As I’m finishing up my last few weeks of pregnancy (I’m currently at 37.5 weeks!), I’m thinking about all of the crazy changes that will take place once the baby is born. The responsibilities that I have now (which including food shopping, cooking, and cleaning), will need to be passed on to my husband during the first few critical weeks after the delivery of my son. I know there are some supermoms who still cook fresh meals immediately post-baby, but I truly want to try the “sleep when your baby sleeps” advice. My goal is to be bonded to the baby as much as possible and not stress over small stuff that I can control ahead of time.
Since my husband hasn’t gone grocery shopping or cooking since we got married (5+ years ago), I wanted to make sure I was able to help him out with this task AND also selfishly get what I want when it comes to food 🙂 I’m sure we could “get by” with a few easy staples like frozen pizza and veggies, deli meat, and nut butter, but there’s nothing like a warm, home-cooked meal. Am I right?
I want to quickly explain what I did to help prepare for the baby’s delivery so that you could give it a shot in your own home. While my process is probably not the “golden standard” and there are millions of ways you COULD do this, I wanted to show you a quick option. This works not only for new moms, but for anyone who just wants to save a little time in the kitchen.
Here are the steps my husband and I took:
1. Create a list of some of your favorite meals that would freeze well. If you’re not sure about this, think about meals where you enjoy the leftovers. Those are things that may work! Soups, stews, and chili are always great options. In addition to compiling this list, feel free to search online for frozen meal ideas. I LOVE the website onceamonthmeals.com. They even have a special section for different kinds of dietary needs (such as gluten-free, whole foods, vegetarian, and baby). In addition to the recipe, they give you advice on how to freeze and reheat the meal.
2. Think about how much food you will need. How long do you want your meals to last? I figured we would want at least 1 full month’s worth of meals to get us by. My mom will be coming out after the baby is born, so we will have some fresh meals made when she’s here, but we will have to take care of meals after that. Here’s what I did to calculate how much to make:
- A typical recipe usually allows for about 3 servings between my husband and I.
- We eat 3 meals a day, but typically have something simple like a green smoothie or eggs for breakfast. That means we would need enough freezer meals for 2 meals/day x 30 days. 60 meals/3 servings per recipe = 20 recipes.
- Since batch cooking 20 different recipes is a lot of work AND we’re okay with eating the same thing two or three days in a row, I decided to make 4 batches of each of the recipes. This cut WAY down on amount of shopping and prepping I had to do.
- Here’s another thing – we will likely have even more than a month’s worth of meals using this template since my husband and I typically have a large salad + protein + healthy fat as one of our meals. We may or may not have one of these recipes with the salad meal. Instead, we may just have salmon or another plain protein + avocado/nuts/seeds with that meal.
- I ended up making 5 meals and multiplying the recipes by 4. Here’s what I made:
- Paleo Crockpot Meatballs: http://onceamonthmeals.com/
- Slow Cooker Thai Chicken: http://onceamonthmeals.com/
- Pineapple Salsa Chicken Bake: http://onceamonthmeals.com/
- Spaghetti Squash Pizza: http://paleomg.com/almost-5-ingredient-pizza-spaghetti-pie/
- Spaghetti Squash Bolognese: http://balancedbites.com/2013/03/easy-recipe-spaghetti-squash-bolognese-practical-paleo-ideas-for-replacing-pasta.html
- Paleo Crockpot Meatballs: http://onceamonthmeals.com/
I figured things like fish take about 15 minutes to make, so I passed on making meals with seafood ahead of time. I usually just throw some Kerrygold Garlic and Herb Butter and lemon on fish, so that’d be no problem to do. Eggs whip up in less than 5 minutes, so no big deal there either. We will have canned salmon, sardines, tuna on hand as well. We could also even throw smoothie ingredients in little freezer bags to just pop in the Vitamix in the mornings. You can also throw liver into any of the recipes to bump up the nutrient-density 🙂 or substitute the proteins in many of these recipes. Do whatever works best for you and your family!
3. Next, it was time for grocery shopping! I assembled a list of what I needed on Cozi and sorted the list by where I could find the ingredients for the best price. For example, Costco has great deals on bulk organic produce and organic chicken, but you can’t find everything there. I know where I can find the best deals for different ingredients in my area, so I just did my homework ahead of time and made separate lists for Costco, Whole Foods, and Trader Joes.
4. Then, it was time for cooking! I usually made about 1-2 meals a day. I cut up all of the veggies at one time and had everything in place for me to go from one pan to the next. I made a double batch of each recipe each time, so that it felt like I only had to double the work.
5. After the meal was done cooking (if it needed cooking ahead of time), I let it cool down and then threw it in gallon sized freezer bags. You want to make sure all of the air is out of the bag. You also want to make sure to label the bags and put the date you made the meal on there for future reference. You can simply buy the regular Ziplock Freezer Bags or invest in a vacuum sealer. I know there are probably some people worried about the plastic leaching in, but if you wait until the food is completely cooled off, you can offset some of this concern. We’re doing our best, right?
6. You may also want to type up a quick “Cheat Sheet” with instructions on how to reheat the meat and post it on the top of your freezer as a reference. That way you don’t have to go searching when it’s time to cook.
Here are some other things you can prep and have ready in your freezer:
1. Homemade bone broth
2. Frozen fruit/veggies
3. Frozen gluten-free pizzas (especially helpful if you’re having guests over)
4. Individual smoothie bags filled with all of your typical ingredients
5. Gluten-free muffins, pancakes, bread
6. Favorite sauces (such as spaghetti sauce) or condiments like guacamole or hummus
7. Homemade Larabars or protein balls
Other things to think about:
1. Before doing all of this, consider getting a deep freezer. You can find one on Craigslist or at places like Home Depot. It’s expensive up front, but will save you money in the long run. We got a deep freezer just for the sake of loading up on grass-fed meat. When you invest in a cowshare, you can get grass-fed/finished organic beef for $5-7/lb (even for expensive cuts)!
2. Ask for help! Your kids or spouse can help you grocery shop, chop up veggies, or keep an eye on the food for you when you need a break 🙂
3. See if your friends/family or community will host a meal train for you. As a military spouse, other Marine wives designated days where someone will drop off a warm meal to our home. Throwing in some warm, fresh meals along with your freezer meals will keep it interesting. Make sure they know your dietary needs.
4. Be okay with 80%. There may be days when warming up a freezer meal even seems like too much work. Ordering a gluten-free pizza or other food for home delivery isn’t the worst thing in the world. Be kind to yourself.
5. Consider a CSA (community supported agriculture) program that will drop off meat/veggies/eggs to your home. That will be one less task for you and your family and will help keep you on board with real food.
6. Don’t forget that you can purchase your favorite items on Amazon.com. You can even use their programs like “Subscribe and Save” and keep getting your favorites, such as coconut milk, delivered to your house with no effort.
7. Programs like Plated.com can help support you when you decide to get back into the kitchen. You choose the meal and they deliver all of the necessary, pre-portioned ingredients to your home.
8. Meal delivery services, such as Petespaleo.com can also help bring fine dining to your home. Just open up and reheat the individual packets on the stove and you’re set! You can keep these frozen for future use as well.
So hopefully that gives you some more ideas on how to make this work for your busy lifestyle! I’d love to hear any/all comments below 🙂