Generally speaking, slow-cooker meals are pretty easy to make—set it and forget it, as the saying goes. But most recipes need a little TLC in the form of slicing, dicing, and even sautéeing before the ingredients can actually go in your Crock-Pot, which often means prep can end up taking longer than you expected. That’s fine on your day off when you have time to spare, (hello, hygge!), but not so great when you’re rushing around in the morning. Yes, you do want a tender, fall-off-the-bone-style stew for dinner, but you’d also rather take a shower and eat breakfast than brown some beef.
Luckily for you, I have a little meal-prep secret that has completely revolutionized my slow-cooking game. On Sunday night (when I’m doing the rest of my prep for the week), I pick out a handful of Crock-Pot recipes, do any necessary chopping or sautéeing, put all my prepped ingredients into labeled Ziploc baggies, and then pop them in the freezer. Much like freezer-pack smoothies, these slow-cooker meal-packs last a while and can be made in bulk, and they allow me to quickly get my dinner started in the minutes before I leave for work—no additional prep required. Suddenly dinner any day of the week is a total cinch.
One other bonus: Because the ingredients are all frozen, they take longer to cook. That’s especially great if you work long days and don’t normally make it home in time to turn off the heat before your food starts to burn.
Here you’ll find 11 slow-cooker dinners that easily lend themselves to this prep-and-freeze ahead-of-time method. Each recipe includes a few helpful instructions to get you started: which ingredients need to be cooked, chopped, and frozen in advance; as well as ingredients that don’t need any maintenance and can be added at the last second (grains like quinoa and liquids like chicken stock, for example). Add them to your meal-prep plan ASAP.