Before my daughter Isla was born, I prepped and froze two weeks worth of dinners. We loved having homemade, healthy meals on-hand while we were bonding with the newest member of our family.
In fact, the experience was so awesome that it inspired me to publish a cookbook with my favorite freezer recipes titled, ‘15-Minute Freezer Recipes.’ My ’15-Minute Freezer Recipes’ cookbook includes recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. Like the title suggests, each recipe can be prepped in 15 minutes or less. Then you pop the meals in your freezer and cook them in your oven or crockpot when you’re hungry.
If you’ve brand-new to freezer cooking, making freezer-to-crockpot meals is a great place to start. Most freezer-to-crockpot meals can be frozen without any cooking ahead of time. That means they’re super easy to prep. Plus they cook for the very first time out of your freezer, so they don’t taste like leftovers at all. (I first read about prepping a bunch of freezer meals for your crockpot on Mama & Baby Love.)
If you want to start prepping and freezing meals for your crockpot, here are some tips to help you get started.
1. Prep the meal to the point you would put it in the crockpot.
Most meats can be fully cooked in your crockpot without any cooking ahead of time, so they can be frozen raw with the rest of the recipe’s ingredients. If your recipe calls for cooking ahead of time, follow the directions until the point you would put it in the crockpot, and then put it in your freezer instead (For example, my Slow Cooker Turkey Black Bean Chili recipe calls for cooking the ground turkey before adding it to the crockpot with the rest of ingredients. If I’m going to freeze it, I cook the turkey and then add it with the rest of the ingredients to a freezer bag.)
2. Store meals in gallon-sized plastic freezer bags.
Gallon-sized plastic freezer bags are perfect for storing freezer-to-crockpot meals. You can lay them flat in your freezer and stack a bunch of meals on top of one another to save space. I use plastic freezer bags them all the time, and I’ve never had one leak in my freezer. Just don’t buy the generic, super-cheap bags. I tested a box of freezer bags that only cost $1 and almost every bag ripped before it made it into the freezer.
3. Add the meat to the freezer bag last.
This may sound counter-intuitive, but you want to add the meat to the freezer bag last. Storing the meat at the top of your freezer bag means it will be the first ingredient dumped into your crockpot. (Which is what you want – the meat closest to the heating source!) You can find more details about how to fill your freezer bags in my blog post with freezer meal tips for beginners. (Pics included!)
4. Remove as much air as possible from the freezer bag before freezing.
Removing as much air as possible from your freezer bag will help your meal stay fresh longer. Watch the video in my freezer meal tips for beginners blog post to see my trick for removing as much air as possible without a vacuum sealer. Most freezer meals will keep in a standard freezer for up to 3 months.
5. The night before you’re going to cook the meal, place the freezer bag in your refrigerator to thaw.
Thawing your freezer meal will help make sure the meal cooks safely and evenly. It will also help your meal fit in your crockpot (because it isn’t a solid block). If you forget to thaw beforehand, you can thaw in your microwave the morning that you want to cook it in your crockpot.
6. Adjust the cooking time.
If your freezer meal is not thawed completely before placing it in your crockpot, it will need to cook longer than the typical room temperature recipe. I typically add 1-2 hours onto the cooking time in the recipe’s directions.
To help you get started, here are my favorite crockpot recipes that freeze well:
- Chicken Chili
- Sweet & Spicy BBQ Chicken
- Cranberry Pork Roast
- Chicken Curry
- The Beef Roast & Carrots and Vegetable Barley Soup in my ’15-Minute Freezer Recipes’ cookbook!
Tell me: What’s your favorite thing to make in your crockpot?
P.S. If you’re totally new to Crockpot cooking, here are the two that I own: A Hamilton Beach 4-quart slow cooker and a Crock-Pot 7-quart slow cooker. I like the 4-quart slow cooker because it is small enough to store in my kitchen cabinet, yet big enough to cook our typical weeknight meals. I like the 7-quart slow cooker for bigger recipes and dinner guests. Plus I think it is more powerful than the smaller one and cooks faster.