My favorite meal is one that I don't have to cook. I make a lot of food between meals and snacks at my house (though to be fair, the children handle eggs, bacon, and mushrooms for breakfast. Cassidy is even becoming quite the omelet chef!) So I really enjoy it when we can go out to eat, or when somebody else makes a meal. After I have a baby I really enjoy meals made by others!
But even if you're lucky enough to have a meal train after your baby is born you'll typically only see a week's worth of meals or so. And even if you have a husband stay home for a week or two after the baby comes, you'll usually only get meals while he's home from work!
What about after that? My answer is not to jump into cooking again right away – I want to still feel cared for and comforted as I get to know a new baby with big needs. My answer is to fill my freezer before my baby comes!
Working Up to a Full Freezer
When I was pregnant with Brennan I lived in a tiny house that had a tiny refrigerator – and the freezer on top was nothing to brag about!
I knew that a lot of women put away a few freezer meals before their babies came, and I wanted to do the same. So I made several entrees and froze them away. They were wonderful to have after his birth. I couldn't believe I hadn't done it with Cassidy and Asher!
I decided to go for a more ambitious goal while I was pregnant with Galen – working to get around 40 entrees put up in my freezer. It was really nice.
I learned a lot about freezer food, and I learned a lot as we ate the food (mostly that I should have made more generous portions of some foods – sometimes it just wasn't as filling and the family wanted more, and then we had my mom eating many meals with us, so they didn't stretch as well).
Freezer Food for Fiver
This time around I took on freezer food again. We were able to buy a chest freezer from a friend last year, so I planned even more freezer meals. I also decided to use a gift card I got for Christmas and invest in a book on freezer meals – and I am really, really glad that I did!
I used a lot of the tried and true meals from my pregnancy with Galen, but the freezer meal book gave me a lot more ideas. More important than the recipes, though, was the complete, logical system for doing all the planning and actual food preparation.
I loved having the forms and the tips for successful planning and shopping.
I liked the ideas for how to save time and streamline on kitchen day (though it's still a whole lot of work – I won't lie to you).
I also like the forms that help me to stay organized even now that the preparation is done and both of my freezers are stuffed full!
So with forms in hand I did my planning and tackled my shopping. I actually divided my work up into two weekends, with a weekend break in between.
I did a chicken-based weekend first (which also included a vegetable/cheese based entree). Then I took a weekend off.
My second weekend was beef-based (and included a sausage based entree).
I decided to break it up because I planned a lot more entrees – working to give myself a full month of lunches and dinners. I planned lunches because Scott comes home for lunch so I typically make fancier lunches than I would if it were just the children and I eating 🙂
There were some mishaps (mostly unrelated to freezer food prep), but all in all my preparation went really smoothly. I credit the excellent planning worksheets that came with the book, as well as some past experience from doing this before Brennan and Galen were born. Both weekends were tiring, but it's really worth it now.
I know that I have two freezers stuffed full of entress I can simply thaw overnight and bake or reheat on the stove. I just need to add a side dish or two and they're ready to go. I actually did much of the side dish planning, too, labeling each meal with cooking instructions and an idea for a side (salad, CSA veggie, etc.) Salads are easy so they're often the side – and I can just get bagged salads if I'm feeling really tired.
I found that the chicken freezer meals seemed to yield less, so I planned them for a lighter meal and paired a beef meal up for the heartier meal of the day.
A handy little calendar gave me a place to write out what would be eaten on what day. It's a basic plan I can follow without having to think (and can also change around some if it suits me.) I also have some recipes that made a lot and will be good if we have visitors sitting down to eat with us – no extra stress for me.
All in all I love knowing that I have a lot of food ready for after the baby comes. I will be able to ease into fulltime cooking gradually, and spend more time getting to know my family and getting used to the new normal of life as a family of seven 🙂 Scott thinks I'm crazy for doing the work before the baby comes – but I know it will be completely worth it 🙂