In my last few weeks before birth, rather than nesting in the cleaning sense, I went on an absolute cooking rampage. I would be bringing home a newborn soon to an already full house of 3 older kids, us and a dog. I guess the thought of trying to cook meals on top of facing my first natural birth on top of adding another human to our household is probably what sent me into this cooking blitz. Life would not be stopping for us just because we were having a baby. My daughters both had soccer games and practices, all three kids had school and homework and various other activities to get to, baby or not. Not to mention, Austin was due 2 weeks before Christmas! Cooking for this crowd was already a challenge!
On top of that, we just didn’t have a budget for ordering in food, nor could I live with eating take-out or unhealthy options for weeks after the baby was born. I needed to stay as healthy as possible and get quality calories and nutrients so that I could establish a milk supply for my baby.
So I cooked. I cooked in the morning, after lunch, at nighttime. I cooked double and triple portions of my lunches and dinners. Every spare moment I was either at the grocery store stocking up on snacks and ingredients for meals or I was in my kitchen prepping food. I was a madwoman.
Tip #1 – For about a month before your baby is born, every single time you cook, make double portions and freeze the second batch. This adds up fast until you have a month of dinners. It also means only one time of food prep and cleaning up, and sometimes buying your ingredients in bulk will end up saving you money in the long run.
Tip #2 – Think casseroles. They are the easiest to store and freeze, and you can throw all sorts of veggies into them.
Tip #3 – For more ideas, check out the freezer section of your grocery store for ideas on what freezes well. I found that the best veggies to use were the ones you find in the freezer section already.
Tip #4 – Stock up on freezer bags and disposable aluminum pans. Label everything with a sharpie, including instructions on how to prepare. This will save your life and anyone taking care of you and baby in the days after birth.
Tip #5 – Don’t forget about lunch! I make one large batch of food for myself every week, enough to feed 8, refrigerate and reheat a serving every day. I made myself two weeks worth of lunches to freeze too.
Tip #6 – To save space, remove as much air from the meals in freezer bags as possible, and freeze flat.
Tip#7 – Don’t be afraid to grab a few store-bought frozen meals for the family. I liked Trader Joe’s selection for fairly healthy options. Remember that perfection isn’t necessary but sanity is.
Tip#8 – Keep a list on your fridge of everything you make. When you eat it, cross it off the list. I didn’t start out doing this but quickly realized I had to keep track of what was in there or we’d run out or be eating the same thing every night. This way too, you can prepare for the week ahead by checking the list and picking up anything you might need to go with the dinners (like hamburger buns for the burgers, taco shells, etc).
Tip#9 – If people ask how they can help you, don’t be afraid to ask for a freezer meal 🙂 If this is your first baby, I cannot stress enough the freedom of not having to worry about feeding yourself. You can’t imagine it yet, but it will feel impossible on some days.
Tip #10 – Freeze the meals in the portions you will serve at one sitting. This eliminates you having to re-freeze leftovers. Some recipes below make as much as 10 servings, so divide those up into the appropriate sized aluminum pan or freezer bag for your family (or make less).
Here are the five best meals I found for freezing and easily reheating for our large family.
This recipe is based on Rocco DiSpirito’s healthy alfredo recipe, and I loved it because making just one batch meant 2 nights of meals for my family. This was also the dish I took to the birth center with me to eat after I gave birth, knowing I would be ravenous for carbohydrates after the hard work of labor. And it was PERFECT.
Makes about 8 servings.
Talk about easy…making a huge stack of burger patties and freezing is just about as simple as it gets. You can go bunless, freeze whole wheat buns, or just have someone run to the store for you to pick them up when it’s time to eat.
Combine all ingredients and form into 1/4 pound patties. Stack, separating with a square of waxed paper to keep from sticking to each other. Store in a freezer bag. When ready to cook, defrost patties and grill.
Makes 8-10 servings.
This is an absolute favorite of my kids.
Makes 8-10 servings.
I made this for my lunches, but it’s a big hit at dinner too.
Makes 4-6 servings.
Meatballs are so easy to make and I took advantage of this by making about a million. They easily store in freezer bags and you can just throw them in a crockpot when you’re ready to make dinner.
Combine all ingredients and form into meatballs. Store in freezer bags raw, then place in a slow cooker on low for 4-6 hours with a jar of pasta sauce.
Makes 4 servings.
Combine raw veggies with oil and seasonings, place in freezer bag and store. When ready, bake on cookie sheet at 450 for 30-40 minutes.
Other simple ideas:
These were my five staple meals that I would make every chance I got. They all froze and stored easily, tasted great after cooking, and most importantly provided my entire family with nutrients. All of these meals could easily be made vegetarian by substituting cooked lentils or beans for meat.
I cannot even tell you how awesome it was to just be able to throw a healthy meal in the oven or crockpot the entire first month of Austin’s life. It was seriously the best thing I did for myself my whole pregnancy. I still do this at least once a week, making double portions of dinner to serve the next week so I am cooking and cleaning less often and spending more time with my 4 kids.
What were your favorite freezer meals to make and prepare for your first postpartum weeks?