Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Mini Instant Pot Freezer Meal Boot Camp: 10 Crowd-Pleasing Recipes! (And a Big Annoucement!)

I think it's the understatement of the year to say that I had no clue how much attention the first edition of the Instant Pot Freezer Meal Boot Camp would get.  Holy moly.  Almost immediately, the post went viral on social media (namely in the Instant Pot Community on Facebook...hi to all of my visitors from there!).  As of right now (about 2 months after they were first published), it is already the fifth most popular post on my blog.  Ever.  That's nuts, guys!

Before I even published that first post, I knew I wanted to keep on doing these bulk meal planning sessions, both for myself and for my readers.  This has totally changed the way I prepare meals.  Not only does it save precious time in those chaotic afternoon hours, but it has saved us so much money on groceries.  I feel like I'm using our resources much more efficiently now and, by buying more in bulk and only buying what I need, I'm wasting less food as well!

I've got a little running list of Instant Pot recipes I want to develop in my notes app now...and it's bursting at the seams.  There are SO many ways to use this appliance and I can't wait to share them with you guys!

Instant Pot Freezer Meals || Mini Freezer Meal Boot Camp || Printable Labels || Electric Pressure Cooker || Easy Recipes || Simple Dinners || Food || Ground Beef || Chicken || Pressure Cooking

So let's keep it going!  Today, I'm sharing kind of a mini version of my huge Boot Camp post...this time around, we'll only be making 10 meals in a few hours, but we'll follow the same general method as last time.

Naturally, when a post gets that popular, you're going to get a lot of feedback.  I got some great suggestions after doing that post from blog readers all around the world.  One of the big ones was that there were just so many recipes and that many people didn't have the time/space for everything.  And I totally get that.  I had two fridges and a deep freezer and still struggled to get everything organized.  That's why I decided to do a mini version this time around.

A few others asked for recipe cards and/or a way to print the recipes.  Although you guys are always welcome to copy and paste from my blog into a word processing document for your own personal use, you know me...I like to make printables pretty if possible. 😉 So you'll see recipe cards on this post as well.  There are a few other minor changes from last time in this post, mostly just integrating those great suggestions I got from readers. Thanks for that, friends!

(And, if you read the last boot camp, parts of this are going to be very similar to the last post.  I know some people that find this post are first-time readers, and since the method is the same as the last post, there's no point in reinventing the wheel, right?)

Let's get going!


Instant Pot Freezer Meals || Mini Freezer Meal Boot Camp || Printable Labels || Electric Pressure Cooker || Easy Recipes || Simple Dinners || Food || Ground Beef || Chicken || Pressure Cooking

Affiliate links used in this post.

First, a little summary of the Instant Pot.  It is a...
  • pressure cooker
  • slow cooker
  • steamer
  • yogurt maker
  • saute pot
  • rice cooker
  • warmer
Basically, most anything you can do in the kitchen can be done with this beauty.  My favorite thing about it is having the ability to cook foods from frozen (I'm talking frozen-to-table in an hour or two) and how little you have to babysit it.  With a very busy one-year-old who likes to melt down around dinner time every night, this is clutch.  I also love that just about any slow cooker recipe can be prepped in the Instant Pot in a fraction of the time.  The one draw-back I've seen is that you can't get foods browned or crispy with the Instant Pot...but that can easily be fixed by popping your dish under the broiler to finish!

It lends itself so perfectly to freezer meals...which is the inspiration behind all of this meal planning!  As soon as I bought it I knew it had huge potential to save tons of time in the kitchen.

Here's how I made 10 Instant Pot Freezer meals in just a few hours (on around a $150 budget)!

Step 1: Get your supplies ready.

This is the key to making this process as easy as possible.  You don't need a ton of supplies for this (besides your Instant Pot, obviously...this is a link to my model, and FYI - it's in stock right now, so it's a great time to grab one if you haven't already!).  The main purchase I'd urge you to make is a set of storage containers that fit into your Instant Pot.  That way, you can freeze your meals in the containers, thaw them just enough to pop them out of the container, and drop the frozen meal in the Instant Pot to prep (this way, it will fit in the pot without thawing)!

This set from the Dollar Tree is perfect.  You might be able to find them in store if you don't want to pay shipping, or this set of deli containers from Amazon works too.  I would go on and get 10 of them if you can get your hands on them...I've reused my original ones from Dollar Tree a few times, so they're well worth the investment!  If you choose to buy just a couple of containers, you can set gallon freezer bags in the containers to kind of shape your meals to fit in the pot while freezing them.  Just set the bag into your container, put in your ingredients, and freeze the bag while still in the container so it retains the shape needed to fit into the Instant Pot while still frozen.

Go on and make sure you have your bag/container labels printed (scroll down for those labels) and cut...be ready to label those as soon as you finish making the meals (before they go in the freezer).  I recommend sticking the labels on with packing tape, so make sure there's a roll of that handy.

You won't need nearly as much freezer space for this boot camp...but I would still go on and make sure you had a sufficient amount for 10 meals.  If you're planning on doing freezer meals for any period of time, I highly recommend a small chest freezer like this one.  It's not a huge investment and it has been super useful for us over the years!

Summary: Make sure you have:
  1. Instant Pot-shaped containers (One set is more than enough for this boot camp.)
  2. Labels (scroll down for printables)
  3. Packing Tape
  4. Gallon Freezer Bags
  5. Freezer space
I strongly recommend these optional (but very convenient) accessories if you're going to be freezer Instant Pot cooking...
  1. An extra Instant Pot inner pot insert (so you can still prep dinners even when your other pot is dirty/in the fridge storing something else).
  2. An inner pot lid (helps you use your inner pot as storage after dinner!)
  3. An extra Instant Pot sealing ring (food flavors can really soak into the silicone sealing ring that's tucked in your lid of your pot. I have two rings...one for savory foods and one for sweet.  That way, my sweet foods don't end up tasting funky!)
  4. A small pot for Pot In Pot cooking (see more on that in the notes section below)...I use a cake pan that is the same size as this one and it works great!
  5. A food chopper to make veggie prep easier.

Step 2: Make your grocery run.

Instead of having to tally up everything you'll need for the boot camp, I've done the work for you!

Instant Pot Freezer Meals || Mini Freezer Meal Boot Camp || Printable Labels || Electric Pressure Cooker || Easy Recipes || Simple Dinners || Food || Ground Beef || Chicken || Pressure Cooking

I have a full grocery list for this boot camp (including things you'll need for serving day and side items) in the printable collection of my blog...that's exclusively available to my newsletter subscribers!  You can sign up (for free!) by using the form below or by clicking here to get download instructions for the grocery list right to your email inbox.


Don't worry, this one doesn't sting all that much in the wallet! 😂 I only ended up spending about $150 for all of the groceries for this boot camp.  The serving amount was higher per meal than last time (I'd estimate around 6-8 people can be fed from each one of the meals...more specific numbers on the recipe cards below), so estimating a total serving amount of 70 meals, you're only looking at a little over $2 per serving...not bad at all!

Step 3: Print and cut your labels.

The labels you'll download below have every bit of info you'll need for serving day.  Just stick these on your freezer containers as you prep your dishes!  I've included the recommended side dish, prep instructions from frozen, and extra ingredients you'll need on serving day.  (You should already have these extra items if you follow the grocery list above.)

After the labels are printed, just cut them out (I love this paper cutter for making the process easier) and have them ready to attach to your containers with packing tape or painter's tape before you freeze.  I made the mistake of waiting until after they were frozen to try to attach the labels...doesn't work.  The frost made the tape fall right off. So make sure they're labeled before they ever go in the freezer. 

Step 4: Prep your veggies.

Alright, you've got your supplies, you've got your groceries, you've got your labels...it's finally prep time!

Here's the order in which I prepped all of the veggies for the meals:

1.  Slice 2 onions into 1/4-1/2" pieces.
2.  Slice 1 green bell pepper into 1/4-1/2" pieces.
3.  Chop 4 onions into smaller chunks (equaling roughly 6 cups).
4.  Chop 4 green bell peppers into smaller chunks (equaling roughly 4 cups).
5.  Cut top off of 6 bell peppers and remove ribs/seeds.
6.  Chop 1 cup green onion.
7.  Peel and grate 4 carrots (roughly 1 cup grated).
8.  Chop 1/2 cup cilantro.
9.  Boil 2 bags of rice in microwave for 5-6 minutes.

Once this is all done, I find a larger area of my counter and set out all of the veggies buffet-style to make for easy assembly.  I also use a Vidalia Chop Wizard (c/o) to make this process much, much easier.

Step 4: Prep your meat.

You're going to cook some of the meat before freezing.  Here's the order of how I prepared the meat part of the meals...

1. Brown 3 lbs of ground beef and drain.
2. Chop 5 chicken breasts in half.
3. Chop 3 chicken breasts into 1” pieces.
4. Slice 2lbs of smoked sausage into 1” slices and brown.
5. Brown 12 slices bacon and drain.
6. Brown 1lb of italian sausage, crumbling the meat (remove casings if needed), and drain.
7. Slice 2 lbs sirloin steak into 1" slices.

You'll also put these out buffet-style for assembly.  I recommend having a separate part of your counter if possible for the meat to prevent cross-contamination.

Step 4: Put everything together!

Let's start assembling your meals!
Instant Pot Freezer Meals || Mini Freezer Meal Boot Camp || Printable Labels || Electric Pressure Cooker || Easy Recipes || Simple Dinners || Food || Ground Beef || Chicken || Pressure Cooking

Lots of readers requested recipe cards for the boot camp last time...so, if you click the link in the title of each dish, you'll find a 4x6" pdf card for each recipe!  You can also download all of the cards in one file in the printable collection (click here to sign up for the newsletter to get access to that in your email).

Once you have your freezer containers labeled, put the following in each dish:


In the freezer container:
All of the sliced sirloin steak
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped green onion
2 tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp better than bullion beef
1/2 cup Teryaki sauce
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1/3 cup brown sugar

Cooking directions for serve day:
1. Thaw your meal enough to pop out of the freezer container.
2. Add frozen meal & 1 cup water to IP.
3. Set IP for high, 8 minutes, NPR.
4. Meanwhile, steam frozen broccoli in microwave for 3-5 minutes with 1 cup water.
5. Prepare boil-in-bag rice in microwave.
6. Once IP cycle is done, mix corn starch with 1/4 cup liquid from the IP and mix slurry back into IP. Stir well.
7. Stir in broccoli and serve over rice.

Extra items needed for meal:
1 14oz pack frozen broccoli florets
1 tbsp corn starch
2 pouches boil in bag brown rice

Side item: Brown Rice

Meal #2 - Taco Salads

In the freezer container:
3 cups (about 1.5 lbs) ground beef, cooked
2 packs taco seasoning
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 cup chopped onion
2 tbsp minced garlic

Cooking directions for serve day:
1. Thaw your meal enough to pop out of the freezer container.
2. Add frozen meal & 1 cup water to IP.
3. Set IP for high, 8 minutes, NPR.
4. Meanwhile, chop lettuce, tomatoes, and green bell pepper and mix for your salad base.
5. Prep cornbread according to package directions
5. Once IP cycle is done, scoop meat out of pot (leaving very little sauce in the meat mixture).
6. Top salads with meat, cheese, and salsa.

Extra items needed for meal:
2 cups cheddar cheese
1 head lettuce
2 tomatoes
1 green bell pepper
1 cup salsa
1 pack of Mexican cornbread

Side item: Mexican cornbread

Meal #3 - Meatball Subs

In the freezer container:
All of the sliced green bell peppers
All of the sliced onions
20 pre-frozen meatballs (not thawed)
1 24oz can spaghetti sauce
2 tsp salt
2 tsp pepper

Cooking directions for serve day:
1. Thaw your meal enough to pop out of the freezer container.
2. Add frozen meal & 1 cup water to IP.
3. Set IP for high, 10 minutes, NPR.
4. While the IP is cooking, prepare your pasta salad according to package directions.
5. Once IP cycle is done, scoop 3 meatballs, some of the peppers/onions, and a little bit of sauce into each hoagie roll. Top with cheese.
6. Toast hoagies for about 5 minutes, or until cheese is melted.

Extra items needed for meal:
1 6-pack hoagie buns
1 pack Provolone cheese
1 box pasta salad

Side item: Pasta Salad

Meal #4 - Smokey Penne

In the freezer container:
Half of the browned smoked sausage
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 cup chopped bell pepper
2 tbsp minced garlic
1/4 cup (jarred) sun-dried tomatoes
1 cup water
2 tsp chicken better than bullion
1 10oz jar roasted red peppers (not drained)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper

Cooking directions for serve day:
1. Thaw your meal enough to pop out of the freezer container.
2. Add frozen meal, penne pasta, & 2 cups water to IP.
3. Set IP for high, 4 minutes, QR.
4. While the IP is cooking, cook breadsticks according to package directions.
5. Once IP cycle is done, stir in cheeses, half & half, and spinach.

Extra items needed for meal:
8 oz penne pasta
2 cups monterey jack
1 cup Parmesan cheese
1 cup half and half
2 cups fresh spinach
1 box frozen breadsticks

Side item: Breadsticks

In the freezer container:
6 large bell peppers, tops removed and cored, stuffed with...
1 cup chopped onions
1 tbsp garlic
1 lb Italian Sausage, cooked
1 bag boil in bag rice (white or brown)
1 can Italian tomatoes, drained, broken up slightly
8oz shredded parmesan cheese

Cooking directions for serve day:
1. Place 3 peppers at a time in your IP (on the trivet). Pour 1 cup of water into the bottom of the IP.
2. Set IP for high, 8 minutes, QR.
3. While peppers are cooking, prepare your salad.

Extra items needed for meal:
1 bag chopped salad mix
Favorite dressing

Side item: Salad

In the freezer container:
5 chicken breast halves
8oz cream cheese, softened
2 packs ranch dressing mix
All of the bacon
1 tsp chicken better than bullion
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper

Cooking directions for serve day:
1. Thaw your meal enough to pop out of the freezer container.
2. Add frozen meal & 1 cup water to IP.
3. Set IP for high, 15 minutes, NPR.
4. While IP cooks, cook fries according to package directions and toast buns.
5. Once IP cycle is done, shred chicken and stir in cheddar cheese.
6. Serve chicken on buns.

Extra items needed for meal:
1 pack hamburger buns
2 cups cheddar cheese
1 bag frozen French fries

Side item: French Fries

In the freezer container:
5 Chicken breast halves
1 cup chopped onion
1 tbsp minced garlic
2 tsp better than bullion chicken
1 can chick peas, drained
1 can great northern beans, drained
8oz chopped green chiles
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 can corn, not drained
1 tbsp cumin
2 tsp salt
2 tsp pepper

Cooking directions for serve day:
1. Thaw your meal enough to pop out of the freezer container.
2. Add frozen meal & 1 cup water to IP.
3. Set IP for high, 25 minutes, NPR.
4. White IP cycle runs, make grilled cheese sandwiches using half of the cream cheese and half of the pepper jack.
5. Once IP cycle is finished, shred chicken and stir in half of the cream cheese, half of the pepper jack, and 1 cup of half and half.

Extra items needed for meal:
1 cup half and half
8oz cream cheese, softened
8 oz shredded pepper jack cheese
1 loaf bread

Side item: Spicy Grilled Cheese

In the freezer container:
Half of the browned sliced smoked sausage
5 tsp chicken better than bullion
2 cups water
2 tbsp hot sauce
2 tbsp yellow mustard

Cooking directions for serve day:
1. Thaw your meal enough to pop out of the freezer container.
2. Add frozen meal, macaroni, & 2 cups water to IP.
3. Set IP for high, 5 minutes, NPR.
4. Meanwhile, peel/cut carrots and mix on a cookie sheet with green beans. Season with salt, pepper, and olive oil.
5. Roast veggies for 25-30 minutes.
6. Once IP cycle is done, add in cheeses, butter, and half and half. Stir well.

Extra items needed for meal:
12oz macaroni
2 cups cheddar
1 cup monterey jack
1 cup half and half
3 tbsp butter
1 bag frozen green beans
1 lb carrots

Side item: Roasted veggies

In the freezer container:
3 cups (about 1.5 lbs) ground beef, cooked
2 cups grated carrots
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
2/3 cup ketchup
1/3 cup yellow mustard
1 6oz can tomato paste
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
2 tsp garlic powder

Cooking directions for serve day:
1. Thaw your meal enough to pop out of the freezer container.
2. Add frozen meal & 1 cup water to IP.
3. Set IP for high, 10 minutes, QR.
4. Toast buns while IP is cooking.
5. Once IP cycle is done, stir well. Serve mix on buns.

Extra items needed for meal:
1 pack Hamburger buns
1 tub deli potato salad

Side item: Potato Salad

In the freezer container:
3 chicken breasts, chopped into 1” pieces
1 tsp chicken better than bullion
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1/4 cup chopped green onion
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1/4 cup honey
2 tbsp minced garlic
2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 cup ketchup
1 tsp pepper

Cooking directions for serve day:
1. Thaw your meal enough to pop out of the freezer container.
2. Add frozen meal & 1 cup water to IP.
3. Add trivet and PIP dish to pot. Fill with 1.5 cups brown rice & 2 cups water.
4. Set IP for high, 14 minutes, NPR.
5. Remove 1 cup liquid from pot and mix with corn starch. Add slurry to pot.
6. Stir well and serve over rice.

Extra items needed for meal:
1 tbsp corn starch
1.5 cups brown rice

Side item:
Brown Rice

Instant Pot Freezer Meals || Mini Freezer Meal Boot Camp || Printable Labels || Electric Pressure Cooker || Easy Recipes || Simple Dinners || Food || Ground Beef || Chicken || Pressure Cooking

And that's it...you've got 10 family-sized meals ready to go!  That makes about 2 weeks of super easy dinners for you and your family.  Congratulations to you!!! 🎉🎉🎉

Important Notes (PLEASE READ):

NPR stands for natural pressure release.  That means, instead of immediately releasing the pressure from your Instant Pot after the cooking time is up, give it about 10 minutes to release on its own.  Then, flip the nozzle and release the pressure (careful though...that's pressurized steam coming out!)

QR stands for quick release.  That means you release the pressure and open the pot as soon as the cooking time is over.

So, if you're reading my cooking labels, you'll often see that the directions look like this: "manual, high pressure, 100 minutes, NPR." That means you'll use the manual setting on your pot to put in 100 minutes yourself, then let the pot have a natural pressure release (for about 10 minutes) after the pot beeps when that 100 minute cycle is over.

PIP stands for Pot in Pot cooking.  That means you're cooking two dishes at the same time by stacking a separate pot on top of a trivet in the inner pot.

It's a great way to cook rice, veggies, or several other different types of side dishes!


Here's how I do it: insert the trivet that comes with your instant pot, putting the legs on either side of whatever you're cooking in the bottom of the pot. Then, put your pot in pot dish (I use a cake pan similar to this one and it works great for the recipes I've listed) on top of the trivet and add whatever you're cooking.  Seal the lid and cook away!  The cook times for the PIP cooking are all included in my meal labels above.

You will set the same time on your Instant Pot for frozen and non-frozen meals.  So, let's say there's a meal or two you decide not to freeze and just store in the fridge for a day or two.  Don't adjust your cooking time!  I know that seems kind of weird, but the pressurizing process thaws your frozen meal.  The time that it takes your pot to come to pressure will be much longer for frozen meals (I found it to be around 20-25 minutes for a frozen meal, depending on the size of what's frozen, as opposed to 5-10 minutes usually for a non-frozen dish).

...and now for the big announcement!

I've often said the best opportunities for this blog have appeared out of the clear blue.  Really, this whole blog is one big venture that landed in my lap...and I truly couldn't be more thankful for it!

About a year ago, I had the opportunity to turn my (previous) biggest post into an entire ebook.  Since June 14th of last year, I've sold almost a thousand copies of Journey to Clean - my cleaning system that helps readers maintain their home in about an hour a day.  Not only has this been a huge blessing in growing my blog, but I've heard from so many readers that have used this system to transform their home!

And now, I have another opportunity to offer a premium product to readers!  After the success of my first Instant Pot Freezer Meal Boot Camp, I've decided to offer a wide selection of Freezer Meal Boot Camp packs for purchase on my blog!  They will be similar to this post and the previous boot camp and will come in different sizes - anywhere from 5 meals to 30.  In these packs, I'll include meal labels, recipe cards, grocery lists, and prep instructions.  You'll get all of the info you need to prep your own boot camps at home!

The first couple of sessions are already in the works, and I'll be adding more as they're completed. I'm so excited to launch my first 3 Boot Camp packs on June 14th (yes, one year to the day after Journey to Clean was released)!  I figured it was a pretty lucky day for me...why not try to repeat history? 😉

Stay tuned for more information about what boot camp packs will be released in June.  A section of the site is up and going (and more info will be added soon). I'm sure I'll have info on the blog, and you can also sign up for updates here!

In the meantime, enjoy your weeks of easy cooking, friends!!!