Three Freezer Slow-Cooker Meals

WARNING: Freezer Cooking is addictive!!  Freezer meals are all over blogs and Pinterest.  I can totally understand why.  I had done freezer cooking in the past, especially when I was nesting prior to one of my little love’s arrivals.  My third love was so late, I just kept cooking and freezing, I didn’t have to prepare a meal for a solid month after she was born.  That was such a blessing in those sleepless days.

There are several strategies to freezer meals.  There is the once a month approach where you shop, cook, and freeze an entire month’s worth of meals.  Another, is to always double anything that takes considerable time (i.e. enchiladas or lasagna) and then freeze the second.  Finally, and this is what I am doing here, is to take what produce you have access to via sales, gardening, or CSA and preserve it by freezing it in meal size portions with recipes all ready to go.

The three recipes I chose were all for the slow-cooker this time.  They are Slow-Cooker BBQ (inspired by Stephanie at Mamaandbabylove.com), Chicken Teriyaki (inspired by Jaima at ringaroundtherosies.net), and Ginger Beef from MomswithCrockpots.com.  I changed quite a bit of these recipes so I’ll post the entire recipes that I used.  I packed these in 1 gallon bags and I didn’t add the meat to them, because my meat was already frozen.  I think this will maximize my savings, because I buy all of my chicken on markdown and my beef from a local farmer, so it is already frozen.  Then I can make the freezer meals when I get the produce on sale or from my garden and then I have saved all around.  (If you can’t tell frugality is very important to me. I think it is rubbing off on my kids, today my daughter was cleaning up after dinner and she asked me if I wanted to save the hot dog water to use for something else!!)

**I used a full recipe in each bag.  This should be enough to feed my family of 6 and have some leftover for lunch the next day.  If you have a smaller family you should consider splitting the recipes between 2 bags.

Slow-Cooker BBQ Chicken
(I fell in love with Stephanie’s idea of having so many veggies in BBQ, my main changes are in the ingredients in the sauce.  If you have a special way you like to make your BBQ sauce, by all means change it up!)
Ingredients:
2-3 lbs of chicken thighs or legs
3 sweet potatoes diced
2 green bell peppers chopped
1 red bell pepper chopped
2 zucchini chopped
2-6oz cans of tomato paste
2 tbs. paprika
1 tsp. chili powder
2 tbs. unsulphured molasses
2 tbs. worcestershire sauce
2 tbs. whole grain mustard (or spicy brown)
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 tsp. of salt
1/4 cup of quick cooking tapioca
1 cup of smoky stock (or regular stock + a dash of liquid smoke)

Combine all ingredients, except stock in a freezer bag.  Freeze.  On day of cooking, add all ingredients to slow-cooker, add stock.  Cook on high for 4-6 hours.  (I will add the chicken the day of cooking, I do not think the chicken would have fit into the bag, if you are splitting it into to 2 meals the chicken will fit.)

Chicken Teriyaki
(This recipe had the ingredients of Sweet and Sour Chicken with Teriyaki sauce, I cooked it once before I froze any of it.  It was good, the peppers were a little mushy, so I will leave them out until the last part of cooking next time).

Ingredients:
2-3 lbs of chicken thighs or breast (weight varying on whether meat is bone in or boneless)
1 pineapple cored and cut into 1 inch chunks
2 red bell peppers cut into 1 inch chunks
2 chopped onions chopped
2-16oz bags of baby carrots
1 cup tamari, liquid aminos, or soy sauce (read here why fermented soy is better for you)
1/3 cup sucanat, honey or brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground dried ginger
1 tbs. garlic powder
2 tbsp. quick cooking tapioca

Combine all ingredients (except peppers) into a freezer bag (or 2).  Put peppers into a smaller freezer bag and tape the smaller to the larger.  On day of cooking, empty large bag into slow-cooker.  Cook on high 4-6 hours.  Add peppers in last 30 mins-1 hour until desired tenderness. Finally, tasted the sauce, adjust to your tastes, more soy sauce if it is too bland.  More honey if you don’t think it is sweet enough. Serve this with rice and top with lo mein noodles if desired.

Ginger Beef

Ingredients:
2-3 lbs of stew meat or roast cut into cubes (preferably grass-fed and local)
1-16oz bag of baby carrots
1 red bell pepper chopped
1 green bell pepper chopped
1 onion chopped
1-8 oz pack of mushrooms sliced
2 tsp. of grated ginger
1/2 cup of Hoisin sauce (gluten-free variety)
1 cup of beef broth (if using homemade stock or broth, you will probably have to salt to taste or add salt initially- I usually do a good palm full for a 6 quart crock meal, and then salt to taste at the end, homemade stock is always your best gluten-free option)
1/4 cup of quick cooking tapioca
toasted sesame seeds (optional
garnish)

Add all ingredients (except peppers) to a 1 gallon bag or split between 2.  Bag peppers separate, label both bags and tape them together.  On day of cooking dump large bag into slow-cooker.  Cook on high for 4-6 hours, adding peppers last 30 mins-1 hour until they reach desired tenderness.

While I was at it I made a couple of bags with chopped celery, onions, and carrots to make a quick pot of chicken soup when I have leftover roasted chicken.  All in all, it was a couple hours that will save me many!  Give it a try!  You will not go back to cooking every night again.