One of the finer comforts in life is having a well-stocked freezer. Before our family became gluten free, I regularly bought packaged frozen lasagna, pizza, and hot pockets (mmm, hot pockets) to pop in the oven on a busy weekday night when I forgot to plug in the slow cooker.
This really isn't a possibility now: not only is packaged gluten free food terribly expensive, I'm just not comfortable feeding the family manufactured food on a regular basis.
So I've combined two of my favorite loves into one completely awesome package: Slow Cooker TV Dinners.
I've always been a meal-planner, but I like that I can plan two or more weeks of meals and get them all in plastic zipper bags in the freezer, so I'm not chopping onions or potatoes each and every day. I figure if I'm already chopping an onion, I might as well chop up 10 and get it over with!
(or you can go the environmentally-friendly route and use Tupperware!)
One of the easiest ways to stock your freezer is to cook large batches of food, and freeze half of it. Clearly label and date the food, and then serve it again a few weeks later.
My family will ALWAYS eat the following things--- no matter how often I serve it:
Instead of saving the leftovers for the next day, I freeze them to pull out later in the month. The food is already cooked-- so I thaw overnight in the refrigerator and then microwave or heat on the stovetop. I don't find the slow cooker all that useful to reheat leftovers.
Another way to successfully stock your freezer is to assemble freezer bags with raw meat, vegetables, sauce, and spices. I like to buy my meat in bulk, and then I simply put the ingredients needed for a specific recipe into a freezer bag and clearly label the outside with a magic marker. I then pull the frozen bag out the night before to thaw in the refrigerator. In the morning, I dump the food into my slow cooker and cook according to the recipe's directions (I'd suggest writing that on the bag, too).
It's recommended to thaw the food overnight, and not just put a block of ice into your slow cooker in the morning. In general, it's fine to cook with frozen meat, vegetables, etc., but the other ingredients should be room temperature, and the stoneware should always be room-temp before being plugged in. You can read more about this on Crock-Pot's official website.
Read through the ingredients and directions on each recipe-- if it makes more sense to add chicken broth, etc. in the morning, do so, and if I've got directions to add something right before serving, follow those guidelines--- don't just dump everything into the bag if it doesn't seem appropriate. :-0
if you'd like, you can sign up at ZipList to create a personalized shopping list. All of these recipes are in their database (I've included a little button that says "save recipe" under each recipe). It's free, and I've found it immensely helpful.
10 Chicken candidates for Slow Cooker TV Dinners:
brown sugar chicken, honey garlic chicken, margarita chicken, chicken adobo, cream cheese chicken, applesauce chicken, lazy chicken, green pepper chicken, apricot chicken, Vietnamese chicken
10 Beef candidates for Slow Cooker TV Dinners:
super simple cranberry roast, 3-packet pot roast, sweet mustard roast, ropa vieja, Italian beef, pomegranate beef, Azorean beef stew, simple Thai beef, Korean ribs, easy fajitas
10 Pork candidates for Slow Cooker TV Dinners:
teriyaki and apricot pork chops, peanutbutter pork, rootbeer pulled pork, cranberry pork roast, pulled pork with sauerkraut, peking pork chops, hirino psito, carnitas, pineapple pork, apple cinnamon pork roast
my kids will also eat the following fish dishes (ooh, Dr. Seuss!) twice a month:
I hope this helps a bit with your meal planning!
P.S.: some of the photos in these recipes are HORRENDOUS-- they were taken before I (somewhat) knew what I was doing with food photography. If you make a recipe of mine and take a better picture, send it my way and I'll give you full credit.
other stuff you might find useful:
meal planning for dummies (or for normal people, whatever)