I don’t know about you, but my crockpot had been sitting in the same kitchen cabinet collecting dust since I received it off my wedding registry 10 years ago. There are countless reasons why I didn’t take it out: “Ugh, it’s too heavy…takes up too much room on the counter…who wants to wash it afterward?” I could literally come up with a million excuses if I tried…”Remember Jack in This Is Us?”
But when a friend of mine stated that she only meal prepped once a week because of her crockpot, you better believe I was interested in what she had to say! “So you’re telling me that you set your crockpot and walk away only to find a delicious and home-cooked meal 5-6 hours later?” I’m here for it… and all I needed to do was follow three simple steps:
1. Make time to plan meals for the week (which I was already somewhat doing 10 times a day in my mind by stressing about it).
2. Make time to grocery shop (which I would do about four times a week anyway because I would only get a few things at a time).
3. Meal prep with large zip lock bags and a crock-pot, of course! (Meal prepping actually took a lot less time than I thought it would!).
These three easy steps were how I said goodbye to frozen foods and frequent take-outs and hello to fresh home-cooked meals every night!
I was in a cooking slump. Every other night I would be too tired to cook and either order take-out for everyone or “pick something up on the way home.” While it was convenient, I had no idea what was being put into the food my family and I were ingesting, and I was simultaneously spending a fortune! If I had gone shopping, I would rack my brain about what I bought and how I could form some meal with it. I couldn’t get out of this cooking rut and got extremely tired of trying to put a decent meal on the table while working full time. Something needed to change…so I followed my friend’s slow cooker advice and put her suggestions to the test, and here’s what happened…
I made delicious meals. I saved money, and my family was not only impressed but wanted more!
How can you do the same?
Step 1 – Planning your meals: My first step was to research meals that seemed super yummy! Once I found five meals that I wanted to try (one google search of “best crock-pot recipes” and there are literally thousands to choose from), I printed them out and checked off all the ingredients throughout my kitchen that I had or needed. I was also pleasantly surprised with all of the ingredients that I already had in my kitchen cabinets (Oh hello smoked paprika, so THAT’s what you are used for!),
Step 2 – Visit the grocery store once and DONE: Once I found out what I was missing, I went to the grocery store ONCE for the week and never had to worry about going back. I brought my checklists and my recipes to make sure that I hadn’t missed anything. Once I had stocked up (mostly on fresh meat or niche ingredients such as coconut amino acids), I excitedly brought it all home and got ready to prep my meals! The best part about this was when I saved “popping” to the store during my lunch break or “doing a quick shop” after work before I rushed to pick up the kids.
Step 3 – Prepare your meals and zip lock them away for the week: I was actually surprised at how much I enjoyed meal prepping for no more than an hour on Sunday morning! I put some music on (old school hip-hop for this chick) and took my time creating all the meals as if I was ready to cook them that day. I first took out all the ingredients needed for all the meals. Then I placed 5 large open zip lock bags on my counter. I chopped, mixed, and placed all ingredients for each meal in their neatly labeled zip lock bags. Once done, I put them in my freezer and walked away. Now, I’m not gonna lie, some of the meals looked disgusting. “How in the world am I gonna get my family to eat that?” I thought to myself, already doubting whether this was even going to work.
The next day, I woke up early for work, ran around doing my usual morning routines, and dropped the contents of one frozen baggy into the crockpot. I set the temperature to low and the timer to six hours and was on my way! After a full day of work, I cautiously walked through the door and was pleasantly surprised by the smell that greeted me. My house smelled delicious! I slowly peered into the crockpot after taking the top off and was surprised that my meal not only looked edible but good as well! Long story short, my family loved my first meal. I stepped and repeated the same process all week, making one delicious meal after another.
All of the myths I had believed had been debunked! Jack’s crockpot was from the ’70s. They are much safer now. It doesn’t take up that much counter space. It’s dishwasher safe, so no one has to clean it! If I use it every day, I won’t have to lug it in and out of cupboards. And with this new wave of Whole 30/Paleo enthusiasts, many recipes would be appropriate if I wanted to start eating solely healthy meals.
It is safe to say that I will never go back to the stressed out, day to day mom who was always rushing to put something of quality on the dinner table. By taking a few hours out of my week and making them meaningful, I created new meals for my family, which I am proud of! I know every ingredient that I serve my family now, I no longer rack my brain during work to figure out what I’m making that night, and I come home to a fresh-cooked meal that’s warm and ready to serve.
No crockpot post would be complete without the best tried and true recipes. Here are 5 of my favorite recipes since starting my crockpot kick:
- Beef Stroganoff from Well Plated by Erin
- Teriyaki Chicken from Sweet Peas and Saffron
- Buffalo Chicken Sweet Potatoes from Well Plated by Erin
- Creamy Sun-Dried Tomato Chicken by Chef in Training
- Honey Buffalo Meatballs by the Recipe Critic