One of the best things I did to prepare for life with a newborn was to stock my freezer with easy-to-make casseroles. Life with a new baby is overwhelming, and once the food from friends and families stopped coming, I was left to my own devices. Here are a few things I learned in my quest to become that mom:
1// Invest in disposable baking pans
Whether you're making freezer meals for yourself, or for a new mom friend, whomever is on the receiving end will appreciate having virtually no cleanup! Sure, it may be more wasteful, but with a new baby, you'll be lucky if you get 5 minutes to yourself to eat, let alone wash a heavy baking pan. Personally, I bought in bulk (my local Kroger always has Buy 2, Get 1 Free sales) and skipped out on buying pans with lids. I found that the lids just take up more room in my freezer and cost more than regular ol' aluminum foil, so it really wasn't worth my while.
2// Schedule your prep time
I know this sounds seriously Type-A, and believe me, I'm not that person either. But trust me on this one, it will make your life so much easier. Before I go grocery shopping I pick about three recipes I want to make and buy all my ingredients the day before I plan to prep. Generally, Saturdays or Sundays are my best bet, and I will spend 4-5 hours in the kitchen making everything at once. It does require some commitment, but you get everything out of the way all at once and then you have enough food to last you for goodness knows how long! I make sure to clean as I go so I don't get bogged down by a messy kitchen and lose steam.
3// Double your recipe
Why spend more time making a recipe twice, when you can spend the same amount of time making double, triple, or quadruple the original amount?! I always double my recipes and make two pans of each dish. Saves me a ton of time in the long run!
4// Substitute the healthy stuff whenever possible
If you're breastfeeding, it's important to make sure you're giving your baby the best nutrients possible! One of the drawbacks of making casseroles is that more often than not, they're not very good for you. Cream-based soups and loads of carbohydrates are all too common. I try to seek out recipes that can be both healthy and yummy. Then, I try to make healthy substitutions whenever possible.
If a recipe calls for ground beef, I always use ground turkey instead. I also try to incorporate more veggies into my recipes. If a lasagna recipe calls for diced onions, I might also add some bell peppers, zucchini or eggplant. Greek yogurt is a great stand-in for sour cream and you can skip those packets of taco seasoning that are loaded with sodium and just opt to use your own spices.
5// Label, label, label!
Mommy brain is real, folks. When it comes time to pop one of your bad boys' in the oven, you don't want to be scouring the internet trying to recall your cooking directions. Once my pans are assembled, I tear off a piece of aluminum foil and record the type of dish, oven temperature and length of cooking time with a Sharpie before I wrap them up. This makes my job much simpler when all I had to do is pre-heat the oven!
Here are a few of my favorite freezer meals I've made:
Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole | Six Sisters' Stuff
Shepherd's Pie | True Aim
Lasagna | Happy Money Saver
Chili Dog Casserole | The Weary Chef
Tuna Casserole | Skinny Mom
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