Natalie is due next month (!!!) which means she’s in prime freezer meal time. Prepping food to eat in the weeks after birth was top priority since I’m the only cook in our house, and I’m cheap as hell when it comes to spending too much on takeout. I’ll outline how I tackled it below, but know that how you eat food now is how you’re gonna eat food after baby comes. This is the time to be realistic, not aspirational (maybe that sentence should just be sewn onto pillows and sold as the catch-all phrase for life postpartum?) If you’ve never used a Crock Pot, now is not the time to research Pinterest’s top 100 slow cooker recipes and assume you’re going to start using it once you become a parent.
- People will give you food. This is very nice of them! Many will ask in advance what you like, and honey, this is not the time to be coy. “Oh, we’ll eat anything!” is not helpful to you, a person who does indeed have food preferences, but especially not helpful to the person offering. Outline a few things you don’t like– no mushrooms or coconut in this house, thank you!– and point them towards a region or a few dishes you know you’ll appreciate having around (“we love any kind of Mexican food” or “breakfast items I can eat with one hand!”)
- If you want vegetables around, you’re gonna have to get ’em yourself. There are always exceptions, but people tend to gift comfort foods in times of life upheaval. Be prepared to get a lot of cream-based casseroles, pastas, and beige-colored foods. Refer back to the above advice and get direct with your mother, “Before you come over on Thursday, can you pick up some dip-able veggies? A bag of apples? Anything resembling a nutrient?” You’re so out of it hormonally the first week or two that you likely won’t care or really taste what food is around, but your body will thank you.
- If you’re the one gifting new parents a meal, make sure it’s a complete one. Don’t make a pan of meatballs and sauce just assuming they have a box of pasta in the cupboard. I’m not saying it needs to be four courses plus tableware, but logically think through how you can make this meal + leftovers as easy as possible. This includes using reusable or recyclable containers– the absolute last thing a new parent wants to do is put “return Pyrex to friend across town” on their to-do list.
- You can gift food well after the baby arrives. We are so in love with every single person who poured their generous hearts into nourishing us that first week or two, but the most memorable food gift came about six weeks after we were home from the hospital. My former boss brought over a pan of STILL WARM apple crisp and a GALLON OF ICE CREAM. Was it indulgent as hell? Absolutely. But it was unexpected in that society assumes you’ve got some sort of grip on the grocery game again after the first month. I’m three months postpartum now and would fall to my knees weeping if someone brought by a sandwich tray and said “lunch is taken care of for the week.”
- Alrighty, how I did it. I’m not a huge recipe person, rather I usually prep some protein early in week, then have veggies on hand and various items to mix and match with pantry staples to create decent meals. Basically I took my weekly strategy and bulked it up thanks to a trip to Costco (aka hell. Why do I hate going to Costco so much.) I prepped like 10 pounds of chicken breasts, then shredded the meat and froze in containers that held enough for a couple meals. I cooked up 5 pounds of ground turkey and did the same. (If you do this, just season the meat with salt, pepper & garlic powder so it can go with anything.) I got bags of frozen veggies and made sure we had multiple bags of rice, cans of beans and salsa, jars of pasta sauce and Indian simmer sauces, burrito shells, pasta, tortilla chips, etc. We’d then take one thing of meat out of the freezer and build from there out the pantry– did we want tacos, stir fry, pasta, salad?
- Don’t forget breakfast. I blended green smoothies ahead of time and froze them individually in plastic cups, as well as baked oatmeal squares and eggs with veggies you make in muffin tins (the Internet is your friend for any of these recipes.) You will be holding a baby and most of your eating will be done with one hand, so plan accordingly!