Motherhood has taught me many things, but one of the most essential skills it has taught me is the art of batch cooking. Prior to having children, I enjoyed taking the time to make fresh meals from scratch every day and savored the luxury of a varied menu throughout the week. Now, with two small children, there is just not enough time or mama-energy in the day to play gourmet. Thankfully, I have learned a few helpful tricks along the way to keep our family fed, healthy, and happy.
the importance of Leftovers
For us, leftovers are a saving grace. We don’t mind eating the same thing two days in a row because well, we are just happy to have a quick meal ready. That’s why I love batch cooking;
• It saves us money because we are not ordering takeout.
• We eat healthier meals because we are not in a rush and just grab whatever is available.
• It has graced us with more family time and less cooking and cleaning up.
• Double or triple batching has been a great way to prepare postpartum freezer meals.
The way I approached my freezer meal prep this pregnancy compared to my last was way more efficient and relaxed. This led to a much more successful outcome that I would love to share with any other expecting parents (or anyone in general interested in stocking up that freezer).
Avoid that all day cooking marathon
During my first pregnancy, I dedicated a few days to cooking freezer meals. To ensure freezer staples do not expire, it’s best to cook during your third trimester. A full day cook-a-thon is lot for the average person to push through, but for a swollen, tired, and achy mama, it’s doubly hard. My advice is to gradually build up your freezer. I found during my second pregnancy that a gradual approach kept me from burning out. Even then, by the time I was done and ready to freeze my meals, we ended up eating half of them because I was too exhausted to prepare food for that day. Needless to say, my freezer stock diminished very quickly.
Keep it simple
There are many tutorials out there that are heavily organized and detailed with meal plans and grocery lists. These are admirable and can be extremely helpful, but also overwhelming. Let me assure you, this way is not the only way. Simply pick one or two snacks or meals that you already plan to make for the week and double up. The mess is already being made. The ingredients are already being prepared so why not put the extra time in now. Save one batch to be enjoyed immediately and freeze the extra batch. This approach was less stressful, less physically demanding, and much easier to accomplish.
Store and Label Your Food
First, it’s important to remember that anything cooked in advance needs to come to a complete cool before freezing. Storing food while it’s still warm will result in a build-up of moisture and will lead to freezer burn. Allow the food to sit and cool all day, even overnight if needed, and then proceed to freezing. If storing liquids such as soups or marinara sauces in glass, leave some head room. If there is not enough room for expansion during the freezing process, you may end up with a busted jar/container.
Second, you must be sure to mark your containers with important details. Write down the date the food was prepared, the date it should be used by (most things are good for 3 months), and any cooking or thawing instructions. I made quite a few crockpot recipes so I was always sure to mark down how many hours the meal should be cooked for and on low or high. I also wrote down easy ways I could enjoy the recipes (like in a sandwich, served with rice, etc.).
Don’t forget about snacks
Meals are essential and definitely harder to prepare than snacks are. However, having some prepared snacks will also be very helpful. Most new moms tend to graze throughout the day since it’s all they have time for. This will also help if you have older children at home who will may ask for an after school snack. Preparing hearty and nourishing snacks like energy balls, for example, will give the whole family the fuel they will need throughout the day.
Keep a list of everything in the freezer
Keep track of the meals you’ve made by creating a list and keeping it near your freezer. For example, organize your list by writing down how many batches you’ve have of each recipe. This will make it easy to decide what to thaw and prepare for the following day. Crossing off used items is also a great way to keep this list updated and accurate. You’ve put so much work into this stock; you do not want to forget about it.
I hope you find these tips helpful. I decided to focus on advice rather than freezer friendly recipes as there are endless amount of recipe posts, but not enough addressing the actual preparation process. As I mentioned above, I did make a lot of slow cooker meals this time and most of those recipes were found on Pinterest as I am far from a crockpot guru. I rarely use mine, but really wanted some dump and go meals to have on hand. For the slow cooker I made various shredded chicken recipes and a lentil stew. I also made some meatballs, lentil marinara sauce, and a butternut squash soup. I baked two different kinds of muffins, some pancakes, energy balls, and no sugar added cookies. Casseroles are also great options as well as lasagnas, chilies, and stir fry dishes.
As a result, I ended up with a great freezer stock for after baby comes and it was much more manageable and successful this time around.
Here are some helpful recipes:
• Green Smoothie Muffins
• No-Bake Dark Chocolate Almond Butter Bars
• Nut + Seed Stovetop Granola
• Pomegranate Burst Muffins
• Smoothie Prep 101
• Superhuman Oatmeal Cookies (perfect for nursing moms)
• Sweet and Spicy Almonds
• Trail Mix Granola (Grain-Free)
• Carrot Ginger Soup
• Chocolate Protein Waffles
• Curried Butternut Squash Soup
• Lentil and Rice Fritters
• Lentil Burgers
• One Pot Chili
• Pumpkin Butternut Squash Soup
• Vegan Berry Pancakes
• Zucchini and Chipotle Stewed Lentil Tacos
Learn more about meal prep
CHANTAL URBINA is a registered Massage Therapist and Culinary Nutrition Expert. She is passionate about living a life full of health, love, and happiness and that all three start with our diet. “Nature’s healing properties will never cease to amaze me and it inspires me day after day to create and share recipes made with only real whole foods.”