birth prep: planning meals ahead.

Cooking and grocery shopping are one of the most time-consuming parts of each week for me, and one of the things I hate expending energy on when I have a newborn at home.  So, prior to each baby, I've tried to make it a priority to make sure meals are covered for us for about a month.  I do this a variety of ways.

Meal Trains

The churches we've been part of have always been wonderful about setting up meal trains for us for at least the first week after we get home from the hospital, if not the first two weeks!  It makes life so simple - basically, you just fill in the dates you want meals for, let them know of any food allergies or anything (such as gluten, in my case), and then everyone just signs up by email to bring you dinner one of those nights.  SO EASY.  I'm so grateful this has been done for me in the past, and I try to participate in others' meal trains whenever I can.  (I also love bringing things like paper plates and plastic silverware, just to make things really easy.)

Freezer Meal Showers and Gifts From Others

When I was pregnant with Laurelai, a few friends threw me a meal shower, where guests brought either an already-prepared meal to go in the freezer, or gift cards for restaurants that deliver.  The past few births, I've gotten freezer meals as gifts from friends and my parents.  My mom totally stocked up our freezer last time with I-don't-even-remember how many meals.  Absolutely TONS.  Again, SUCH A HUGE BLESSING.

Make-Ahead Meals I've Prepped Myself

This is the boat I find myself in now - trying to figure out what is easy to make ahead, what freezes well, and what we would actually want to eat in those crazy postpartum days.  I have started streamlining this process by just making HUGE batches of a few different meals we already eat, so I'm doing dinner prepwork and stocking my freezer in one fell swoop.  I have learned that looking up 'freezer' specific meals or Crockpot meals on Pinterest doesn't help me much, because I often find that I'm not a huge fan of some of the new recipes, but I've got like four of the same meal left in the freezer, so we never eat them.  (And I HATE Crockpot-specific food.  I just really don't like it.  I don't mind heating up stove-top-made soup or something in there, but I don't like using it to actually cook anything.) 

A good rule of thumb has become, "Would I be excited to eat this as leftovers tomorrow?"  If the answer is yes, it's a good contender for making in large batches and freezing.

So this year's list is VERY basic.  We will be rotating a lot of the same meals over the course of the first month or so.  But they're meals Todd and I like eating that take very little time or effort to heat/cook, so basic is what works for us!  Here's what I'm planning on making ahead and having on hand:

Breakfasts for Me and the Kids:
Italian sausage and hash brown casserole
Soaked oatmeal muffins
Smoothie bags
Applesauce muffins
Cooked and frozen bacon to have on hand
Sourdough bread for toast
Cooked Italian sausage for sausage and cabbage skillet

Lunches for Me (the kids can prep their own regular veggie lunches):

THM lazy lasagna (individual servings)
Individual servings of soup, listed below
Cooked ground beef for spaghetti squash with jarred red sauce
Cooked chicken for salads

Dinners for Everyone:

Roasted Brats with Onions (x 2)
Chicken, Bacon and Rice Soup (x 3)
Chili (x 2)
Pot roast, seared and prepared for the oven (x 2)

Other (Cheater) Items to Have On Hand:

Pre-formed burger patties
Frozen pizza
Chicken nuggets and fries
Baggies of cooked rice and quinoa
Baggies of cooked ground beef, Italian sausage, and chicken breast

Pantry/Snack/Fill-In Items:
Peanut butter
String cheese
Deli meat
Deli cheese
Greek yogurt
Frozen berries

In the name of doing fewer dishes, I'll be stocking up on aluminum foil for lining casserole dishes, as well as Crockpot liners for nights that I use it to heat up soup.  I'll also be loading up on paper plates and plastic silverware.  And I'm putting it all into a grocery order for pickup/delivery to avoid having to waddle through the aisles of the store.

And that is how I plan on avoiding cooking and full-on grocery shopping trips for the first month to six weeks with a newborn!  Now, to just find the time to actually prepare all of this! (I'm having to wait until our new carpet is installed, since the deep freeze needs to be cleared out and moved off the carpet area, but the install date keeps getting pushed back!  Hopefully I'll be able to do it all next week.)


the jersk. said...

I seriously would pay for a service where I can select and order like a months worth of freezer meals. s2g if it was $400, i'd still order it. i am the WORST at meal prep like that and then there's nothing post baby lol.

todd said...

thanks for all the thought and time and energy you put into this on the front end.

Heather said...

Have you used an Instant Pot? I've been doing large batches of quinoa to divide in fridge & freezer containers. I also do a dozen hard-boiled eggs every couple of days - it's a favorite snack for some of our kids (others gag at the mere sight, of course). Cooked pasta can be done in just a few minutes without having to stand over a stove watching a pot boil. I honestly hate boiling things on the stove because of sheer boredom, so I will try to make about anything in the Instant Pot at this point. :)

paige said...

Heather, yes! I've been using mine for similar stuff - beans, quinoa, eggs. (Aren't the eggs stupid easy to peel?!? Love that.) But I'd kind of forgotten about it in all the bustle lately - I should totally pull it out to make all the rice I'm wanting to freeze. And I NEVER thought about using it for pasta - genius!