A step by step guide to prepare meals that can be frozen ready for the slow cooker - perfect for busy days and having more time free in the evenings!
DISCLOSURE: This post is a paid partnership with GLAD. All content and opinions are my own.
After getting used to spending so much time at home over the last couple of months and being home to prepare meals as well as spend time with our family, I know it will be hard to adjust back to our new normal once work and school are back which I why I'm so excited to partner with GLAD to bring you this post!
When I started filling my freezer with easy meals to have for when Macey arrived, one of my favourite methods was making slow cooker prep bags.
If you are unfamiliar with this, you basically prepare the meal that you plan to put in the slow cooker, only instead of cooking it right away you place the entire contents into a GLAD Snap Lock Reseal Bag and freeze! This way, you simply pull it out of the freezer the night before you want it, let it thaw in the fridge overnight and then empty the entire contents of the bag into the slow cooker and turn it on!
How easy is that?
You can spend a couple of hours over the weekend making a few bags like this and use them throughout the week meaning that you eliminate the rush in the morning to get dinner on and get out the door and the 5pm "what's for dinner" panic! This means once you are home, you can use that time to go for a family walk, play a game or something else you've been enjoying doing as a family instead!
Slow cooker prep bag instructions:
Find your recipe
Here are a few of my favourites:
- Devilled sausages (add all sauce ingredients and sausages to a Snap Lock bag and freeze. Thaw and cook in slow cooker for 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low)
- Butter chicken (add all ingredients except cream and butter to a Snap Lock bag and freeze. Thaw and cook in slow cooker for 3 hours on high or 6 hours on low, then stir through cream and butter before serving)
- Sweet & sour chicken or pork (add all sauce ingredients and chicken or pork to a Snap Lock bag and freeze. Thaw and cook in slow cooker for 3 hours on high or 6 hours on low – then stir through about 1 TBSP cornflour with 2 TBSP water at the end to thicken)
- Marinara sauce (make sauce as per recipe, cool, portion into Snap Lock bags and freeze. Ready to stir through pasta or add into the slow cooker with mince for spaghetti bolognese and cook for 3 hours on high or 6 hours on low)
- Shredded chipotle chicken (make the sauce as per the instructions and then add the chicken breasts to the Snap Lock bag along with the sauce and freeze. Thaw and cook for 3 hours on high or 6 hours on low, shred the chicken and then serve in tacos, on nachos or in enchiladas.
Choose your bag
For our family, GLAD Snap Lock Large Sandwich Bags are the perfect size. They also stand up really well as you are filling them. For smaller meals you could use the regular sandwich size bag (I use these for pasta sauces or portions for my kids) or if you are feeding a big family or using larger ingredients such as lamb shanks, use the large bags.
Label your bags
Make sure you write the contents, date and cooking instructions on the bag before you fill it! This way you know exactly what you are pulling out of the freezer.
Fill the bags
You can mix up the sauce ingredients in a pyrex jug so that they are all combined and easy to pour into the bag or add them directly to the bag. Pour the ingredients into the bag, add the meat and close the bag, gently squeezing out as much air as you can. I also like flattening the bag as much for 2 reasons – flat bags can be stacked on top of each other in the freezer much more easily, and defrost faster!
Stack and freeze
If you are making more than one bag, layer a piece of GLAD Cook & Bake Paper in between bags so that they don't stick together as they freeze.
Depending on the size of the bag and the freezer space I have, I like stacking the bags in a container with a piece of baking paper between them as they freeze, then once they have frozen flat, I can move them to where I want to store them.
Thaw and cook
I like to take the bag out the night before and thaw it in the fridge. In the morning I empty the contents of the bag into the slow cooker, turn it on and leave it to work its magic all day!
Is it safe to mix the raw meat and sauce ingredients?
Yes! Adding raw meat to the contents of this bag is perfectly safe, it's how you would add it to the slow cooker anyway.
What if I want to use meat that I already have frozen?
You might have stocked up at the supermarket or have homekill meat in the freezer like us. If you can unwrap the meat from the packet it is in while still frozen you can do this and add it to the bag, otherwise just make sure you write on the bag with the sauce what meat needs to be added and make sure you take both things out of the freezer to thaw at the same time!
Can I then freeze the leftovers?
Yes! Because you have initially frozen the ingredients raw, it is safe to thaw them, cook them and then freeze any leftovers. I often do this with just the sauce leftover from devilled sausages.
Freezing slow cooker prep bags will save you time in the evenings to enjoy some of the things you've enjoyed about being home over the last few weeks - spending time with family, heading out for a walk or playing a game together!