How the Instant Pot Changed my Life and helped with Meal Planning
…sounds a bit dramatic, doesn’t it?
Look, I’m busy… all the time. Whether I’m out working in accounting/finance for a corporation or running my own business, or taking a break and renovating the house/property – life is hectic! I know you all relate… whether you are a man or a woman, parent, married or single. We are all striving for balance of work and life.
Yes, it sounds dramatic that it changed my life but it did, in the following ways:
- Provided much needed inspiration for making dinner easy – everything clicked!
- Saved money – cooking meals at home saves a lot of money and meal planning is now a breeze.
- Saved time and simplified dinner – set it and forget it! (Even frozen meats cook well!)
I’ve spent 20+ years stressing over dinners which left me not cooking dinners like I should. The thought of planning meals for the week stressed me out. I know how to cook. I’m usually following or modifying a recipe, but I can cook….. but I haven’t steadily cooked all week long every week until the Instant Pot came into my life. Dean picked up where I was inefficient. He did a lot of the cooking over the years except when I had planned a cooking production 😉 The idea of cooking every night stressed me out completely.
I rejected the Instant Pot as just another fad or phase. Really, can it help? Doubtful. It’s dumb. I’m not falling for the hype. I finally did fall for the hype when I read it could “hard boil” fresh eggs from my chickens perfectly. That made the purchase worth it for me. I bought one which turned into two. I now use my Instant Pot almost daily.
This is how I go about meal planning now. I try to keep every dinner no more than $15 as far as ingredients go. Oh, and here are a few ramblings and random notes about the Instant Pot that you may or may not know…
Whenever I am at the grocery store, I look for meats on sale. I’m not talking about the gross “about to expire” meats unless they look really good and aren’t going to expire tomorrow, and I can quick toss them in our extra freezer for later. Watch for sales on turkeys after thanksgiving and surprising, pork after New Years. Look at these giant pork loins I bought for $11 each! (regularly around $25). We purchased 18 pound turkeys for $6 each right after Thanksgiving. If you have a freezer and like to stock up, that’s the way to go. It’s really nice for us since we live out in the cornfields and grocery shopping is a half-day experience. Each one of these pork loins makes at least two meals! (Banana for scale ;)) Any time I see a sale, I grab at least $20 worth of “extra” and throw it in the freezer. A side note: We love seafood here on the East Coast, but seafood does not belong in the Instant Pot! If someone tells you to put it in there… umm… no… just no.
We all know that fresh vegetables are the best – In the spring/summer, I plant a vegetable garden utilizing our composted horse manure. Occasionally Dean and I will get to the Amish market or one of the many orchards around here and pick up excellent fresh fruits and vegetables but sometimes the grocery store is the only option. I do keep frozen vegetables (not the greatest but way better than canned) in the freezer for those quick side dish needs. I mean, in a pinch, frozen corn, green beans, or peas do the trick. Fresh onions and carrots, sweet potatoes or regular potatoes always have on hand. I mean, come on, set the sweet potatoes for 10 minutes (and 10 minute natural release) in the Instant Pot and they are perfection. We’ve been eating more of that and butternut squash since the Instant Pot came into our lives (put that squash in there with a little bit of brown sugar and butter… yum!!!! but even without the brown sugar and butter – for all you super healthy people – it is amazing). Garlic in a jar in oil is about the easiest to have on hand always – I never feel like messing with fresh garlic unless I’m canning tomatoes. One note – do not put anything citrus in your Instant Pot until after it cooks. I often put a little lime juice in my Mexican-inspired meals and I wait until it’s done cooking to do so. It changes something if you put that in prior to cooking. I forgot what, sorry!
Rice (brown and white), quinoa, beans, and couscous are always kept in stock here. Again, simple side dish and so easy in the Instant Pot. I absolutely LOVE rice in the Instant Pot. Prior to using it, I would get mushy rice because I would forget it was on the stove and not be timing things right, and it would take so long! In the Instant Pot, Jasmine rice is like 4 minutes (plus natural pressure release) and it’s just the right consistency for me. Same with brown rice (although a bit longer time). Set it and forget it is the best! I will be trying barley and other grains here shortly and sharing. The Instant Pot makes me want to explore new things because it makes it so easy!
For quick Instant Pot meals, it is important to always have store bought broth available (chicken, beef, vegetable) and cornstarch. The instant Pot requires a cup of liquid to cook, and adding broth instead of water to the meat is just going to add more flavor. Cornstarch is great for thickening the liquid in the Instant Pot after cooking for gravy or sauce.
I grow some herbs in my house or garden (although it is very difficult to grow in the winter – I’m working on that), but I always make sure I have certain items for certain “inspired meals”….
We do keep pre-made rubs or seasonings around for no-brainer times but if I’m putting something together, I know that these seasonings/flavors work well together.
- Chicken or turkey based meals – thyme, savory, rosemary, paprika, sage
- Pork rubs — paprika, brown sugar, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder
- Italian inspired meals – tomato powder (if you don’t use tomato powder, get some… it’s amazing to thicken, flavor, etc.), oregano, basil, garlic
- Mexican inspired meals – tomato powder, cumin, chili pepper, cilantro
- Beef roasts or stew – can’t go wrong with Liptons onion and onion and mushroom soup mixes
- Asian inspired meals – ginger, soy sauce, garlic, honey, sesame seeds/sesame oil or peanut oil
- Soups- Celery, onions, salt, pepper, garlic, make nearly all of my soup bases.
- Tomato based meals – I can my own tomatoes so I always have tomato sauce and seasoned diced tomatoes on hand. I know that seems like a lot of effort, but I really enjoy it as a project once in a while.
Do you like the big spice jars in the picture above? I love them! They are inexpensive as well. Check them out here.
I am a very active person. I don’t have time to sit and watch something simmer…. or remember to thaw something out so that I can leave it sit in a crockpot all day long. I want everything to be efficient and practical. I like meals that that are simple to make, difficult to mess up, but amazing enough to make you want to eat the leftovers the next day. I now have this. I am 41 years old and I can finally cook dinner every night. How sad is it that I couldn’t do that all this time because everything was way too complicated?
I spent way too long out today running errands and when I got back, I threw some ground turkey on the stove (I don’t like ground beef or turkey in the Instant Pot because it gets an odd texture from not being stirred while cooking, although you can surely do it in there, or you can saute it in the Instant Pot, but I like to thoroughly drain any fat/oils from it before using it, so I will happily dirty up a pot on the stove top). While it was on the stove, I threw beans, seasonings, and my diced canned tomatoes and garlic in the 8-quart Instant Pot, transferred the cooked meat over after draining, and set the Instant Pot for 5 minutes (with a 10 minute natural release). By the time Dean walked in the door about 30 minutes after I started, turkey chili was ready and the flavors were thoroughly infused without simmering for hours. Last minute cooking that tastes like it was stressed over for hours.
Intimidated by the Instant Pot?
If you are intimidated by the Instant Pot – maybe you just got it for Christmas. I have advice for you. Set one week aside. Meal plan for that one week. Keep it simple. Try just a chicken meal, a beef meal, and a pork meal…. try rice and try hard boiled eggs in your Instant Pot at the very least. Take that time to get to know your Instant Pot and by the end of the week, I promise you, you will find how it can fit into your life and make dinner more efficient!
At any rate, I am continuing to share my Realistic Recipes – most are recipes that I have modified for the Instant Pot but I am also sharing other easy recipes that I feel are better without the Instant Pot. I’m a realist. I like things that work and that’s what I share!
Disclaimer: Instant Pot does not pay me for these posts. I’m just that happy with the product!!!!