Having a new baby in the house is an exciting, and busy, time for everyone! For the first several weeks after birth, your baby will need to be fed every two hours or so, around the clock. There are also countless diaper changes each day, and visits from well-meaning loved ones.
With all of the hustle and bustle going on, it’s very unlikely that you will have either the time or energy to prepare very many home cooked for yourself and the rest of your family. This doesn’t mean that you have to resign yourself to months of carry-out dishes and pizza deliveries. The following tips and food preparation tricks will help you to save time so that you can get more rest and focus on your growing little one!
Your Freezer is Your Friend – Start Food Prep Early
Precooking and freezing at least some of your family’s meals so that they can later be warmed up in a microwave or stove will definitely save time for you later. Most dishes can be kept frozen in your freezer for at least 6 months before you will use them, so it’s okay to start baking ahead as early as your second trimester.
There are a few ways that you can go about safely freezing and storing the meals that you prepare in advance. Dishes can always be cooked in traditional glass, metal or stone bake ware, allowed to cool, wrapped, and then stored in the same baking pan in the freezer.
If you are like most folks, however, you probably only have a very limited number of casserole dishes and other bake ware, so you will probably want to remove the meal from the pan once it cools and then store it in plastic, freezer grade storage bags. This option will take up the least amount of space in your freezer, allowing you to store more meals.
Another option is to purchase disposable plastic casserole dishes that are both oven and microwave safe. This allows you to cook several casseroles at one time in your oven, and then wrap them once cool and freeze them. You can then reheat them in either the microwave or oven, all in the same pan.
Don’t Forget to Plan for All of Your Meals and Add Variety
When most of us thinking of preparing meals ahead, we tend to only think of supper or dinner foods, but breakfast foods such as scrambled eggs, waffles, pancakes, fried sausages, biscuits and French toast can all be frozen and quickly reheated in your microwave.
Casseroles are one of the easiest meals to prepare, freeze and later reheat because most have a sauce that will help the other ingredients in the dish retain their shape, consistency and taste when reheated. It’s also fairly simple to double these types of recipes and cook two or more casserole dishes at one time.
While you will want to prepare and freeze your family’s favorite meals, consider using free online menu planners to help you plan out several weeks of menus in advance so that you don’t duplicate too many of your meals too often. Experimenting with new recipes and rotating your menus will help prevent boredom.
Search Online for Free Recipes for Casseroles and Slow Cooker Dishes
Conduct online searches to find recipes for easy to make ahead and freeze casseroles, pasta bakes and similar dishes. All Recipes and All Free Casserole Recipes are just two of the many sites that contain thousands of recipes for filling and delicious meals that are easy to prepare.
If you have a slow cooker, don’t forget that you can also use it to help cut down on the time that you need to spend in the kitchen once your new baby arrives. Using handy liners, you just do all of your prep work now and preassemble all of the ingredients and freeze them together, directly in the liner. Once baby arrives, just toss the liner and its contents in the slow cooker when you get up in the morning, and viola, you have a fresh, steaming hot, home cooked meal in a few hours with little effort.
The amount of liquid and spices that you use in a slow cooker is often different from traditional recipes. Crock Pot Recipes and The Food Network are just two of the numerous sites that offer a wide selection of recipes that are especially designed to for your slow cooker.
Ask for Help
Since you are preparing several weeks to months’ worth of meals in advance, it’s likely that you will spend several afternoons cooking multiple meals. Don’t be afraid to ask friends and loved ones for some extra help when you go shopping for the ingredients and when doing your prep work in the kitchen.
To help you stay on track while cooking, print out the recipes and stick them on the cabinet doors. This will keep the recipe at eye level and help you to not skip steps while you are cooking.
It’s also a good idea to have freezer proof tape and markers on hand so that you can date and label your meals as they are prepared and placed in the freezer.
Don’t Forget About Snacks
While the focus is preparing meals ahead for your entire family, don’t forget about snacks and treats so that you can stave off cravings and keep up your energy. Consider dividing and freezing some of your favorite foods into a single serving size so that you can quickly heat up smaller, individual sized portions.
Preparing several weeks’ worth of meals in advance is a lot of work, but it is well worth it. Doing the work now, before baby arrives, will truly be a life saver when you are struggling to fit in enough rest during your baby’s first few weeks of life.