Back to School: Minimal Effort Meals

This is a slightly different post than everything else I’ve written on this blog so far, but I feel like with the beginning of the school year coming, it’s appropriately timed – MINIMAL EFFORT meals.

I should preface this by saying – if you don’t have a crockpot, it is a worthwhile investment. The vast majority of these meals involve a crockpot, and for good reason – these are dump and go – throw everything into the crockpot, turn it on, and leave it in peace kind of recipes. MINIMAL EFFORT is the focus here, people. Things that when you’re packing your lunch in the morning or coming home at the end of the day require no or low effort. So, without further ado, let’s get started!

Minimal Effort Meals

You can make these day of, or ahead of time and Tupperware them up for quick leftover lunches or dinners. Often what I will do is make 2 or 3 of these dishes on Sunday, box ’em all up, and then we’re good all week! Generally, it takes about an hour of my time on Sundays to make sure my husband & I are good all week.

Chicken Tacos


Easiest, most delicious recipe, with a thousand variations.

3-4 (frozen) chicken breasts
1-2 cans of black beans (I looove black beans so I usually do 2. Plus, protein!)
about a cup of frozen corn
1 packet of taco seasoning (You can mix and match your own from your spice drawer, but minimal effort is a packet).
1/2 cup of water (just extra moisture for the chicken!)

Dump it all into your crockpot. Cook on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 6-8. Shred & eat! I love doing this as taco bowls with brown rice + cheese, but they’re great in burritos, on tostadas, or..well you know and love tacos.

Chicken Basil Broccoli Alfredo
(aka I just listed all the ingredients)

IMG_3755 Ingredients:
3-4 (frozen) chicken breasts
1 jar of Bertolli’s Creamy Basil Alfredo (or whatever sauce is your favorite)
1 cup of broccoli florets

Toss the chicken and sauce into the crockpot. Cook on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 6-8.  About a half an hour before you’re going to eat, toss in the broccoli and let it join the chicken and sauce. (You can also steam the broccoli and just add it to the dish later if you prefer). Make fettuccine per package instructions. While the pasta is cooking, use two forks to pull the chicken apart into chunks. Top the pasta with the chicken, broccoli, and sauce mixture. YUM.

Chicken + Sauce + Bonus

In general, you can make just about anything a crockpot meal with 3-4 chicken breasts, a jar of sauce (or homemade, if you insist), and a protein or a veggie of sorts (see above). A second example is one of my husband’s favorite meals and it is THE EASIEST thing ever. 3-4 chicken breasts, a jar of tikka masala sauce, and a can of chickpeas. Cook on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 6-8. Throw it over rice and you’re good!

Does anyone have any good ideas for more combos with this? I’m always looking for other flavors!

“Plain Chicken” Time Saver


You can also just throw chicken breasts and enough chicken stock to cover them in your crockpot. Cook on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 6-8, as with everything else. We’ll shred that up and keep in handy in the fridge for other quick meals, especially if we don’t really know what we feel like for food that week. Some of my favorite ways to use “plain chicken” in a pinch:

  • Stir-fry – steam your veggies, add your cooked chicken, throw in some sauce, serve over noodles or rice. Boom, done.
  • Throw on top of frozen pizza – okay. No judgment, because this is really minimal effort, BUT we’ll often grab like..spinach, garlic, and cheese pizza, and just add chicken to it. SO GOOD.
  • Throw into soups – chicken tortilla and chicken gnocchi are two of my favorite soup recipes and they both go so.much.faster. if you don’t have to make the chicken the same day you’re making the soups!
  • Eat it..plain? – My husband eats just plain chicken and rice. So..whatever floats your boat, I guess.
Chicken Gnocchi Soup – Recipe linked above

You can just buy canned chicken breast, but I 100% prefer cooking my own. In the crockpot, it’s just as easy as opening a can!

Pork Egg Roll in a Bowl


This recipe is the total outlier here in my list – for one, it’s PORK, not chicken! And, there’s NO CROCKPOT. What?! I promise it’s still super super fast and easy. Like, under 20 minutes when you get the hang of it. It’s paleo & low carb, if that matters to you. All that matters to me is that it’s delicious – every time we make this for meal prep on Sunday, we wind up eating it..and usually wishing we’d doubled the recipe. It’s straight from Peace, Love, and Low Carb, and she affectionately calls it “crack slaw”. It is so.good.

Minimal Effort Meals

One Last Thing

In true minimal effort focus, every time I make one of those meals, we use a crockpot liner. Basically, it’s a little plastic baggy you put inside of your crockpot so when you’re done cooking, there is almost no clean-up involved! Just throw the bag with the juices away and you are all set. We bought 125 of them off of Amazon, but you can also find them at Walmart or grocery stores. Worth every cent and second of your time finding them because you won’t be scrubbing things crusted into your crockpot anymore!

So, there you have it! Teaching blog turned cooking, for a brief time. All of these are our favorites, things that both my husband and I can make without even having to look at the recipe any more. I hope you enjoy them, and I hope it makes your back to school life a little less hectic!

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