Planning meals is one way to ensure you and your family are eating healthy, flavorful meals. Planning also reduces the need for the last-minute takeout or dinner runs, saving you money. Incorporating your freezer and Crock-Pot slow cooker into your planning gives you a further advantage of bulk cooking preparation. Replace the frozen food section of the grocery store with fresh ingredients stored with less preservatives for healthier eating.
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Decide what recipes you want to prepare for cooking ahead of time or cook to freeze. Items with meat or poultry should ideally be cooked first, allowing the meat to cook thoroughly and reheated later. Vegetable or pasta dishes can be assembled and frozen to be cooked later.
Purchase your ingredient list according to your cooking objectives. If you are preparing items to pull out of the freezer and cook, plan five to six meals to buy food in bulk. If you are preparing one dish in your slow cooker to freeze in smaller sections once cooked, buy only the ingredients needed for one dish.
Prepare the dish. Measure ingredients and assemble the dish either in the slow cooker or in freezer bags holding one slow cooker meal.
Cube meats and poultry and brown it in a skillet before either putting it in the slow cooker or the freezer assembled bag. This ensure meats are cooked thoroughly even if you are freezing them prior to cooking the entire dish.
Freeze pre-assembled dishes in the freezer, labeling the dish and date it was placed in the freezer.
Cook one dish, let it cook, and section it into smaller meals in a freezer bag for later reheating. Label bags with the date and dish name.
Cook pre-frozen dishes two hours longer on high or four to six hours on low versus thawed ingredients. Add 1 cup of warm broth or water to the bottom of the dish if cooking frozen meat without preheating the slow cooker. Use a meat thermometer to check meat doneness. Meat should be cooked to at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit, while poultry should be cooked to a minimum of 165 degrees.