If you know me, you know that I like to be freakishly prepared. My nursery was done at 5 months pregnant. My labor and delivery bags were packed around 35 weeks. By 34 weeks, my husband and I had taken a newborn class, labor/delivery class, breastfeeding class, and carseat class. I think you get the picture! So at 36 weeks, I enlisted the help of my saint of a mother, and we took on the challenge of stocking my freezer full of meals, snacks, and smoothies that we could have on hand after Christian Grace arrived. Even though this was our first baby, something told me we’d most likely have our hands full and be sleep deprived…so I wanted to have as much prepared in advance as I could! In a single day, my mom and I were able to make the following: roughly 40 freezer meals (for two), 20 lactation smoothie packs, 6 loaves of banana bread, 100 lactation cookies, 24 apple butter muffins, and 40 energy and lactation bites!
Whether you’re the pregnant mama wanting to stock up the freezer, or maybe you’re the friend of a pregnant mama wanting to bring by a home-cooked meal, this is a great resource for successfully making delicious freezer meals!
I’ve decided to chunk this blog post into two parts to make the information a little less overwhelming. This post is all about the process and logistics of making freezer meals. Part 2 includes the actually recipes I used, as well as the shopping list I used!
The following is a step-by-step guide to stocking your freezer with meals and snacks to keep you going during those first weeks/months of life with a newborn:
Step 1: Choose your recipes!
This step was the most time-consuming for me. I wanted to make sure the meals I chose were relatively easy to make, would freeze well, and would actually taste good! If you choose your own recipes, this is the criteria you should follow too! I also wanted a combination of meals that could be heated in a pan, cooked in a slow cooker, and cooked in the oven. Some of my meals could be cooked straight from frozen and others had to be dethawed the night before. I knew I wanted a variety of everything. And something I didn’t realize at first was that some things, like noodles, potatoes, and bell peppers, typically don’t freeze well! I hated the idea of going to the trouble of making some meals only to realize they were ruined in the freezer. And lastly, I didn’t want to pick just any meals, I wanted to make meals that I knew my husband and I would actually enjoy. **I’ll include links for the recipes I used in Part 2 of this post!
Step 2: Create a shopping list!
This took a long time too. First, I copied the ingredients from each recipe all onto one word document. Then, I combined ingredients that were the same. For example, if one recipe called for 2 pounds of ground beef and another called for 1 pound of ground beef, I combined that into 3 pounds of ground beef. This made the shopping list shorter and would make it easier when I was actually in the store. Lastly, I went back through my ingredient list and removed things I already had. These items were mainly condiments, herbs/spices, and baking necessities such as flour. However, keep in mind quantities of everything. At first I deleted flour from my shopping list, but then I realized I needed a total amount of 16 cups, so I re-added it to the list because I didn’t have that much flour on hand! **I’ll include the shopping list I used in Part 2 of this post!
Step 3: Figure out how you’ll store each recipe!
I looked at each of my recipes and decided how I would store each one. For example, I knew I was going to make two chicken pot pies, so I knew I’d need to buy two pie storage containers. There were four main things I chose to store my recipes in! Foil casserole dishes, gallon ziplock bags, quart ziplock bags, and disposable pie pans. Here is a link to the foil casserole dishes I found on Amazon. I bought the smaller ones because these meals were only for my husband and I. By doing this, I could divide one casserole into two smaller dishes and have two meals! **The important thing to remember is not to go cheap when buying your food storage! You do not want to go to all this work only to be disappointed when your meals have freezer burn because your ziplock bags didn’t seal your food completely. When in doubt, proceed with caution. For example, I put my foil casserole dishes into ziplock bags just to give them double the protection!
Step 4: Figure out when you’ll make everything and who will help you!
My mom is pretty much the best mom on earth, and she came by for an entire day to help make everything. I made all these recipes when I was 36 weeks pregnant, and doing it all in one day was difficult. I had to take several breaks to sit down because my feet and back were hurting. Keep in mind your meals should last for about 3 months in the freezer, so you don’t want to make them too early, but keep in mind your body’s limitations if you’re making them later on in pregnancy. You also could split these recipes up and make them over a course of several days. Or you could enlist the help of more than one person! My mom and I definitely could have used another set of hands (or two)!
Step 5: Label your recipes!
Please don’t forget to do this! You don’t want to open up your freezer to a ton of foil squares and plastic bags and not have any idea what is in each of them. On each meal, I included the following information:
- The date: so I could keep track of if they were older than 3 months old down the road
- What the meal was, such as Baked Ziti Casserole
- Cooking instructions: include whether or not it should be dethawed or cooked from frozen. Then include all other instructions. For example, preheat oven to ______ , cover with foil and bake for _______ minutes. Be specific or the instructions won’t help you and you may have to drag out your computer to look up how to cook your meal
- Lastly, I liked to include how to complete the meal. For example, if the meal is Sloppy Joes, you may want to add “Serve with whole wheat buns and potato chips”. If the meal is Baked Ziti, you may want to include “Serve with side salad and garlic bread”. You get the idea! At the beginning of the week, you can look through your freezer and decide what that week’s dinners will be. Then you know what foods need to be bought at the grocery store for that week!
Step 6: Enjoy a few weeks of not worrying about what’s for dinner!