2 cups diced butternut squash
1, 14-ounce can coconut milk (I used full fat)
1, 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon curry powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon Garam Marsala
1 teaspoon cumin

Day of: Add 5 cups of water to the slow cooker before cooking. Just before serving add an additional teaspoon of both curry powder and graham Marsala if desired, stirring to combine.
Cook Time: 6- 8 hours on low or 5-6 hours on high
Serve with: rice, flatbread or naan and roasted vegetables
Serves 6 to 8

10 Quick and Healthy Freezer to Slow Cooker Meals (NO prep cooking needed!)

Cilantro Lime Chicken with Corn and Black Beans
2 pounds boneless skinless chicken, thighs or breast (I recommend thighs, they don’t dry out as much in the slow cooker)
1 cup corn
1, 15-ounce can black beans
1 orange bell pepper, diced
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
1 onion, diced
Juice from 2 limes
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro

Cook Time: 6- 8 hours on low or 5-6 hours on high
Serve with: treat this like you would taco filling – add to tacos, burritos, taco salad, nachos, or make burrito bowls with it. stir in 2 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro before serving. It’s very flexible.
Serves 6 to 8

Teriyaki Chicken
2 pounds boneless skinless chicken, thighs or breast, cut into bite-size pieces (I recommend thighs, they don’t dry out as much in the slow cooker)
½ cup soy sauce
¼ cup rice wine vinegar
¼ cup maple syrup
1, 20-ounce can pineapple chunks
2 cloves garlic, minced

Cook Time: 8 hours on low
Serve with: cooked brown rice and green veggies
Serves 6 to 8

Butter Chicken
2 pounds boneless skinless chicken, thighs or breast, cut into bite-size pieces (I recommend thighs, they don’t dry out as much in the slow cooker)
1, 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
1, 15-ounce can coconut milk (I used full fat)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
2 teaspoons Garam Marsala
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper

Cook Time: 8 hours on low
Serve with: cooked brown rice and green veggies
Serves 6 to 8

Click to Get the Shopping List (for all 10 meals)

 

10 Quick and Healthy Freezer to Slow Cooker Meals (NO prep cooking needed!)

Tips for Freezer to Slow Cooker Meals:
• Plan ahead! If you are going to prep all the recipes provided in one day then shop one day, prepare the second.
• On prep day, wear tennis shoes and comfortable clothes. Your body will thank you that night.
• Print out the recipes so that you have them right in front of you without worry about spilling anything on them. Make notes on any changes or adaptations you made as you go. If you make them a second time you’ll know what you did and what you like.
• Write the name of the dish, date, and anything extra you need to add the day of cooking on the bag before filling it. It’s much easier to write on a clean flat bag then a full one.
• All recipes were tested with all ingredients going into the bag uncooked. You can sauté onions and sear the meat for additional depth of flavor though it adds to the overall prep time significantly.
• I don’t like fresh potatoes, cauliflower, or broccoli frozen and then cooked in the slow cooker (sweet potatoes are fine though). If you are going to use these ingredients in a freezer to slow cooker type meal, I suggest buying them already frozen (instead of fresh), it works a little better.
• I prefer to use “baby bella” mushrooms in the slow cooker. They have great flavor and texture when cooked.
• I like to fold the top of the gallon bags over (so that the bag is about half as tall as it is wide) and then lay them flat to freeze. I have found that if I lay them out completely flat then they don’t fit in my slow cooker once they are frozen.
• In my research I noticed that some people suggested thawing the freezer meal in the fridge overnight the night before they plan on cooking it. They then cooked a thawed from the freezer, freezer meal. I put my meals straight from the freezer into the crock pot during recipe testing. I assume that both methods work fine, but I haven’t tested the thaw-first approach.
• Running the outside of the plastic bag under warm water for a minute or so made it easier to get the frozen contents out of the bag and into the slow cooker.
• In general cook frozen meals on high for 5 to 6 hours or on low for 7 to 8. I generally prefer the low and slow method, but a few times if I had forgotten to get the meal in the slow cooker until lunch then I would cook it on high for an hour or two and then drop it down to low heat for the last few hours.
• Most recipes call for one onion; in general, one onion is equivalent to 1 cup chopped onion.
• I don’t often buy the pre-chopped garlic in a jar, but I did for these. I made all 10 recipes in one day and having the garlic already chopped was a great time saver.

How about that Slow Cooker:
I tested all recipes using this Hamilton Beach 33967 Set ‘n Forget 6-Quart Programmable Slow Cooker. I highly recommend it. It’s a good price point (around $60) and I love that it has a thermometer attachment that you can use! It’s a nice feature that helps me to not overcook nice roasts. It was recommended to me by a friend and I’m happy to have it. I love that the lid clamps down too! It’s a great feature that I find myself using a lot.

My second recommendation would be the Crock-Pot SCCPVL610-S Programmable Cook and Carry Oval Slow Cooker. I haven’t used this slow cooker but it is the number one selling crock pot on Amazon. It’s been reviewed over 1,800 times! I would say this would be a very safe bet, and at around $49, it’s a bargain.

Who said eating healthy had to be hard?! Not this mama!

Melissa cooks, confesses, and corrals chickens and children at Bless this Mess, where you can find healthy recipes (with some simple desserts included), a peek at her hobby farm, and the joys of raising five little ones, eight years old and younger. She’s got a whole lot of mess to bless!

 


Products Used



64 Comments

Jeanne

It is just my husband and I. Do you think that these could be cut in half for use in a smaller slow cooker. We like left overs but not for days.

Reply

I think you’d have great luck with making a smaller recipe and cooking it in a smaller slow cooker. I haven’t tried it, so I’m not sure on the cooking times, but I do think it would be worth playing around with! This way of cooking is a life saver!

Reply
QueenDeirdre

These all look yummy! Thank you for making a list of meals I’d actually make and having real ingredients. The only one I was a little confused by was the Cilantro Lime Chicken recipe as I don’t actually see any cilantro in the recipe. Is it supposed to be included in the bag or just chopped up fresh on the final meal? Thanks!

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Ashley

If you wanted to make some of these recipes without freezing them first what would the cook times be?

Reply

I’d think they’d be really close to the same. Your meat might end up a little more shredded (since it tends to call apart the longer it cooks), maybe an hour or so less? I’m not sure but it would be worth playing with. The recipes are delicious even without freezing first.

Reply
Taciana Borges

Hi Melissa! Loved the recipes and tips. Do you think I can make them on a pressure cooker instead? Adapting the cooking times, of course.

Reply

I’ve had a pressure cooker for about 10 months, so it’s still pretty new to me, but yes, I do think you’d have a lot of luck with cooking these meals in the pressure cooker. How do you think the amount of liquid would change?! I’d love to hear if you try them!

Reply
Sarah

I see there is no cilantro listed in the cilantro lime chicken, was this an oversight? If so what amount is to be used?

Reply
Anne

How long does it take for the email to arrive? I have followed this link and signed up to receive the pdf of recipes/shopping link twice to two different email addresses and I have not received anything. I have even checked my spam folders.

Reply
Jenny R

I also didn’t get it, although I signed up and entered my email address. Can you send me the email please? Thanks and can’t wait to try these recipes!

Eliana

Just wanted to thank you for this great page, which I have shared on Facebook with my friends. I now have a freezer full of healthy meals for those evenings I know I will be busy. I love all the vegetables used and the vegetarian options (for religious/cultural reasons, we do not eat meat on Wed and Fri so this is really useful). Wonderful idea, thanks a lot!

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Ashley

Happy to see a few vegetarian options. I’d love to know if you come up with any more. Maybe some good for spring and summer? I have a baby due at the end of May and I’m sure meals like this would be great to have. Thank you!

Reply
Sarah

Do you drain the pineapple chunks or put the juice in with the fruit?

And thanks for these recipes! Love them so far!

Reply
Sherri

Recipes call for chili powder, and it’s missing from the shopping list.

This blog ROCKS!!! We just make all 10 for our son and daughter-in-law, who are expecting their first child in a few days.

Thanks so much!!!

Reply
Devon

Could you post a before and after picture of each meal? I made the Curry Butternut Squash and it was really runny, almost like a broth. It would be nice to see everything in the bag and then the final result, just to get an idea of what it should look like after cooking.

Reply

Did you use red lentils or brown lentils? The red lentils cook down completely and will thicken the curry. The brown lentils stay more whole and that would make it a lot more runny…

Reply
Kay

For the maple syrup in the teriyaki chicken, does it need to be “real” maple syrup or is the grocery-store Log Cabin/Mrs. Butterworth type work okay? Trying to figure out what I can use from my pantry and not have to buy.

Reply

Kara- thanks for the feedback and I’m sorry you didn’t like it. My 3 year old is my fussiest eater and I served his with some sour cream and multi-grain tortilla chips to dip in it. In case any one else reads your thoughts I’m going to go ahead and say that I still think it’s a delicious really solid recipe. I did tons of testing and my neighbors as well as my in-laws tried this particular recipe (I kept notes even on all of my taste testers) and it passed with flying colors. This one happened to be a favorite at our house and I’ve made it more than one time. We loved it and I can say that we shot down tons of recipes, this one is still a keeper in my book.

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Elizabeth

We made it today at our house and it was delicious! My picky eaters (one child and a carnivorous husband), both loved it too!

My only question was about the salt, 1 tablespoon seemed like a lot. I think I’ll reduce that next time and add it when serving.

Thank you for the great recipes!

Reply
Amy

My kids are super picky and they loved the lentil recipe. I agree that there was too much salt, but I also used beef stock instead of veggie stock, and I guarantee that’s what made the difference. I just made it again and used 1 teaspoon of salt instead. I figure that we can add more if necessary.

Reply
RR

Help! Are the black beans supposed to be dumped with the juice? I’ve only dumped the beans and the crushed tomatoes and it looks SOOOO watery, I quit working on that one. Should I have rinsed the beans first?

Reply
Brooke

Do you usually use a 6 quart oval slowcooker? I think that’s what mine is and I seem to have trouble with things over cooking even though I’m using the shortest amount of time on low. Should I switch to a more round tall on over the oval?

Reply
Adrienne

In the recipe that calls for 1 cup of pumpkin, is it canned or diced pumpkin? Thanks! These look so easy to make, so I’m looking forward to trying them.

Reply

I used canned pumpkin puree and it makes it a big thicker, I do think that cubed fresh would work about the same though since you are cooking it for a long time. I’d love to know what you try!

Reply
Kim

I’m going to try this out for my dad. I get your supposed to put the veggies and meat in the freezer bags but do you also put the spices and broths in as well if I plan on freezing it first? Or do you pour the spices and broth in crock pot on day of of cooking? Thanks

Reply
Diana

Thank you so much for sharing, I will definitely try some of these! One suggestion I do have is the use of reusable freezer bags or some sort of reusable freezer container. I just thought of this today and I will do some research and buy some. Some are even dishwasher safe. The neat-o ones look good so far. I like to do what I can for the environment and I find I use tons of plastic baggies that just go in the garbage, so I’m trying to change that!

Reply
Natalie Monson

Not sure what went wrong. Can you try clicking on the link and entering your email again? Thanks!

Reply
Alicia

Was going to make some of these today, but I was a little thrown off by the amount of salt/seasonings in some of them. A whole tablespoon? Plus adding broth? Just wanted to make sure the measurements are correct. Seems like an awful lot!!

Reply
Jenna

I want to thank you for the recipes. I made them before I gave birth. They have come in very useful. So far we have had the stew and the squash and lentil curry. I’m excited to try the others, my family loves them too. We are gluten free and dairy free and I only had to change one recipe to meet our dietary needs. Anyway thanks.

Reply
Rachel

In the hearty lentil stew, can any style of lentil be used such as french, or is the red lentil specific for the recipe because of its consistency after it is cooked?

Reply
Natalie Monson

Red is suggested because it seems to hold up better. You can try using other lentils though 🙂

Reply
Maggie Cranford

For the Beef Veg Stew, can you use beef stock instead of the base? If so, what would be the equivalent ?

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Maggie Cranford

For the Veg Beef stew, how much beef stock would you use as oppose to the beef base ?

Reply
Miranda

I noticed you don’t put the broth in on freezer prep days and am wondering why you wait until you are cooking it to add. I am just curious because I would like to have it all in the bag as I am preparing for our first baby and want to make my life as easy as possible. Is the reasoning for freezer space, or does it significantly effect the flavour/recipe? Thanks so much!

Reply
Kathryn

I’ve made these once and now once again. They were awesome! Some of them were a bit salty (but I forgot to note which ones). I used cut up chicken breasts and found that 6-8 hours on low really dried out the chicken – but 3ish hours on low (with a thermometer to check the temp) worked better. I also used chicken broth almost everywhere – including when it called for water and I really liked the flavour it added. I would like to know how to get the sauces for the chicken ones to be thicker. Any ideas?

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Jamie Ward

The Teriyaki Chicken Recipe calls for 1, 20-oz can of pineapple chunks. Do you drain the juices and only add the pineapple? I shared the recipe with a friend and the outcome was not so great. I’m sure the pineapple juice is acidic and may have been the problem. Also, she did not “pop it in the freezer”, instead, she placed the freezer bag with all ingredients in the refrigerator for a few days before cooking. Not sure how long she slow cooked the meal either. Just curious to know what may have gone wrong.

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Julia

I’ve always read and been told not to cook frozen meat in the crockpot because it can go through a period where harmful bacteria can contaminate the meat as it comes to temperature. Was this not a concern of yours? I’ve contemplated freezing the meat in a separate bag so I could thaw the meat first and leave the rest frozen…

Reply
Lauren

Cilantro Lime Chicken with Corn and Black Beans – As well as the following 2 chicken dishes do not have the On The Day part where you add the liquid measurements.
Can you please tell me the quantities to add on the day?

Reply
Emily

I love these recipes. I made the Butter Chicken today, but not from the freezer, I just had the ingredients on hand, and threw it all in slow cooker and cooked. (Awesome!). I did have a question though. When prepping these recipes for freezer, do you open the canned goods (like the coconut milk and tomatoes) and put them in the freezer bag with rest of contents? I was thinking I’d prep some, but wanted to double check on that.

Thanks so much.

Emily

Reply
Krista

I love these! Is there a shopping list for all 10 recipes combined? I can’t find a link anywhere!

Reply

Hi Krista! Sorry about that. It appears it WAS gone, but I’ve re-added the link for the printable shopping list and recipes! Let me know if it doesn’t work for you.

Reply

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