For January, I challenged myself only to use my Instant Pot for the entire month.
I do my shopping on Sundays for the entire week, and I was able to spend less than $100 every time.
There are a lot of things I learned from completing this challenge, but here are some things that really surprised me.
- Shopping from what you have at home REALLY does save you money. I have been shopping my freezer and pantry FIRST before creating my Instant Pot meal plan. Then, I decide what recipes I want to make based on what I have at home. I focus on meats, as that's one of the most expensive ingredients in any recipe.
- Instant Pot's have A TON of different functions. Unlike the slow cooker, you can use an Instant Pot to cook rice, jam, proof dough, and even make yogurt.
- Instant Pot meals don't all taste the same. I went into this journey, thinking that I would get bored with the food selection. To my surprise, I was able to find such a huge selection of recipes from all types of sources, like Pinterest, Magazines, and cookbooks.
- Each recipe made a lot of food, which provided me with a lot of leftovers. This was great because I didn't have to spend a lot of money on lunch supplies, and it gave us plenty of food for extra dinners on the nights I didn't feel like cooking. If you are going to do a monthly meal plan of Instant Pot meals and you have a smaller family, I highly recommend that you plan for leftover days, so food doesn't go to waste. If you need help with meal planning, consider $5 Meal Plan as an option.
- Have a planned grocery shopping list! Use this list to see if any of the ingredients you are going to buy are on sale or can be substituted for ones that are on sale. The website and smartphone apps I currently LOVE using are Checkout 51, Ibotta, Walmart Savings Catcher, Ebates / Rakuten, Fetch Rewards, and the Krazy Coupon Lady.
I spent a total of $242 on groceries and $52 on eating out in January. That brings my total food spending to $294. Every month, I allocate $400 to my food budget, and I use the cash in my food envelope for eating out and grocery trips. I have a small family, just my son, my boyfriend, and myself.
WHAT I LEARNED USING ONLY AN INSTANT POT
I like the Slow Cooker more.
Besides what I mentioned above, there were a ton of things that I learned throughout the month of January and only cooking with an Instant Pot. The first one – I enjoyed cooking with a slow cooker more. This is because with a slow cooker, I was able to save time by completing my meals in the morning and not having to worry about it when I got home from work. Dinner was already done.
It could save you on your utility bill.
Cooking with an Instant Pot over a slow cooker could potentially save you money on your utilities. When I was cooking with my slow cooker, it would be on anywhere from 4 to 8 hours a day. When I transitioned to my Instant Pot, I realized that most recipes took only about 30 minutes to complete. This could result in a lower utility bill because no appliances are being left on during the day.
I can cook meat in bulk quickly.
One great thing that I realized when cooking with my Instant Pot is that it's great for cooking meat in bulk. For example, if you want to cook shredded chicken for a few different recipes, you can quickly cook it in your Instant Pot. When I made my Chicken Enchilada's, for example, I was able to use some of the leftover shredded chicken to make some shredded chicken sandwiches with it the following night for a quick and simple dinner.
You can cook an entire meal.
I also found out you can cook pasta noodles in your Instant Pot! I was very skeptical about this at first, but the noodles turned out great. Besides that, I didn't have to dirty another pot! This saved time not only during the cooking process, but also the cleaning up process.
I no longer had to thaw meat.
For the most part, cooking with a slow cooker saved me an immense amount of time. Although the meals themselves had a longer cook time, they were already done when I got home. The one thing that the Instant Pot does well when it comes to time is cooking frozen meat. If you accidentally forget to thaw meat for dinner, go ahead and cook it from frozen in your Instant Pot!
If you are new to an Instant Pot, use a recipe.
There was a definite learning curve when transitioning from cooking with my slow cooker to my Instant Pot. As a mom, there have been nights where I would whip up a meal by using random ingredients I had in my cupboards. With an Instant Pot, this isn't very easy to do because the cook times are so different from what I'm used to. I quickly learned that going off of recipes is best, especially if cooking with the Instant Pot is new to you.
Thicken your sauces.
When making soups, stews, or dishes that require a thicker base, you may need to thicken the final product up a bit. This can be done by adding a cornstarch slurry before you serve. I noticed that when cooking with my Instant Pot, things came out more on the watery side, so I had to add the slurry in a few recipes.
Out of all of the recipes that I cooked in January, this was by far my most favorite as well as my family's. It was also the quickest and easiest lasagna I've ever made, and I will definitely be making it again!