My husband and I spend an obnoxious amount of money on food each month. Obnoxious as in, our first mortgage was a smaller monthly bill. This is due in large part to our lack of preparation. Somehow, despite it occurring with some degree of regularity, dinner time always sneaks up on us. At a loss for something quick from the kitchen, we end up eating out or heading to the convenience store for something fast and fattening.

"You can’t just pop real food in the microwave."

For the better part of 2015, I tried to keep healthier food on hand in our house. It was the next installment in our ongoing plan to lose weight. And while we were successful in buying healthier food, we just weren’t always successful in eating it. Turns out, it’s harder to prepare healthy meals. You can’t just pop real food in the microwave, usually.

So, the 2016 installment of healthier eating has been combined with some new cost- and time-cutting methods. While all you crazy kids were sleeping off your New Year’s celebrations, I hauled myself to the grocery store, then started Crock-Pot Extravaganza season 1, episode 1.

The internet is teeming with easy freezer Crock-Pot meal ideas. The ones I selected required no ahead-of-time cooking, only some veggie cutting and some measuring. My first list of 8 Crock-Pot meals shared a lot of ingredients, so my overall shopping tab wasn’t much more than for 1 standard week.

These 8 meals should be enough food for my husband and I for two nights, for 16 total nights of no-hassle, healthful eating. Just pop in the fridge the day before to thaw, toss in the Crock-Pot in the morning, and come home to a house that smells amazing and food that’s pretty awesome.

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While I was at it, I also made a batch of spaghetti sauce, a pot of stew, a batch of chicken pot pie filling, and some veggie soup. I separated each of these things into dinner sized-portions and popped them in the freezer. This way, even if I forgot to fire up the Crock-Pot, we can’t use it as an excuse to eat out; these things freeze great, thaw quick, and can be eaten right away, as they are fully cooked and ready to rock.

Granted, it was a day chock-full of kitchen time, something I probably won’t want to do every week. But because of the quantity of food I made in one day, without a huge grocery tab, I know we will be able to save money on our weekly grocery bill, and eat out much less.

I figure this batch of food would last us about 2 months, saving some nights for “freshly cooked” meals and allowing us a date night once a week or so. Life. Changed.

Photo copyright iStock

Originally published 1/06/16