FOOD & DRINK
10/11/2019 05:45 EDT

How To Cook Cheap, Delicious Meals In Your Instant Pot

Dining out may seem like the easiest option, but it's also the most expensive. Here's how the Instant Pot can make cooking just as easy as ordering takeout.

The Instant Pot is a beloved multicooker, capable of turning a handful of inexpensive ingredients into a delicious meal in record time … if you know what you’re doing. Thankfully, there are a few super easy tips that’ll help you harness the power of the Instant Pot. It can be the most-used kitchen tool you own in no time. 

To help you cook affordable, quick (not to mention tasty) meals, we spoke to Aileen Clark, an Instant Pot expert, food blogger and author of the new cookbook “The ‘I Love My Instant Pot’ Affordable Meals Recipe Book.” Clark told us how to cut down the time we spend preparing dinner, why frozen meat should be integrated into our next meal and which inexpensive ingredient in the bulk food aisle can transform dinner. 

Keep reading to find a quick, delicious Chicken Salsa Tacos recipe straight from her new cookbook. It’s ready to eat in less than 30 minutes! 

Always follow these cost-saving tips 

Before we get into tips on how the Instant Pot specifically will help you save money, Clark said these three general tips are important to keep in mind to maximize savings. 

Stock your pantry

First, stock your pantry with food you always use. “Make an inventory of what they have on hand,” Clark told HuffPost. “You don’t want to buy duplicates. You can save money incorporating what you already have on hand into your planned meals.” Canned beans, rice, chicken broth and canned veggies all get a thumbs-up from her. 

The Washington Post via Getty Images

Make a meal plan

Once you know what you have on hand, you can easily plan what to eat for the week. “Plan a leftover day too,” she said. “It’s a day off cooking, and you’ll probably have extra. Accounting for that into your meal plan can also save some money.” She recommended cooking breakfast and lunch ahead of time (Instant Pot egg bites are a favorite), and making dinner every night. Many Instant Pot dinners can be ready in under a half-hour, including prep time.

Stick to your list

The grocery store is full of food designed to entice you into buying it. But stay strong! “You’ll end up spending [at least] $50-100 more if you let yourself fill your cart,” Clark said. “People struggle with that, but stick with your list and you’ll save money.”

Instant Pot tips that will save you time and money

All the recipes found in her new cookbook are $12 or less for a serving size of four. Clark swears by these rules, as they’ve helped her easily feed her family without spending a ton of dough.

Choose cheaper cuts of meat

It might not seem like a big deal to select one cut of meat that’s a couple of bucks more expensive than another, but it adds up. “Choosing cheaper cuts of meat makes a difference,” Clark said. “Swap out a recipe that calls for steak tips to ground beef. Incorporating [these changes] into a recipe will save you money.” Keep in mind that a cheaper cut of meat may have a difference in fat and/or connective tissue, which will affect the cooking time. Include a meat that has a similar nutritional value and you’ll be good to go. Just ask your butcher if you need help.

Cooking with frozen meat is less expensive, but still delicious

Here’s something you rarely read in a recipe: “Use frozen meat.” Turns out, if you have an Instant Pot, thawing chicken or beef doesn’t need to be part of the process. “Don’t worry about it, throw it in there frozen,” she said.

Frozen meat will last much longer than fresh, meaning you won’t have to waste money on fresh meat that you don’t end up using that week.

Keep in mind that not all cuts of chicken or beef are ideal to be used frozen. “I don’t like using frozen big cuts, like a whole chicken,” Clark said. “Some people do it, but I don’t recommend it.” 

Instead, use smaller cuts of meat. She recommended pork chops and chuck roasts along with chicken breasts and thighs. In fact, she said, frozen bags of boneless, skinless chicken are cost-effective and easy to prepare. Just keep in mind that frozen meat does take longer to cook. “Increase the cook time of whatever recipe you’re using by 50%,” she said. “I did a lot of testing, and 50% longer works for the meat to be cooked all the way through without being overcooked.” 

One more important tip: To ensure the most tender meat comes out of your Instant Pot, make sure to never do a quick release. “When you’re cooking meat, do a natural pressure release,” she said. “It’s similar to letting meat sit on the counter to rest. If you do a quick pressure release, it’ll cause the meat to get tough and dried out.” If you’re just a bit patient, she says, the chicken from an Instant Pot is so tender you can shred it with a fork.

Save time by cooking grains and walking away

Manygrains are good for you, not to mention affordable, super filling and easy to prepare in an Instant Pot. “I love cooking grains in my Instant Pot, especially rice!” Clark said. “White rice only takes about 12 minutes. Stick in your liquid and rice, set it and walk away. You don’t have to check to see if the water is evaporated or to see if it’s done. It does it all for you.” Think of all the time you’ll save not hovering over the stove.

Clark also recommended whipping up risotto in an Instant Pot. Cooking it on a stove is labor-intensive because it requires constant stirring. “In your Instant Pot, you just throw it all in there, give it a quick stir and let it cook,” she said. “Because of the way it pressure cooks, it automatically gives you a creamy texture that you’d get from stirring, but you don’t have to [physically] do it.” Her new book features recipes for mushroom, broccoli cheese and sweet potato risottos. 

Stews are perfect for big-batch cooking in an Instant Pot

If you’re going to go through the work of preparing a stew, you might as well make double. “When cooking stews, I always make a big batch,” Clark noted. “There’s a line inside of your Instant Pot that says max ― as long as you don’t go above that line, you’re fine. And if you’re making double the recipe, you can still keep the cook time the same.” There’s no shame in making enough for leftovers, as there are multiple benefits. “You’re saving money from not eating out, and you’re giving yourself a day off from cooking,” she said. “I’m a food blogger and a cookbook author and I don’t want to cook every night either!”

"The 'I Love My Instant Pot' Affordable Meals Recipe Book"
These Salsa Chicken Tacos can be made with fresh or frozen chicken breasts.

 

Salsa Chicken Tacos

Courtesy of “The ‘I Love My Instant Pot’ Affordable Meals Recipe Book

Switch up taco night with these crowd-pleasing Salsa Chicken Tacos. The combination of chunky salsa and taco seasoning packs loads of flavor into the tender chicken. These chicken tacos can be made with fresh or frozen chicken breasts. Simply add 10 minutes of pressure cook time if using frozen chicken breasts.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 cups chunky salsa

  • 1 cup chicken broth

  • 1 (1-ounce) packet taco seasoning

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts

  • 8 crunchy taco shells

  • 2 cups shredded romaine lettuce

  • 1 cup grated Mexican-blend cheese

Directions

1. In a medium bowl, combine chunky salsa, broth, and taco seasoning. Whisk to combine. Pour salsa mixture into Instant Pot.

2. Add chicken breast to Instant Pot and stir.

3. Close lid and set pressure release to Sealing.

4. Press Manual or Pressure Cook button and adjust time to 10 minutes.

5. When the timer beeps, allow pressure to release naturally for 10 minutes and then quick release remaining pressure. Unlock lid and remove it.

6. Use two forks to shred chicken.

7. Serve chicken in taco shells topped with shredded lettuce and cheese.

Photo gallery All The Instant Pot Recipes You Still Need To Make See Gallery