5-Day Meal Plan Using Your Slow Cooker

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Slow-Cooker Chicken Cacciatore with Polenta

After a long day of work or school, wouldn't it be nice to find a healthy, delicious dinner ready and waiting? Well, thanks to the slow cooker, you'll have exactly that. With this five-day meal plan, all you have to do is load the ingredients in the morning and return hours later to a filling, tasty meal. This meal plan is intended to serve four people each night (with plenty of leftovers for lunches throughout the week). A slow cooker can make a range of recipes, from soups to braises. Check out this meal plan for an easy way to get dinner on the table.

Day 1: Slow-Cooker Vegan Chili

Slow-Cooker Vegan Chili

Get the recipe: Slow-Cooker Vegan Chili

This chunky vegan chili is packed with produce, including peppers, tomatoes and butternut squash. For protein, we use two kinds of beans, pinto and black beans, to create a hearty and flavorful meal. This recipe yields six servings, so you can refrigerate any leftovers for another day or freeze it for a future meal (check out these tips for freezing leftovers). Garnish a bowl of this cozy chili with your favorite toppings, like vegan cheese or sliced avocado.

Day 2: Slow-Cooker Chicken Cacciatore with Polenta

Slow-Cooker Chicken Cacciatore with Polenta

Get the recipe: Slow-Cooker Chicken Cacciatore with Polenta

Tender chicken thighs are coated in a rich, velvety sauce made from tomatoes, onions, bell peppers and mushrooms. The two components cook simultaneously in the slow cooker to impart layers of savory deliciousness. When the chicken and sauce are complete, keep them warm in the slow cooker while you make a pot of polenta to serve on the side. The combination is a creamy, cozy dinner that will have you asking for seconds.

Day 3: Slow-Cooker Vegetarian Bolognese

two bowls of pasta

Get the recipe: Slow-Cooker Vegetarian Bolognese

In this vegetarian twist on classic bolognese, beans take the place of ground beef for a boost of plant-based protein. The tomato sauce simmers for hours, creating depth with minimal effort. When you're ready to eat, all you have to do is make the pasta. We use spaghetti, but any other noodle shape like linguine or penne would be just as delicious. The recipe yields enough sauce for eight servings, but you can freeze any extra sauce for up to three months. Before serving, thaw the sauce and reheat in the microwave.

Day 4: Slow-Cooker Carne Picada Tacos with Avocado Salsa

Slow-Cooker Carne Picada Tacos with Avocado Salsa

Get the recipe: Slow-Cooker Carne Picada Tacos with Avocado Salsa

One of the best (and tastiest) ways to use a slow cooker is with a big piece of meat. Here, we cook brisket until it turns tender, juicy and shreds easily for these flavorful tacos. The avocado salsa adds brightness, acidity and a touch of heat to the dish. Use any leftover meat or salsa as part of a deconstructed burrito bowl for lunch the next day (or make more tacos because they're delicious!).

Day 5: Slow-Cooker Mediterranean Diet Stew

Slow Cooker Mediterranean Diet Stew in White Bowl

Get the recipe: Slow-Cooker Mediterranean Diet Stew

We're ending this meal plan with a cozy stew packed with veggies, including kale, chickpeas and carrots. If you want to change things up, you could swap out the chickpeas and use white beans instead. We mash some of the chickpeas to create a natural thickening agent, adding body and depth to the soup. A squeeze of lemon juice brightens up the dish and adds a touch of acidity. This soup makes six servings, so learn how to freeze soup to make the most of any leftovers.

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