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Frugal Hack: Batch Cooking

Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links as of 11/22/2018.

Ready for more money saving tips? Last week, we saw how bringing a lunch to work can save us over $250,000! I promised I would share with you the secret of how to stay consistent. So here it is: Batch Cooking.

Here is how it works:

  • Designate an off day as a cooking day and cook a whole bunch.

  • Package your wares in serving sized containers for the rest of the week. Then, all you have to do is grab a container in the morning, and you’re good to go!

  • To make this process easier, I have a secret weapon… keep reading

How it works in my house

For me, batch cooking day is usually Sunday because I’m a primary care doc now with a steady schedule (Hallelujah!). When I was a hospitalist, cooking day was more random and dependent on my schedule.

This Sunday, I’m making an easy chicken and rice casserole and some Indian food. The chicken and rice casserole was a total hit with my boys last week, so I think I’ll repeat. It is a really easy recipe from the Joy of Cooking (or as I call it, “The Bible”). You can find it here.

I make the even easier version, substituting for the sauce: a can of condensed cream of chicken, a can of condensed cream of mushroom and 1 cup of milk. I also skip the nuts because of allergy issues. Still tastes pretty good.

My Secret Weapon!

To make the cooked chicken, I deploy my secret weapon: The Instant Pot! No rolling paper necessary. OK seriously, I have never been much of kitchen gadgets kind of person and am generally a minimalist when it comes to things in my home. But this thing is worth the money and the space. In fact, I have two.

I discovered the Instant Pot thanks to the Physician Mom’s Group, where this gadget is somewhat of an obsession. I learned early in my career that if I wanted to boost efficiency, I needed to watch and learn from successful working moms. They are the masters of efficiency.

How the Instant Pot Works

Here’s a pretty good video of why this thing is so amazing. The Instant Pot works as a skillet, a pressure cooker, a warmer, a rice maker, a yogurt maker, and more. I love this thing. I wrote this piece and then decided to become an affiliate marketer for it. No harm in promoting something I already like. Here is the link if you want to help TFP out with your purchase.

Instant Pot's Promo Video

How does the Instant Pot work? Magic. So as I understand it, the Instant Pot is an electric pressure cooker that has a smart microprocessor built in. The pot monitors and adjusts the cooking pressure for various foods as they cook.

For example, for the chicken and rice casserole, all I do is lay some chicken tenderloins in the pot, close the lid, and press "Poultry."

The cooker comes up with the pressure needed and gets to work. When it is done, it beeps and I have perfectly cooked, moist chicken and broth that I can use for whatever I want: a casserole, tacos, a salad, whatever.

Same chicken, just lightly shredded with a single fork.

Worried about safety?

The Instant Pot claims to be exceedingly safe because the microprocessor is monitoring the pressure. So, I can put stuff in the pot and then go out for a run. I would never leave a traditional pressure cooker on the stove unsupervised, but the Instant Pot seems very safe. It does the pressure cooking, and then goes to “Keep Warm” mode until you are ready to eat.

My first time using the Instant Pot Indian Recipes

I remember the first time I used it, I made chicken biryani. Usually, this is a dish that takes over my entire kitchen and uses almost every dish we have. With the Instant Pot, I could stir fry the chicken and spices in the “Saute” mode, then add the rice, saffron, milk, etc, and set it to cook under pressure. Then, I could just walk away and spend some time with my family. I couldn’t believe how well it turned out! I was hooked.

More Quick, Healthy Instant Pot Recipes

This week, I made another favorite of ours, simple Yellow Lentil Daal. This is super easy- Just saute some cumin, onion, and tomato in "Saute" mode, then add the lentils and water and cook on "Manual" pressure mode for 12 minutes. Walk away and come back to yummy lentil soup. You can find all kinds of Instant Pot Indian recipes on google and various Facebook groups. I love the Facebook group, "Instant Pot for Indian Cooking" for recipes.

My Indian Cooking this week

Also, up this week were some Alloo Methi (Potatoes with Fenugreek) and Roti. I got these together on the stove while the Daal cooked in one Instant Pot and the rice cooked in the other. Now, I won’t have to worry about lunch for most of the week and we will have plenty for the kids to get in to when they come home hungry from school.

Another way to make life easier with frugal living

To store these yummy treats, I divide them into serving sized portions and stored them in the fridge in toxin-free, glass containers.

And just like that, we are well on our way to saving a over a hundred dollars this week and thousands for retirement and financial indepence, while eating healthier, too.

Win, win baby!


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