Well my year of maternity leave is almost over, on September 9th I head back to work :(. It’s not all bad actually. I enjoy my job, and am looking forward to spending time with adults again. If you ever want a year to fly by, spend it at home looking after 2 kids!
I am doing my best to be organized and prepared for everything that I’m going to have to squeeze into my evenings and weekends in a few weeks. One of these things is pre-preparing some meals. I really enjoy being able to make good, home cooked, healthy meals for my family and place a high priority in doing so. Once I’m back at work, I probably won’t be home until around 5 pm at the earliest and my kids struggle if they are asked to wait much past 5:30 for dinner. That doesn’t leave much time to cook. When I went back to work after having my first daughter I did some slow cooker meals and a lot of casseroles. My MIL was watching Maiya at our house 3 days a week, so I could easily have her pop a casserole in the oven so that it would be ready when I got home.
This time around the girls will be in a dayhome full time, so I won’t have this same luxury. I’ve decided that I need to utilize my slow cooker more. Over the last few months I’ve been trying out some recipes, trying to find ones that our family enjoys. I have to admit, I’m not a big fan of many things cooked in the slow cooker. I find that lean meats such as chicken breasts and pork tenderloin tend to dry out and get grainy when slow cooked. For this reason I tend to focus on beef, ground meat or chicken thighs (preferably bone-in).
Today I decided that I had some time (Maiya is sleeping over at her grandma’s house, so I only have one kid to be responsible for!). We were out for a while this afternoon, and on the way home Olivia and I shopped for the ingredients I would need. The bill for basically everything I used for the 7 meals was approx $67. That’s less than $10 per meal. Not bad!
I started this morning by picking out a few meals – 4 in total, 3 of them made a double batch. If I had been reading the recipes, I’d have gotten enough ingredients to make double batches for all of them. Next time! I made a grocery list of what I’d need. The meals I picked were: Orange Beef Stew, Mongolian Beef, Cilantro Lime Chicken (I used bone in thighs, not breasts) and Cranberry Glazed Turkey Meatloaf. They were all but one from websites I had found by googling ‘freezer to slow cooker recipes’. I have linked each recipe above. I’ll post the meatloaf recipe below, it’s from the Best of Bridge Slow Cooker cookbook (which is a great slow cooker recipe book).
I started with the Orange Beef recipe and prepped everything in two bowls.
For the meatloaf, the recipe instructs you to place foil in the bottom of your slow cooker to cook the loaf, so I just mixed up the loaves and then formed them on sheets of foil. I wrapped them up in foil, then popped them into labelled bags to go into the freezer.
I haven’t actually tried these meals yet, so I’ll report back once I do, but I was pretty impressed with how easy and time efficient it was to get them ready. I’m going to go through a bunch of my old standby slow cooker recipes and make them up for the freezer too!
Here are all the meals ready to go! If anyone else has any favorite slow cooker meals, or time saver meals, I’d love to hear what they are!
Cranberry-Glazed Turkey Meatloaf (I doubled this to make two meatloaves)
4 tbsp Jellied Cranberry Sauce
1 tsp chopped chipolte pepper in adobo sauce (I skipped this because Maiya is not a fan of spicy anything)
1 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup milk
1 cup chopped onion
1 small carrot grated
4 cloves garlic
Salt and pepper
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 lbs ground turkey
4 oz back bacon or ham chopped.
Mix everything together, except 3 tbsp of the cranberry sauce in a big bowl, form into loaves in foil, cover with cranberry sauce. Cook on low for 8-10 hrs.