Preparing for baby’s arrival is an exciting time. Expectant moms plan and prepare diligently in anticipation of baby’s needs. However, one of the areas frequently overlooked in preparation for postpartum is the challenge of meal preparation and proper nutrition for Mom once the baby arrives.
For even the most domestic of Goddesses, combining the needs of feeding your newborn baby with your lack of sleep, your own recovery, and your possible dietary or food sensitivity needs, makes the necessity of nourishing postpartum meals a real challenge. The solution: Batch cooking freezer meals!
Where to Begin
The jumping off point to creating easy, delicious, nutrient-rich meals is to remember that postpartum is the beginning of a brand new phase for your body and your household; you want to think about preparing meals that are healthy and nutritionally complete as well as easy.
Think beyond dinner
New moms, particularly those who are nursing, need to eat all day long and convenience is key. When initially looking for recipes, be sure to seek out options that go beyond dinner time. Remember to include breakfast and lunch options as well as easy snack choices. Protein cookies or breakfast muffins are choices that are easy to make and pack a healthy nutritional punch.
Clear that freezer
There’s nothing worse than spending hours making batch meals only to realize you cannot fit everything you’ve pre-made into the freezer. Take time to clear out and organize your freezer as well as use up things in your freezer that you’ve forgotten about. This is also a great time to start an inventory of what you’ve got; a small magnetized dry-erase board and marker on the front of your freezer is lifesaver for tracking and organizing your frozen stock.
Plan with freezing in mind
The only thing worse than heating up a freezer meal and finding out it tastes awful once it’s reheated is realizing you have even more of them in your freezer. Choose recipes you love, and when considering if a meal will freeze well, don’t hesitate to test a recipe out on a small scale before scaling it up for a batch cook. Remember to avoid recipes that include:
- fried foods
- fruits and veggies with a high water content like lettuce, melon, or cucumber
- mayo, fresh whipping cream, or yogurt
- raw potatoes
Create a list of healthy meals & recipes
Be sure to pick dishes the whole family will enjoy. Use cookbooks, the internet, and ask around (new moms love to share what has worked for them.) Many resources on the internet will not only provide you with detailed recipe instructions but will also provide you with a pre-organized shopping list of ingredients!
Invest in Good Containers
Aluminum? Glass? Ceramic? No matter what you choose, first ensure that your containers will sustain freezing and reheating. Be sure you have a variety of containers that suit your wants and needs. Pre-planning how you’ll store your stocked meals is worth the effort to ensure you’ll be able to easily enjoy your hard work.
Avoid using your everyday essential cookware like your favorite casserole dish, as it may leave you shorthanded in the kitchen. Rather, seek out inexpensive containers; the discount store is a great place to find a variety of food storage solutions.
Double up and perfect your shopping list
In essence, what makes batch cooking so effective is the ability to prepare several recipes simultaneously in large quantities in order to make multiple meals in one cooking session. Keep in mind the number of meals you plan to make and increase your recipe requirements accordingly before you step foot in the grocery store. Not only is this essential to estimating the precise quantity of each ingredient you will need to complete multiple meals, but it’s also a fantastic way to save money. Many recipes use one common ingredient, like ground beef, that is significantly cheaper when you can buy it in bulk.
Once you have determined the quantities needed for your batch cook, it is ESSENTIAL to sort out the perfect grocery list. To do this, go through each of your chosen recipes and sort the individual ingredients into categories with quantities.
The very best way to divide your list is by grocery area categories such as:
- Centre Aisles
This may seem a bit tedious beforehand but it makes for a thorough and ultra-efficient shopping trip. Remember, you’ll be needing a lot of ingredients and this can be out of the norm and overwhelming for many shoppers. To stay organized, set yourself up for success before you head into the aisles and you’ll insure nothing is forgotten.
Prepare all of the ingredients at once
Once you are ready to get down to cooking, the very best way to stay organized for a batch cook is to prepare all of your ingredients for all dishes beforehand (think of yourself as the ultimate cooking show). Since many ingredients may be used for multiple recipes, consider making your job easier by using a food processor for chopping and dividing out the required amount of each ingredient in separate bowls for each recipe.
Follow your recipe for cooking instructions and assemble each meal in the freezer containers you have chosen.
Think about portions
Not every dish you prepare needs to feed an entire family; sometimes you just need a one-person serving for lunchtime or a little snack. Consider freezing individual portions in smaller sizes for convenience. For example, line a muffin tin with plastic wrap then fill with soup sock and freeze. Once frozen, remove from the freezer and simply pop the soup pucks out and store in a freezer bag. They are now convenient to use for a quick cup of soup or to add to other fresh recipes such as rice.
Cool foods thoroughly
Prior to placing your prepared meals in the freezer be sure to allow them to cool to room temperature. The reason for this is that cooling warm dishes in the freezer causes condensation to form; this causes ice in containers and accelerates the possibility of freezer burn. It can also added unwanted moisture to your recipe during reheating.
t is also a good rule of thumb to remember that many dishes will expand when they freeze. Don’t fill a container to the top; leave room for expansion to avoid cracked containers.
Label everything with cooking directions
This may sound like common sense but many people fall into the, “I’ll remember what’s in that container” trap. Being sure that all your meals are clearly labeled with instructions for cooking means that anyone can choose the meal from the freezer and cook it to perfection.
Enjoy the process
The first few times you attempt batch cooking it can be a bit overwhelming. Start slowly even if it is just a huge pot of chili or pasta sauce. Even easier, begin by making larger portions of dishes you are already making for dinner and freeze the extras. Remember that preparing dishes you love and having them on hand is meant to make things easier and not stress you out. Perhaps pick one day a week for a month when you plan to make a few meals of one dish and then move on to taking on larger batch cooks. Before you know it, your freezer will be full and you will be ready to enjoy delicious homemade meals after your baby arrives.
Coming from an Italian background, there is no question that food is an intrinsic part of life for Erica and her family. From an early age, she found joy in the kitchen; learning to cook dishes not only from her own heritage but from other cultures around the world. After a lifetime struggle of maintaining a healthy weight, a positive self image and becoming very ill, she finally made the choice to change her life and dedicate her energy to weight lifting and a Paleo diet, which were key to her 60 lbs weight loss and total lifestyle transformation.
Over the past four years Erica has seen the remarkable benefits that a Paleo diet can make in peoples’ lives without the sacrifice of giving up great food. It is for this reason that she is so passionate about creating delicious Paleo meals and snacks.