August has arrived and before we know it, our kids will be headed back to school. Our nights will be consumed with all sorts of school activities that fill the calendar and make us long for the weekends. Add to that, we adults are just as busy with the job, commuting, transporting kids and all of the extra things we volunteer for. Who has time to cook healthy meals for the family?
Thankfully, all is not lost! A slow cooker and a vacuum packaging machine can help alleviate some of the stress and hurried meals you’re probably accustomed to during the school year. The concept basically involves placing all ingredients for a complete meal into a vacuum bag and vacuum packaging for the freezer. Then, when you’re needing a quick and simple meal, thaw a bag in your refrigerator overnight, cut open and empty into a slow cooker (such as a Crock Pot) before heading out for work. When you get home, you’ll open the door to a great smelling meal, ready to enjoy! And if you use a slow cooker liner bag, even clean up will be a breeze!
The Web is full of great recipes for slow cooker use that will work great as freezer meals. Google “slow cooker freezer meals” or “Crock Pot freezer meals” for all sorts of possibilities. Many of the sites you will find will list several recipes and shopping lists so that you can spend a day during the weekend packaging weeks worth of easy meals! Here are some of my favorite recipes for slow cooker freezer meals.
Slow Cooker Hawaiian Chicken
3 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
½ cup white sugar
½ cup vinegar
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbp soy sauce
½ cup of pineapple juice
½ can of pineapple chunks
Add all the ingredients to a VacMaster bag, vacuum seal, label and freeze. When ready to use, thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Before leaving for the day, empty into a slow cooker. Cook 4-5 hours on high or 6-7 hours on low. Use a timer switch in your outlet to turn on your slow cooker at the appropriate time so that your meal is ready and not over-cooked when you get home. Serve over rice. While cooking rice, shred the chicken and add back to the juice.
1 ½ lb boneless beef round steak
2 medium onions, sliced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
½ teaspoon finely chopped ginger (or ¼ tsp ground ginger)
2 medium green bell peppers, cut into ¾ -inch strips
1 cup water
2 Tbp beef bouillon
3 Tbp soy sauce
2 Tbp cornstarch (do not put in the bag)
¼ cup cold water (do not put in the bag)
Cut up beef into strips (about 1 ½ inches long). Place beef, onion, garlic, peppers, ginger, water, beef bouillon, and soy sauce to a VacMaster bag. Vacuum package and label the bag. Freeze until ready to cook. Cook on high for 3-4 hours or 6-7 hours on low. Use a timer switch in your outlet to turn on your slow cooker at the appropriate time so that your meal is ready and not over-cooked when you get home. When the beef is almost cooked, whisk cornstarch and water and mix into beef mixture. If cooked on low, now increase heat to high. Cook 10 to 12 minutes or until it’s thickened. Serve over rice.
Slow Cooker Creamy Ranch Pork Chops and Potatoes
1 1/2 lbs pork chops, boneless (about 4-6 chops, thick sliced)
6-8 medium potatoes, chopped into large pieces
2 (10.75 oz each) cans cream of chicken soup
2 (1 oz each) packages dry Ranch dressing mix
1 cup milk
Dried parsley to sprinkle on top (optional)
In a bowl, mix together the soups, milk, and ranch dressing mixes and pour into a VacMaster bag. Combine all other ingredients together in the bag. Vacuum package, label and freeze. When ready to eat, remove from freezer and thaw in the refrigerator for overnight. Cook on HIGH for 3-4 hours or LOW for 6-7 hours. Use a timer switch in your outlet to turn on your slow cooker at the appropriate time so that your meal is ready and not over-cooked when you get home. Use the extra sauce in the slow cooker as a gravy for the potatoes and the pork chops. Sprinkle with dried parsley if desired.