It has been almost two years since I first tried out freezer crockpot cooking. And I will be honest- while revolutionary (not having to figure out dinner from scratch every night is seriously the best), there has been a decent amount of trial and error in learning how to make this work best for our family.
Since I get questions daily about freezer crockpot cooking, I thought it high time to put together a little review of our experiences so far. Before I start, I should say that the manifesto of Freezer Cooking should be “Do what works best for your family… even if that isn’t what seems to be best for every other family.” If you leave this post with one prevailing thought, let it be, find what works for you (especially since, in all likelihood what works for our family won’t work for yours).
At the same time, in the hopes that our trial and error will be helpful as your muddle your way toward your own what-works-for-us Freezer Cooking Model (and to answer questions left daily in the comments on the freezer cooking posts), here are a few things that I’ve learned-
1. Only a few of the recipes we’ve tried really work for our family. My first four freezer cooking posts (find 1, 2, 3 and 4 here) are all whole process posts, meaning that I chronicled the shopping, prep and assembly of the freezer cooking I was doing for our own family in real time (they aren’t recipes I’d tried beforehand). All three of those lineups included recipes that were keepers for our family and also many recipes that I won’t put in another rotation for one reason or another. Since I want my kids to look forward to the night when I use a freezer meal just like they look forward to us cooking dinner, I am fairly ruthless in what gets to stay on the ‘keeper’ list. Right now, Honey Rosemary Chicken and Coconut Curry get thrown into every rotation multiple times and Lime Salsa Chicken, Pineapple Pork and Man Pleasing Chicken (with more maple syrup than the original recipe calls for) are all occasionally in the rotation as well. But those are the only ones! Take heart if some of the recipes don’t work for you.
2. Expect variation. I’d love to say that every time I try the same freezer crockpot meal, I achieve the same results, but that just isn’t true. I have run down the list of possible culprits- perhaps it’s the variation in produce/ingredients? Or the crockpot itself? But I don’t have a definitive answer on this one. Defrosting the freezer meal the day before and cooking for a shorter amount of time seems to help, but that isn’t fool proof either.
3. Move beyond the crockpot. I’ve made a habit of cooking up a double or triple batch of soup each time I prep a batch of freezer meals. We eat soup for dinner that night and then I package up the leftovers and put them in the freezer for another meal or two later. And frozen pesto, while not a crockpot meal, is a go-to standby for our family. Also, we’ve had great success with regular freezer meals, prepped in casserole pans and ready to heat in the oven. While less compact than crockpot meals frozen in ziplocs, and without the crockpot factor (which is a deal breaker for some people, but not for us), we’ve found some really great recipes this way.
4. A few other assorted tips- Add fresh herbs or ingredients at the end if you have them on hand (it helps the meal have a little more flavor- just add in the fresh version of whatever is in the crockpot). I also try to serve every freezer meal with a generous portion of fresh veggies, a big salad (here’s a whole list of ones to try) and some yummy fresh naan/tortillas/bread. That way the meal feels more homemade and fresh, but without a ton of extra work.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and tips, friends- have you tried freezer crockpot cooking? Anything to add? What’s worked for your family?