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17 things you need to know about slow cooker freezer meals

Slow cooker freezer meals are a game-changer.  Whether you’ve made slow cooker freezer meals before or are brand-new to freezer cooking, I want to share 17 things that you need to know to make all of your freezer meals a huge success.

17 Things You Need To Know About Slow Cooker Freezer Meals

I think it’s obvious that I’m obsessed with slow cooker freezer meals.  There’s simply nothing easier than dumping a meal into the crockpot in the morning and turning it on.  Add some bread or microwave rice as a side dish at 6pm and dinner is done.

Besides the time you save in the morning, there are some major benefits to assembling and freezing slow cooker meals ahead of time:

  • They don’t require any cooking ahead of time, so they’re very easy and quick to prep.
  • They cook for the first time out of the freezer and don’t taste like leftovers at all.
  • You can take advantage of sales at the grocery store and stock your freezer with healthy meals at a fraction of the cost.

17 Things You Need To Know About Slow Cooker Freezer Meals

To prepare for the launch of my new CROCK’D Slow Cooker Freezer Meals cookbook, I asked my email subscribers what questions they have about freezer cooking.  Here are my answers to the 17 most common questions…

17 Things You Need To Know About Slow Cooker Freezer Meals

Q1: Do slow cooker freezer meals actually taste good?
YES. Oh my, they’re delicious! We eat slow cooker freezer meals 5-6 nights a week.

Q2: Where do you store all of your meals?  Do I need to buy an extra freezer?
I store most of my meals in the freezer in my kitchen, but I do have an extra fridge/freezer combo in my basement.  (This came in handy when I froze 27 meals before my third baby was born.)  You really don’t need a lot of space to get started. A 12×12″ space is plenty of room to stack freezer bags – think of this as an excuse to clean out your freezer and get rid of anything old and expired!

Q3: What do I need to get started with slow cooker freezer meals?
To put it simply: A vegetable peeler, cutting board, knife, and slow cooker. I use a 6-quart slow cooker with a timer for most of our meals. I also have a 4-quart slow cooker and it works just fine.  Baggy stands are also nice when you make a lot of meals, but they’re not necessary.

17 Things You Need To Know About Slow Cooker Freezer Meals

Q4: Do you really freeze everything raw?  Even the meat and vegetables?
Yep. I used to brown my ground meat before freezing, but I found it was completely unnecessary and only took more time.  All of my frozen raw veggies turn out great – even potatoes!  The only vegetable that I don’t freeze raw is broccoli, because I don’t like it’s taste and texture after cooking.  I use frozen broccoli florets in my recipes instead.

Q5: Is it safe to freeze raw meat with veggies?
Yes. If you’re nervous about combining raw meat with other ingredients, let me assure you that it’s perfectly safe. (Remember, people cook raw meat and vegetables in their slow cookers and ovens all the time!) According to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, freezing to 0 °F inactivates microbes present in food (like bacteria, yeasts, and molds).

Q6: Most of your recipes call for fresh meat.  Can I substitute frozen meat instead?
Yes.  Go ahead and add the frozen meat right to the plastic bag.  Don’t thaw it ahead of time.

17 Things You Need To Know About Slow Cooker Freezer Meals

Q7: Some of your recipes don’t include a lot of liquid.  Should I add broth or water so the meal doesn’t burn?
No. Meat and vegetables release quite a bit of liquid while cooking.  If you add extra liquid it will dilute the flavor of the dish.

Q8: How does freezing affect the texture, taste, and nutrition of the dish?
Since slow cooker freezer meals are frozen without any cooking ahead of time, the texture and taste isn’t changed a bit. They taste exactly the same as freshly-prepared meals. According to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, the freezing process does not break down nutrients and the nutritional value should change very little.

Q9: How long does it take to assemble a meal? 
Most slow cooker freezer meals can be prepped in 15 minutes or less. Some marinated meat recipes (like my favorite honey dijon chicken) only take 1-2 minutes.  I can usually prep 6-8 recipes in an hour, including clean-up.

17 Things You Need To Know About Slow Cooker Freezer Meals

Q10: How in the world do you prep your meals so quickly?  Are there shortcuts that I can take to make my meals faster? 
I like to prep 6-8 meals at a time so I only have to wash my knife and cutting board once. You can also prep meals every other weekend or once a month. To save time, using pre-cut fresh vegetables or frozen vegetables is a great option. A vegetable chopper is also handy.

Q11: How long can slow cooker meals be stored in the freezer?
They can be stored in a standard fridge/freezer combo for at least three months.

Q12: Do frozen meals need to be thawed before cooking? If so, how do you thaw them?
I thaw my slow cooker meals by placing them in the refrigerator the night before I’m planning to cook them. They are not always 100% thawed in the morning, but they’re thawed enough to fit in my slow cooker and they always cook perfectly. You can also thaw meals in a bath of cold water or in the microwave (If you use this method, you will need to transfer the meal from a freezer bag to a microwave-safe dish).

17 Things You Need To Know About Slow Cooker Freezer Meals

Q13: How do I know exactly how long to cook a meal in my slow cooker? I don’t want my veggies to be super crunchy, but I don’t want my chicken breasts to dry out either.
Start with the average cooking times, 6 hours in a 6-quart slow cooker and 8 hours in a 4-quart slow cooker. If your veggies are still crunchy and your meat isn’t cooked through, cook them longer. If anything is mushy or dried out, decrease the cooking time next time. If you need to be out of the house for a longer period of time, I recommend purchasing a slow cooker with a timer or using a simple light timer to turn off your slow cooker an hour before you get home.

Q14: How many servings are in a meal? Can I cut them in half to feed less people or double them to feed a crowd?
Slow cookers work best when they’re at least 1/3 full and no more than 2/3 full.  Most of my recipes have 4-6 servings and fit within those guidelines. If you’re only feeding two people, but are willing to eat leftovers, I recommend making them as-is. If you are feeding more people, an easy way to increase the number of servings is to add an extra pound or two of meat.

17 Things You Need To Know About Slow Cooker Freezer Meals

Q15: How will slow cooker freezer meals save me money?
There are so many ways!  Here are some of my favorites:

  • My favorite recipes are simple ones that don’t require a lot of ingredients.
  • You can take advantage of sales at the grocery store and prepare a bunch of meals when your favorite meats and vegetables go on sale. (Most freezer meals will last at least three months.)
  • You can buy ingredients for your freezer meals in bulk at a better price than when you buy smaller quantities.
  • If you’re good at planning ahead, you can slowly stock your freezer and save those meals for a time when you’ll have less money to spend on food or will need extra money for another purchase. For example, I slowly stocked my freezer with a month’s worth of meals when I was pregnant with my third daughter. Adding 1-2 meals per week only made a small difference in our food budget and when she was born we ate for free for a month. (Which was awesome because she was born on Thanksgiving and we were able to put our monthly food budget toward Christmas gifts instead.)

Q16: Can every slow cooker recipe be frozen?  
Most slow cooker recipes can be, but I’ve run into problems with fresh broccoli, rice, pasta, and some dairy products.  If you want to convert your favorite slow cooker recipe to a freezer meal, these instructions on Money Saving Mom are helpful.

Q17: Do you have any recipes for vegetarians?  Is it possible to adapt slow cooker freezer recipes to make them dairy-free and gluten-free?   
My cookbooks contain a handful of vegetarian recipes and you can find more for free on my blog here.  Most of my freezer meals are naturally dairy-free and gluten-free. My favorite ingredients are fresh vegetables, meats, spices, and healthy canned goods liked diced tomatoes and beans. It’s also easy to swap proteins in slow cooker meals, if you don’t eat red meat or pork.

17 Things You Need To Know About Slow Cooker Freezer Meals

If you’re new to freezer cooking, my crockpot freezer cookbooks contain a ton of great recipes and tips.

Thoughts or questions?  Please leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. 

99 Comments

  • Kristi says:

    My family and I have loved every freezer meal of yours that we’ve tried so far! Right now, I have your easy chicken pot pie in my crockpot. I noticed that some of my potatoes turned black. What suggestions do you have for next time I prep with potatoes? Thanks so much!!!

    • Kelly says:

      Yay! I’m so glad you’ve liked my recipes. 🙂 I’m not sure what happened with the potatoes. Did you add them to the top of the bag and seal it quickly? Were they fresh? How did they look after thawing?

      • Terri says:

        Potatoes always turn black, to avoid that issue its best to use the frozen store bought potatoes and add them at time of cooking.

    • Shay says:

      Hey! I have been doing freezer meals for years. There are a couple methods you can use to ensure your potatoes do not go black.
      1st option, par boil the potatoes. If you boil them d or just a few minutes, your potatoes will not go black. It adjusts the part of the potato that causes that.
      2nd option and my favorite one as it doesn’t change texture of the potatoes when they are cooked. When you cut the potatoes, place them in a bowl of heavily salted water. Salt it like the ocean. When you pull out the potatoes, you can rinse them if you want, but I just omit any salt in the recipe. They never go black, you never have a salty meal, and the potatoes have a grea texture.
      Hope this was helpful! Have fun on your freezer meal adventure.

    • Jeni Brown says:

      I always had that same problem not matter what I did so now I just plan a little extra time and add the potatoes the day of!

  • Flo says:

    Since I buy my brown basmati rice in bulk (for much less than package prices per pound!) every other week I cook 2 cups (dry measure) in a saucepan to freeze for the next couple of weeks. I put a scant spoon of olive oil in the heating pan, add the two cups of dry rice and stir until coated. This keeps the rice from sticking together. I then add the 4 cups of water (often heated for 2 minutes in the microwave if I am in a hurry) and bring it to a beginning boil. Turn down to low, put the lid on and set the timer for 40 minutes. After the timer goes off, I turn the heat off, fluff it with a fork, and let it cool for 30 minutes or so. I then put it in a gallon freezer bag and flatten it out as much as possible and seal it after the air is mostly out. The real secret: I take a cutting board or round-edged cookie sheet and use it to ‘divide’ or score the rice in the package into 6 or 8 sections. I then put it flat into the freezer and when I want my pre-cooked rice, it takes almost no effort to break off a section of rice, reseal, and put the rest back in the freezer for another time. I love the aroma of cooking basmati, but sometimes I just don’t have time to cook it and this keeps our vegan meal prep time to 20 minutes or less, even if I am cooking lentils. If I am stir frying and opening a can of beans to drain, it may be just 10 minutes!

    • Kelly says:

      Awesome! Thanks so much for sharing, Flo. I hate how long it takes to cook rice. Freezing it is a great idea!

  • Nicci says:

    I love the labels, so much easier to read them than the standard black sharpie on the bag. Where do you get them? Thanks!

  • Linda says:

    Just found your blog through Crystal Paine and Money Saving Mom, my favorite blog. I am so excited; I have been wanting to do this for awhile but due to health issues I am unable to stand for long periods of time. Your meals, since there is no cooking involved, will enable me to do this while sitting at my kitchen table. Thank you so much. Looking forward to playing with your site and my food!

    • Kelly says:

      Awesome. I hope they work for you, Linda. I prepped quite a few meals sitting down when I was pregnant with my third baby.

  • Sophia says:

    hi Kristi – loved your blog on “17 things you need to know about slow cooking”
    Right up my alley.
    I have a few questions for you that I’d rather email you about first. Would you email me?
    Thanks, sophia

  • Rachel says:

    I also just found your blog through Money Saving Mom. I am excited to try this out. I do have a question. My local grocery store has bone-in chicken breasts on sale this week. Could I use those in place of the boneless chicken breasts called for in the recipes?

  • Steve says:

    You said freezing meat and veggies toget her is ok. That the USDA, I believe said freezing to 0° F stops bacteria growth. But, who has a zero or sub zero freezer? Most freezers don’t freeze that cold.

  • Nat says:

    Hi there, I see in one of your pictures what looks like dried beans? Just wanted to let you know that certain types of dried beans can actually be toxic when cooked in the slow cooker. You might want to check that out ☺

  • Sarah lewis says:

    hi I want to buy your books, but not as an ebook. Where can I order them???
    Thank you
    Sarah

    • Kelly says:

      Hi Sarah. They’re only available as eBooks at this point. They’re all printer-friendly though, so you’re welcome to print copies if you want.

  • Sheila Vives says:

    Wonderful and well written. Thank you so much !

  • Gabrielle says:

    Hi I’m currently on slimming world and doing fantastic but a lot of recipes will go in slow cooker this will save me loads of time but in the past when I have tried to just put in the mince meat without browning first the dish one goes watery and also the texture of meat isn’t nice have you any advice also I would love to follow your blog and order your ebooks have you links to both of these please
    Thanks
    Gab

  • Jan says:

    Hi, what can be a substitute for coconut in your receipt? Just checking. Thanks, Jan

  • Britt says:

    Im very new to crockpot cooking…. i also took a job working 9 hour days and an hour commute one way. That’s a total of 11 hours I’m away from home. My fiancés is a plumber so his hours are not set. I see a lot of recipes are only 6 hours on low? If i leave my home at 7:45am my dinner will be ready at like 2pm lol. So i guess my question is do they make crockpots that will start themselves and turn off? Or the ones that do turn themselves off, would it ruin our dinner having it sit the remainder of the day?

    • Kelly says:

      Yes, you can buy a “programmable” crockpot. You set the number of hours that you want the meal to cook and then it will automatically switch to the “warm” setting. I bought one earlier this year and LOVE it. Less than $50 and totally worth it!!

  • Kathryn says:

    Can you use a food saver versus the ziplock bags? Can’t wait to try some of these!

  • Linda says:

    I notice many of the recipes call for honey. Does the honey have something in it like antibacterial properties as I am not sure I would add honey.

    BTW…have tried some of these recipes and they are GOOD!!!

  • Erin says:

    Can you tell me which meal is in the bag with the beef roast and what appear to be mixed veggies? Thanks!

  • Kim says:

    I am not very experienced when it comes to using a crockpot, but I HAVE to come up with a better way of getting dinner on the table. Can you tell me what (if any) changes I would need to make if using your recipes without freezing first? Thanks!

  • Tam says:

    What happens if I don’t defrost? How much longer on the average should I add to cooking time?
    Thanks!

  • Cynthia says:

    For those that state that they don’t have the time or aren’t going to be home, these recipes would also be great if you had an electric pressure cooker. Using a pressure cooker speeds up the time it takes to cook the meal. I love my Instant Pot. Here is the link for it: http://www.amazon.com/Instant-Pot-IP-DUO60-Programmable-Generation/dp/B00FLYWNYQ/ref=sr_1_1?s=kitchen&ie=UTF8&qid=1443474410&sr=1-1&keywords=instant+pot

    I can’t wait to try your recipes!

  • Genesis Geiger says:

    Hi there!

    I was just wondering, what is your recommendation on labeling and bagging? I know that you give labels to subscribers but was wondering if they are reusable? Same with the plastic ziplock bags… Do you re-use them or do you throw them away after every use and just use new bags and new labels every time? Thank you 🙂 you are such a blessing!!!

  • Pearl says:

    Hi Kelly I just found your web site and Love it. Thanks for taking the time to put out so much information. I am retired but we like to go a lot and this is also a good ideal for us as well. I have done this before and Love crock pot cooking and putting them in the freezer is a great time saver, I also take it a step farther and put my food in an oven bag (the size I need to cook it in for the crock pot) and then place it into a freezer bag. That way I don’t have a mess in the crock pot after we eat dinner!!! I discovered this when we went camper and would be gone all day! You just have to loosen the oven bag some to let the steam escape as it is cooking…

  • Mimi says:

    Hi Kelly 🙂
    This might be a dumb question, but I am wondering what the advantages are for buying the ebooks vs. just using the posts on your blogs? I am all about supporting people with their businesses, I was just curious if there was an advantage to purchasing the books. I am excited to try it either way!

    Thanks!

    • Kelly says:

      The eBooks are printer-friendly and have full nutritional info, grocery lists, and printable freezer labels. They also have the number of servings and serving sizes. Often, they are tested more times than the other recipes on my site. The free recipes on my blog are great too though. 🙂

  • Tna says:

    Thanks for all the great tips. Can these frozen meals be used in a pressure cooker?

    • Kelly says:

      I think so, but I’m not sure. I recently bought my cousin Jill a pressure cooker to test them out. I’ll share a new post with her results when she figures it out.

  • Lisa downer says:

    I want to make a white bean stew freezer meal club. I would like to freeze the ingredients uncooked. Can I throw the dried white beans in a Baggie with onion, garlic, tomatoes, chicken broth, sausage to freeze as is?
    Or so I need omit the chicken broth?

    • Kelly says:

      It depends if the chicken broth will fit in the bags or not. If I have too much broth for the bags, sometimes I add bullion granules or “better than bullion” so I only have to add water the day of cooking.

  • Christina says:

    Alright I didn’t think this was a silly question but I can’t find anyone who has mentioned it one way or another. Do you cook the meal right in the bag in the slow cooker. Or do you dump the contents of the freezer bag into the slow cooker (with a liner)?

  • Jennifer Mcnatt says:

    I froze a roast with potatoes and carrots. Sat it in fridge overnight to thaw and this morning some of the potatoes were darker. And once I started cooking in crockpot some of them even look almost black?They looked fine in the freezer. Are they still ok to eat? Is it just from absorbing blood from the roast?

    • Andrea says:

      Yes, they are fine, read earlier posts for tips on how to keep them from turning black. Do be aware of some beans and lentils that can be dangerous when frozen and cooked in crock pot.

  • Faylinn says:

    My husband and I have a large freezer that we just took out of storage and had repaired. We are now using it to store slow cooker freezer meals, some of which are your recipes, because we want to start eating better. We have very little time to prepare meals on a daily basis and so that is why we are doing this. It has been a great change for us and we would be interested in trying more types of crock pot meals. Do you have any recipes that are for breakfast? We would like to try putting the breakfast in at night and wake up to it in the morning to eat.

  • Laurel says:

    I love all your tips! I like to use dry beans as opposed to canned beans. Do they need to be cooked first? Or can I use soaked beans?

  • Chrissy says:

    Question. On the cranberry pork roast are you supposed to leave green beans in the crockpot for 8 hours or cook separate. You show a picture of green beans in freezer bag. But I have instructions for your “meals for two” and the instructions sound as if the green beans are cooked separately and served as a side?

    • Kelly says:

      Sometimes I freeze the green beans with the meal and sometimes I wait and roast them in the oven the day of cooking. If I add them to the freezer meal, I cook them the entire time the roast is in the crockpot.

  • Robin says:

    Do you have a recommendation to stop the frozen bags from sticking together? We LOVE crock pot freezer meals. I usually do 30 at a time. I put them in a deep freezer, but all of the bags always stick together and it becomes one giant frozen mass. We had to take a hammer to them to get them apart!

    • Kelly says:

      Now that is crazy! I wonder why that happens, Robin. Do you think it could be the brand of bags? Regardless, placing a piece of cardboard between each meal might work.

  • KT says:

    If you prep a couple of meals that you want to use during the week and not freeze them, do you need to put raw meat and vegetables in a separate bag?

  • Ellen says:

    The recipes look great. Where did you get the labels and the things to prop up the bags?

  • Ash says:

    Hi, I have problems freezing recipes with honey in them, the chicken and other ingeredients freeze rock hard but there are bits of unfrozen honey in the bag. Is it still safe to cook?

  • Caitlin says:

    Can I put these meals in an Instant Pot, instead of a slow cooker?

  • Stacy says:

    If I have already cooked the meal in the Crock-Pot can I still freeze it? If so, does it taste any different?

  • Erika says:

    I love doing crockpot freezer meals, I prepped six different receipes but was really disappointed when every recipe came out really watery. I used frozen chicken breasts. Would using raw chicken make a difference? Do you have any suggestions? I want to try again. TIA

    • Erika, Did you use frozen chicken, prep and then re-freeze? If so, that may be a part of your problem. Sometimes when there is a lot of sauce in chicken meals, I prefer to shred the chicken so that it absorbs more of the liquid. Serving over rice or mashed potatoes is another option…

  • nicole mason says:

    Is it ok to substitute canned veggies (corn, peas, carrots, green beans) for the frozen veggies the recipes call for? I’m trying to clean out my pantry, and this seems like a perfect time to get rid of canned goods.

  • […] I love slow cooker freezer meals, they make my life so easy! Here are 17 things you need to know about slow cooker freezer meals. […]

  • Stephanie says:

    I LOVE YOUR FREEZER MEALS. I have 18 of them in my freezer right now. It’s made my transition from 9 years as a stay at home mom to working full time in an office so much easier.

    Question: I stack my ziplock bags sorta high in my chest freezer in my garage. I noticed one of them that I prepped over a week ago wasn’t frozen solid because it was in the middle of the stack. Do you think it’s still safe to cook and eat or should I cut my losses and toss it to be safe?

    Thank you!! Stephanie

  • Ashley says:

    Very helpful, thank u so much! I was just curious… after I freeze a bunch of your wonderful meals how long do they keep in the freezer after prepping them? 4 month or 6 months? I’m new to freezing trying to freeze a bunch of meals before baby number 3 also.:)

  • Katie Miccarelli says:

    Hi There! I am nine months pregnant and prepping some freezer meals before baby! I have never done this before and your website is SUPER helpful! One question – when it comes to seasonings and liquids – do you add those to the actual freezer bag too or just dump them in as it goes into the crockpot? Thanks so much!

  • Sarah says:

    After thawing my meals I tend to get a ton of water in my meals from the freezing process. It seams to take away from the taste of the meals. Are there any tricks to help improve this? Thank you!

  • Sarah says:

    Hi Kelly,

    Thanks for sharing this ideas. What do you think about, cooking and than freeze it ? I’m planning about cooking a large batch and then freeze it. Thanks for sharing your slow cooking experience.

    • Kelly says:

      Yes, you can absolutely do that. You can even freeze raw, cook, and then freeze the leftovers. Personally, I am not a huge fan of leftovers in the freezer, but they are perfectly safe and you should do what works for you. <3

  • […] addition tips, check out this bloggers post, 17 things you need to know about slow cooker freezer meals!Click for part 1, part 2, and part 4!Thanks for […]

  • Beth says:

    Hopefully you get this comment haha! You said freezing potatoes was okay. I’ve read so much online about how raw potatoes and sweet potatoes need to be blanched first before freezing. So do you truly find freezing these raw works? In either a soup, stew, or things like burritos?

  • Sondra Lucht says:

    When you double the recipe and use chicken in one and beef in the other, does your printed recipe reflect the actual ingredients for one dinner or for both the chicken and for the beef recipes? Super blog!

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