Photo by Sara Claro

After a long day at work and a hectic after-school activity schedule with kids, dinner is the last thing on your mind. Until it's time to eat and all you hear is "I'm starving!" So what do you do? Plan ahead and spend some time on the weekend assembling ready-to-go slow cooker meals for the week!

Here are 4 simple steps to take any of your favorite slow cooker recipes and turn them into a made-ahead freezer meal.

1. Make a grocery list. Include all the recipes you want to cook that week and don't forget to add 2 gallon freezer zip-top bags. I like to find out what's on sale before I plan my menu for the week, it really helps with the budget.

2. Label the bags with a waterproof marker. Write the day you plan to prepare it, the name of the recipe, cooking time (ex: crockpot on HIGH 4 hrs or LOW for 8 hrs), and what to serve or top with.

3. Chop, chop, chop. Start chopping all your vegetables and meat. For larger recipes, (like my favorite Italian Pot Roast) divide the meat in half and separate into two different zip-top bags.

4. Pack it up.  Place the meat in the bag and top with remaing ingredients. Seal the bag, get all the air out, and lay it flat in the freezer.

These are some of my favorite slow-cooker meals that work wonderfully with this make-ahead method:

To cook your pre-made meals, place the bag in the refrigerator to thaw out the night before. In the morning, pour the meal into the slow-cooker, cover, set it, and forget it. No clean up required. I have a slow-cooker with a digital timer, which I love because when it finishes cooking, it automatically turns to the warm setting and stays warm until you turn it off. It's safe and when you come home from work, dinner is waiting to be served!

For recipe inspiration, see our gallery of Slow-Cooked Comfort Food Classics.