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This is the season I rely on my slow cooker more than any other. Between back-to-school time, a busy schedule, and those lingering hot summer days when turning on the oven feels unbearable, the slow cooker is my answer to the dinner dilemma. Creating an easy meal plan centered around the slow cooker is a balm for an otherwise chaotic time. Do a little upfront prep, then hand the heavy lifting over to the slow cooker.
Follow these meal plans as written, or mix and match meals to suit your family’s tastes. What you’re guaranteed is a variety of family-friendly dinners that come together with hands-off slow cooking while you log on to virtual school or manage meetings from home.
1. A Week of Easy Plant-Based Slow Cooker Dinners
This one-week meal plan relies on the slow cooker to make make plant-based eating extra-easy. Each of these five plant-based dinners (like burrito bowls and stuffed peppers) requires little to no upfront prep work and leans on the slow cooker for the heavy lifting. There’s a good chance you’ll have some leftovers, which can be repurposed into lunch throughout the week or stashed in the freezer for another week.
Get the plan: A Week of Easy Plant-Based Slow Cooker Dinners
2. How I Prep a Week of Easy Slow Cooker Meals for Two
The slow cooker is great for whipping up big-batch meals, but it is also extremely helpful when you’re cooking for just a couple of people. Not only will this plan set you up with slow cooker dinners, like chicken parm meatballs and creamy butternut squash soup, but it also offers up smart ideas for repurposing leftovers into brand-new meals.
Get the plan: How I Prep a Week of Easy Slow Cooker Meals for Two
3. A Week of Plant-Based Meals from the Slow Cooker
Your slow cooker makes easy, hands-off work of cooking plant-based staples like beans, rice, and a huge array of vegetables. Whether you follow a plant-based diet or you’re trying to eat less meat, this slow cooker meal plan makes it easy with favorites like golden chickpea soup, veggie burrito bowls, and caponata pasta. And if you want to get a jump-start, it also includes a one-hour step-by-step meal prep guide.
Get the plan: A Week of Plant-Based Meals from the Slow Cooker
4. A Week of Cheap and Healthy Slow Cooker Dinners
This plan leans on inexpensive pantry staples that feel healthful and nourishing. Serve filling and protein-packed golden chickpea soup swirled with Greek yogurt and a squeeze of fresh lemon one night and an Italian-inspired chicken and broccoli bowl another night. Round out the week with make-ahead slow cooker stuffed cabbage rolls, chicken posole, and hearty black bean chili.
Power Hour Meal Prep: A Week of Slow Cooker Meals
5. A Week of Slow Cooker Mediterranean Diet Dinners
The slow cooker is one of the best tools for getting Mediterranean diet-inspired meals on the table. The diet — based on seafood, produce, and healthy fats — is well-suited to many of our favorite slow cooker dinners. The veggie-packed slow cooker minestrone makes enough for dinner one night and lunch later in the week. The gentle heat of the slow cooker makes the most tender salmon — it takes time, but the flavor is worth it! Finish this week’s plan with citrusy lemon and artichoke chicken from the slow cooker and a hearty, vegetarian chili for cool autumn evenings.
6. 5 Healthy Slow Cooker Dinners to Make Before Summer Ends
This slow cooker meal plan leans on the last gasp of fresh summer vegetables for a week of wholesome and affordable dinners. Ratatouille is an end-of-summer staple; if you’re still avoiding your stove, the slow cooker is the way to go. Use the final harvest of your patio-grown basil for slow cooker pesto chicken. If your neighbors are still dropping off zucchini, peppers, and tomatoes, use the veg in curried vegetable and chickpea stew or slow cooker veggie burrito bowls.
7. A Week of Back-to-School Slow Cooker Dinners
Get back into the school groove — whatever that means for you this year — with a week of easy slow cooker dinners. These family-friendly meals take mere minutes to prep, and leave you with leftovers for easy lunches. Chicken teriyaki made in the slow cooker is simple to make with honey, ginger, and pantry staples. The adjustment back to class can be hard some days, so serve a cozy and creamy potato soup to soften hard feelings. Kids and grown-ups alike will love build-your-own taco night made with easy slow cooker pulled pork.