Tricia’s Slow Cooker Batch Cooking: The Super Supper Saver

by Tricia H on February 24, 2011

Having that ground meat, already cooked and ready to pull out of the freezer is a super supper saver. It’s a strategy that works with busy toddlers under foot, hungry teens hovering and all those in between. (that’s us!)

For about two years now I’ve been batch cooking with my slow cooker every shopping trip. My friend, Little Sanctuary, shared how she cooks ground meat in her slow cooker. The mother of eight taught this mother of five her large family living strategy. The point is, you don’t have to stand and stir or deal with splatters. You just have to break up the meat with a fork now and then as you pass the slow cooker.

Recently, I had the privilege of five pounds of ground turkey from a bi-monthly visit to the warehouse club. Ground turkey is frugal and healthy. Five pounds of it is at least three meals, likely four in our house.

Directions: Here’s how it works. Even before the grocery store run, I place the slow cooker on the counter, at the ready. As soon as the Hodgepodge starts unloading the goods, I get a hold of the ground turkey and slide that meat right in the slow cooker.

Next comes the frozen, chopped onion. I confess that since I discovered this handy dandy package, I no longer chop an onion unless I have to. Frozen, chopped onion is great for pouring in the seasoning. See, sometimes saving money is saving time and tears :)

When the turkey finishes cooking, I drain it with the colander over a casserole dish. Last time, I decided to save out two pounds to make chili for supper that night.

Next, I washed out the slow cooker (since it was room temp by then and there wasn’t a chance of it cracking), and put all the ingredients back in to warm. Then I just threw in my favorite chili seasoning and a can of diced tomatoes. Because, if you are like me, I’m often not much in the mood to cook supper after a big grocery shopping trip.

Finally, I bagged up the remaining turkey in supper-sized portions and put it in the deep freeze. Supper tonight and saving suppers for several tomorrows.

Results:

•Five pounds of ground turkey

•Three pounds, cooked and in the freezer

•Two pounds stirred up as chili for supper

•Enough leftover chili for lunch tomorrow

At least five meals for us! Maybe for your family it might last a month?

Bonus option: OR I will cook half of the five pounds in the slow cooker and mix up meatballs and/or meatloaves with the rest (as I mentioned in my Meatball Subs recipe). Or, like Erin does in her Batch Cooking Meatloaf, Turkey Meatloaf Bites, and Herbed Meatballs.

Before batch cooking the slow cooker way I could only do one or the other in one day – shop or batch cook. Now I can have it both ways.

Guess what else? Slow cooker batch cooking got me going on a whole series called Back to Basics. I also batch cook with chicken and with ground beef. Cook it up in the slow cooker, bag it up for the freezer.

Would you like the main ingredient for suppers all ready to pull from the freezer? Or, what’s your favorite handy use for your slow cooker?

{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

Shelly February 24, 2011 at 4:49 pm

OhEmGeeeee! That is soooo awesome, Tricia! Thank you for sharing! I keep trying to batch cook hamburger, and I seem to always fail for a number of different reasons. I’ll definitely be trying this tip this coming weekend!

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Christan/MamaBearPing February 24, 2011 at 5:22 pm

This is such a great idea. If I find a good deal on ground beef, I do the same thing with it. However, I hadn’t thought to leave some of it in the crockpot and make chili with it. Genius!
I think I might start buying frozen onions too.

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Tricia H February 25, 2011 at 10:35 am

I’ve found frozen onions on sale at the local grocer and stock up!

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Sarah February 24, 2011 at 5:22 pm

Um, that is totally genius!!!

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The Frugal Princess February 24, 2011 at 5:25 pm

I do the same thing with those huge pork shoulders that are on sale. They are 8 pound roasts so we get many meals out of them! Cooking them in the slow cooker over low heat all day makes them very easy to shred!

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Shannon February 28, 2011 at 8:05 am

I just discovered those huge pork shoulders/picnic. It was 58 cents a pound. Cooked it all day in my crockpot and we had meat for many things!

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Alea February 24, 2011 at 8:44 pm

I love this idea! I have been batch cooking my hamburger the hard way, but next time I bring some home it is going in the slow cooker.

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Meredith@Lifeat7000Feet February 24, 2011 at 9:13 pm

I think this idea is BRILLIANT! I buy meat in bulk and prep it all for the freezer within a day or two of shopping, but the idea of not standing over the stove stirring and stirring and stirring makes me slightly giddy! I can’t wait to try it.

I also do not like to make dinner after a big grocery shopping trip! If I’m ever tempted to eat out it’s then…but I have a hard time justifying the cost after I’ve just spent $$ on groceries. :)

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Nancinatorr February 25, 2011 at 12:06 am

Great idea! how do you avoid freezer burn..It sees that even store bought food that I buy gets it so easy that I am afraid to freeze food..I lost a huge batch of blueberries to freezerburn and
i followed all the directions on thepost…Thanks!

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Tricia H February 25, 2011 at 10:32 am

Well… I suppose we eat it all up within a month and that’s how :) I also have a stand deep freeze. Plus making sure all the excess air is squeezed out of the freezer bag.

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Mary E.S. February 25, 2011 at 8:46 am

If you put your onion in the freezer for at least 30 minutes you won’t cry while cutting it.The juices start to crystallize(which is what burns your eyes) and this makes dicing them a breeze.

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Tricia H February 25, 2011 at 10:33 am

Great tip! Thanks. Maybe I’ll batch chop some onions.

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Steph B February 25, 2011 at 9:03 am

Wow! Did you cook on low or high in crock and for approximately how long? Did you have to stir it at all during cooking? Thanks so much for the great post!

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Tricia H February 25, 2011 at 10:34 am

Steph, I always cook it on low. And I want to say it’s around 4 hours. I check on it about every hour, hour and a half and break it up with a fork. Until all the pink is gone.

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Michelle February 25, 2011 at 9:16 am

On the onions – NOT that I would begrudge any mother from doing what she needs to do to make life easier – I hate to chop onions, too, so I buy a bunch at one time, run them through the food processor and freeze them myself. I still cry – but only once ;-)

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Tricia H February 25, 2011 at 10:36 am

Thanks Michelle!

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LisaE February 25, 2011 at 11:42 am

For some reason, I do not like the idea of cooking ground meat in my slow cooker. I think it is because ground meat has bacteria that grows faster on it than whole meats and I cook everything on low in my slow cooker.

I will use both my crock pots though when I have 2 whole chickens to cook or 2 of whatever bigger cuts of meat. It saves so much time and energy to cook this way and have many meals worth of meat waiting for me to do something with it;-

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stephanie doran February 25, 2011 at 3:00 pm

If you buy your meat the day it was ground and batch cook it that day in the crockpot, you will not have to worry about mold. My son has a severe mold allergy and I have to cook the meat as soon as I buy it. How long it takes to cook does not matter as long as you meet the 24 hour or less deadline.

Hope this helps.

Stephanie Doran

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stephanie doran February 25, 2011 at 3:00 pm

If you buy your meat the day it was ground and batch cook it that day in the crockpot, you will not have to worry about mold. My son has a severe mold allergy and I have to cook the meat as soon as I buy it. How long it takes to cook does not matter as long as you meet the 24 hour or less deadline.

Hope this helps.

Stephanie Doran

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ann February 25, 2011 at 2:07 pm

A slow cooker can also be an excellent tool for cooking in a busy household and when it is filled with fresh meat, potatoes and vegetables can make for a healthy alternative to fast food nights and frozen prepared dishes.You can create a one-dish meal in the
morning, and it’s ready for you when you get home.
Looking for a quality multi cooker or slow cooker? Visit http://www.indoorgrillcooker.com for the most up-to-date information on selecting, using and maintaining your kitchen appliance.

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Kimberly February 25, 2011 at 5:32 pm

Tricia, do you have the slow cooker on high or low? About how long does it take?

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Tricia H February 25, 2011 at 5:35 pm

Good question Kimberly – a detail I forgot to mention! I cook it on low for about 3-4 hours. (remember I cook about 5 lbs at a time, so less would likely take less time.) I stop by, checking about every hour and break up the meat with a fork or spatula. It’s done when it’s no longer pink :)

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Jennifer February 27, 2011 at 11:28 pm

I have (always had) an aversion to “leftover” ground beef. Do you notice that leftover flavor when you batch cook your meat and freeze it for later use? Or do you package it for meals before you freeze it? (ex, freeze in spaghetti sauce or manwich)

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Tricia H February 28, 2011 at 10:51 am

Jennifer – I haven’t noticed a leftover flavor but we do use it up within a month. Sometimes I prepackage meals but usually I just freeze the meat in meal time portions so I have the option to make whatever! I say – go for it and see how you like it :)

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Avis R August 11, 2011 at 10:55 am

I want to mention the “pearl onions” that come frozen too. They are wonderful. Kroger has a cheap brand, and it is delicious. They are good all by themselves, let alone in a dish. Thanks for the tips.

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Claire December 17, 2011 at 12:28 pm

How long do you cook the meat for in the slow cooker. What a wonderful helpful idea!

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Tricia December 17, 2011 at 12:30 pm

Claire – roughly 4-5 hours. But I do it on a day I’m home so I can stir it, bring it up and keep an eye on it.

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Amber August 13, 2012 at 10:03 pm

Ooh, I might have to try this! As for onion, my husband is not a fan of chopped onion, but he does like how onion flavors things as long as it’s not overdone. So I puree large batches of onion in the food processor and freeze in baggies, to be used as needed. If you ever try this, be sure to use less than you would for chopped onion at first and add more as needed, as it may give stronger flavor than chopped and also affect the liquid ratios in the recipe if there’s very much.

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RG October 9, 2013 at 1:22 pm

Waaa! It won’t let me see the batch cooking meatloaf etc. link. Bummer.

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Jenn K October 9, 2013 at 9:06 pm
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