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by Kristin Ratnofsky

If you’ve done a Whole30®, you know there is nothing worse than coming home after a long day and a.) having to figure out dinner when you don’t have a plan or b.) having to make something that takes a long time to prepare. On the flip side, you also know that there is nothing better than coming home to have a nutritious dinner that’s hot and ready to eat. And since most of us can’t afford our own live-in chef, slow cooking is as close to living that life as we’re going to get! 

Now I know what you’re thinking. Using the slow cooker means you have to prep in the morning, and if you are like me, there is not much extra time in the mornings to make that happen. Here’s a meal prep hack that has been a game changer: Prep the night before and put the slow cooker insert in your fridge. Pull it out before you leave for work, plug it in and go. Come home to an amazing home-cooked meal without having to add stress to your morning routine.  

RELATED: Doing Whole30® This Month? You Need These Collagen Products

slow cooker recipe

But, wait, aren’t we all on an Instant Pot kick at the moment? Don’t get me wrong, the IP is pretty amazing. I use mine regularly, especially on meal prep day, when I need to knock out two to three proteins to mix and match for meals throughout the week. But here’s the thing with the Instant Pot - I have to be present(ish) through the whole process, and this mama of two and business owner doesn’t always have time for that.  With my slow cooker, I can turn it on in the mornings before work and come home to a healthy meal that is 100% ready to serve. 

When there’s no prep work or reheating in the evenings, I’m able to put my time and energy into more important things, like helping my sixth grader with math homework or reading with my first grader, without compromising the quality of our meal.   

Here are two of my go-to Whole30® compliant slow cooker meals (that my kids will actually eat): Sweet Potato Chili and One Pot “Spaghetti” and Meatballs. Both are easy to prep and make enough for my family to have dinner and leftovers. A win-win in my book! 

sweet potato chili

Whole30® Slow Cooker Sweet Potato Chili

Yields 6-8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs. grass fed ground beef, cooked and drained of fat. (Ground turkey is a great sub, too)
  • 1 small diced yellow onion, sautéed in olive oil 
  • 1-2 C sweet potato (roasted and puréed or diced). This adds great flavor, texture and nutrients. I choose to roast and puree, so my picky children won’t know they are in there!) 
  • 1 28 oz. can Whole30® compliant fire roasted tomatoes 
  • 2 scoops Vital Proteins Beef Bone Broth Collagen 
  • 1 T chili powder
  • 1 t cumin
  • 1/4 t cayenne pepper (more or less depending on your heat preference) 
  • 1 t garlic powder
  • 1 t onion powder
  • 1 t sea salt
  • 1/4 t ground pepper
  • Seasoning: (Skip the prepackaged chili mixes as they have lots of added ingredients and sugar!) 

Directions:

  1. Put all ingredients in the slow cooker for 8 hours on low.

*Top with avocado and herbs of your choice! I love scallions or cilantro.   

Notes:

  • This makes a lot. It is PERFECT to feed your family for dinner and then freeze leftovers for a quick meal later OR use it as your meal prep for the week. Eat by itself, stuff a sweet potato and then add some guacamole on top, or serve over sweet potato nachos.
  • Easy swap: If you don’t have sweet potatoes on hand, or just don’t want to deal with roasting and pureeing, try stirring in frozen cauliflower and sweet potato “rice”. 
  • This can also be made in the Instant Pot. Place all ingredients in the IP, then push the “meat/stew” button. This will automatically set the IP to cook for 35 minutes. Make sure the steam valve is closed.

spaghetti and meatballs

meatballs recipe

Whole30® Slow Cooker “Spaghetti” & Meatballs

Yields 6-8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium-sized spaghetti squash
  • 2 lbs. ground meat (I used grass-fed ground beef, but I really love to mix beef and Italian sausage together when I have it on hand. Ground turkey is also a great option!)
  • 2 scoops Vital Proteins Beef Bone Broth Collagen
  • 1 jar Whole30® compliant marinara sauce (Rao's is my absolute favorite!)
  • 1 20 oz. can fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 t sea salt
  • 2 t onion powder
  • 2 t garlic powder
  • 2 T Italian seasoning (make your ownor carefully read labels to avoid sugar and other additives)

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, combine meat with eggs and spices. Using your hands, mix well until all ingredients are fully incorporated and ready to roll into balls.
  2. Roll into bite-sized meatballs (I put my kids to work in the kitchen as often as possible!) and place in slow cooker (the meatballs, not the kids.)
  3. Pour marinara sauce and canned tomatoes over the meatballs and stir.
  4. Cut spaghetti squash in half through the center and scoop out seeds.
  5. Place spaghetti squash halves face down on top of meatballs.
  6. Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours.
  7. Remove spaghetti squash carefully, scoop out insides, then top with meatballs and sauce. Garnish with herbs of your choice!

Notes:

  • If you have picky little eaters like I do, you can quickly make some pasta and top with the meatballs and sauce from the slow cooker pot. I do this and everyone in my family is happy!
  • This is a great meal prep recipe as it makes a lot! You can use the meatballs in other meals too — I love them with roasted veggies and a salad.

**These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.