ALDI Freezer to Crockpot: 10 Meals in 90 minutes for $77.20


I love my slow cooker in the fall and winter for all sorts of soups and stews. The problem is that most recipes call for shorter cooking times of 4-6 hours and I am gone for my work day for 10 hours most days. I need recipes that I can prep ahead of time and throw in the slow cooker in the morning. Inspired by plenty of Facebook and Pinterest posts about freezer to slow cooker meals, I set out this week to build a collection of Aldi-friendly (standard Aldi ingredients only) that work for freezer to slow cooker. In 90 minutes I was able to prep 10 main courses that went straight to the freezer ready to be pulled out any given morning and thrown into the slow cooker. The research, organizing, and shopping time were substantially more but since I am nice person, I will share my shopping list and meal plan. If you want to double any of the recipes you will really increase your meal count without a lot of extra work. Just bag two meals at a time!


(If my meal list is not to your liking, check out NewLeafWellness.biz - She is a master at this freezer to Crockpot stuff and has a long list of ideas that are a nice mix of healthy choices.)

The Meals:

1. Pinto Beans  - kept un-mashed for Beans on Bread, or mashed for bean burritos, nachos, or tacos. From 100DaysofRealFood.com 

2. Party Pork - from NewLeafWellness.biz - served on buns like pulled pork

3. Ham and Lentil Soup (Swapped lentils for split peas since that is what Aldi has right now. If you don't have a ham bone, then 1 c. chopped ham is fine)

4. Chili - either served as Chili, Chili Cheese Tots, Chili Dogs, or Nachos

5. Cranberry Pork Roast - from NewLeafWellness.biz

6. Lasagna Soup (Keep the pasta separate and add the last 30 minutes of cooking.)

7. Chicken Fajitas - from TheHumbledHomemaker.com  Double the bell peppers and onion. Going in frozen this was still a 6 hour recipe - not an all-day option. This also works well as a burrito filling for a "Chipotle-style" burrito night. 

8. Minestrone - from Allrecipes.com (I swapped canned green beans for frozen. Keep the pasta separate to add the last 30 minutes of cooking.)

9. White Chicken Chili

10. Black Beans and Quinoa

The Shopping List:

*I priced and purchased the organic options when available. Prices would be less for the non-organic. I did not price in the spices since your probably have some in your pantry. A few of these items were estimated since I pulled them out of my pantry and freezer and didn't have the price from my receipt.
 
Pantry:
28 oz. can Organic Crushed Tomatoes $1.49
(2) 28 oz. can Organic Diced Tomatoes $2.98
2 cans Organic Red Kidney Beans $1.58
3 cans Organic Black Beans $2.37
3 cans Great Northern Beans $1.95
1 can whole cranberry sauce $.89
2 cans diced green chilies $1.30
2 c. dry pinto beans $.75
6 oz. tomato paste $.50
32 oz. tomato sauce $1.58
32 oz. beef broth $1.79
48 oz. chicken or vegetable broth $3.58
1 1/2 c. tomato or vegetable juice $.49
16 oz. Pipe Rigate Pasta $1.41.79+9
1/2 c. macaroni shell pasta (or elbow) $.36
1 c. quinoa $.99
1 c. Jelly $.75
1 c. Ketchup $.56
1/3 c. honey $.75
16 oz. Split Peas or Lentils $1.99
1 T. Apple Cider Vinegar (or substitute lime juice) $.33
1 c. frozen or canned corn $.99
1 c. frozen green beans $.80
1/2 c. red wine (opt.)

Produce:

10 onions $.99
20 cloves garlic $.99
1 jalapeno $.25
11 carrots $.99
1 bunch of celery $.99
2 c. fresh baby spinach $1.79
4 zucchini $1.98
6 bell peppers - mix of different colors $2.98
1/3 c. fresh cilantro $.99


Meat:
2 lb. ground beef (I prefer the grass-fed) $13.98
(2) 2-3 lb. Pork Shoulder/Pork Butt/Boston Butt  $7.45
3 lbs. chicken breast (I prefer the Never Any line) $13.56


Spices: 
1/4 c. dried minced onion
2 T. Parsley
1 T. Italian Seasoning
4 T. Cumin
3 T. Chili Powder
1 tsp. Paprika
1/4 tsp. Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
3 T. Oregano
1 T. Basil
1/4 tsp. Allspice (seasonally available at ALDI)
2 tsp. Salt
3/4 tsp. Black Pepper

Total: $77.20


How to:


  1. Print your recipes or open separate tabs for each recipe on your device.  
  2. Label all bags with the name of the recipe, date, cooking time, and how much water is needed. You could also make a list of any additional ingredients would would need to serve the meal such as buns or tortillas. 
  3. Brown and drain all ground beef first and allow to cool. (This is the one meat I don't like to do in the slow cooker raw.)
  4. Working one recipe at a time dump in all ingredients for the recipe less any water. You also don't need to saute any veggies ahead of freezing, so skip that step in prepping your bags. If you are working with meat that is already frozen, you will need to add it to the bag still frozen. You don't want to allow it to thaw and refreeze for food safety and quality reasons. 
  5. As you finish placing all ingredients into a bag press all the air out of the bag and seal. Immediately place in the freezer. 
  6. On the morning that you are ready to cook that item, remove it from the freezer and allow to thaw at room temperature until the frozen hunk will come loose from the bag. Dump the frozen ingredients into the Crockpot, cover, and turn on following the recipe's instructions. 
  7. Towards the end of the cooking time, add any last minute ingredients like pasta. I also like to re-spice some recipes because the long cooking times can kind of diminish the flavor of the spices. 
*Slow cookers can vary but most recipes call for low or high for a specified amount of time. I find that you can adjust high temp recipes to low and extend the cooking time by about 50-100%. So a 4 hour high recipe can switch to low and stretch to 6-8 hours. Placing the ingredients in still frozen also gives me additional cooking time of approximately 1-2 hours depending on the volume and ingredients. There are a lot of variables, but I am finding that if I like the recipe in the slow cooker, then there is probably a way to make it work for the freezer.

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