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How My Instant Pot Helped Me Waste Less Food and Money

Destigmatizing the pressure cooker, one recipe at a time

by Marissa Blahnik
November 25, 2019 | Living

While chatting with a group at an after-work happy hour, the talk turned to cooking. The folks around me shared their favorite weeknight dishes and then I piped up to mention my new go-to pressure cooker meal.

You know those moments where it feels as if the air is getting sucked out of the room? This was one of them. I had committed a gross social gaffe. I had bared my suburban lifestyle a little too openly, it seems.

But here’s the thing: pressure cookers, in my case the Instant Pot, or IP for short, are not only for suburban moms (guilty) or grandmothers. I am convinced a pressure cooker is the perfect kitchen gadget for all the workaholics and lazies, for those of us strapped for cash or trying to stick to a healthy diet.

The proof is in the pudding:

Waste less, more filling

We are a country of food wasters. In the U.S., between 30 and 40 percent of all food winds up in the trash.

If you’re single, it can be a tricky thing to finish the food you buy before it starts to go bad. Even if you’re a well-intentioned meal prepper, plans change and that recipe you carefully shopped for gets pushed further and further down the calendar before those ingredients become a lost cause.

An Instant Pot won’t magically make you more mindful of how wasteful you are. I find, however, that because things cook up so fast, I am more likely to actually cook what I shopped for. And since many of the recipes are sauce-based or soups, they freeze fantastically well. I can stock up enough leftovers in my freezer that we can eat them for a week and not spend a dime.

[ICYMI: How to Stop Wasting Food as a Single Person]

The space race

Apartment kitchens are often either too small or you’re sharing the space with too many roommates and their totally essential collection of 13 water bottles and travel mugs. There’s no room for a variety of single-purpose kitchen tools, if you have them. And if you don’t, who’s got the money to stock up?

This little kitchen wonder can support your cravings in a variety of ways. It’s a: pressure cooker, rice cooker, slow cooker, yogurt maker, popcorn popper, dough proofer and you can use it to sauté and warm whatever you need. What’s that crock pot done for you lately?

The hustle

We are a busy bunch. We work hard and play hard and in lives full of side hustles and fur babies, making a nice meal can get edged out for meals on the run.

Many pressure cooker meals require little prep other than putting all the ingredients in at once and pressing a button. You can throw a meal together and walk the dog while it cooks. Or finish that work presentation you’ve been procrastinating. Or mediate. Thirty minutes later, you’ll feel like you really can have it all.

No time to shop this week? Pop open that jar of salsa on your shelf, throw in some chicken and you’ve got tacos in a hurry.

Rising to the top

When I first dipped my toe into pressure cooker and Instant Pot territory, I was overwhelmed by the sea of recipes out there. People are crazy for this cooker and there is no shortage of Facebook groups or blogger-turned-food influencer articles about all the things you can whip up.

To spare you from having to wade through the sea of duplicates and duds, here are a few of my favorites:

Chicken Enchilada Soup

Quick and easy, this soup comes together with common ingredients, many of which can be stored on a shelf or freezer for easy planning.

Thai Peanut Chicken Ramen

Another 30-minute meal, use just one pot to cook up this creamy combo.

Butter Chicken

For the past 10 years, my husband and I have been on a quest for the tastiest butter chicken recipe. We’ve cooked up versions that have taken half the afternoon to prep. We’ve also used canned sauces and everything in-between. This recipe sits at the nexus of fast, fresh and delicious. It’s also a Keto recipe, if that’s your thing.

Crispy Pork Carnitas

This is not a quick recipe but I assure you it is worth it. Put aside some time on the weekend to cook this up and the leftovers will never make it to your freezer. You’ll want to eat it at every meal until the last morsel is gone.

Turkey Meatball and Ditalini Soup

Another more time-intensive Instant Pot meal, but sometimes you just have to treat yourself. This hearty soup is full of vegetables and will brighten any winter night.

Next up on my “must try” list? Vanilla extract or homemade coffee creamer.

So, don’t roll your eyes if your Aunt Karen is raving about her IP Mississippi Pot Roast at Thanksgiving or if your mom gifts you a pressure cooker for Christmas. Lug it home and give it a try.

Marissa Blahnik
Marissa Blahnik is the managing editor of Rewire.
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