On more than one occasion, a friend has come over and seen my Instant Pot on the kitchen counter and asked "What is that?" In response I like to joke, "Oh, it's my time machine!"
My magical time-saving Instant Pot has been in heavy rotation this fall, making quick work of big-batch staples and weeknight dinners. It's a pro tool for Power Hour, because you can cook a round of eggs, grains, whole potatoes, and more in the Instant Pot — all while your oven works, too. Then you can put it to use once again during the week to make near-instant dinners.
Also, a quick note on food storage: I used zip-top bags for this plan, but I make sure to wash and reuse them several times to cut down on waste and maximize their use. You can also easily swap in any washable food storage containers — we've linked to a few of our favorites below, too.
This meal plan tackles breakfast, lunch, and dinner prep for my family of four.
The two-hour prep session uses a few quick rounds of Instant Pot cooking to prep some of your meals completely, but it also shows you how to prep the ingredients for four different Instant Pot dinners that will cook in a snap on weeknights — perfect if you (like me) love to meal prep, but crave weeknight variety.
Let's get started!
My Meal Prep Goals
- Breakfast: Warm and hearty breakfasts for the whole family that are easy to reheat, including loads of hard-boiled eggs for my husband to grab on the way out the door (five days).
- Lunch: Packed salads and grain bowls for my husband and I to eat throughout the week. The kids' lunches will be packed from leftovers throughout the week (five days).
- Dinner: Almost every dinner this week (save for pizza Friday) needs to be ready to throw into the Instant Pot the minute we walk in the door. Each dinner will be parceled in numbered bags.
- Nutritional goals: Luckily, I'm not up against any allergies or special diets, but I am always trying to expose my kids to as many vegetables as possible throughout the week.
Meal Prep Plan Snapshot
- Feeds: Two adults and two elementary school-aged kids
- Prep time: 2 hours
- Meals Covered: About 80% (breakfasts and dinners for everyone, lunches for adults, and one night out planned)
- Weeknight Cooking Required? Light. All you have to do is throw things into the Instant Pot.
My Meal Plan
- Monday: Home fries with Ranch Chicken Breasts
- Tuesday: Instant Pot Chicken and Rice Burrito Bowls
- Wednesday: Instant Pot Beef Chili
- Thursday: Instant Pot Baked Potatoes with leftover chili
- Friday: Pizza night out — our family's Friday tradition
My Shopping List
- Pantry and frozen: 1 can black beans, frozen corn, tortilla chips, 1 (28-ounce can) diced tomatoes, 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste, 1 quart chicken broth, steel-cut oats, quinoa, nut butter, 1 pound dried kidney beans
- Dairy and protein: 1 dozen eggs, 3 pounds chicken breast, 2 pounds ground beef, sharp cheddar cheese, full-fat greek yogurt
- Fresh: Lemon, ginger, 1 box mixed greens, 1 box spinach, sweet potatoes, 4 russet potatoes, apples, 2 pounds small red potatoes, 1 red bell pepper, 2 yellow onions, 1 bunch green onions
I always start my meal prep session by unloading the dishwasher, filling the sink with soapy water, and pulling out the storage and lunch containers I'll need for the week. This makes cleanup easier and keeps the whole session as close to two hours as possible.
All of my prep items get stored in labeled and numbered zip-top bags, which helps me (at a glance!) keep track of everything in the fridge. It also keeps ingredients for the different steps in chronological order, as needed, for each recipe.
- Hard-boil eggs in Instant Pot: I start by hard-boiling eggs in the Instant Pot, which is super quick and makes me feel accomplished before I really get deep into meal prep. Plus, they can sit in an ice bath while I prep other things.
- Chop vegetables for home fries, chili, and burrito bowls: I won't roast the home fries until tomorrow, but I chop the potatoes, bell peppers, and onions and portion them into zip-top bags. I also chop the onion and garlic for the burrito bowls and place that in one bag, then measure out the black beans, corn, and salsa and add that to another.
- Cook Breakfast Grain Bowl on stovetop: This grain mix takes about 25 minutes to cook, so I get it going in the middle of this meal prep session and it'll be ready to pack when everything else is.
- Season chicken breasts for Monday, chop chicken for burrito bowls: Doing raw meat prep towards the end of my meal prep session means that I only have to clean my cutting board once. I season the chicken breasts I'll cook in the Instant Pot on Monday with this DIY ranch seasoning I made during my last meal prep session, then transfer them to a zip-top bag. I also chop the chicken thighs for the burrito bowls into 1-inch pieces, season with cumin and chili powder, and portion into a bag.
- Brown beef for chili: I brown the beef for Wednesday's chili and transfer it to a zip-top bag. I grate the cheese and chop the scallions and combine those in a bag, then combine the tomato paste, canned diced tomatoes, and chili seasoning in a third bag.
- Pack lunches and breakfast kits: I divvy up the grains, apples, nut butter, eggs, and fruit into packable containers. I'll add the sweet potatoes when they're done cooking.
- Cook baked potatoes and sweet potatoes in Instant Pot: Since this will require two rounds of cooking and cooling, I start the first batch as soon as my eggs are done. One batch of russets will be for Thursday's dinner and I'll eat the sweet potatoes for breakfasts and lunches this week.
A Week of Instant Pot Meals
Here's how we ate this Instant Pot meal prep and dinners throughout the week.
Breakfast: Sweet potatoes with diced apples, a drizzle of nut butter, and a sprinkling of cinnamon and salt is possibly my all-time favorite fall breakfast. Although I planned to alternate it with the grain bowls, my husband and kids got most of the grains — sometimes with hard-boiled eggs and other times with yogurt and frozen fruit — and I ate all the sweet potatoes.
Lunch: Monday's dinner of home fries and Instant Pot chicken breasts became our lunches for most of the week, partnered with salad greens and store-bought salad dressing.
Dinner: This was possibly one of my favorite weeks of dinner, ever. Not only did having everything prepped save me a ton of time, but it also gave me more time to hang out with my kiddos after school while the Instant Pot did all the work.
- Monday, Home Fries with Ranch Chicken: I unload the bags of prepped potatoes, onion, and bell pepper onto a sheet tray and toss with olive oil, garlic powder, and salt. While they roast, I use the Instant Pot to cook the ranch chicken I'd prepped. When it's done, I set some aside for future lunch salads.
- Tuesday, Instant Pot Burrito Bowls: Having already chopped the onion and garlic, seasoned the chicken thighs, and measured out the other ingredients (beans, corn, and salsa), all that's left to do is sauté the aromatics in the Instant Pot, toss in the rest of the ingredients with some broth, and bring it up to pressure. My kids gobble this up best with chips for dipping. After dinner, I also soak the beans for tomorrow's chili.
- Wednesday, Instant Pot Chili: I have the brilliant idea to dump everything into the Instant Pot and turn it on before I head out to do school and daycare pick up. Browning the beef on Sunday and soaking the beans last night make this dinner-saving maneuver possible. And honestly, if I hadn't done the prep over the weekend I would have totally skipped cooking dinner on this particularly crazy day. I garnish with my prepped cheese and scallions.
- Thursday, Instant Pot Baked Potatoes with leftover chili: We have an event at my daughter's school, so being able to quickly reheat baked potatoes from the weekend and chili from last night is perfect. I also throw a bag of broccoli into the microwave for the kids.
- Friday, pizza night out: This is our family tradition, and while I often use it as an opportunity to use up leftovers by making pizza at home, there aren't really leftovers from the week! We order individual slices at our favorite pizza place — including a few extras to reheat for Saturday's lunch or freeze for later.
If you're not specifically looking for Instant Pot recipes, there are even more Power Hours coming your way. (See all the plans so far here.) If Instant Pot meals are a staple in your house, I'd love for you to share your own favorite recipes and meal prep strategies below!
Power Hour Meal Prep is the series where we help you put it all together. We show you how to eat well during the week with an hour or two of Power Hour prep over the weekend. Every plan is different; mix and match to find your own personal sweet spot.