Around about month 7 of my pregnancy, the nesting instinct kicked in hard. I had a long list of things that I wanted to take care of before she arrived, and I’m still amazed that we got them all done. We cleaned up our yard and patio, organized all our closets, had our area rugs professionally cleaned, and took care of some small projects around the house that we’d been putting off for the better part of a year or so.
But the task that was on the top of my list was to stock our (very small) freezer to the gills with ready to heat and eat meals so that we could concentrate on baby, and not the cooking and shopping.
If you search the internet, there’s no shortage of freezer meal plans for expecting mothers. But in looking at as many as I could, nothing really sounded good to me. They all seemed to rely on heavy and caloric casseroles that didn’t really interest me. I found a few recipes here and there that I wanted to try, but in the end, I decided that I would put together my own plan that worked for us.
I spent a lot of time on the NY Times cooking site. I’ve found that their recipes are nearly always a home run in our house. I also like that they have a ton of great ethnic cuisine recipes that are quick and easy. Melissa Clark is also a great source, not just her NY Times column, but her cookbooks are always the ones I reach for first.
I wanted to share the plan that I put together, as someone who loves food — big, bold and bright tastes, with a wide range of flavors. I wanted things that tasted fresh, things that were easy and would keep well in the freezer. I also wanted to include a few breakfast items, and some snacks that would be easy to grab and eat to help with the breastfeeding hunger. I was warned about that — the hunger is real!
I ended up with over 20 great meals and snacks that were easy to thaw and or reheat. I wanted to document this so that I could share it with others who are wondering how to prepare for a baby, or just stock their freezer to make life easy. I’ll also be able to look back and know I have this all documented, and all my top freezer recipes are in one place.
A few tips so that you’re ready to go with any of these:
- Think about getting an Instant Pot. This has replaced my slow cooker. It cooks things in about 1/4 of the time — great for all meats and especially rice. This made quick work of a lot of these recipes, and I break it out several times a week.
- Close to your due date or event, make sure your fridge is stocked with veggies that will keep for a bit — red and green cabbage, english cucumbers, carrots, radishes, bell peppers and kale or collard greens.
- Friends will want to bring you meals, but don’t hesitate to ask if they can also bring greens for salad and fresh herbs to help you augment some of these dishes. A lot of them call for cilantro, basil is nice to have. Also, it never hurts to ask for wine and/or beer 🙂 My lactation consultant said the best time for Mom to have a glass of wine is when you’re nursing. It helps to relax you, and if you’re having only a glass, there’s no need to worry about pumping and dumping. If they’re stopping by in the morning, see if they’re up for bringing coffee and pastries.
- Trader Joe’s is really helpful for prepping for these meals — while I made a lot of rice on my own, I’ve also relied on the frozen bags that they sell. I also got a lot of bread and froze it to have on hand. And I also used their canned beans and corn for some of these.
- Keep the basics on hand – spaghetti sauce in the pantry or freezer, lots of pasta, beans and grains in your pantry. Garlic and ginger, soy sauce, olive oils and vinegars, lemons and limes, etc.
Breakfasts and snacks:
- Homemade Frozen Waffles I used my favorite waffle recipe, made a big batch one morning for us to have immediately, and froze the rest. Easy to grab and heat up in the toaster.
- Melissa Clark Double Coconut Granola The only granola recipe you’ll ever need.
- The Best Blueberry Muffins I was surprised by how well these froze up. When I wanted them, I just took them out of the freezer a few hours before and set it on the counter to thaw.
- Breakfast Burritos One of our favorite meals of all.
- Banana Oat Snack Bars Great for breastfeeding Moms. My Mother made us a batch of these and we froze them. They were great for grab and go.
- Dijon & Cognac Beef Stew My Mother was kind enough to cook this one for us ahead of time. We stirred in a bit of good mustard when we were ready to serve it. Great with some crusty bread.
- Spicy Sichuan Pork (served over rice or noodles)
- Broccolini & Sausage Orzo (I froze the sautéed broccolini and sausage and made the orzo on demand, which only took 10 minutes)
- Mustard Bacon Chicken This is a one-pot David Lebovitz recipe, and I’m so glad I have this in my repertoire now. This was incredibly good and easy. Perfect for a crisp April night. It froze beautifully.
- Chana Masala So good you don’t even notice it’s vegetarian. This also freezes really well, and makes a huge batch. I serve it over rice, topped with yogurt, cilantro and lemon. I love that it’s healthy, and packed with protein from the chickpeas.
- Slow Cooker Chicken Enchilada Soup Couldn’t be easier! Just add the fresh garnishes (avocado, sour cream, cilantro, lime, tortilla chips) once you heat it back up.
- Cilantro Lime Chicken Thighs I can’t remember how I stumbled upon this recipe, but it is so good. I like this over jasmine rice.
- Vietnamese Slow Cooker Pork Tacos I would put this at the top of the list. It’s one of our favorites — a great NY Times recipe. It’s great in tacos, but also really good over simple rice. It’s a really tasty and flexible dish. I froze the pork, and made sure to have cabbage, cucumbers and carrots on hand to make the slaw on demand. I was able to make the pork in my Instant Pot, which took very little time. Its great for cooking large amounts of meat like this.
- Slow Roasted Lamb Flatbreads with Yogurt Mint Sauce Another one I relied on my Instant Pot for. I made the yogurt sauce on demand, and just heated up the lamb when we wanted these for dinner. Served on top of Trader Joe’s frozen garlic naan, and with some jarred tomato chutney.
- Chicken Fajitas Easy enough. I stored the chicken in one bag, the peppers and onions in another. Threw them in the oven together when we wanted to eat.
- Freezer Burritos: Breakfast and Dinner We kicking ourselves for not having always had these stocked and on hand. These went really quickly, and I made 8 of each. They were so easy to grab, reheat, and eat one-handed. They were also quite filling. I need to make a new batch! I liked this Bon Appetit article to provide the basics. I ended up making the beans and a large batch of cilantro rice in my Instant Pot. From there, assembly was a breeze.
- Spicy Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches Also used the Instant Pot for this. Did the chicken in there, froze it, and we had frozen hamburger buns on hand that we thawed for this dish. I did a red cabbage slaw to top it with.
- West African Chicken Peanut Stew This froze beautifully, we served it over jasmine rice. I added more peanut butter than called for, and I subbed a small can of diced tomatoes and 2 tbsps of tomato paste in for the 4 plum tomatoes. I also added 2 cups of diced onions that I’d sauteed in sesame oil, and completed it with chicken broth to taste to make it the consistency that I wanted. Topped with lime, cilantro and Siracha.
- Meatballs This is my Husband’s domain. He does a combination of veal, pork and ground beef meatballs. He fries them up, and we reheat them in marinara sauce when we’re ready to eat them. His meatball recipe is close to this one that David Lebovitz uses for a meatball sub.
- Stir Fry – A no-brainer, not really a recipe. I chopped up a combo of peppers, onions and snow peas, froze them in one bag, and cut up some chicken to freeze in another bag. When i was ready, I sauteed them together in a wok with sesame oil, and finished it off with soy sauce, ginger and garlic. Served over rice.
- Chicken Tikka Masala Another one we served over jasmine rice.