Freezer To Crockpot Cooking

by Frugal Babe on January 30, 2012

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about how I had finally caved in an visited Pinterest, and wasn’t sure if it was going to be awesome or a total time sink.  I’ve since found that it cuts way down on the number of tabs I have open in my browser at any one time.  Instead of just leaving tabs open, I’ve been pinning them onto boards on my Pinterest page so that I can come back to them when I need them.  Whenever I come across ideas I like (anywhere on the web, not just on Pinterest), I add them to my Pinterest page in the appropriate category.  It’s like a visual to-do list and idea page.  I’m definitely liking that aspect of it. 

I’ve found that I don’t spend too much time browsing Pinterest, but when I do, it’s nice.  I can sit here and nurse our little guy while I scroll through ideas for bathroom tile (since we’re going to be putting a bathroom in our basement soon).  And I can easily save the ones I want to show my husband later on – without leaving eight new tabs open in my browser.  Good all around.

A few days ago, I was browsing around Pinterest and came upon this genius idea:  Freezer-to-crockpot meals.  Yes!  I can do this.  I love my crockpot and use it several times a week.  I also love the idea of just dumping a bag into the crock pot, adding some water, and letting it do its thing.  She’s got a ton of other freezer cooking recipes on her site too. 

I wasn’t sure about the idea of just putting the veggies into the freezer raw, since I know a lot of stuff needs to be blanched first.  Plenty of comments on the site indicated that people had no problems with it, but I decided to blanch some stuff first.  I read that potatoes can turn black if you freeze them raw, and I wasn’t sure about carrots.  So I chopped up a ton of potatoes and carrots and blanched them for a couple minutes before I prepped the freezer bags.  It only added a few minutes to the total prep time, and I was doing several meals at once – not a big deal.  If you try this and don’t blanch anything, let me know how it goes!

Here are my first two meals:

IMG_3839

The recipe came from the Costco magazine (bottom left corner), and everyone I’ve ever made it for has raved about it.  I make it at least twice a month, and always make a double batch (which fills my crock pot right to the brim).  Instead of broth, I use water and veggie bullion cubes, so I added the bullion to the bag along with the lentils (rinsed), brown rice, raw onions, garlic and celery, and blanched carrots and potatoes.  A double batch fits nicely in a one-gallon ziplock bag.  All I have to do when I cook it is add 12 cups of water plus one bag to the crockpot.  And it was pretty easy to make a second double batch at the same time. 

This would make a great gift for a family with a new baby or anything else that makes cooking more of a chore than usual.  It would also be a good idea for a get-together with friends.  Each person could bring some ingredients and you could all chop stuff up, blanch whatever needs it, and then stuff a bunch of bags.  Everybody goes home with lots of different ready-for-the-crockpot meals.  Sounds like a winner to me.

I also roasted a bunch of onions and garlic so that I could prep this amazing tomato soup (I cook that one at least twice a month too).  I already have lots of roasted tomatoes in the freezer from last summer’s garden.  So I just combined the spices with some bullion (in place of broth) and the roasted onion and garlic and stashed that in jars in the freezer.  Now all I have to do when I want to make that soup is dump the onion/garlic/spice jar into a pot with a jar of tomatoes and a can of coconut milk and some water.  Couldn’t be much easier than that.  Roasting onions and garlic is easy, but it’s time consuming.  This way I don’t have to think as far in advance about dinner, since everything is already roasted and in the freezer. 

I also prepped the Healthy Mama BBQ Chicken recipe from the original site that I found on Pinterest (link is at the start of this post).  I left out the chicken though, so mine will be BBQ veggies.  I might add tofu or something like that after I cook it, but I’m sure it will be good either way.

I really love this idea.  It makes batch cooking for the freezer seem a lot more do-able.  I spent about 90 minutes putting together enough food to fill the crock pot six times (a full crock pot lasts us at least two meals), and I had a three-year-old helper the whole time.  Definitely not as challenging as spending the entire day in the kitchen for once-a-month cooking, but it will make my crockpot days a lot easier!

If you have links to other sites that have recipes and ideas for prepping crockpot meals ahead of time, please share them in the comments. 

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Ambrosia January 30, 2012 at 9:57 pm

I’m big on crock-potting and, while chopping and freezing veggies in advance has struck me as useful, pre-bagging a whole crockpot meal hasn’t…What a great idea! 

That’s something I’m sure to try very soon…great post!

Jennifer @ kidoing! January 31, 2012 at 6:21 am

I love this idea and will be trying it.  Any ideas to help meal prep are appreciated! Have you ever used brown rice instead of white in the lentil soup? Is there a particular bullion you use? I was using Edward and Sons and some others found at health food stores, but read some info on how yeast extract is a form of MSG, so I started using Vegebase (good, but maybe not 100% optimal).

Kaytee January 31, 2012 at 7:25 am

What a great (and timely) idea! Our little one is due in 2 weeks, so I’ve been crockpotting meals into the freezer. We both have food allergies and prefer not to ask people to bring us food because of that (and our own stubborn independence). I guess cooking pepper free, gluten free and shellfish free is difficult when you don’t have too. I’m ashamed to admit that it hasn’t even occurred to me to do it the other way around. We are running out of freezer space at this point.

Frugal Babe January 31, 2012 at 9:50 am

I use Rapunzel Vegan bullion.  It has yeast extract in it, so I debated for a while about using it after I first found it a few years ago.  But it was so much better than everything else I tried that I just decided to go with it and not worry about it.  We don’t eat processed food or fast food, so our MSG intake from other sources is pretty close to zero.  I would say 95% of what we eat is made by me, from scratch, with veggies making up the bulk of most meals.  So I’m willing to compromise a little bit on my bullion :)

Frugal Babe January 31, 2012 at 9:55 am

There’s no white rice in our house :)  I use brown rice in any soup recipe that calls for rice.  Or else I substitute millet or quinoa.  

Jennifer @ kidoing! January 31, 2012 at 1:46 pm

Good point.  I don’t compromise much, but this is a good place to do it.  :) I’ve used Rapunzel, too, and liked it.  Dr. Fuhrman has a powder that I’d love to use, similar to Vegebase, but SO SO expensive.

Jennifer @ kidoing! January 31, 2012 at 1:47 pm

You go girl! By the way, I am have the lentil soup simmering in my crock pot.  Smells great!

deda January 31, 2012 at 2:26 pm

freezing potatoes makes their texture awful, whether they’re parboiled or not. Carrots and Onions are better choices for pre-freezing.

Frugal Babe January 31, 2012 at 2:30 pm

That’s what I had read, but I’m curious as to what “awful” means?  In the soups that I make in the crock pot, the potatoes are very soft by the time it’s done – they cook for 8 to 10 hours.  They definitely don’t have the relatively stiff texture of a roasted or baked potato once the soup is done.  I haven’t cooked any of my frozen concoctions yet, but I’m interested to see how the potatoes turn out.  So far, they haven’t turned black in the freezer, so that’s a plus!

Kay January 31, 2012 at 7:06 pm

What a great idea! I love it… prepping saves so much time and crockpot saves both time and energy. I’m so going to give it a try.

I’ll substitute the brown rice / white rice in the French lentil soup with wild rice as I’m trying hard to cut out grains from my diet.

Kay January 31, 2012 at 8:12 pm

Btw, have you tried making your own veggie bouillion?? Heidi Swanson has a recipe on her site and apparently it freezes well.

Frugal Babe January 31, 2012 at 10:39 pm

Thanks for the tip – I will definitely give that a try!  I just went and checked it out and it looks very doable.  Probably less expensive than the stuff I usually buy too.  Now I just have to go figure out how to measure all those ingredients in ounces…

Ms Life February 2, 2012 at 5:57 am

I will admit that I did not read the whole post because I have never used a crockbot before.  I instead went straight to your Pinterest page and I must say I am very impressed with how your house looks.  I had somehow always assumed that your house was not very pretty (sorry, FB…)since you always say you recycle things, but I am glad to see how wrong I was.  It’s very beautiful and organized.  I will be following you on Pinterest as well.

Ms Life February 2, 2012 at 9:07 am

Now that I have really thought about it – do the pictures on your page show your house?  If so, it really looks like a house that is staged for a show ie. very very nice. 

Frugal Babe February 2, 2012 at 9:12 am

This comment made me smile :)  Glad you like my Pinterest page, but none of those pictures are of my own house – they’re things I’ve found on Pinterest and other websites that I’m saving as ideas for future projects.  Most of the time, our 3 year old is in the middle of building a fort in the living room using all of our couch cushions, blankets, the vacuum cleaner and all my pots and pans.  But as soon as we clean it up each day, I think our house looks great.  The living room furniture is a matching set, as is the dining room table/chairs (all used when we got them, but good quality and in great shape).  For me, the key to having a house that looks good is to have minimal clutter (which means nothing on the flat surfaces), a place for everything, and not too much furniture – so there are plenty of wide open spaces.  Some of the things I’ve pinned on Pinterest actually do resemble parts of our home.  Organizing, cleaning, and getting rid of clutter are things that I (usually) actually enjoy, so our house stays in pretty good shape.  

Mama and Baby Love March 14, 2012 at 12:35 pm

Thanks so much for featuring my idea and recipes!  Glad you liked it.  I actually have an ecookbook coming out soon, so check back soon!  

Frugal Babe March 14, 2012 at 12:39 pm

Thanks for the great idea!  I’ve been using my bags of frozen crock pot soup at least twice a week ever since I discovered this idea.  Such a huge help on busy days!  The lentil soup (from the Costco magazine) is a favorite in our house, and it works perfectly with your method.  I blanch the carrots and potatoes first, and we can’t tell the difference between the soup I make fresh and the ones I pull out of the freezer.

Frugal Babe March 14, 2012 at 12:42 pm

Also, BlogHerFoods is planning to feature this article tomorrow on their site, so hopefully you’ll get some new traffic from that.  I’m sure your ecookbook will be fantastic – congrats on writing it, and I can’t wait to check it out!

plumbing June 1, 2012 at 3:20 am

I operate from more of the spur-of-the-moment approach to cooking, so it’s essential to have a well stocked freezer and pantry.

Craftsbycjg June 5, 2012 at 10:11 pm

I did a cooking day. Loved it! You can see it here.
http://craftsbycj.blogspot.com/2012/05/cook-thon.html 

~CJ

Crystal July 9, 2012 at 10:46 am

Has anyone thought to use the slow cooker liners to freeze the meals in? That way, you just pop them straight into the crockpot. 

I have a 3-pot Bella slow cooker. I plan to par-freeze (is that a word?) in the liner, IN the actual pot, so that it holds the shape, then take them out and do it again. Since I have 3, that’s 3 main dishes at a time!

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