Strategy #3
One Step Slow Cooker Meals
(AKA "Dump" Meals)
Slow cookers are a lifesaver when you need to get dinner on the table fast.  Who wouldn't love dumping a bunch of ingredients into a
slow cooker and coming home to a perfectly cooked meal? With a slow cooker, you don’t need to watch it, stir it, worry about it
burning, and your meal is ready when you are.  

Yet, for all their time-saving benefits, some slow-cooker recipes still require you to sauté or chop veggies and meats, adding to your
overall prep time and minutes spent in the kitchen.  Any prep work we require for our recipes will take less than 2 minutes.

Enter Slow Cooker Dump recipes.  They're an essential key for busy households. Because every minute counts when you’re short on
time, dump recipes prepared in the slow cooker offer the perfect dinnertime solution on busy weeknights.  When you're headed out the
door in the morning just dump all the ingredients in the slow cooker, set the time and go!

Your
bulk cooked ground beef suddenly makes many recipes Dump Recipes simply because you don't have to cook the ground
beef first!

While the name may be a little off-putting, these 24 dump recipes only require two steps: throw everything in the slow cooker and
walk away. It’s just that simple—no pre-cooking, browning, or using extra pots and pans. From there, all that’s left for you to do is
dig in! Most recipes we'll include in
15 Minute Meals don't require that you even chop vegetables!

Will My Slow Cooker Work for These Meals?
Most of you probably already have a slow cooker.  If the one you currently have fits into your lifestyle and you are satisfied with the
meals you prepare in it, then there is no need to purchase a slow cooker obviously.

If you don't use your slow cooker, however, because of timing issues (overcooked meals because you aren't home to turn it off),
consider two options:
  • Purchasing a slow cooker with a timer feature that automatically turns the setting to Warm at your specified time. Better yet,
  • get one that also has the option of a probe timer so slow cooker turns to warm when meat reaches set temperature.
    (This one gets our thumbs up and is only $40 on Amazon).
  • Purchasing an appliance timer (like this one) for around $15.  Keep in mind, this device will actually turn the slow cooker OFF.  
  • But as long as you will be home within 1 1/2 hours of it turning off (and can turn it back on to warm), food will be safe.

If you don't use your slow cooker because you aren't happy with the way it cooks, you should consider buying another one.  It will
be the best $40-$50 you ever spent.  We think you'll find that once you find one that works for you, it will be the least expensive
and most used time-saving tools in my kitchen.

What Should I look for in a Slow Cooker?
With all the different models on the market today, choosing the right crock pot may be a daunting task. Here are a few factors to
consider when shopping for a crock pot.

Size
Probably, the most important choice you need to make when you buy your slow cooker is what size to get. Slow cookers come in a
variety of sizes, from very small (2-quart) to very large (8 1/2-quart).

A one- to three-quart crock pot is usually sufficient for one to two people. But you will not be able to cook large pieces of meat.

If you are planning to feed a family of three to five, you will probably want a four- to six-quart model.  An eight-quart model usually
works best for feeding five to seven people.

If you want to be able to cook large pieces of meat, you will probably want to buy a crock pot that is at least six-quarts.

Because a slow cooker works best when filled at least half full, it is important to thoroughly consider which size is best for you
before purchasing. That said, it is nice to own a large crock pot so you can make a big pot of soup and having delicious leftovers
for another day. In addition, if you would normally use a large crock pot, but occasionally need a small one, you can sometimes put
an oven-safe dish in the bottom of your large crock pot to cook food in.

I encourage subscribers to look for older smaller slow cookers at garage sales or thrift stores.  These come in handy when you're
cooking just four servings of smaller pieces of meat.

Temperature Control Settings
We covered this above, but I think it bears repeating. There are two options that allow you to turn slow cooker either off or to warm
when desired cooking time completes:
  • Purchasing a slow cooker with a timer feature that automatically turns the setting to Warm at your specified time. Better yet,
    get one that also has the option of a probe timer so slow cooker turns to warm when meat reaches set temperature.
    (This one gets our thumbs up and is only $40 on Amazon).
  • Purchasing an appliance timer (like this one) for around $15.  Keep in mind, this device will actually turn the slow cooker OFF.  
    But as long as you will be home within 1 1/2 hours of it turning off (and can turn it back on to warm), food will be safe.

Lid
If possible, opt for a glass lid. Because glass is heavier than plastic it keeps more heat in, and because it’s transparent it allows
you to check on the food without lifting the lid. Much heat can be lost by lifting the lid, and required cooking time can be increased
by 30 to 60 minutes.

Slow Cooker Tips:
Below are some basic tips for better slow cooking.

Don't overcrowd
Most manufacturers suggest slow cooker being no more than 2/3 full.

Too much liquid?
Simply transfer the liquid to a saucepan and reduce it over medium-high heat. Use the result as a sauce or glaze for your dish.

Remove overcooked vegetables from meat dishes
If you've ever opened up your slow cooker and found the perfectly succulent meat of your dreams but the vegetables of your
nightmares, this one is for you. Once the dish is complete, strain out the vegetables that are overcooked. Don't serve them as is.
Puree them, then add the vegetable puree back into your sauce.

Double and Freeze
You've got the slow cooker going anyway.  Double the recipe and freeze the planned leftovers for a super easy meal another
night.

No Peeking
Resist the urge to take off the lid and peek at your meal. Opening the slow cooker lets heat escape and slows cooking. Only
open it 30 to 45 minutes before the low end of the cooking range to check doneness.

Consider Liners
Disposable slow cooker liners (found with foil, freezer bag etc...) are a lifesaver.  No clean up whatsoever. Just lift out the liner,
toss it and put the slow cooker away.

Add Dairy at the End
Cooking dairy products at high heat for a long period of time can cause them to curdle, so save them for last. Our recipes factor
this in.

Below are some great Slow Cooker Dump Meals that we have in our 15 Minute Dinner collection  

Slow Cooker Taco Soup

Kielbasa with Peppers and Onions

Sweet and Sour Meatballs