Dance class, soccer practice, and late days at the office — if you're like most families, it can be hard to put together a delicious dinner during busy work weeks and being swamped by extracurriculars. But make-ahead dinner recipes, which turn your freezer and your slow cooker into your personal chefs, can totally save the day on nights like this.
When it comes to make-ahead recipes, there are two kinds: the ones you prep in the morning and leave in the slow cooker all day, and the ones you make in bulk on a Sunday to stash in the freezer for later. Slow cooker meals you prep in the AM need to be able to bubble and broil on the counter all day, so stick to recipes that can take the heat for eight to 10 hours while you're out and about. For freezer meals, well, just make sure you give yourself a variety. There's nothing better than opening your freezer door and getting to go shopping through your family's favorites, ready and waiting for you.
These recipes should all stand the test of time in the freezer, and not dry out in the Crock-Pot if left all day (or when practice goes over an hour or two).
1. Slow Cooker Steak Fajitas
If a perfect make-in-the-morning slow cooker recipe exists, you're lookin' at it. Pop the steak and peppers into the slow cooker, plug it in, and walk away. When you get home, all you have to do to finish these fajitas from Brown Eyed Baker is set out the toppings and the tortillas. Bless.
2. Freezer-Friendly Slow Cooker Stuffed Peppers
There's nothing like coming home from a long-as-heck day and, when you open the door, smelling peppers and garlic wafting from the kitchen. These hands-off, slow cooker stuffed peppers from The Family Freezer just require a little assembly at the start of the day. Your Crock-Pot will handle the rest. Now... who's doing the dishes?
3. Beef & Cheese Manicotti
If the slow cooker is still dirty from last night's dinner, fear thee not. Manicotti like these from Taste & Tell can be prepped and stuffed in the morning and refrigerated in the dish. Just pop it in when you arrive home and they'll be ready shortly.
4. Slow Cooker Ham & Bean Soup
Soups are one of the best freezer meals you can make ahead and heat up in the slow cooker throughout the day. This ham and bean soup from Five Heart Home can be made fresh in the Crock-Pot or frozen and reheated. Serve it with some bread or a salad, or don't, because there's carrots in here already. That counts, right?
5. Slow Cooker Chicken Curry
Between spaghetti, tacos, and other weeknight staples, what about throwing in some curry to mix things up? This sweet and spicy chicken curry from The Family Freezer holds up well in the freezer and basically makes itself in the slow cooker. You could probably add some extra veggies if you wanted, too.
6. Slow Cooker Turkey Black Bean Chili
If you think freezer meal or slow cooker classics, chili probably comes to mind. This turkey black bean chili from The Family Freezer is a little healthier since it's made with ground turkey instead of beef. Set out the diced peppers, guacamole, cheese, sour cream, and whatever other toppings the family loves and let them build their own bowl.
7. Mushroom Cheeseburger Calzones
What if you made your own Hot Pockets and bypassed all that added sodium? You could easily use frozen dough, stuff these Mushroom Cheeseburger Calzones from Cara's Cravings with cheeseburger-y goodness, wrap, and bake when you're ready. Bet they'd taste extra great served with sweet potato fries.
8. Slow Cooker Gnocchi In Creamy Pork Sauce
Shredded pork shoulder, tomato sauce, and soft little gnocchi make a delicious slow cooker dinner from Brown Eyed Baker for the whole fam. Throw on some grated cheese and parsley and it'll have you feeling like a master chef.
9. Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken Tacos
Slow cooker shredded chicken is an easy dinner staple to throw over rice, into a salad, or in this case, onto a tortilla. Buffalo chicken tacos from Cara's Cravings are a unique dish your family hasn't eaten a thousand times yet, so they'll be excited to gather around the table.
10. The Perfect Crock-Pot Roast
Pot roast is a classic cure for cold nights, and something that will fill up hungry bellies after a day at school and practice. This pot roast recipe from Recipes That Crock is traditional, simple, and super easy to throw together in the morning. Bonus points: the veggies and roast cook together, so you don't even have to make a side later.
11. BBQ Chicken & Vegetables
Looking for a freezer meal you can pop in the slow cooker in the morning and serve over Minute Rice when you get home from work? Well, winner winner chicken-and-veggie dinner from Taste & Tell. This dish should meet your family's nutritional needs, and the barbecue flavor will appeal to adults and kiddos.