12 Instant Pot Recipes That Will Save You Money
So many people purchased Instant Pot electric pressure cookers on Black Friday that Amazon warehouse pickers are sick of the sight of them.
The sale was an especially good deal when you realize the many ways this versatile tool can help you save money. The countertop device is advertised as a seven-in-one tool because, besides pressure cooking, it also serves as a slow cooker, a rice maker, a yogurt maker, a steamer, and a warmer.
I’m one of the folks who bought an Instant Pot on sale, and I’m quickly learning how to make it pay for itself by helping me create frugal meals and avoid food waste. Many of these recipes could be made in any pressure cooker, but one thing I appreciate about the Instant Pot is that you can brown or saute items in it as well, making for fewer pans to wash after dinner.
1. Eat a Homemade Breakfast on the Way to Work
Cooking up portable breakfasts in advance is all well and good for the type of people who plan ahead, but what about the rest of us? With the Instant Pot, your breakfast can cook while you shower, and be ready by the time you head out the door.
The first recipe many new Instant Pot owners try is hard boiled eggs. This takes less than 15 minutes from fridge to cool, easily-peelable eggs, and you don’t have to worry about disasters like forgotten egg explosions.
2. No Soup Line for You
At $3 to $5, a paper cylinder of hot soup from the deli can be an easy lunch solution. But an Instant Pot and a Thermos or microwave can set you up almost as easily, for a far lower cost per serving.
Do you spend 30 minutes walking from your desk to the deli, standing in line, and then returning with your soup? Because that’s all this hearty minestrone takes to make, including prep time. And during that time, you can make enough for the whole week’s lunches.
3. Drive Past the Drive Through
You know the kind of night I’m talking about: You got stopped on your way out the door by a coworker with a question and missed your train. Your kids have practices in three different places. This would have been a great night to eat something out of the freezer, if only you had thought to defrost anything. Dinner is likely to come in a paper bag with fries.
But wait! The blog Once a Month Meals has a whole section on how to defrost and heat frozen meals in your IP, like this honey bourbon chicken that you can put in the pot frozen solid, set for 25 minutes, leave to drop off your kids, then leave on the “warm” setting all evening as people come in and out to eat.
4. Break the Rotisserie Cycle
A rotisserie chicken can be a godsend to a busy family, but there is a less expensive way. You can throw a fresh or frozen whole chicken into your IP and sit down to a chicken dinner within an hour. No basting, and no worries about leaving the oven on if you need to leave the house. (For safety, though, stick around during the period when the IP is getting up to pressure.)
5. Use Dried Beans Instead of Canned
Dried beans are consistently one of the most frugal healthy foods in the grocery store, but canned beans are so much faster that many of us ignore the bags of dried. The IP can fix that. If you’ve soaked the beans overnight, you can put the uncooked beans right into this chicken and black bean chili recipe and eat it within an hour. If you didn’t soak, you can spend about half an hour prepping the beans in the IP before you start the chili recipe. Soaking isn’t strictly necessary, but it makes the beans more tender.
6. Make Indian Fakeout
Kori Lusignan, who blogs at Misery Loves Cookery, created this dal recipe for her Instant Pot, giving her family a quick and cheap way to satisfy their jonesing for Indian food. Pair it with this chicken korma and rice, both of which you can also make in the IP. How to make multiple dishes for one meal in one appliance? Some folks buy extra inserts, so they can take the first dish out when done and start the next without having to wash up.
7. Use Up Vegetables That Would Otherwise Go Bad
If you receive a regular farm share box of produce each week like I do, it can be daunting to use everything before it starts to wilt. One way my Instant Pot has helped me with this: After I cook a meal, before washing the pot, I’ll throw together another meal with similar flavors, using whatever vegetables I have on hand, and let it cook while I clean the kitchen and put my kids to bed. By my bedtime, I have a pot of food for the refrigerator or that I can pull out to serve tomorrow night, or eat for lunch. I can even refrigerate and reheat it right in the Instant Pot’s liner pan.
Since I currently have some broccoli and carrots to use up, I’m going to try making pressure cooker broccoli risotto after dinner tonight. If you get vegetables that seem daunting to cook conventionally, like artichokes, the Instant Pot might be the ticket to avoiding procrastination that ends in the garbage bin.
8. Make Stock
A great way to keep old vegetables, meat, bones, and even vegetable peelings from going to waste is to throw them in a stock pot. But stovetop stocks require you to be home for hours, occasionally stirring the pot. With an Instant Pot, you can make delicious stock in one hour. It's so easy, Instant Pot enthusiasts quickly run out of leftovers, which is probably why a member of the IP Facebook community recently posted a photo of a bag of chicken feet she was about to turn into broth.
9. Reduce the Chinese Takeout Bill
Some Chinese restaurants don’t charge for rice, but others do. If you like brown rice like we do at my house, that can cost even more. But remember: Your Instant Pot is a rice cooker, too. Start your own white or brown rice in the cooker when you order your takeout, and you should have perfect rice by the time the doorbell rings.
10. Give Leftovers New Life
Just straight-up reheating a meal in the Instant Pot can be easier than doing it in the microwave, where you often have to open the door to stir and sometimes have the whole thing overflow and make a mess. You can even put glass or ceramic dishes into the IP to heat up multiple items at once. You can use the steam, saute, or even slow cook functions to reheat, depending on the food.
But maybe your family, like mine, balks at eating the same dish two days in a row. Or maybe you have only a few ounces of meat left from your pot roast and are wondering what to do with it. This Instant Pot rice pilaf is an example of how you can take yesterday’s food, mix it with something new — in this case, rice — hit a button, and have a flavorful new meal in minutes. The pressure cooker’s way of infusing flavors throughout the whole dish makes this more successful than other attempts to refresh leftovers.
11. Make Your Own Yogurt
Yogurt can be a healthy snack for kids and adults alike, but commercial yogurts can be both expensive and over-sugared. The Instant Pot can turn milk plus a little starter into yogurt overnight, and you can even make it in individual jars so it’s somewhat portable. (As long as the person carrying it is old enough to responsibly handle glass.)
As with many things, the amount of money you can save by making your own yogurt increases as you move up the quality chain. You might score portable cups of store-brand yogurt on sale for 30 cents each, which would be tough to beat in your own kitchen. But if you enjoy premium, organic Greek yogurts, or if you want to customize your yogurt, homemade can pay off. For instance, one gallon of milk can make the equivalent of four 32 oz. containers of yogurt. If you pay $6 for a gallon of organic milk, that’s like paying $1.50 per container of yogurt, while the same amount of organic yogurt might run for $6 at the grocery store.
12. Make Special Diets More Affordable
If you’ve gone paleo or vegan, and are also busy, you could spend a fortune on specially prepared foods. Or, you could use your Instant Pot to make the specialized foods at home.
The paleo recipes for Instant Pot on the Internet are so bountiful that I have used some of them myself, even though there is not a paleo bone in my body. I loved this sweet potato mash from PaleoPot because you don’t have to dice anything — you can throw in whole or sliced sweet potatoes and go. And hello, bone broth? The blog Stupid Easy Paleo recommends simmering bones on the stove top for up to 48 hours — or in the Instant Pot for two hours. If you were making bone broth every week as the author does, which would you choose?
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