If you’re having a hard time sticking to your grocery budget, have you thought about looking at meal prep? It can save you a lot of money!
Think about it this way: If you get an $8 carry-out lunch five days a week, that adds up to $40 a week and $2,080 in one year. Preparing those lunches at home can easily cut that food spending in half.
Instant Pot meal prep: 5 easy steps to save time and money
After doing weekly meal prep consistently for the past six months, I’ve discovered another benefit: I lost 20 pounds.
My secret weapon for meal prep is an Instant Pot electric pressure cooker. The Instant Pot has exploded in popularity over the last few years and was the #1 bestseller during Amazon Prime Day 2018.
Read on for my step-by-step guide to help you get started with quick and easy meal prep using an Instant Pot…
1. Buy the right Instant Pot
The Instant Pot Duo 7-In-1 Multi-Use Programmable Cooker is a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, steam, sauté/searing, yogurt maker and warmer — all in one device.
If you’re shopping around for a deal on an Instant Pot, you should pay attention to the price and size of the unit.
Although there are several sizes to choose from, the Duo 6 Quart is suitable for most families. The manufacturer says it’s large enough to prepare a meal to feed four to six people.
I have the Instant Pot Duo 6 Quart and think it’s a perfect size. I keep my Instant Pot on the counter even when I’m not using it. This version doesn’t take up too much space, yet it prepares enough food to meal prep.
- Duo Mini (3 Quart): For 2-3 individuals, ideal for single servings, side dishes
- Duo 6 Quart: For families, 4-6 people
- Duo 8 Quart: For large families, 6+ people
The 6-quart version sold out on Amazon Prime Day 2018 when it was on sale for $58.99, which is $40 off its regular price.
Black Friday and Prime Day are two days that you can count on Instant Pot deals, but our Clark Deals team is on the lookout for bargains on electric pressure cookers all the time. Sign up for our newsletters to get deal alerts!
2. Gather some food storage containers
Food storage containers are a must-have for meal prep, but please don’t spend a lot of money on them if you’re just starting out!
Amazon and other major retailers sell a lot of containers to help you with meal prep, from flimsy plastic to sturdy glass. Expect to pay a lot more for glass containers compared to plastic ones.
I recently saw a 10-piece starter set of high-quality plastic storage containers for $5.99 at T.J. Maxx. That’s pretty cheap!
Buying expensive food storage containers isn’t going to help you meal prep any better. Get in the habit of preparing your meals in advance for a few weeks before you think about splurging on a higher-end set.
Let us know in the comments below if you have a favorite brand of affordable food storage containers for meal prep.
3. Make your shopping list
I typically meal prep breakfast, lunches and snacks to last at least three days or sometimes the entire week.
Before planning my menu, I get organized by reading the weekly circular from my grocery store, checking to see if I have leftover ingredients in my kitchen and looking for offers on cash back apps like Ibotta and Fetch Rewards.
I also challenged myself to pay for groceries with cash only to see if it can save me money. Take Clark’s Cash Challenge here.
4. Let the pressure cooking begin…
Once you get home from the grocery store, the meal prepping can really begin!
When I meal prep with my Instant Pot only, I like to set aside at least two hours to get everything done. However, you can cut that time in half if you multi-task and use other appliances like your stove, oven and microwave.
Either way, it’s best to start with the meal that will take the longest to cook, which is typically some type of a soup for me.
The suggested cooking times for Instant Pot recipes can be a bit deceptive. You must consider the time it takes for the pressure to build and a natural release if the recipe calls for one.
Those factors are impacted by the amount of liquid in the Instant Pot, so some recipes aren’t precise about the cook time.
Earlier this year, I used my Instant Pot for 14 days in a row and was surprised how much I liked it. I made rice, butternut squash soup, steel-cut oats, steamed broccoli, potatoes, burrito bowls — even macaroni and cheese.
5. Label and store your meals
Once I finish cooking my meals in the Instant Pot, they go straight into the storage containers that I line up on my countertop.
To make sure that the food you prepared doesn’t go to waste, add labels and dates when you think it’s necessary. I like to do this for items like chopped up fruit and vegetables that I put in the freezer to use down the road.
As far as your fridge goes, clear out enough space so that your prepared meals are visible when you’re ready to grab them and go!
My Instant Pot isn’t just a money-saver, it also saves me time. Since you can set it and forget it, I’m able to get so much else done around the house when I normally would have to stay in the kitchen to watch the stove.
After cooking, cleaning the inner cooking pot is also a breeze, whether you’re doing it by hand or in the dishwasher.
I use my Instant Pot so much that I sometimes notice stains on the inner pot and odors coming from the silicone sealing ring. Vinegar is the magic ingredient to tackle both of these problems. See my step-by-step guide here.
Do you meal prep with an Instant Pot to save time and money? Tell us about your favorite recipe in the comments below!