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OMG we're having a baby!

Yes, and as much as we're thrilled, we're also terrified. The baby's not due for another 8 months, but I'm starting to think about preparing food for the next, oh, 18 years or so.

The problem is, I'm kind of a food snob and I usually eat freshly prepared food. But realistically, I'm never going to have time to cook again and I know I'll eventually get tired of take-out so I'm thinking I need to learn how to prepare stuff that can be frozen and then reheated, but I have no idea what freezes well or how long you can keep it or even the best ways to reheat it.

So, what to do? Should I buy a big freezer? How long does lasagna last? Do you have to reheat the whole huge lasagna or do you cut it up first? How about chicken pot pie? What else should I cook? Do some things need to be heated in the oven or can everything go in the microwave? Are there books I should buy?

I'm panicking here, people.

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  1. Congrats JoyM! My suggestion is more about your baby's food (when he/she becomes old enough to eat) My kids are now 15 and 19. When they were young, I never bought jarred baby food. I steamed my own vegies and pureed them in a baby food mill. Then, I'd freeze them in ice cube trays and then pop them out and store them in zip lock bags. Then to serve, you just defrost or cook in the microwave. I did this with fruit and rice/meat when the doc said it was okay. I saved so much money and knew that my babies were eating fresh food with no extra sugar or preservaties. Congratulations! You will be so happy!

    Tracy

    2 Replies
    1. re: mrsmegawatt

      Congratulations JoyM!
      Just like Tracy, my kids never ate jarred food.
      My immersion blender was my holy grail for feeding my kids. I would make, let's say, meatloaf, veggies and potatoes, and whir it all up in a deep, narrow pyrex cup. Of course, this wasn't their first meal, but you get the idea. I would do this with canned fruits too, when they were very young.

      Do invest in an extra freezer. You'll be able to stock away food like nobody's business, and you'll spend less time at the store, and more time with your baby. Besides, schlepping to the store with a baby is highly overrated. lol

      Have fun!

      1. re: hbgrrl

        CONGRATS! It would have freaked me out no end to feel pressure never to feed my babies from a jar... What I remember about this period (my kids are now 16 and 19) is that the era of "baby food" lasts a very very short time, and then they are grabbing everything! If you have time and inclination, do the immersion blender thing. Otherwise, there are lots of organic baby foods in jars now, if that is your inclination, and regular baby food in jars is way better than it used to be (less salt, etc.)

        My MIL offered money for a dishwasher, and we asked for a freezer and microwave instead, and never regretted it. Mostly we froze food for ourselves in the beginning-- homemade spaghetti sauce, a great meatball recipe we loved, etc. Stuff that just needed defrosting and reheating (I agree that cooking most stuff in the microwave is not so great-- but thawing and reheating are not bad).

        Feeding kids is fun! I still remember the look on my younger son's face the first time he ate "solid" food (bananas from a jar). He looked puzzled, and then got an expression which said, Why have you been hiding that stuff from me? and he grabbed the spoon. You are in for a big adventure!

    2. Congratulations!!!!!! Life does not become THAT complicated with child. Fortunately, they sleep a lot at the beginning and you have time to get used to the changes in your life. It is not necessarily true that you won't have time to cook or shop again - you just need to tweak scheduling how you use your time. It's amazing how quickly you can learn to multi-task. Don't make any huge decision, vis a vis buying a freezer; do get a couple of books on parenting. Try to connect with some other soon-to-be parents and/or new ones and get advice about local resources and support networks. My daughter spent lots of infant and toddler time in the kitchen with me - I think that's what turned her into a passionate young cook. Have fun.....

      1. congrats! I have a 15 month old & one on the way. I thought the same thing- but really- it wasn't as hard to cook as I thought it would be. I actually think it's harder to food shop than cook. Some people suggest cooking after putting the baby to bed, but I usually just kept him busy somehow. Now, I put him in the highchair with finger foods.

        And once your baby is old enough, chop up whatever you're eating- my son loves garlic & herbs now!

        As for the meals- I never use the microwave, only oven. I guess you can but I hate microwaved food. I usually cut lasagna up before freezing, unless you freeze a whole one to take out & eat over a week. Also, an easy fresh meal is variations of pizza (I don't make the dough). I use whatever types of veggies & cheese I have. As for chicken pot pie- the way I make it so that it keeps is to make it crustless, and then serve it with a batch of biscuits.

        1. Whoah there! Take it easy! Your new little sleep-destroyer won't be eating lasagne for at least 1-1/2 years, so I really do think you have PLENTY of time to chill out about this. As a mom of two (who have thus far survived to adulthood so it's no longer my problem what they eat) and a parenting foodwriter here are some words of support:

          - Once your baby begins eating solid foods (the timing for which is beyond the scope of my expertise) you'll be introducing "pure" foods, one at a time. Cereals first, then various meats, fruits and vegetables. This is a non-issue. You'll cook some squash, puree it in a blender and feed. I never bought a single jar of prepared baby food in my life and if you don't want to, you won't have to either.

          - Much sooner than you think possible, your baby will want to feed him/herself. Small bits of permitted foods place on high chair tray will do the trick. Once he or she is able to eat everything, just feed what you're eating, cut up small. I never really adjusted seasoning to suit my kids - they ate what we ate. Neither one was a big eater, but I refused to present them with a three-ring circus of options. If we were having chicken and broccoli, that's what they ate. If they didn't like it, well, tough. Sort of. Maybe I'd scramble an egg if I felt they really were hungry and needed to eat. Both of them are now totally adventurous eaters and good cooks.

          - A big freezer? I don't know - wait and see what life is like. You have to get to know your child. Each one is different and the way we each cope is different. You'll find ways of getting along and dealing with meals - there is no exact science here.

          - My best suggestion of the day: if anyone is planning a baby shower for you, get them to make it a frozen-dinner shower. This was a lifesaver when I had babies. Each person brings a frozen meal, labelled with ingredients and cooking instructions. (For this, yes, you'll need a freezer.) When you discover that your dinner prep time coincides horribly with your baby's meltdown hour, just pop a frozen whatever in the microwave and go sit on the couch with your screaming meemie.

          - Enjoy, relax and don't freak out about this. People (even idiots) have been having babies for bazillions of years. You'll be great - don't worry.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Nyleve

            LOVE the idea of a frozen-dinner shower. We had a baby 7 and 1/2 mos ago and that first month or so we were too tired and obsessed with parenting to do much of anything cooking-wise (and we like to cook and now make our own baby food). we were extremely grateful to our friends and family who brought food over to us - esp. if they brought enough for leftovers. If you have the energy when you're in your last trimester to cook and freeze some things, that's not a bad idea either - but not every pregnant woman wants to be on her feet in that last mo. or so cooking.

          2. Congrats!!! I am an avid cook, make most things from scratch etc etc and I too thought I would never cook again.

            So first of all dept breath and relax. Just enjoy being pregnant!

            Second- you WILL be able to cook the way you did after the baby arrives. You will probably have about 6-12 month hiatus between adjusting to life with a child (hell just nursing take a lot out of you, never mind sleepless nights) but after that you will be back to the same and the joy of feeding a toddler begins. Once of my most precious memories of my now almost 5 year old is the look on his face after he ate his first "real" food (smashed avocado). Pure bliss as his face lit up. Then turning him on to all your favorite foods...Pure unadulterated fun and joy.

            Third- start to get organized with meal planning if you aren't all ready. The only thing I would recommend purchasing is some good plastic ware for freezing/refrigerating and possibly a slow cooker.

            What saved me after the baby was born and we had exhausted the meals friends and family made us was planning out my dinners for the week and doing one major shopping trip a week. Then I would spend most Sundays cooking with the goal being stuff to dinner that night, leftover during the week and extra for the freezer.

            For example:

            Sunday morning: breakfast homemade waffles or pancakes
            *make a dozen extra, cool and then layer with wax paper and freeze. Pop in the toaster for a quick weekday breakfast, top w/ berries and whip cream for a easy dessert, etc

            Sunday day: what ever you plan on making dinner make enough for 2 meals
            *make 2 lasagnas, meatloaves, quiche, roast chickens. The idea being one to eat and one to freeze
            * plan a weekday meal around your Sunday meal- roast chicken can become fajitas or chicken pot pie, meatloaf mixture can become meatball. Things like lasagna and quiche can be changed by mixing up the sides.

            lastly the time does really go by fast and by the time my son was 2 he was helping in the kitchen- cracking eggs, stirring, licking spoons(LOL) and now at almost 5 he loves to cook and eats anything and everything!

            Enjoy this time I would do anything to be pregnant again!

            edited to add I forgot a slow cooker can be a life saver: hearty stews, pulled pork, ribs, all kinds of soups etc etc. There are literally thousand of recipes out on the web. Most are filled with total crap but if you dig a round you find some real winners!

            2 Replies
            1. re: foodieX2

              So not even close to being a mom, but on the subject of your 2-year old helping crack eggs... when I was little and helping my mom in the kitchen, she used to draw smiley faces on the eggs, and I got to crack them right across the nose! Just a fun little tip (I think!)

              1. re: Katie Nell

                That is cute!! I found the best trick with teaching kids to crack eggs was to have them "crack" it on the counter first, then separate the shell over the bowl. For some reason the crack is cleaner and it is easier for small hands then trying do it on the side of the bowl.

                Do you have any neices or nephews?? Cooking w/ kids is blast if you have the patience. And kids will eat almost anything they have cooked themselves!

            2. I've actually increased the amount I cook since my daughters were born (twins, nearly seven years ago). In my experience, almost anything can be frozen and reheated, although beware of the itmes that spend years in the back of the freezer. Try to cook when you have time (on the weekends maybe, or at night) and freeze meal-sized portions that you can easily reheat.

              Also, although you have plenty of time, think of what you are going to put into your child's body. Kids crave carbohydrates, and highly processed foods are everywhere. While it is extremely difficult to totally avoid them, we should all be thinking about the amount of chemicals we ingest.

              Finally, as your child gets older, teach him/her about food -- where it comes from, how to prepare it, what a balanced diet is. Kids are sponges for knowledge, and since they'll be eating for about 100 years (or so we like to hope), it's good to let them soak up some knowledge about food. That's how future Chowhounds are bred.

              1. Congratulations! I have an almost 3-year-old and I echo what others have said about still having time to cook (in the interests of full disclosure, I don't work, so that does definitely make meal prep. easier).

                There's a book I like and still refer to called Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron - has a lot of feeding tips and nutritious recipes for babies and toddlers and also good activity suggestions (home-made playdough, etc.) for when your child is older.

                We eat almost NO processed food in our house and my evening meals usually take 30 min. or fewer to prepare. When your kid's an infant, s/he will sleep A LOT and you'll actually have time to do things - it's when they're toddlers that things can get dicey at the dinner hour (think preparing a meal w/a 2-year-old clinging to your leg as you drag her across the kitchen!). But even that is surmountable. I had a bin of "cooking toys" that came out at meal prep. time when our daughter was around 1 and really needy at 5:30 or so when I wanted to cook. She had her own whisk, measuring cups, etc. and used to mimic what I did while she toddled around underfoot.

                Now she helps me prepare dinner almost every night. She can stir, pour, sprinkle, taste (her favorite), etc. It's nice time together and it's how I learned to be a good cook . . . .

                Being organized helps - I sit down every Fri./Sat. and plan out the menu for each night of the upcoming week and jot down what I need on my grocery list. I actually use my Palm to keep track of meals for each night and the references for the recipe (i.e., Epicurious, own recipe, Cooking Light p. 16, etc.). Keeps me from over/under-buying at the supermarket and stuff is fresh - we buy mostly whole/organic foods w/no preservatives so stuff spoils relatively quickly.

                Enjoy and good luck!

                1. Don't panic - acutally, you'll probably cook better as a result of having a child, since you'll be thinking about nutrition and about making them enjoy food in a healthy way, as many different kinds as possible.

                  I don't freeze anything, since my freezer isn't that big, but I do keep alot of frozen meat in there since I can't just go to the store at the drop of a hat (the farmer's market, however, is right next to a playground, so we're there several times a week ;) )

                  The only thing I run into is not having enough time/energy to experiment as much as before (once made japanese pizza that took forever and was inedible - probably wouldn't do something like that now, unless it was a weekend and I had a backup plan). Also, we seem to repeat meals much more often.

                  What makes up for it is seeing my toddler eat almost everything I give her (except zucchini, in any form), when other kids will "only" eat chicken fingers and boxed mac and cheese. As a chowhound, its unlikely you would want to eat junk, so your kid will learn to eat like a *gasp* regular person! It's fun to watch!

                  Another recommendation is to buy a sling or other baby carrier where you can wear a baby on your back, or at least on your hip behind your hands, so you can cook while holding baby (just no deapp-frying and stir-frying is tricky!). This is what they do in most countries where you CAN'T buy preprepared food and there's no such thing as an exersaucer...saved me during months 4 - 12 for sure...

                  1. First of all, congratulations... second of all, I think you might be putting the cart before the horse here. I think you'll probably have a harder time cooking while pregnant than while the mother of a small child... pregnancy does weird things to women, and unfortunately a common one is aversion to formerly loved foods (which usually, though not always, goes away after delivery)... you may be standing in the kitchen wanting to cook but nothing sounds good. This happened to my wife, and if your SO is a good guy, he'll go out and get your ingredients, or just take you out if that's your preference.

                    As for cooking ahead of time -- you'd be surprised how much babies sleep. The first couple of months are pretty much naptime interrupted by baby feeding and burping. You'll be tired, of course, because baby's schedule won't match yours, but honestly, this is the time to whip out the guilt and make Grandma or Grandpa or the Husband Who Did This To You cook.

                    After that? You learn quick meals, but still very tasty ones; in fact, 90% of my cooking is done in 30-45 minutes or less, and very little requires constant attention.

                    As for freezing things, even pre-pregnancy we used to freeze things, because who wants to cook after nine hours or more at the office? Now I make enough dinner to feed us that night with leftovers for the next day.

                    I promise you, you'll manage. As much as it sucks to hear this (from a man, no less), this panic is just your body switching to "mommy" mode, and you'll get over it. I swear you will.

                    1. Congrats! I always cook in quantity (5-6x a recipe), then freeze in meal-size portions (sizes get bigger as the kids grow!).

                      I love oval Apilco gratin dishes for this purpose. Line them with non-stick foil, place in what you are freezing (I freeze nearly everything). Cover and freeze. Then, peel off the foil and place your frozen "block" into a Ziploc freezer bag (or vacuum seal it) marking with the date, entree name, and how to cook. I also note the pan size it was frozen in ie; "12-inch Apilco".

                      These stack so nicely in the freezer. Over time, you will have many entrees to choose from each night.

                      1. Congratulations. As the others have said, you'll definitely have time to cook, although I can't say I've made homemade pasta in the last 15 years. Now that my kids are big and don't hang around me as much, I miss our weekly trips to the farmer's market where they loved tasting strawberries and peach slices. My son still begs for me to bring back big bags of fruit, though. Like the other posters said, don't give in to processed food; get your kids used to cooking with you; keep taking them to restaurants so they're used to them. My kids aren't the best eaters, but at least we NEVER go to McDonald's. Oh, and here's a fun blog to check out:
                        http://veganlunchbox.blogspot.com/

                        1. hi, congratulations!
                          my sister, a former restaurant cook, was obsessive about food for my nephew. she depended heavily, in his first year, on a food saver -- the vacuum sealer chefs use for cooking sous vide. she steamed veggies and pureed fruit, then she could seal in portions or large quantities, and it takes up a ot less room in the fridge and freezer. plus you can pack them without the possibility of spilling anything, and most importantly, the food keeps for much longer. now he is 2 1/2 and he eats a lot of what the rest of us eat. he even tried a mussel the other night and didn't spit it out. it's really fun to introduce new foods to babies and see their palate develop. they will be good eaters if they're encouraged but not forced to be adventurous.
                          have fun!

                          1. Wow! You sure are planning ahead! Which is great because that is what is going to help you to prepare food as you normally do: freshly prepared and all. I plan a menu each week and, if I'm making something more complicated and involved, I do so on the weekends when the hubby is here to help. I use the littler one's naptime to prep ingredients for later, sometimes. The bigger one likes to measure and stir and sample.

                            I almost never freeze anything except for, well, popsicles and the occassional extra "hamburger" bun. I have two kids, by the way, a three and a five year old. My sister has a four year old and is a big advocate of the making-extra-and-freezing-it school of cooking. She also has canned peaches in her cupboard and she's not afraid to use them.

                            So should you buy a bigger freezer? You probably don't need to. Lasagne lasts a couple of days in the fridge. Too long and the noodles get...wrong. And you just heat up what you need. You can use a microwave to re-heat: it's awful convenient in the sense that it's fast, but you planned ahead so you can re-heat in the oven. Chicken pot pie? Sure. Go to town. Super Baby Food, a book a previous poster has recommended, has some great suggestions for feeding your kid and, I seem to recall, even has a homemade playdough recipe, but, boy, it's really a disorganized book better used as a reference work than something you read through.

                            Congratulations! Kids are great. They will make you a much better cook, if anything, because you do have to get very organized or it's frozen foods and bad fast food for you. Yikes!

                              1. I loved reading your post....it reminded me of how exciting it is to find out you're pregnant! I think it's great that you are going to cook and freeze....even at this early stage. Take it from me, you'll appreciate your frozen goodies when you are 8 or 9 months pregnant and you're darn-tootin' too tired to cook.
                                When I had my first baby, I was surprised how much energy and time I DID have to cook.....the previous posters were right...they really DO sleep a lot. Part of my focus for the day was to take her out for a walk and stop and get the ingredients for dinner...thankfully, pregnancy doesn't erase your foodie genes. (however, toddlers will definitely challenge them!)
                                I have a 2 year old and an 8 month old baby now and I really love my crock-pot and Lynn Alley's book "Gourmet Slow-Cooker". The recipes are a bit fussier than your usual slow-cooker books but they are tastier.
                                As far as freezing...don't forget to cook and freeze cookies and sweets! (if you like baking) You'll have a lot of guests who drop by and it's always great to have something to offer them.
                                Enjoy! and Congratulations!!

                                1. THANKS! Really, everyone, thanks for your suggestions. I do feel much calmer now.