Meal planning using the slow cooker and instant pot is very popular these days, and for good reason. It can save yourself a ton of time and stress during the work week knowing you have healthy, easy meals ready to go. It is also a FACT that those that plan their meals ahead of time are much more likely to stick to their eating plan, limiting the temptation to choose heavily processed, convenience foods that make us feel crummy.

If you want to kick up your meal planning game one step further, try making freezer meals! Freezer meals are great because you can get even more ahead of time. This is really helpful during busier weeks you have coming up or before a major event like a surgery, having a baby, or going back to work after maternity leave.

But wait. What exactly is a freezer meal?

Freezer meals are make-ahead meals (my favorite!) that you prep (chop + season) in advance, put in ziplock bags, store in the freezer, and take them out when you need them. You can buy pre-chopped veggies or just pre-chop when you have the time. Make sure to label and date everything before you store in the freezer so you remember what you made!

You can put them directly into your slow cooker or instant pot when you need them, which is so convenient when you’re trying to fly out of the house in the morning. You can thaw out the night before in the refrigerator, or pull directly from the freezer the day of and heat.

The below recipes can be made in your slow cooker or instant pot on the slow cook setting. I’ve included recipes with chicken, red meat, and those that are vegetarian friendly (these are starred). You’ll notice I did not include any fish recipes because fish can be tricky in the slow cooker and can dry out. But, if you’d like more fish recipes (because it is super healthy and quick to cook!), please comment at the bottom of the page and let me know.

Okay….enough talk. Let’s get cooking!

My top 10 favorite freezer recipes:

1. SAUSAGE LENTIL SOUP

Ingredients:

12 to 14 ounces sliced chicken sausage

2 cups lentils (brown or green)

2 carrots (diced)

1 celery rib (diced)

1 diced onion

3 minced garlic cloves

15-ounce can diced tomatoes

1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning

Tip: For best flavor, brown kielbasa and diced onion, let cool completely before adding to bag (optional, but results in a better flavor and texture), add 2 quarts of water or stock to the slow cooker before cooking.

Cook time: 4-5 hours on HIGH or 8 hours on LOW

Serve with fresh bread

2. Salsa Chicken

Ingredients:

2 1/2 to 3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken (breast or thighs),

16-ounce jar of your favorite salsa

1 jalapeno, chopped (if you like hot!)

Cook time: 4-5 hours on HIGH or 7-8 hours on LOW

Serving suggestions: rice bowls, tacos, enchilada filling, nachos, burritos

3. Vegetable Beef Stew

Ingredients:

2 pounds stew meat

1 diced onion

2 sliced carrots

1 sliced parsnip

1 large rutabaga (peeled and cut into cubes)

1/2 cup red wine

2 tablespoons beef stock

Extra instructions: add 1 1/2 cups water to slow cooker

Cook time: 4-5 hours on HIGH or 8-10 hours on LOW (low and slow is ideal for stews)

Serve with cauliflower rice or mashed potatoes

Serves 4-6

4. Meatballs and Tomato Sauce

Ingredients:

1 lb homemade or frozen meatballs – I also like to add a little 1-2 tbsp milk to my meatballs to keep them super moist

One 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes

2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning

Cook time: 3-4 hours on HIGH or 7-8 hours on LOW

Serve with cooked pasta, green salad, or crusty bread

5. Tandoori Chicken

Ingredients:

2lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs

2 tbsp garam masala

2 tbsp honey

1 tbsp chili powder

1 tbsp ground cumin

2 tsp salt

2 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1 14-oz can coconut milk

Cook time: 4 hours on HIGH or 7-8 hours on LOW

Serve with instant brown basmati rice and broccoli.

6. Quinoa Stuffed Peppers*

Ingredients:

1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed

1 14-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained (rinsing reduces the salt content by as much as 30%)

1 14-ounce can refried beans

1 1/2 cups tomato or red enchilada sauce

1 tbsp taco seasoning

1 1/2 cups shredded cheese (taco or Mexican blend)

Stuff 6-8 large hollowed out fresh bell peppers

Cook time: on 4-5 hours on HIGH or 7-8 hours on LOW

7. Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

Ingredients:

8 ounces mushrooms

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup uncooked wild rice

4 cups vegetable or chicken broth

1 tsp salt

1 tsp poultry seasoning

1 lb chicken breasts

Cook time: 4 hours on HIGH or 8 hours on LOW

After cooking, add in the following:

4 tbsp butter

1/2 cup flour

1 1/2 cups whole milk

Melt butter. Whisk in flour and milk until thickened. Add to the soup. Add extra water if needed to thin to desired consistency.

8. Hearty White Bean and Vegetable Soup*

Ingredients:

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

2 medium carrots, diced

2 celery ribs, diced

1 large leek, sliced into 1/2″ rings, washed well to remove any sand and drained in a colander

2 cloves garlic, chopped

3 Tablespoons tomato paste

1 1/2 cups cooked white beans, rinsed (one 15 ounce can or homemade from dry beans)

1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes

6-8 cups vegetable or chicken broth, or water

2 sprigs fresh thyme

2 cups diced butternut squash

4-5 kale leaves, ribs removed, roughly chopped

salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Cook time: 4 hours on HIGH or 7-8 hours on LOW

9. Vegetarian Chili*

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 medium yellow onion, diced

1 cup shredded carrots

1-2 jalapeño peppers, stemmed, seeded, and minced

3 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup bulgur, rinsed

2 tablespoons chili powder

1 tablespoon ground cumin

2 cups diced fresh tomatoes (about 2 medium or 6 plum tomatoes)

1 1/2 cups tomato sauce

1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 1/2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste

Chopped fresh cilantro

Cook time: 4 hours on HIGH or 8 hours on LOW

10. Herb Encrusted Pork Tenderloin



Ingredients:

 (2 pound) pork tenderloin

1 (1 ounce) envelope dry onion soup mix

1 cup water

3/4 cup red wine

3 tablespoons minced garlic

3 tablespoons soy sauce

freshly ground black pepper to taste

Rub all dry ingredients on pork. Add to slow cooker or instant pot. Pour wet ingredients on top.

Cook time: 4 hours on HIGH or 7 hours on LOW

Serve with a side salad, green beans, or baked sweet potato.

Did you try any of these recipes? Let me know how they turn out and if you have any questions!