“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”
Once a week, I will be sharing a tip, trick, or some interesting information about meal planning. I believe meal planning is critical to any long term and effective healthy living or weight loss goals. For me it was the single thing that finally made permanent weight loss achievable. The quote stood true, when I failed to plan, I failed, and I don’t want that to happen to others.
Additionally, I believe that meal planning is a skill that takes time to master and we can all use some help! When I first started meal planning it took up countless hours pouring over recipes, calculating nutritional info and/or points, and creating elaborate calendars. It was painful. Anything I can do to ease that pain for someone else is a win-win in my book.
Finally, I hope by sharing meal planning strategies, it will help you find a system that works for you. Whether it’s using our meal plans, scratching one into your weekly planner, or creating your own meal planning system – I hope this feature inspires you to start planning at least a few meals every week. It will save you time, money, and it truly will help you reach your weight loss and healthy living goals. So with that, on to this week’s tip!
Meal Planning Made Easy: Slow Cooker Freezer Meals
Mastering slow cooker freezer meals was a total game changer for me in terms of meal prep. Combining the simplicity of the slow cooker with the convenience of make-ahead freezer meals makes dinner time a breeze, especially for busy nights. Just imagine opening up your freezer and having a variety of ready to go slow cooker freezer meals waiting, - no last minute grocery store trips, take out, or cereal for dinner. Just pop a prepared recipe in the slow cooker in the morning, pair it with a quick cooking grain and some veggies, and dinner is ready. It couldn't be easier.
Here are some general tips for creating slow cooker freezer meals.
- Prep the Same Way: When you are making a slow cooker recipe to freeze, follow the same preparation instructions as the original slow cooker recipe. That means leave ingredients raw that are meant to be added to the slow cooker raw and brown/cook any ingredients that are meant to be cooked before being added to the slow cooker. You are preparing the recipe in the same exact same way except you are adding it a freezer bag instead of the slow cooker.
- Use High Quality Freezer Bags for Easy Storage: Since you will be freezing most of these meals for up to 3-4 months, you want a high quality freezer bag that will last, prevent freezer burn, and won't leak. It's worth spending a little extra to avoid a messy freezer or ruined meal.
- Proper Order: When adding the ingredients to your freezer bags, you want to start with any beans or grains. Next add the veggies, sauce/broth/liquid, and spices. Lastly add the meat. This order tends to yeild the best results in my opinion, but don't worry too much if you use a different order.
- Freezer Storage: There are two keys to storing slow cooker freezer meals. First make sure to remove any excess air in the bag before sealing. Removing the air significantly decreases freezer burn. Secondly, store the bags sideways so that you can store multiple bags easily in your fridge. Once you pack everything into your freezer baf, seal it, and lay it down sideways to freeze. I also recommend labeling your meals and including the recommended cook time and any extra instructions.
- Defrost Overnight: You want to defrost your meal before dumping it into the slow cooker. The easiest way to do this is by defrosting it in the fridge overnight the night before you plan on preparing the meal. You can also defrost in the microwave or a bowl of cold water if you need things to move more quickly. It's fine if it isn't fully defrosted when you add it to the slow cooker, but it should be mostly defrosted. When cooking the meal, you may have to add 1-2 hours to the cooking time if it isn't fully defrosted.
- Consider Frozen Ingredients: Lastly since you are freezing these meals, frozen ingredients can be a way to save time and money. Frozen veggies and proteins work great in these recipes.
Love the idea of meal planning but don’t want to do all the work? Since I know that many people simply don’t have the time to create their own healthy meal plans, we provide delicious and healthy meal plans at Slender Kitchen that you can customize to meet your needs.
Here are some highlights from this week’s healthy meal plans:
- Slow Cooker Ropa Vieja
- Creamy Cajun Chicken Pasta (made with spaghetti squash for low carb)
- Sausage, Potato, and Veggie Bake
- Chicken and Broccoli Stir-fry with Quinoa Fried Rice
- Oatmeal Protein Pancakes
- Margherita Flatbread Pizzas
- Ancho Fish Tacos
- Black Olive adn Feta Burgers
- Apple Cinnamo Waffles
- & more
Each healthy weekly meal plan comes full of delicious recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The meal plans come in regular, vegetarian, and low carb options. All feature complete nutritional information, Weight Watchers PointsPlus®, and categorized shopping lists! There are also two bonus fallback recipes weekly and the option for either a complete meal plan or a Dinner Only plan. All that for less the cost of one cup of coffee per month with the yearly plan.