Is there anything more exciting than your last few months of pregnancy? You are filled with anticipation and eagerness to meet your little bundle of joy, and a desire to have everything ready before their arrival.
One thing you don’t want to miss is preparing in the kitchen and stocking your freezer! This often-overlooked preparation will be monumental in reducing unnecessary stress postpartum.
What are “freezer meals”? They are meals made with fresh ingredients and whole foods. You prep them ahead of time and store them in a zip lock bag or tray in your freezer until they are ready to be eaten. When it’s time, simply defrost, pop it in the oven or dump it in the crockpot for an easy, healthy and delicious meal.
This might leave you thinking, how can I stock my freezer before baby? What is freezer meal prep? What other food essentials can I stock up on? How can I get freezer meal prep done efficiently?
I’m here to help!
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One of the best things that I did in my last month of pregnancy was in the kitchen. I channeled all of those inner "nesting" desires towards delicious and healthy meal prep for my freezer.
In the first weeks to months after baby is home, the last thing you will want to be doing (or your partner!) is cooking meals, grocery shopping, and doing endless dishes.
Seriously, having these meals ready to be pulled out and heated at any time was a life saver in our first weeks at home. If you are a first-time mom, please don’t skip this. Time becomes so valuable and you will inevitably be starving, especially if you are nursing.
Let’s get in the kitchen and prep some super easy meals with no pre-cooking necessary. I’ve also included some tips about stocking your pantry and fridge, and other ways that I made meal prep fun and social in my last few weeks of pregnancy.
Being a new mom is the best. You will love having your warm and snuggly newborn sleep on your chest and inhaling their new baby smell. I absolutely loved wearing N in my Baby K’tan. Snuggling and nursing her on the couch with a good book was the best.
But, I should warn you, this learning curve is steep and consuming. You will be dealing with blow-outs, a million outfit changes and possible colic. You will be figuring out breastfeeding in the first week, and setting up a support system. You and your new baby will be going to countless appointments too.
So, when does cooking happen? It wouldn’t. Not without taking the time to prepare healthy freezer meals now, that is.
As a new mom, you’ll more than likely be missing out on a lot of sleep that your body is used to having. This will be happening while your body is still recovering from birth. This sleep deprivation creates cravings for sugary sweets and carbs.
Now, I’m definitely not here to tell you not to indulge in those, I ate my fair share of banana bread and chocolate chip cookies in my weeks after birth. But if I hadn’t had a freezer stocked with nutritious and well-balanced meals, I would have been in trouble.
Not only will healthier meals help you have more energy for baby, it will also get you on the right path for eventually losing your baby weight.
While nothing can replace sleep, eating whole foods with a balance of vegetables, grains and proteins is going to keep you fuller and keep you going longer.
If the meals are already prepped, this is one thing to take off the list of things to ask your partner to do when they are home and available. Instead of cooking, picking up take-out, or doing endless dishes, they can help with the baby. This will allow you to sleep or shower.
This will also free them up do other cleaning or care for other children or animals if you have them. By preparing your relationship before baby, you’ll already have some systems, and phrases in place to ensure your partner is supporting you with these things. It will make your transition into parenthood a smooth one.
It will also allow for you two to be present with the baby together, sharing in this special time of having a newborn. It will eliminate one source of stress from your day so that you can focus on how wonderful your new and changed life is.
New babies are often fussiest in the evening. It is deemed “the witching hour” by many new parents. Baby may want to cluster feed in this window and can often need constant rocking, wearing, or some other kind of soothing.
N almost always needed to be worn in a baby carrier or nurse for what felt like hours between 6 and 9 PM every night during the first 2 months. She would get so worked up at this time of the day.
It would be exactly when I realized I hadn’t eaten since noon and would be hit with the most intense and ravenous feeling of hunger.
Having food prepared that can go directly in the microwave, or was put in a crockpot earlier that day, is going to be key to getting something satisfying and delicious into your body.
Putting in the time before baby is born is essential to making your life easier after baby, I don’t know what we would have done otherwise.
If you are planning to breastfeed, you need calories! I recently attended a lecture about nutrition for babies, toddlers, and expecting/nursing mothers. I was surprised to hear that from a nutritional standpoint the two biggest contributing factors to adequate breastmilk supply are hydration and giving your body enough calories.
Having quality meals on hand will mean that you are meeting your own nutritional requirements as a new mom. This increases your success of providing enough milk for baby.
As a nursing mother, I was so hungry all of the time in my first month home with N. I frankly had no idea that this was going to be the case! You want to be prepared.
The bulk of the prepping that you want to do is for your freezer. With only a few days dedicated to meal prep, you’ll be surprised at how quickly you can stock your freezer with delicious meals.
By using the right resource, you can make meals that require no pre-cooking and just need to be dumped into a crockpot in the morning to be eaten for lunch and dinner that day.
In addition to dinners and lunches, I also challenge you to prepare some easy breakfasts and snacks while you are at it. I never knew how fun and satisfying bulk cooking could be until I was 8 months pregnant and in total nesting mode!
One of the easiest ways to get delicious, hearty and healthy meals prepped with no pre-cooking needed is to prep crock-pot meals. All you have to do is combine ingredients in a ziplock bag, seal and throw in the freezer. It couldn’t be easier!
When you plan your meals, look for recipes that include a variety of the same ingredients to help cut on costs and prep time. For example, if all of your chosen recipes have onions, you can easily chop in bulk using a food processor. If you pick many recipes that include chicken, you can get a better rate by buying in bulk from a store like Costco or BJs.
Choosing all of your own meals might sound daunting and time consuming. It’s also risky because you don’t know for sure if they will freeze well. You know that freezer meal prep is going to be the key to your sanity and healthy eating postpartum, so invest in the right resource.
Pick a freezer meal prep resource that includes a variety of healthy meals. Ideally you want meals that require no pre-cooking because this will mean a lot less upfront effort on your part. A bonus will be if the recipe collection you have includes shopping lists.
One resource that fills all of these requirements, is New Leaf Wellness’ Complete Freezer Bundle. I can also attest to their deliciousness, because I use these recipes weekly in my own freezer meal prepping.
You might want to invest in a membership with New Leaf Wellness. I recently became a member and am loving that I have access to every single recipe in a searchable format. I add my favorite recipes to my own list and the site can generate a shopping list for me with as few or as many recipes as I want. Talk about the ultimate control!
Trina dealt with colic in L after she was born largely due to food intolerances. This time around she is removing known food triggers ahead of time. Using the membership site to do her meal prep will allow her to easily search recipes without dairy, gluten and soy.
Once you have your meals planned out, you’ll need a grocery list. If you use a resource that provides pre-made shopping lists, it’ll make your life even easier.
Make sure to include oils, spices, broths and condiments. Oh and you can’t forget the freezer bags!
One meal prep hack is, consider using a grocery delivery service. With a complete shopping list, you can order everything you need online, and have it delivered to your door. One less step in the process, and more time to spend on prepping delicious meals for when baby arrives!
Starting with a clean kitchen, empty counter tops and a clear kitchen table will make this easier. This is key when my husband and I do our weekly/monthly meal prep. We generally spend 2-4 hours prepping anywhere from 7 to 30 meals at a time from the complete freezer bundle.
18 months postpartum and I’m still hooked on prepping freezer meals. It really helps to save time in our week because I teach from home in the morning so that I can be home with N. This means, I don’t have to factor cooking into my day on top of everything else.
In addition to clear and clean workspaces, make sure your dishwasher and dish drying rack are empty. Doing this will make your clean-up a breeze.
If you have a food processor it will definitely make the prepping go faster. Almost all the recipes call for the vegetables to be “diced” so this makes the food processor a perfect fit. I love mine and find myself using it all the time since I bought it a few years ago.
Just be sure to do your onions and garlic last so that your other vegetables don’t all taste like that. Otherwise, I just give it a rinse between vegetable types and keep going.
I find it helpful to put all my prepped veggies into bowls because when it’s time to fill the bags I can measure out what I need easily. When I finish, I stack the empty bowls to be put into the dishwasher.
I usually buy meats in bulk to save money and spend a bit more time prepping them. For example, I will buy a large piece of beef and cut it into bite-sized pieces myself. If you are looking to save money, this is helpful.
If time is more important, then spend a little more on getting stew beef that’s already cut into cubes, or chicken tenderloins that are already prepped for stir fry.
We always contain our meats to the sink and add them to our bags last to avoid any contamination.
Once all the veggies and beans are ready to go, pull out the spices, oils and any other dry ingredients. I put everything on my kitchen table along with measuring cups and spoons. This will make assembling each bag quick and easy.
I also always make sure to label my bags before I get started. You can print freezer meal labels or write on the bags with a permanent marker. We stick each recipe in its corresponding labeled bag and put them in a pile. Then we work our way through the pile of bags. Completing each bag in its entirety before moving to the next one.
Once everything is in your zip lock, push out all of the air and carefully seal them. I usually have a big Rubbermaid bin on the floor and add the bags as I go. Once they are all completed, I stack them neatly in the freezer by type. For example, the chicken meals in one stack, all of the beef meals, all of the vegetarian meals, etc.
Often when I think about freezer meals, in general I think about dinners, but so many breakfast options freeze well! You can make your own waffles to freeze, pancakes, breakfast burritos, quiches, muffins, and bread loaves.
If you are freezing baked bread, be sure to let it cool completely, then wrap tightly with a plastic wrap and then over that with aluminum foil. If you are freezing pancakes, waffles, or muffins, again let them cool completely.
First freeze your items on a cookie sheet, then put frozen items into a zip-lock freezer bag and remove the air. This will make sure that they do not stick to each other. Removing the air will help them to last longer in the freezer.
When you return home from the hospital, you want to have your house ready to go, and the kitchen is no place to leave out. While the freezer should be your main priority, be sure to have your pantry stocked with lots of easy to grab snacks.
This is just one of many areas of your home that you can stock before baby comes.
When I arrived home, I was shocked by how intense my hunger was in the first few weeks of breastfeeding. My hunger would come on suddenly, and I needed to have things that I could grab quickly.
I would station snacks in strategic places because it inevitably struck as soon as I had gotten N latched. I started keeping bags of trail mix in my bedside table and in my nursing caddy because I needed calories at all hours of the day.
I underestimated my need for snacks, so this was something that Patrick was sent out to pick up in the early days after we returned home.
I recommend having a supply of any snacks you currently enjoy. Get some good quality trail mixes with nuts and dried fruit. Lara bars were another go-to snack for me (and still are). I like the simple ingredient list and high calorie count that you know is good for your body.
Nut butters like almond butter, peanut butter, or cashew butter are all great to have. They taste delicious with a variety of fresh fruit or just on a spoon!
I also survived a lot of afternoons on PB&J sandwiches. Be sure to have some fun flavored jams and jellies so that you can switch up this classic, and filling, snack.
Instant oatmeal packets, or quick cooking oats are also great to have on hand for quick breakfasts, and a bonus is that oats have been known to boost milk supply.
If you are looking to get even more meals made, catch up with some friends before baby or assign a task to your well-intentioned mother-in-law and get them into the kitchen with you!
My good friend, who was from China, stopped by one afternoon and taught me how to make dumplings. We had an awesome time sitting and carefully folding over a hundred dumplings, something I’d never have time to do now. It was an afternoon spent with a good friend and produced many delicious meals and snacks for later.
After my baby shower, my mom and aunt stayed in town for a few days and we did a lot of baking. This resulted in many frozen muffins, banana breads, and other treats ready to be defrosted and enjoyed.
It can be challenging to get your partner involved in your pregnancy and excited about baby! Doing meal prep together is just one great date idea for expectant couples.
Prepping meals together is a great time to have conversations about what life with a baby will be like. Preparing your relationship before baby arrives will make your transition into parenthood a lot easier, and hopefully will reduce stress.
Another idea is to do some meal prepping with other expectant mamas. Are you taking a prenatal yoga or fitness class? Maybe you are in a prenatal support group or labor readiness class. If others in the group are also first-time mothers or due around the same time as you then there is no doubt that they are looking to make new mom-friends.
What better way to get to know them outside of your class than doing a cooking project together where you both leave with something that is going to make your first weeks at home so much easier. Doing a project while you are getting to know a new friend also takes the pressure off and makes conversation easy.
You have so much in common at this point in your life. Believe me, you will be so happy to have another new mom to text with during those late-night nursing sessions or moments when you feel overwhelmed. It’s nice to know another mom who’s going through the same thing.
Some things you just can’t prep ahead of time because you never know when you are going to go into labor. My personal experience had a very slow onset of labor, or as it’s called “early labor”. We were able to do a lot of house prep, including in the kitchen, when we knew the baby was going to come in the next 24-48 hours.
If this is your situation, you will definitely need something to pass the time! While my number one piece of advice in this situation is to SLEEP and REST, if you are like me, you will also need some activities.
I recommend making a big batch of hardboiled eggs for easy to grab snacks, cutting up raw veggies to be easy to dip and eat. If you are feeling up to it (or can send someone else out) buying lots of fruit, greek yogurt, hummus, and cheeses for your fridge is a good idea.
Your friends and family will want to help in whatever way they can once they find out that you have headed to the hospital. Take them up on this!
My mom went and bought a ton of delicious prepared salads, cold cuts, breads, and desserts for our fridge that were waiting when we got back. I had no idea how much I would need that, even with all the prepping I did.
Don’t be shy to ask a friend to stock your fridge with fruit, make you a dessert, hard boil eggs for you, or do a grocery run for anything you might need.
This is something you could even arrange ahead of time with a trusted friend, sibling, or other family member.
Create checklists of things you need to stock in your pantry, freezer and fridge now so that they will be ready should you decide to delegate these tasks. These are just a few examples of many handy and essential checklists included with the Nesting Planner.
Another thing to consider, especially if you live near family, are actively involved in a community, or have a large support network, is initiating a meal train (or asking a friend or family member to take lead).
While this is not something I personally had, I have participated in helping other new mothers with their meal trains.
Basically, you have a sign-up sheet, like the one included with this article’s printable collection, and people commit to a date to provide a meal.
Meal trains that I have been involved with usually meant that the family would put a cooler on their front step for the food to be left in between certain times. The point of this is to make your life easier so there are no visits or socializing involved.
This is a great way for people to directly support you with your new baby and means even more time of pre-planned and prepped food to make your life easier.
If your workplace is supportive of these kinds of things, a work-friend might initiate this by hanging a sign-up in a common space or individually asking people to sign up. Maybe your family is close-knit and nearby, then a large family gathering is a great place for people to sign up.
If digital is more your style, there are great free websites that allow you to invite people to sign up and you can customize drop-off preferences and more.
Are you ready to get your freezer stocked before baby?! I feel so much better knowing that you are going to give yourself this gift. Seriously. There isn’t really a better way to prepare before your baby comes.
I’m thrilled to share advice about it because it’s not something you’d know you needed until it was too late.
I know that the upfront time spent meal prepping before baby, and now each month, reduces evening stress for my family so much. A bonus is that there is nothing better than having your whole house smell like delicious stew and having a yummy meal ready to go by the time dinner rolls around.
Make the commitment to getting this done now by setting yourself up with a resource that will fill your freezer without any pre-cooking, tastes delicious, and provides pre-made shopping lists for up to 30 meals. If you wait, it might not happen 😊
How are you preparing your home for your baby’s arrival? Have any great meal prep tips to add? Comment below! I love to hear from readers.