You guys, I did a thing! I have been meal prepping for baby number two! This is something I really wanted/planned to do with Luca but every time I thought about it or started looking for recipes I got very overwhelmed. This time around, the thought of trying to cook dinners with a toddler (who wants to be held while I cook) in addition to a newborn was more overwhelming than the research/planning/cooking! So I decided this was definite on the To Do list and wanted to share everything I learned in hopes it would be less overwhelming for you. So here we go… My guide to post baby meal prep!
When do I start?
Post baby meals require pre-baby work. How much, depends on how OCD you are and at what point in your pregnancy you start reading this. For me, I am very OCD. I don’t want to waste my time or money freezing any meals that I may not like, which means I need to test each one out before I put it on my list. If you are starting this process early in your pregnancy then you can choose to do this. If you waited until later in your pregnancy then you may not have the luxury of testing them all out and need to have some faith in bloggers (like us!). But in general, meals can last in your freezer for about 6 months so don’t get too much of a head start but don’t wait until the last minute because sometimes those babies like to come early!
What should you know before you start?
- Maybe it was just me but I was so confused about this; DON’T worry about figuring out how the cooking time changes for a meal that is frozen. Meals would say you could freeze them but wouldn’t explain how the time or temp changed. After reading multiple recipes and blogs I finally realized that I was confused for no reason. Freezer meals are thawed out before being cooked. (DUH, Caitlin!) For some reason that never occured to me. Just grab a meal the night before and toss it in the fridge or if it is the morning of (looking at you Jamie) – sit it out for a little bit, but don’t let it get warm because we don’t need you or anyone else in the family sick post baby!
- Meal prep takes organizing but doesn’t have to take a TON of time! See below…
- Depending on how organized you are, you can watch the sales at your local stores through your pregnancy to find most of your ingredients while on sale! Don’t forget that this includes things like freezer bags and aluminum pans.
- Plan on freezing things as flat as possible! Use a cookie sheet to flatten your bags of food so you can easily stack them later to utilize the most space. You may need that freezer space for liquid gold so don’t add unneeded stress later by having a full freezer of oddly shaped items.
- Write instructions on bags or the foil on top of the pans so you aren’t trying to find recipes months later to know how to cook it. This is easier done before food is added to bags and before foil is added to the top of pans.
Ways to prep and how to cut down on the prep work time?
There are two ways to prep!
- Double/Triple meals you are already cooking. For example, if you know you are going to cook a casserole that is on your freezer list then just double it. This is a huge time saver for recipes that require some type of cooking or browning. If you’re already doing it then it doesn’t take that much longer to double/triple it in the moment.
- A meal prep day- Just thinking this exhausts me. I have tried to meal prep for the week and it can take SO long so the thought of this terrified me. BUT if you utilized the first type of prep work, then this day is really just chopping ingredients and then combining ingredients and freezing! Not too bad as long as you haven’t forgotten any ingredients!
Types of Post Baby Meals:
- Crock Pot Meals– Look for meals that all (or at least most) of the ingredients are just thrown into the crock pot and cooked. Anything that is added to the crock pot can be frozen in a bag and dumped in after being thawed.
- Instant Pot Meals- Same thing as crock pot meals.
- Casseroles- There are so many casseroles out there. Many will tell you if they freeze well or not. My mom’s rule is “if it reheats well as leftovers then it will probably reheat well from frozen”. Personally, I prefer to freeze right before you are supposed to bake to avoid drying it out but this is up to you!
- Soups- Unless it is a crock pot recipe, go ahead and cook the soup and just reheat after thawing
- Sauces- This includes things like spaghetti sauce, taco meat, or just straight sauce. Since I don’t love to eat previously frozen pasta, I like to make the sauce and then cook the pasta day of.
- Marinades- You can find a ton of chicken marinades out there that you freeze the chicken and marinades raw. You can dump it into a casserole dish and cook after thawing. Don’t forget that you will need sides! Frozen veggies or 90 second rice packs are helpful here.
So what did I make??
To wrap this up, here is a list of some of the meals that I am making for my post baby meals! If there are any things that you are still curious about that I didn’t answer, please feel free to ask!
- Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole
- Crockpot Chicken Burrito Bowls
- Taco Meat
- Spaghetti Sauce
- All the chicken marinades! There are a lot out there but this website has some of our favorites!
- Banana and Blueberry Baked Oatmeal Because a quick breakfast is a lifesaver too!
- Spaghetti Loaves These are great for dinners or a quick lunch since you can just grab the amount you want to thaw out instead of the whole bag or pan