Making the decision to stockpile 100 freezer instant pot freezer meals before baby was maybe the best decision I made during pregnancy. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t make all the best choices in my pregnancy. By the time I found out we were expecting, we had just demoed our kitchen, which took months to get back together (cue me trying not to vomit in front of our countertop installation team, or trying to nap while there was a crew of men installing flooring). We then decided to sell our house and buy a house, only to end up living with my parents for 6 weeks. Then we bought a house that needed a full remodel, and it wasn’t until well into my third trimester that we were able to even start unpacking. Yikes!
The good news was that I was really ready to give that new kitchen a workout—which I absolutely did. In my third trimester, I waited and waited for nesting instincts to kick in. I was really excited to actually want to clean baseboards since that is so not my personality. Sadly, that nesting instinct never kicked in….but I think it showed up in another way—by me stockpiling over 100 instant pot freezer meals before baby Lily showed up. I was like a crazy lady in the kitchen…but it was so worth it!
I am not being dramatic when I say this is life-changing…it is! We have been able to cut down on eating out AND on the number of dishes we have to wash.
AND…I attribute all this healthy eating to helping me get back to my pre-pregnancy weight within a month of having Lily!
So, here’s exactly how I was able to make over 100 instant pot freezer meals before baby.
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First, Stock Up on Your Groceries (and Save Money!)
First of all, some required reading. I shared earlier how to save money on groceries without coupons and still eat healthy. Using this method I was able to slash our food budget by 2/3—a massive difference that has allowed us a lot more freedom in life! I highly encourage you to read that post first, because it’s foundational to how I stockpiled all these freezer meals! The post explains it in much more detail, but to summarize quickly:
- Look at ads weekly
- Create a meal plan for the week and get creative about how you can pair sale items together
- Write down exactly what you need for the week and stick to it
- Bulk buy items that are an exceptionally good deal
- Plan to freeze 75% of what you buy
- Supplement the sales with items that you need weekly
Find Your Motivation
I had already been using the above method and it had worked great pre-pregnancy, but during pregnancy 2 things happened that made me kick it all up a notch. 1. We were remodeling the kitchen and had no other way to cook outside of the instant pot and 2. I became kind of obsessed with the idea of having 3 months worth of meals ready before Lily’s big debut so I could cross one big to-do off my list for her fourth trimester. I knew I might be feeling tired and a bit gross postpartum, and wanted to head off the temptation to order takeout every night as I learned parenthood.
Come Up With Your Game Plan
So, I came up with a plan. I started this 8 weeks before baby was due. I looked at the grocery ads every single week, and found what items were on sale. For example, chicken tenders or thighs were often on rotation as a deal of the week.
I then started googling instant pot freezer recipes with that particular ingredient. So “instant pot freezer meals chicken thighs” or “instant pot freezer meals ground beef”, etc. I then compiled a google sheet (super nerdy) with lists of recipes under each meat. Before I added them to my sheet, I made sure to read the comments on each blog post—a lot of times I came across a recipe that sounded fantastic, but the comments suggested otherwise, so that did not make the list. I wanted a reliable list of vetted instant pot freezer meals.
Once I had my list, I’d pick 4 different recipes to make each week, and make 4 meals of each recipe, so 16 meals total. The main meat was always whatever was on sale…so sometimes it was 16 meals of chicken breast, and other times it was 8 ground beef meals and 8 chicken thigh meals. One time we got really lucky and pot roast was a crazy good deal, so we made 8 pot roast freezer meals.
Make Your List (Check it Twice)
I would then (in my dorky google sheet) would list every single ingredient needed for each meal with the amount I would need to purchase to make quadruple each recipe. If it was a sale item, I would also note the price so I could make sure I was buying the right thing. I usually did this at night while I was watching TV.
On Wednesday, which was our store’s double ad day, I would go shopping. It would usually take me an hour to get through the store, but by the end I had it down to 30 minutes or less! I pulled up the Google Sheet on my phone, and went through the list in order. Scott came with me the majority of the time, and I would give him a list of items to get while I gathered other items. We stuck to what was on our list 99% of the time—but every once in awhile a pregnancy craving hit me and we’d end up with a renegade piece of chocolate or something. 😜
Assemble Your Meals
When we got home, I would try to immediately get to work assembling meals while all the ingredients were sitting out. If you are using ground beef, it needs to be cooked before freezing, so if I was making any beef meals, I’d have ground beef cooking in a pan (usually two pans!) while assembling chicken meals since they don’t need to be cooked. I used both these ziploc freezer bags and these handy freezer containers to put the food in. I liked the freezer containers a lot, but they are definitely more pricey so I used those mainly for soups and stews and used ziploc for the rest.
Note- if you use ziplocs, make sure to freeze them in a round shape (you can use a bowl) so they fit in your instant pot!
Assembling the meals is really easy—I would write the instructions on the ziploc bags along with the name of the recipe first, then dump in all the ingredients and freeze. I made sure to batch everything—so if the chicken had to be quartered, I quartered the chicken for every single recipe before adding to the bag.
If Scott was home and able, he would help me. If he was out with clients or had calls to make, I’d do it on my own. Either way I got a nice foot rub by the end because my feet were killing me!
It usually took me 2-3 hours to finish, but by the end I had 16 meals done! We would eat four of the meals throughout the week, and save 12 for post-baby. Trying the meals weekly was really helpful—I could adjust cooking notes if something needed longer, or if I really loved a recipe, I could make 8-12 of it the next time that meat was on sale rather than just my standard 4.
I did this every Wednesday for 10 weeks—so right up until I was 37 weeks pregnant. I knew we were having her at 38 weeks, so we took that week off to enjoy eating out. The night before Lily was born I went in and counted how many freezer meals we had—our grand total was 108. I was so proud!
I keep them all in an upright freezer that we keep in our laundry room. A deep freezer would also work, but you definitely wouldn’t be able to fit all of this in a regular freezer—you could just do this on a smaller scale. Check Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace and you should be able to find a good deal!
Having these meals have been so helpful. Every night we pick what sounds good, stick it in the Instant Pot, and feed Lily. By the time she is done eating and in bed, our dinner is ready!
One other thing that has been super helpful is getting a second Instant Pot. I started off with the 6-quart Instant Pot, which worked great. My parents were kind enough to gift us with an 8-quart Instant Pot, and we frequently use both. We will often cook rice in one pot while cooking the main dish in the other, or use one for overnight oats while the other is making applesauce, etc. I think most people are fine with just one Instant Pot, but I would highly recommend getting an extra Instant Pot insert or two so you always have one available. I also highly recommend this Instant Pot silicone lid —you can keep any leftovers in the metal insert, stick on the lid and put it in the fridge. Easy!
So, now that we have had Lily for 6 weeks (sniff! time flies!!), are we planning on going back to the “regular” way of cooking? NO WAY. We both have said we will never go back to cooking meals nightly and will continue to batch cook our freezer meals. It has made our life so much easier and made our eating so much healthier!
And that’s how we stockpiled 100 Instant Pot freezer meals before baby. Phew!