by Lindsay R., one of our HMHB Mamas.
Today we’re sharing some practical advice today from Lindsay R., one of our HMHB Mamas. She impressed all of us in the HMHB private Facebook group with her amazing freezer meal prep during her pregnancy, and she told us later that having these meals ready to go helped her maintain her sanity postpartum. She’s sharing her tried and true methods today.
In Lindsay’s Own Words…
I decided to embark on the journey of making freezer meals for postpartum to eliminate one responsibility for my husband and I while we were learning to be new parents. Where we live, there is a plethora of options for food delivery, and I didn’t want to fall into the trap of constantly ordering out because I knew it wouldn’t be good for our bodies or our wallets.
Additionally, while our friends and family have been respectful of our dietary choices, I wouldn’t expect them to make me a Whole30 compliant meal post baby, so I wanted to make sure we had ample options for good, healthy food during those crazy postpartum weeks. Spending the time preparing freezer meals is definitely a time investment, but in my opinion, it was so worth the time spent. Here’s a few steps to follow if you have no idea where to start!
Step 1: Choose your recipes.
To start, I turned to my best friend: Pinterest. Specifically, I was looking for recipes that I could easily double, would require little assembly/prep after the fact and would freeze well. This meant I was looking for a lot of slow cooker meals or casseroles that I could pre-make and heat up with no hassle.
Some freezer meals require extra steps from freezer to mouth (such as cutting fresh zoodles, making sauces, etc.), which I personally ruled out because I wanted to have as little food prep as possible once the baby was here. I wanted to set myself up for success so I stuck to meals where the instructions read “Defrost, reheat” or “Defrost, put in crock pot.” Almost all of the meals I chose were Paleo, or could be modified to be made Whole30.
Step 2: Strategize your time.
Time is something I never seem to have enough of in my life (anyone else?). I had no idea when the baby would come and wasn’t planning on taking much maternity leave before his or her arrival. Because of this, I knew I wouldn’t have whole days where I’d be able to prep and cook.
And as it turns out, even when I did have whole days toward the end of my pregnancy, I didn’t have the energy or stamina to cook all day. Instead, I grouped the meals into smaller categories by ingredients so I could maximize my time. This way, I made sure that I wouldn’t end up with too many fresh ingredients in my fridge that needed to be cooked/prepped/frozen before they went bad.
When I got home from work so I’d look through the recipes I was making and prep what I could in the limited amount of time I had without needing to get involved in making the whole meal from start to finish. For example, on one evening I’d chop all of the veggies I needed and store them in a zip-top bag until the next day, or I’d brown ground beef or cook a spaghetti squash that I could use later.
Your situation might be different! For some people, the whole day prep-a-thon might be the best way to go (I salute you). Or maybe you’re trying to prep while an older child is napping or at school. Either way, the point is the same: figure out your schedule and time availability and plan accordingly, but don’t forget you can always stop and restart as needed. Try not to get discouraged. Though it is can feel daunting, the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.
Step 3: Make a grocery list.
Since I made the meals in multiple stages, I made my list by grouping together meals with similar ingredients. I started with a bunch of ground beef meals (e.g., meatballs, casseroles, meatloaves) and bought more ground beef than anyone should ever be seen leaving Costco with.
If you’re lucky enough to have found something on Pinterest that gives you a grocery list, then HUZZAH you’re all set! But if you’re like me and found recipes from multiple sources then you’ll make your own list. I started with the first recipe and listed ingredients that I needed. Moving onto the other recipes I would put tally marks next to previously listed ingredients so I knew how many pounds of chicken I would need, or how many peppers or zucchini to buy. Armed with my list, I figured out where to shop, plotted a path, and headed out.
Make the list carefully so you’re not running out for ingredients (or asking your partner to run to the store) in the middle of cooking. Also, carefully count your ingredients. I swore to my husband we needed 20 pounds of chicken. He did not question me. Turns out: we did not need 20 pounds of chicken.
Step 4: Prep your meals.
Now the real work begins. I cooked a little bit at a time, so that meant that when I was making a Spaghetti Squash Casserole, I made meatballs and cooked the spaghetti squash one night and assembled the casserole the next. When I worked on chicken fajitas, I spent one evening slicing, dividing, and bagging all of the peppers and veggies that I needed. The next day I cut up all of the chicken and assembled each of meal.
I used a vacuum sealer (like this one) for each of my meals. For the casseroles, I purchased 8×8 disposable pans which would fit inside of the vacuum sealer dimensions. This meant that only half of a recipe would fit into each pan, but since I was just cooking for my husband and I, that was enough for a dinner. If you’re cooking for a larger family, you will probably want to use a larger pan. Either way, I definitely recommend purchasing disposable pans to make your life easier.
The most important thing to remember as you’re diligently making these meals is to not get hung up on what you don’t get done. Things will come up, you will fall behind and that’s ok. If you need help, enlist your partner, older kids, or some friends to come for a meal prep party! You could assign everyone to bring some of the ingredients, and then everyone would leave with some delicious meals prepped. Anything that you finish will be helpful in your postpartum period! The meals that I made have been a lifesaver, and I’m so thankful that I spent the time to make them.
Bonus: A Few of my Favorite Recipes
Curious about which meals I choose? Here are a few of my favorites:
Make Ahead Freezer Chicken Fajitas from New Leaf Wellness
Spaghetti Meatball Casserole from Living Loving Paleo
General Tso’s Chicken from Life Made Full
The Ultimate Whole30 Slow Cooker Freezer Meal Plan from New Leaf Wellness
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