I don’t know how I stumbled across the concept of slow cooker dump bags, but this handy hack helps me to feed my family. Week in, week out.
When I returned to work after maternity leave, I was keen to ensure that my family had a healthy meal waiting when we all got home from work and nursery. I’m also a nightmare when I’m hungry, as I will eat anything in sight, so I knew that it would be easy to fall down the rabbit hole of snacks, takeaway and convenience food if I wasn’t prepared.
Slow cooker dump bags
I started to research how I could ensure we had a hearty meal each night. And it turns out that ‘dump bags’ are a popular way for families to ensure they’re prepared for the week ahead. The concept was new to me, but it turns out that there are are numerous Facebook groups dedicated to them. One has over 16,000 members that have collectively contributed hundreds of dump bag ideas, containing all sorts of ingredients. I get the hype, these bags are good and when it comes to eating well in the week, for me and my family, dump bags are the answer.
The term ‘dump bag’ isn’t particularly appealing, but it describes the concept well. The idea is that you get a large freezer bag and dump in everything that you’d usually put into a slow cooker to make a meal. It’s a frozen pouch of food that just needs defrosting and reheating. A slow cooker dump, if you will.
Do dump recipes vary?
If you’re cooking something in your slow cooker, then it will be suitable for a dump bag. You don’t need to seek out a special type of recipe. If it’s suitable for freezing, you can it to a bag and whack it into the freezer.
For example, if I was making up a Bolognese dump bag for the slow cooker, I’d add mince, frozen onions, frozen mushrooms, tomatoes and any seasoning to the bag. I’d then put it in the deep freeze. And the night before I wanted the meal, I’d take it out of the freezer. Then, the next morning, I’d put it into the slow cooker and switch it on. When I got home, I’d just have to cook pasta and hey presto, there’d be a healthy meal ready to eat.
I know what you’re thinking, it sounds and looks like a lot of faff. But at the start of the month, I find it useful to make up around ten dump bags. I usually make 8-10 together and I start by writing the name of the recipe and listing the ingredients on the bag. I then throw them together. Literally. A can of chopped tomatoes here, a handful of onion there. Make sure you purchase sturdy zip-lock freezer bags though, which can take the weight of all the ingredients.
Healthy slow cooker recipes
These dump bags are a good way of ensuring that your family is eating a healthy meal regularly. You can literally put anything there. When it comes to ingredients, anything goes; chicken, beef, veggies and seafood can all be added to your dump bag. However, sometimes I like to create a simple tomato pasta sauce, without any meat or veg in there. Whatever you decide to make, just make sure you label them up, so you know what is where.
There are lots of places to find healthy slow cooker recipes to go in your dump bags. As well as Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram, there are also lots of websites and blogs dedicated to healthy slow cooker recipes, so you should be spoilt for choice.
Is doing a dump worth it?
I am a fan of these bags, primarily because they help me to stay organised. They don’t take up much freezer space either and they also save me time on a work morning, as it takes me seconds to turn the slow cooker on and to pour one of these in. The result is a healthy, tasty meal.
Dump bags are cost effective and they help me to cut down on fresh food waste. I only buy the ingredients I need and they’re in the freezer before they have time to go off or spoil. Also, it’s as if we’re eating the food on the day we cooked it, as our dump bag meals always taste fresh. I would recommend that you write a list of all your dump bags though and display it somewhere, as it is easy to forget what you’ve made!
I’m not going to lie, making these dump bag meals takes a bit of time and effort. Cooking isn’t one of my major interests, so making these bags up is a chore. But in my opinion, two hours of faff for ten healthy family teas, is a fair pay off. I never regret doing it and I often thank my past self when I take one of these out of the freezer and later enjoy a tasty meal. It also shows that you can be busy but find time to eat well.
Dump bags make me feel like I’m nailing family life, so I’d recommend that you give them a try too.
If you enjoyed this article, then you should check out my other foodie hacks.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in May 2020 and has been completely revamped for accuracy and comprehensiveness.