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31 Things I Learned from Making 301 Crockpot Freezer Meals

After sharing the 31 crockpot freezer meal prep sessions that I’ve done over the past year I decided to count up how many individual meals I’ve made.  In that post alone there were 212 crockpot freezer meals.  Add the 45 crockpot freezer recipes in my eCookbooks (they also contain freezer-to-oven recipes), the 20 that I made last week for an upcoming blog post, and the 24 that I shared recently on Instagram and you’re left with 301 meals.  Wow!!!

31 Things I Learned from Making 301 Crockpot Freezer Meals

That doesn’t even take into account all of the crockpot freezer meals that I made last year (and the year before that, and the year before that…) and all of the individual freezer recipes that I’ve shared on this blog.

I think it’s safe to say that I’ve made a heck of a lot of crockpot freezer meals.

I get tons of questions in emails and blog comments and I’m happy to share what I’ve learned.  I thought it would be helpful to share the answers to some frequently asked questions and tips that I’ve picked up along the way.  Enjoy!

31 Things I Learned from Making 301 Crockpot Freezer Meals

1. Use name-brand freezer bags.  The cheap ones rip and are not a cost savings at all.  I do not like ALDI’s bags.  I recently tried Ziplock’s vacuum bags and they leaked too.

2. Combining raw meat and vegetables is perfectly safe.  According to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, freezing to 0°F inactivates any microbes present in food (such as bacteria, yeasts, and molds) and the standard freezer temp in the U.S. is 0°F (Yes, I realize that’s below freezing).

3. A crockpot with a timer is a must.  I’ve tested out eight different models myself and this one is my favorite.

31 Things I Learned from Making 301 Crockpot Freezer Meals

4. Fresh vegetables freeze fine without blanching.  The only fresh veggie that I’ve had a problem with is broccoli so I always use frozen broccoli in my meals.

5. Boneless beef chuck roast is the best meat in the crockpot.  Try this recipe and this one too.  So yummy.

6. Fresh potatoes freeze fine.  I recommend cutting them right before you’re ready to seal the bag so they aren’t exposed to air for very long.

7. The best way to fill your freezer bags is veggies/beans at the bottom, sauces and spices in the middle (so they don’t stick to the bag), and meat on the top (so it’s the first ingredient dumped into the crockpot).  I don’t think filling your bags in a different order will mess anything up though.

31 Things I Learned from Making 301 Crockpot Freezer Meals

8. Most crockpot freezer meals will last in a standard freezer for at least three months.

9. A good vegetable peeler and sharp knife will help you prep meals quickly.

10. It is impossible to fit a frozen square block in an oval crockpot. I thaw my meals overnight in the refrigerator or in a  warm water bath in the morning (if I forget to move the to the fridge).

11. A crockpot works best when it is at least 1/3 full but no more than 2/3 full.

12. It’s easy to make healthy recipes in the crockpot.  (For example, Crockpot Chicken Curry and Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps.)  You don’t have to use condensed soups, store-bought dressings, and cans of soda pop.

CROCK’D Slow Cooker Freezer Meals Cookbook

13. Most recipes will feed 4-6 adults.  An easy way to increase the number of servings is to add an extra pound of meat.

14. There’s no need to brown ground meat before freezing.  Just add it to the freezer bag raw and break it apart before serving.

15. Freezer meals are just as healthy as freshly-prepared meals.  Freezing does not break down nutrients or change the nutritional value.

16. If you are prepping multiple crockpot freezer meals at once, baggy holders are a must.  I learned the hard way that cleaning up tomato sauce on your kitchen floor is not fun.

Baggy_Stand

17. CROCKPOT FREEZER MEALS ARE DELICIOUS.  They cook for the first time out of the freezer and don’t taste like leftovers at all.  Yay!

18. I use fresh meat in my recipes, but frozen meat can be substituted.  Add it to the bags frozen or wait to add it the day of cooking (In other words, don’t thaw and re-freeze it).

19. Most meals don’t require much liquid while cooking.  Vegetables and meat release a lot of liquid while cooking and adding extra water or broth only dilutes the flavor.

20. The best way to store crockpot freezer meals in the freezer is to stack them on top of each other.  They really don’t take up much space.

31 Things I Learned from Making 301 Crockpot Freezer Meals

21. Most recipes will cook in 6 hours in a 6-quart crockpot or 8 hours in a 4-quart crockpot, but every crockpot is different.  Experiment and get to know yours.

22. A food chopper is a life-saver.  I hate cutting onions and nothing else compares.

23. For the most part, all ingredients can be added to the freezer bags before freezing.  The only things I wait to add the day of cooking are broth (because it’s hard to fit it in the bag), pasta (add the last 15 minutes of cooking), and some dairy products (like sour cream).

24. Labeling meals with the cooking instructions is very helpful, especially if you need to add something the day of cooking (like chicken broth).  Join my email list for free printable labels.

31 Things I Learned from Making 301 Crockpot Freezer Meals

25. If you need to be out of the house for more than the recommended cooking time you can use a regular light timer to turn off your crockpot an hour before you get home (any longer than that and you’ll come home to a cold dinner).

26. The USDA recommends thawing meat before cooking it in a crockpot.  (For more info on thawing, see #10.)  A lot of people have success cooking frozen meat in their crockpot, but I do not recommend it.

27. Freezer meal swaps are a lot of fun.  So are freezer meal prep parties.

28. Doubling or tripling a recipe is an easy way to save money.  You can buy the ingredients in bulk (or when they’re on sale) and freeze in separate bags for for later.

31 Things I Learned from Making 301 Crockpot Freezer Meals

29. Grocery shopping and labeling your freezer bags ahead of time saves A LOT of time and energy when prepping meals.

30. If you lose power, a freezer full of food will usually keep about 2 days if the door is kept shut (a half-full freezer will last about a day).

31. Once you try crockpot freezer meals you will get hooked.  There is no easier way to make quick and healthy meals!

For more freezer cooking recipes and tips, check out my best-selling eCookbooks.

Thoughts or questions?  Please leave a comment below and I’ll respond as soon as I can.  I’d love to hear from you. 

 

43 Comments

  • […] New Leaf Wellness: Things she’s learned from making hundreds of crockpot freezer […]

  • Cheyanne says:

    #31 is DEFINITELY true! I made your vegetarian crock pot meals (and a few of my own) two weekends ago and it’s AMAZING. I ended up getting a free new (to me) TV on Sunday and spent the entire day re-organizing my apartment. On Monday morning I realized I had finished off all of the leftovers Sunday night and didn’t really have any food to eat. I pulled out one of my crockpot meals and just threw it in while I went out to run errands. Came back to a cheap, easy, healthy meal. It was a LIFE CHANGER I think. 🙂 Thanks for all the tips and tricks!

  • […] New Leaf Wellness is sharing about 31 things she learned from making 301 crockpot freezer meals. […]

  • Marion says:

    Thanks for all the recipes and grocery lists! I have your red pepper chicken in the crockpot right now.

  • Kelly says:

    Looks great!!! Can you tell me for things like beef stew would you add the fluids when you put it into the slow cooker? Or freeze with fluids? Thanks 🙂

    • Kelly says:

      I freeze with the liquid if it will all fit in the bag. For things like soups and stews, that can require 6-8 cups of broth, I wait to add the day of cooking.

  • Annette says:

    Is there a way to pin this to pinterest?

  • […] 31 Things I Learned from Making 301 Crockpot Freezer Meals by New Leaf Wellness.  Do you have a crockpot?  Do you enjoy home cooked meals after work?  Freezer cooking is a great way to prepare healthy dinners ahead time.  Try some of the recipes at New Leaf Wellness and use these tips. […]

  • Connie says:

    Purchased your ebooks and loving this concept, just made spicy sausage and veggie soup with my abundance of zucchini and have been having all week for lunch, it took the solid 8 hours to cook-note to self : carrots do have a long cooking time! I used a chicken sausage instead of pork, it was great and I would add another 1-2 cups of broth the day of, used my own homemade broth, love this recipe, going to try using my other 2 crockpots, thanks for your tried and true recipes! enjoying your budle collection.

  • Susie says:

    Just stumbled upon your site, I love it! I can’t wait to try a few recipes out this week. I love that you use simple ingredients, it makes cooking affordable and I won’t feel guilty eating/serving it! There is an Aldi near by and will check it out, haven’t been in years and it was just so-so, but I’ve heard they greatly improved their food. Also, thanks for offering so many recipes for free!

  • Jill says:

    I just filled the freezer with about 40 of these. I have a vacuum sealer and would highly recommend it if you plan on doing these a lot. You can custom size tour bags since you make them yourself and it extends the freezer life.

    It’s been great. If we plan to spend a day out fishing, we always get home after 9 and are too tired to cook and nothing but fast food is open. Plopping one of these in frozen solid on low gives us longer cooking time for the long day . Now we come home exhausted to a great smelling house and a warm healthy meal!

    Glad I found you, and I’ve shared your site with many already. 🙂

  • Megan says:

    I love your tips and I am now more motivated to try this for our family. One problem I have is that my husband will not eat and “stringy” meat. Is there a way to avoid this when using a crockpot? I have not had much luck in the past but maybe I have been over cooking.

    • Kelly says:

      Yes. First, I would avoid any meat that cooks down and shreds, like beef roasts and pork roasts. Chicken breasts and pork chops should be fine, just be careful not to overcook them. Also, what about soups, chilis, and stews?

  • Marco says:

    Do you freeze the product raw???

  • Melissa says:

    Kelly I am using the bouillon pastes (Better than Bouillon is my brand) I add the correct measure to the bag with the spices. Now I don’t even have to remember to have stock/broth on hand, I can just add water!

  • Meredith says:

    Thanks for sharing all your great tips and ideas. We are having the Salse Verde Chicken tonight, the third of your freezer meals that I have in my freezer. I am really enjoying this easy way to create dinners for our busy homeschool family! All of the meals have been very kid friendly and pleasing to my crew as well, a big bonus 🙂

  • Erika says:

    I can’t believe I have never heard of this before! I have been working overnight shifts for over a year now… With commute time I am gone for 12+ hours a day. This will be a lifesaver for my family! You, mam, are a genius! Thank you for all of your dedication to this blog!

  • Betsy says:

    Thanks for the recipes! I have filled my freezer over the past month, have about 20 meals in there now, and we are eating through them during this busy fall season with sports and other activities!! One thing I figured out–I don’t have the cool bag holders and they’re really not in my budget right now. But I cut the top off of a few clean gallon milk jugs, and that makes a perfect holder for my gallon ziploc bags while I fill them. Thank you for all your inspiring posts!! It has changed my life–

    • Kelly says:

      Great tip, Betsy!! I’m so glad you’re liking these meals. 🙂

    • Laureena says:

      What a great idea! I’m going to try that too….makes so much sense! Thanks for commenting – I had no idea where to find the cute holders used in the pics. L.

  • Laure says:

    Hi everyone, Hi Kelly,

    Sorry I have a question but I don’t know where to ask.

    Me and my family ate 4 freezer meals since early september. We love it 🙂 they taste so so good !

    Yesterday when I removed my meal from fridge to put it in the crockpot there were a huge mess into the fridge : when the bag defrosted , some water get out of the bag…
    Does it mean the bag has been damaged in the freezer ? is it still safer to eat that meal ?

    I think my bags are not strong enough but I can’t find brand-named bags with a big volume here in France 🙁 I only have ziplock small or medium size. The big one are the cheapest…

    Thanks for help !

    • Kelly says:

      It sounds like the bag leaked. I don’t think there’s an easy way to tell if the meal is OK or not. I would probably smell it and if it smells OK, then I would cook it. (But that’s just me – I’m not an expert.) It stinks that you can’t find name-brand bags. Sorry about that, Laure.

  • Laure says:

    Thanks for help Kelly !
    Nobody has been sick with that meal and it smelled good before and after cooking.
    I found better bags (Ziplock) on Amazon, I will place an order soon, not to have this pb anymore !

  • Becca Kleist says:

    Hi Kelly,

    My name is Becca, I am the Outreach and Education Coordinator at a food co-op in Menomonie, WI called Menomonie Market. In our winter newsletter, I am including some tips and tricks for freezer meals, as well as a few recipes. I was hoping to get your permission to use a few of your photos or tips in my article.

    Thanks,
    Becca

  • Holly says:

    Love all of your crock pot recipes- game changer for me, thank you. I made your yummy ham and potato soup (one for now and one for later). When I pulled the later (freezer) version out, the potatoes were black. How do I prevent this from happening with potatoes?

  • Jen says:

    What brand of freezer bags do you prefer?

  • Anna-Lena Warming says:

    hej. I dont have a crockpot but still use some off the recipes.
    I have a little advice. Frozen things thaw much quicker using cold water. ☺
    greetings from Germany

    Anna

  • Rose Freie says:

    A hint i just learned myself. if you are going to make a whole casserole to freeze, Do Not use canned potatoes! When you thaw and bake you end up with a runny watery casserole.

  • Amanda says:

    can you use dried beans in with the other ingredients and freeze like you would canned?

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