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Dump-and-go dinners may not sound sexy, but there’s a reason home cooks adore them: They’re really, ridiculously easy. Simply dump the ingredients into a slow cooker and go on your merry way. (When it’s 6:30 on a school night, you’ll thank yourself for having this savory dump-and-go stew on hand.) Though the instructions are simple, dump-and-go recipes still do take some planning. Here are a few helpful steps tips for making dump- and-go recipes even easier.
1. Buy precut veggies
Cutting vegetables can sometimes be the most time-consuming part of meal prep. (Though a good knife helps!) While your children may encourage you to skip the veggies altogether, they add color, flavor and nutritional value to each meal. Luckily, grocery stores are there to help out. Many shops offer precut veggies. This is great for common ingredients, like carrots or onions—but it’s also tremendously helpful for fickle vegetables (read: butternut squash) that are notoriously difficult to peel and dice.
Don’t want to pay extra for convenience? Instead of buying precut veggies, set aside time on a Sunday to act as your own vegetable butcher. Take veggies like leafy greens, onions, celery, carrots and peppers and prep them all at once. This recipe for lentil and chicken sausage stew comes together in minutes if vegetables are cut ahead of time.
2. Try spice blends and pastes
Slow cooker recipes simmer for hours, so they need flavorful spices and ingredients to keep them lively and delicious. Use premade spice blends like curry or fajita seasoning to amp up the flavor. Umami-bomb ingredients like tomato paste, curry paste, dried mushrooms or jarred anchovies work well, too. These ready-to-go ingredients add deliciousness without needing much time to prep. This Sweet and Sour Curry Chicken uses curry powder and prepared mango chutney to add depth and zest.
3. Batch-prep several meals at once
Prepping multiple meals at once has soared in popularity. A few hours on a Sunday, with some simple planning, can buy you days of stress-free meals. (Get inspired by this easy meal plan that lets you cook once and eat all week!) Doubling or tripling single recipes or making dishes with common ingredients makes the prep for dump-and-go dinners lightning quick.
4. Store dump-and-go dinners in the freezer
Slow cooker meals that can go from freezer to slow cooker to plate take most of the thinking and all the stress out of getting dinner on the table. Look for recipes that are mostly composed meat and veggies, as recipes that are heavy on dairy and noodles don’t freeze quite as well. This Polynesian Pulled Chicken recipe is a great candidate for the freezer.
5. Have the ingredients for one (super easy) dump recipe handy
If you keep all the ingredients on hand for at least one dump-and-go dinner, you will never have a night when you don’t know what to cook. For example, this Cranberry Pork and Sweet Potatoes recipe uses a handful of simple ingredients that are easy to keep in the pantry or freezer.