Tag Archives: meal planning

Top 6 Reasons You Need An Instant Pot

Oh, Instant Pot, how did I ever manage in my kitchen without you? You make my life so much easier!

  1. Never before have I been able to do a full week’s worth of meal prep in the span of a few hours, with so few dishes.
  2. 2. Never before have I been able to dump spaghetti sauce, gluten-free noodles, and (browned) ground beef into a pot, pressed a button, and walked away, only to come back to a fully cooked one-pot lunch in less than 10 minutes.
  3.  Never before have I made perfect, gelatinous bone broth, in any less time than 4 days – except now I can make it in 8 hours!
  4. Never before have I been able to make “dump and walk away” yogurt, even in a crock pot. Until my Instant Pot.
  5.  Never before have hardboiled eggs been so magically easy to peel, making deviled eggs a regular thing instead of a tedious treat.
  6. You can make beef stew in less than 1 hour that tastes like it’s been simmering away all day.

Ya’ll, seriously – if you don’t have an Instant Pot, you need one. It has completely revolutionized how I cook, how I clean up, and the amount of time I can spend with my family.

In Nevada I worked an average 9 hours a day at my job, and by the time I got home I was pretty exhausted. Meal prepping has always been my saving grace (check out my book, Dirt Cheap Nutrition, for details on meal prepping on a tight budget!), but especially in the late days of pregnancy, it was a lifesaver.

The NPR (natural pressure release) feature is probably my favorite feature when making main dishes. Maybe it’s just a mental thing, but I find it very relaxing to know that my food isn’t going to overcook if I don’t jump right up and run into the kitchen the moment the timer goes off. I can actually relax, put my feet up, and not worry about hovering over pots, pans, and the oven.

There are so many options for size and style of Instant Pots. Personally, I have the 7-in-1 DUO60 6qt. I specifically chose the 7-in-1 because it has the yogurt button feature and I knew I would use it frequently. For our small-but-growing family, I find it to be the perfect size, with plenty of room for leftovers. For larger families or families with multiple teenagers, you might consider the 8qt. I know of several couples who find that a 3qt is the perfect size for their RV or to bring camping with them.

I waited months to purchase my Instant Pot, watching for the perfect price. Knowing how I love a good frugal challenge, Peter suggested I wait to purchase one until I could buy it for $50 from our regular weekly budget. I am very pleased to report that after the Kohls cash, Ebates rebates, and a bit of money from a freelancer article I wrote, I spent a total of $25 from our weekly budget.

Need to know where to find an Instant Pot? I have seen great deals at Target, Kohls, and Amazon. I hear rumors that Amazon had deep discounts on their IPs on Black Friday and probably will again (they sold hundreds of thousands of them on Prime Day!), so be watching for that.

Do you have an Instant Pot? Do you love it as much as I do? Be sure to follow my IP boards on Pinterest for loads of healthy recipes your family will love!


{This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are entirely my own. Please read my full disclosure here. Thank you for supporting Crunchy Hippie Life!} 

Eating Healthy Food When It’s Hard: Gwyneth Paltrow and Food Deserts

how to eat healthy in a food desert, how to eat healthy for cheap, inexpensive healthy meal ideas

When I first moved out of my parents’ home, I lived on $27 every two weeks for groceries (except for eggs and raw milk, which I purchased from a farmer every other week for $13 for a half gallon of milk – from which I made yogurt, a pint of cream – from which I made butter, and two dozen eggs). I primarily shopped at a local farmers market, where I based my meals off of the available produce that I could get for the cheapest price.  The leftover money went to flour to make bread, oatmeal for breakfast and homemade granola, and the occasional meat purchase at Whole Foods.  Yes it was tight, but it made me creative.  Mornings usually involved eggs and a smoothie, lunch was a large salad with several fresh veggies, and dinners were usually sautéed vegetables with some meat and a sweet potato for a side. I ate very well and enjoyed the challenge.

When I got married, I tried to continue this, but my budget didn’t increase to accommodate two people.  Suddenly vegetables didn’t fill us both up, especially my athletic husband who needed significantly higher caloric intake than I.  Again, I got creative and found ways to make our meals as nutrient-dense as possible.

Curious how we did it? Download your free copy of my ebook, Dirt Cheap Nutrition!

We went down to one car to save on gas and insurance.  His job had him working 60 hours a week, so going to the farmer’s market wasn’t an option because they weren’t open when he was off work.  We had to rely instead on what we could find in the grocery store, and that money didn’t go as far.  We aren’t and never have been on food stamps, but we do have a tight budget and know how hard it is to  buy healthy food and make those dollars stretch.

The point of these two stories is to show that it is possible, but only when you have options.  Unfortunately there are food deserts all around the country, and $29 goes a lot farther at McDonalds than it would at a Whole Foods.  If you live in an area with just those two choices, there’s not much you can do.

Last week Gwyneth Paltrow infamously posted a picture about her $29 “food stamp” challenge.  She was, of course, congratulated by the rich and famous for bringing awareness to the way in which food stamp dollars don’t stretch.  In contrast, those actually on food stamps (or those who don’t qualify for food stamps but still have trouble affording food) railed against her for her food choices (read the twitter posts), because those numbers could potentially work for someone if they don’t buy things like avocados, scallions, or seven limes (even if they were cheap, Gwyneth, every penny counts and one lime would have been a luxury!).  Their argument was that instead of stretching the dollars effectively, she focused on the vitamin content of food to make sure she ate nutritiously.


The problem isn’t that people don’t get enough food stamp money.  The problem is that the food that is readily available and affordable has no nutritional value.  This leads to our growing obesity problem, our growing health problems (children as young as 12 are now being prescribed cholesterol medication!) and subsequently, our need for health care reform to allow us a safety net for our inevitable health collapse.  But with health care changes causing a drastic budgeting crisis for health care facilities, we know that this practice is not sustainable.

Related: How to Grow an Urban Garden Anywhere

Those of us who live in an apartment because we can’t afford a house don’t have access to land to plant gardens and grow our own food.  We have a shared patio, with no room to put a Tower Garden.  There is one window that gets minimal sun, but not enough to grow food in the kitchen (besides perhaps a head of lettuce here or there, nothing that can consistently feed a family).

The point isn’t to call attention to the need for an increase in funding as much as it should be to call attention to the fact that the healthy choices aren’t available to the average person.  Why is a head of organic cabbage the same price as a McDouble?  Why is processed food, that requires several pieces of machinery to process, preserve, package, advertise, and distribute, cheaper than buying a tub of salad greens?  If someone’s main focus is entirely on making sure they don’t go hungry, their focus is going to be “how can I use this limited money to fill me up” not on “how can I make sure that my vitamin intake is well balanced this week so I can avoid the preventable diseases?”

Have you gotten your free copy of my ebook, Dirt Cheap Nutrition? 

Gwyneth Paltrow’s experiment pointed to the main problem – that quality healthy food, REAL food, is not easily available to anyone but the elite.  This is where the conversation needs to start.  We have to get to the problem so that we can fix it from the ground up (pardon the pun), instead of just chasing the effects of a poor system.

Here are some things we do to make our healthy food stretch:
Use spices

Rice and beans are a lot more palatable if properly spiced and or wrapped in a tortilla (making your own tortilla is a pain but can be cheaper).


I wrote about bartering for meat when times were especially tough here.

Trial Offers

Ask the local co-ops if they have an offer for a trial basket to see if you like it before you commit.

Use Websites

Pinterest and allrecipes.com have search engine options where you plug in the ingredients you have to find new recipes.

Go For Filling

When buying produce, buy things that will be filling (so don’t stock up on tons of lettuce).  Mushrooms are a great investment for our family because they can be filling while also helping our meat stretch, or bulking up our breakfast eggs. They are frequently on sale at Aldi for $0.59 cents a package.  One package typically feeds us for two meals.