Slow Cooker Tips for Busy Weeknights

by Jessica Cox, RD

Slow Cooker Tips for Busy Weeknights

It’s five o’clock and you’re driving the kids home from one of their many activities, when you hear the inevitable question, “What’s for dinner?” If this scenario sounds familiar, the solution may be no further than the slow cooker on your kitchen counter.

"Slow cookers are such wonderful kitchen tools that allow you to come back at the end of the day to a nice, home cooked meal," says Angela Lemond, RDN, CSP, LD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “As a mom of two young children, I love to use the slow cooker to produce fast, hot meals right when we get home. The kids are ready to eat, and I am ready to relax with the family!"

Eating more homemade meals, and less fast food, can ensure that kids get the fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains and low fat dairy their growing bodies need. . A slow cooker does all the work of cooking for you while you’re at work or busy with the kids, minimizing time spent in the kitchen.

Slow cookers aren’t just for winter soups and stews — you can make appetizers, side dishes, fillings for sandwiches and tacos, and even desserts in a slow cooker. Unlike the oven or stove, a slow cooker gives off very little heat beyond the base, keeping your kitchen cool when it’s hot outside.

Try these simple tips to make the most of this versatile kitchen tool:

  • Prep ingredients in advance
    Chop vegetables and trim meats on a Saturday or Sunday when you have extra time. Be sure to cut uniform pieces for even cooking, and store prepped ingredients in airtight containers or zip-top bags in the refrigerator for up to three days.
  • Make-ahead when possible
    If your slow cooker has a removable insert, assemble the ingredients the night before and refrigerate the entire insert overnight. It’s important to note that starting with cool ingredients may lengthen cooking time.
  • Reinvent leftovers
    Instead of serving the same recipe two nights in a row, turn last night’s dinner into something new. If you make a large roast, serve the leftovers as a filling for quesadillas or sandwiches.

Try this recipe for Chicken Tacos with Salsa Verde for a slow cooked meal that’s perfect anytime of year.

Reviewed June 2013

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About the author:

Jessica C Cox RD

Jessica Cox, RD

is a registered dietitian and chef with a passion for teaching people to eat healthy for a happy and delicious life. She is the culinary nutritionist at eMeals, a meal planning service that helps families across America enjoy healthy meals together. She regularly contributes original recipes and food and nutrition content to various publications.




  • Cook healthy

    Involve your child in the cutting, mixing and preparation of all meals. Even a snack can be healthy.

  • Eat right

    Sit down together as a family to enjoy a wonderful meal and the opportunity to share the day's experiences with one another.

  • Shop smart

    To encourage a healthy lifestyle, get your children involved in selecting the food that will appear at the breakfast, lunch or dinner table.

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