An Ode To The Instant Pot AKA How I Started Cooking at Home On A Regular Basis.
The Instant Pot has been around for a while, but for those who don’t know what it is, it’s basically a slow cooker that can do way more than a typical slow cooker – it can sauté, steam, pressure cook (cook faster), make rice, and it can be a slow cooker. Honestly, when I first heard about it, I thought it would be a passing fad, and even though I kept hearing good things about Instant Pots, I put off buying one for years. I have a crockpot that is collecting dust in my cabinet... Why would I need another kitchen tool to take up space?!?
While I like the idea of cooking at home, my husband Jeff and I always thought that it had to be so much more difficult than it actually is.
We love food. We love making food. And, for some reason, that meant that we took a long time to make dinners (i.e., shopping for groceries every day versus once or twice a week, and trying to go above and beyond on even simple meals during the week). We also didn’t appreciate simple meals like you usually see on (what I consider to be) a typical dinner plate: one protein, one vegetable, and one starch (think carbs). I call this the traditional meal.
For some reason it felt so boring to even think about making that it was never the go-to when we thought about what we wanted for dinner. Even though, we both knew that the key to getting healthy for the both of us was to stick to simple meals… and that doesn’t mean one-pot dishes like pasta or soup.
We are trying to change that with small healthy goals.
#1 - Working Out:
Over the past six months, Jeff and I have really focused on wellness. We knew that going slow and steady would be the best (and only) way to hit our health goals, so we’ve created sustainable habits for incorporating workouts and cooking at home into our daily lives...as opposed to going hardcore for a brief period of time and then stopping altogether out of exhaustion.
We knew that it would take time to create a habit around meal planning – that it is one of our problem areas because our schedules change every week.
The first step we took was getting a home gym. With some small weights, a treadmill, and a TV with Youtube, Hulu, and Amazon Prime (they have some great HITT workout videos on there… who knew?!?), we were able to do small workouts before getting ready for work or right after Rye went to bed. Working out become a habit, and now I don’t feel right if I don’t start my day with a 10-minute jog, either outside or in my garage.
I would much rather do shorter workouts throughout the day than spend an hour sweating it out. I find that I am more willing to get in a few jumping jacks or calf raises while waiting for my coffee to reheat if I am not exhausted from one hardcore workout.
#2 - Cooking at Home / Meal Planning:
Now that Jeff and I are feeling good about working out, we can focus on creating structure around meal plans. This does not mean that we are going to spend hours every Sunday afternoon planning out each meal for the week, but it does mean that we’re going to make it a point to cook meals at home. Even if we cannot both be home for dinner, being more mindful about food and preparing it at home is definitely the next step toward our health goals. I tend to eat at networking events (which means cheese plates and wine), and Jeff grabs food on the commute home from the Cisco Pleasanton office, which usually means food that isn’t the best for him. It’s time to change that!
A podcast called Plan Simple Meals aired an episode entitled “Boundaries on Well Planned Series” with Megan Flatt (another amazing boss lady I JUST started following on Instagram). This episode advocated an idea: simplify your home cooking by categorizing each day of your week, identifying different nights for your meals (e.g., soup night, grain bowl night, bean night, etc.).
So Jeff and I decided that every Tuesday will be Taco Tuesday, every Thursday will be soup/curry night, Fridays will be dedicated to fancy sandwiches (hello tortas), Saturdays to pizza or eating out, and Mondays/Wednesdays and Sundays to leftovers or traditional dinners (as I mentioned above, those are super simple – one protein, one veg, and one carb).
Adding this structure around dinnertime has actually made us more creative with our meals. Weird to think about, but hear me out. Mia from the Plan Simple Meals podcast said it best: “When I used to think about soup recipes on the spot, I would think about my go-to soup.” Making these categories actually allows for more creativity because there is no back and forth trying to figure out what to eat…which does away with decision fatigue and subsequently grabbing takeout in a last-ditch effort for ease.
#3 - How the Instant Pot Comes Into the Mix...
Don’t worry; I have to make sure to bring this post back to the handy Kitchen Machine – the Instant Pot. Well, over the holidays it is on sale everywhere, which makes it the BEST TIME TO GET ONE. I grabbed mine from Amazon over Thanksgiving weekend and have only had it for a week, but holy sh*t! It works. It is everything they say! I mean, how else can you make GOOD rice in a few minutes?! Also, with the pressure cooker feature, you don’t have to soak your dried beans overnight to get them to plump up. YES! This means more Rancho Gordo beans for me (a local Napa Valley brand). I have already started searching the internet for HEALTHY INSTANT POT RECIPES!
So, I want to hear from you. What tips do you have for small wins to become healthier??