Learn the 3 steps to crockpot meal planning to save you time and money. Before you know it, you'll be planning slow cooker meals for easy dinners each week.
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Back when I was in and out of the car all the time, I couldn't seem to get things into the crockpot at the right time for dinner to be ready. But now, with everyone working and schooling from home, it has been easier than ever to make slow cooker meals.
Are you using your crockpot for easy family meals? Crockpot recipes can range from super simple (few ingredients, just dump them in) to pretty complicated (browning meat beforehand, etc.). I always stick to simple!
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. If you're not meal planning yet, give it a try and at least plan these particular meals.
How to start Crockpot Meal Planning
1. Check your schedule
Just like with regular weekly meal planning, take a look at your calendar to see the best days to use the crockpot. I set a timer on my phone to help me remember to get the ingredients loaded and the slow cooker turned on by 11am the days we've planned slow cooker meals.
2. Find simple recipes
Pick a one-pot dish like beef stew, chili or shredded chicken tacos and get it going in the morning. Just put the ingredients into your crockpot, turn it on Low and go about your busy day.
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.
Once you have your list of meals, print out the recipes and keep them somewhere handy. When you know you need to plan one or two slow cooker meals for the week, go through those simple recipes.
You'll find lots of easy crockpot recipes in my Recipe Index, or you can just start with these simple soups.
3. Make time for meal prep
Of course this type of meal prep takes a little bit of planning. Besides the 15-30 minutes you need each week to write up a meal plan and grocery list, you will need to schedule some meal prep time.
If you can get the crockpot meal components ready in the morning, you can just add them to the slow cooker right away. However, if your mornings are too crazy, you can meal prep the night before.
Either toss the ingredients into a large plastic storage bag or another container (I use glass), then it's ready to be loaded into the crockpot the next day. I don't like to load the crock and refrigerate it overnight because it takes a long time for the ceramic to heat from chilled.
Make sure you shop for everything you need well ahead of time. Don't forget to check on seasonings, spices and other shelf-stable items that you don't usually buy.
Slow cooking and planning crockpot meals is all about making it easy for you to get delicious home cooked meals on the table. That's always the end goal!
Go ahead and give it a try. No matter what you make, it will be healthier and better for your family than the fast food you usually pick up on crazy busy days.