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Stocking up food before baby arrives

Hi all,

I have a neighbor who is due any day, and I'm expecting my first baby in a few short months. One of the most consistent pieces of advice that I've received from countless sources is to make a bunch of easily reheatable, easy to eat food before the baby arrives.

So what would you make? I'm thinking easy dinner meals, as well as "on the go" type foods that I can grab in the middle of all my other new parenting tasks.

Can't wait for your menus!

sljones

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  1. Hi Laura, A friend of mine, with a new baby, used my idea for having the fixings for quesadillas or burritos (Actually I do this all the time when I'm too tuckered to cook). Most of the ingredients - tortillas, shredded cheese, beans, salsa -- can be frozen and used whenever you need them. Throw in some veggies (fresh or frozen) and you have a meal in less than 5 minutes. Good luck with the baby and the meals.

    1. Being a new mom is totally the best. Just enjoy every moment. If you are nursing your baby, you may find that he/she reacts to certain foods, so keep that in mind. Tomatoes, onions and other acidic foods sometimes cause the baby to have a bit of a reaction. My oldest gave us some pretty stressful Friday nights. By the time I got to my second, I was stress free.

      I do not know if you all have had baby showers yet or if people have asked you what you want, but keep in mind that everyone loves new babies and sometimes friends want to bring over some food- always say YES! When my second daughter was born, a dear friend gave me a baby shower and people were asked to bring easy to heat dinners, so we had about a month's worth of meals. It was the BEST. I could just zap it, throw together a salad and drag out the Ben and Jerry's. and all was well. Light the candles, put on some mood music, and include the baby in everything. You will enjoy every bit.

      Anything that can be microwaved is tops. And if someone ELSE cooked it, even better. Chicken freezes well and things like lasagna. Grab a bunch of those small containers that go from the freezer to the microwave and basically, anything goes.

      My biggest hints are- say yes when anyone offers to bring some food or come over to help, include the baby in your plans for a lovely Saturday night dinner at home, knowing he/she may derail things but if you have enough wine, who cares? And have fun!

      So here is my menu -

      Plenty of wine or beer.
      Start with some shrimp or smoked salmon. Easy and delicious. Fresh lemon should be handy.
      A yummy lasagna, chicken or salmon, focusing on the sauce and staying a little clear of tomatoes.
      Fresh whole wheat bread from your local baker.
      A yummy salad with a good bottled dressing of you must, or a good home made, even better,
      Fresh fruit and a yummy treat from a bakery or a friend.

      The cool thing is, the baby very quickly becomes a part of your life and trips to the local market are fun because everyone loves a baby. It won't be long before you go off to your local market with your little one, cook a quick meal and even set the table, discovering that being a parent rocks and your little one becomes embraced into your lifestyle. Have fun.

      3 Replies
      1. re: mvi

        Hi there,

        Thanks for the lovely menu and happy thoughts for incorporating the baby! I must confess that I've been a little sad about the idea that I won't have as much time for my favorite hobby, cooking. But you make it seem as though I'll have the best of both worlds...parenting and good food!

        One question: Do onions in any form bother babys? I was thinking of making arroz con pollo for our neighbors when their baby arrives, and thought that b/c the onions would be so cooked and incorporated, that they shouldn't be a big deal. Or do we need to eliminate them all togehter?

        Many thanks!

        1. re: Laura Jones

          I ate whatever I wanted when I had my boys. Other than a milk allergy with my first, that made it so I couldn't drink milk, no problems. Most moms I know eat whatever they want too. Remember in some cultures garlic is considered good for babies and spice is just part of the diet. If you are cooking for someone else, make sure you ask them, but for the most part babies deal with foods just fine. IF a baby has colic or other issues, then an elimination diet is sometimes recommended, but the recent medical thought on the issue (e.g. recently trained pediatricians) is that you often don't find a food culprit.

          My suggestion is to stock up on things that can be eaten with one hand and not too hot. I was always dropping food on my boys when nursing. Also things with high fiber - think bran muffins are good. For breakfast with my first it was really important to have something I could eat that was high fiber (oh the lovely postpartum period - trust me, you'll want fiber), that I could hold while I nursed. I woke up early morning and then slept with the baby. By the time we woke up again, he was hungry and I needed something easy to grab. Waffles and toast worked well too. When you have older kids along with the baby you don't get to sleep after the first nursing, so it wasn't as big of an issue.

          1. re: jsaimd

            Not to mention that what you eat during your third trimester and while nursing helps "prime" the baby's palate for that food, so it's more familiar and they're less likely to reject it when offered it as a toddler.

      2. Congratulations on the impending arrival of your baby!

        When my first was due, I took advantage of the nesting instinct that kicked in around the beginning of my 3rd trimester to cook & freeze the following:

        enchiladas
        lasagna & pasta dishes
        vegetable soup (make good use of summer's bounty now!)
        homemade pasta noodles
        breads

        Now that it is summer and I am due with my 2nd in 10 weeks, I'm doing the same again!

        Freezing fresh fruit is another great idea, as it is easy to make smoothies or stir into plain yogurt for a quick meal.

        And I also agree with the pp who said to never turn down a meal. People love to feel helpful, and trust me, you'll be grateful for the help.

        Tomatoes/onions never bothered my daughter while nursing, so I was lucky, I suppose.

        3 Replies
        1. re: dexters

          Oh, you were! My first was NOT happy with anything spicy or Mexican related while I was nursing! Of course, I had no clue and thought I was a terrible mum who had no clue. Finally someone else w/ the same issue told me and once I got rid of some of those spicy things, she was a much happier baby. Now she is a 23 year old gourmet, tolerating and attempting most anything, especially the spicy sort.

          1. re: dexters

            Congrats to you as well! I love the idea of soups and pasta. I've never frozen enchiladas before. Do you reserve extra sauce on the side in case it absorbs it all?

            Thanks!!

            Laura

            1. re: Laura Jones

              I don't usually have a problem with the sauce getting completely absorbed - the problem I occasionally run into is too much liquid, which I usually take care of by baking longer if I have the time (and if not we just eat it soupy and I resolve to put it in earlier next time...which I sometimes remember and sometimes don't). I actually just made a batch of enchiladas for the freezer yesterday - chicken sauteed with onions and peppers, then mixed with pineapple, black beans, and feta cheese and rolled up in tortillas and topped with enchilada sauce. I've done this a couple times before and it works well. Straight out of the freezer and into the oven for about an hour at 350 and it seems to turn out pretty well. Lasagna has already been mentioned; it really does work great - especially with the no-boil noodles. I've also used the no-boil noodles for other kinds of pasta bakes - I've found they cook better out of the freezer than other pastas like penne - just layer it like lasagna. Chicken, broccoli, and cheese is one combo that worked pretty well this way - I didn't pre-cook the broccoli so it wasn't overly soggy...don't know if that was really a good idea or not, but I didn't really have any problems with it.

          2. Try a huge pot of your favorite soup or stew and freeze in individual containers. I am partial to beef stew but in the hot summer months, perhap not. Make it on a rainy afternoon to distract you and satisfy that nesting feeling!

            Also, I have recently discovered Pillsbury pizza dough :-0 Have some best quality store bought marinara sauce and mozarella around and its ready in 15 minutes. Just add your favorite toppings!

            And I made Barefoot Contessa mac and cheese last night. Delicious and should freeze well. I halved the recipe and it was still a boat load!

            1. What a timely thread - I'm due in 4 short weeks! This is my 2nd - the first was NOT an easy baby and I barely had time to make a peanut butter sandwich before he'd start screaming.

              Here's what I found worked best for us for #1:
              Breakfast:
              1. Egg sandwiches. We're meat-eaters, so I always keep bags of diced, cooked bacon and sausage in the freezer. In the time it takes to toast bread, you can heat up the meat, throw on an egg and a slice of cheese.
              2. Oatmeal. You can make a week's worth on Sunday. It's high in iron, which is important to build up those red blood cells postpartum. This extends, of course, to cold cereal, which also has more fiber.

              Lunch:
              1. I lived on yogurt, granola, and heaps of fruit. There are soy alternatives for the yogurt if you require no dairy.
              2. Leftovers from dinner the night before. Make bigbig portions at dinnertime so you can simply zap a plate/bowl of something easy for lunch the next day.

              Dinner:
              1. Grilled anything. I'd be sure to have something to throw on the grill in the evenings so when my husband got home, he could fire it up and have dinner ready in minutes. Usually paired with a huge pile of spinach salad loaded with cheese, fruit and nuts. My husband also made lots and lots of smoothies - just pureed fruit, no yogurt - for added vitamins. All can be prepared in about 15 minutes.
              2. Take-out. I prefer home-cooked food, but after a long day it's great to have a huge pile of chinese food delivered to your door ready to eat. And order lots for leftovers.

              And I absolutely agree to accept offers to bring food over. When things got really tough, I even asked for some help with grocery runs. Everyone was more than happy to know how they could help us out.

              The food I did prepare and freeze ahead of time (lasagna and soup, mostly), I didn't eat. It was summer (in LA - yuk) and I just didn't want heavy, hot food.

              The only thing my first reacted badly to was cabbage - I ate coleslaw for lunch once and I thought his lungs were going to give out - poor little guy...

              I'm looking forward to trying lots of your suggestions with #2! Thanks for getting me thinking about this.

              1 Reply
              1. re: jvozoff

                Number two is a LOT easier than Number one... At least is was for me. I remember once both were crying= wailing- for some reason and all I could do was laugh and hug them and then run them a bath which always seemed to be a relaxing interlude. And I lowered my all of my standards, let the dishes stack up and just loved being with my babies. There were days we stayed in our jammies,had pancakes for breakfast AND for dinner, with left overs in between. Just get a good babysitter so you and the main squeeze can get a break once in a while. And have fun. Before you know it, they'll be taller than you are and off on their own, making you contemplate the possibilities of being a pan cake flipping grandparent.

              2. Congrats on the baby on the way. I can empathize with you feeling sad about not having time to cook as a hobby once the baby comes. My son ins 20 months and it hasn't really gotten any easier - but it is totally worth it. Aside from freezing meals ahead of time, I've learned a few other lessons as well. I really try to cook enough at one meal to make another meal - either leftovers for lunch the next day, or the basis for the next night's dinner. This is a huge time savor when it comes to cooking and for clean up. I've also had to accept the fact that I can't make everything from scratch. A good grocery store is your friend. Along with their prepared food, I still take shortcuts like buying chopped raw veggies from the salad bar and using them in stir fry. 2 year ago I would have thought it was crazy, but it is a huge a timesaver. And for sure let people that come to visit bring dinner. This was hard for me becuase I always enjoyed cooking for people when they came over - and I am finally doing it again to some degree - but early on I didn't cook a single meal. Good Luck!! It's an amazing, life changing experience.

                1. This is such a timely thread for me. I'm starting to make freezer packs for a friend who is due with #1 in a couple of weeks, so I'm interested in finding some new ideas, like the bran muffins for fiber.

                  My ideas are only for the first few weeks of newness, adjustment, lack of sleep.

                  I've had good feedback in the past with packs of shredded roast chicken in gravy, enough for dinner for two, which could be served as an open-faced sandwich (toast/roll) or over noodles or leftover mashed potatoes. Mashed potatoes freeze well, so let your friends bring you lots. Too much work for you to make, yet the perfect base or side for so many things and so comforting at the same time. Also, cooked pasta or noodles tossed with oil or butter.

                  Like an above poster, I make mac-and-cheese. I use those mini aluminum loaf pans, making some plain and some with chunks of ham, so it can be a meal or a side or a snack.

                  Salmon loaf in mini aluminum pans. I usually send along tomato sauce to serve with it, but my friend is from a big Italian family and I'm sure someone will be giving her vats of sauce, so I'm simply taping on a note that it would be good with tomato sauce.

                  Chicken meatballs (some with sweet sausage added, some with spinach added) in the pressure cooker. Brown first, use chicken stock as the liquid in the pressure cooker. Skim fat from the liquid after coking and make gravy. I pack some in gravy and some added to minestrone soup.

                  susan

                  1. How exciting! Congratualtions!

                    I found that the first couple months my food likes and dislikes were very similar to the ones I had during pregnancy- I had thought these aversions would disappear once baby hatched, but not the case.
                    So I really enjoyed comfort food. One friend brought turkey tetrazinni, we teased her mercilessly, but it was perfect. Pasta just seemed so right, so any frozen lasagna type thing would be good. Although the shredded chicken in gravy mentioned above would have fit the bill. I was not able to pull it together to boil pasta water etc.
                    The other thing I ate a lot of was fruit salad, so maybe that's a suggestion for those people who want to bring something once the baby is born. Fresh things were good as long as they were preprared.

                    The best thing anyone ever did was to leave a meal on the door step the first day we were home from the hospital, drive home and then call to say it was there. That way we had something to eat, but didn't have to entertain while figuring out life with new person. Very thoughful.

                    1. Wow, these suggestions are all so wonderful and inspiring! You've given me great hope that I won't have to subsist on grilled cheese sandwiches after the baby arrives!

                      Here are the dishes you’ve inspired me to stock up on (not sure how many I’ll get around to actually making, but the list excites me!)

                      Bolognese sauce
                      Italian meatballs and red sauce
                      Mid-Eastern Kofte
                      Indian kebabs—lamb or turkey
                      Lasagna
                      Enchiladas
                      Chili
                      Taco/Quesadilla fixins---beans, ground turkey taco meat, grilled chicken strips
                      Sopa Tarasca (bean soup)
                      Summer Veggie Soups
                      Chana Dahl
                      Saag paneer
                      Lentil soup

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Laura Jones

                        Send us a birth announcement! And have fun. It's a great experience. Sounds like you will be eating well!

                        1. re: Laura Jones

                          Also, make some homemade stocks if you're going to be cooking meats anyway. Freeze them in 1.5-2 cup portions in ziploc baggies.

                          Having those at the ready makes for a quick & easy meal of risotto or sauteed chicken breasts with balsamic, etc.

                        2. I stocked up before my chowpup came and was so glad I did. I only wish I had put more things away. I had ziploc bags of bolognese sauce - just boil pasta and it's a great meal. I second the idea one poster had of putting chicken/turkey with gravy in the freezer. I freeze them separately but I'm sure togther they would be fine. Bags of frozen stuffing are also great (especially with the gravy mix!). I also froze soup, chili and stews in quart size takeout containers. Just enough for three servings (me and DH at dinner and my lunch the next day). Muffins are good frozen because you can grab just one at a time.

                          I nursed (still am at 27 months) and never had a problem with tomatoes, onions or spicy food. Cabbage though my son really reacted too. The worst was he reacted (through the breast milk) to both dairy and soy. I could eat small amounts but not much more. Boy I missed cheese! Despite that I love nursing. My son eats everything now and loves all the foods I love - as he should after tasting them through the milk for so long.

                          I did have to slack off on cooking for the first year but never gave it up entirely. I put him on the counter in his baby seat, then in the high chair, whatever it took to get the time I needed to make a meal. Now he has his TV time while I make dinner. I feel guilty about letting him watch but I gotta cook sometime!

                          Good luck - it's a wonderful time!

                          1. Hello Laura Jones!

                            I'm due on 6/29 and I'm franticly stocking the kitchen with all of my staples to keep grocery shopping to a minimum once the baby arrives!

                            I'm making lots of soups and putting them in single serve tupperwares and freezing them. I'm making fresh minestrone, chic noodle, lamb with barley, carrot ginger, veggie with wild rice, and cream of broccoli. I like soup. It's easy to make, you can make it in big batches, and it can be a wonderfully healthy way to diet. Home made soup gives you lots of nutrients with little salt and fillers so it's great for post partum.

                            I'm also making a few veggie dishes. Veggies lightly sauteed and tossed with cous cous or brown rice...easy to reheat and healthy.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: OrganicLife

                              Hi OrganicLife--

                              Congrats to you and good luck on all your cooking and delivery! I'd love to know how you make your lamb and barley dish, that sounds great!

                              Best,

                              Laura

                              1. re: Laura Jones

                                The lamb barley soup is my grandmother's. It's a powerful healer. I swear the stuff could grow back a limb.

                                It's pretty easy to make but I've never formally written out the recipe so forgive me if it sounds disorganized.

                                Use leg of lamb, shanks, chops....what ever you wish. Toss it in a large soup pot along with the following chopped veggies: Not sure how big your pot is so adjust the amount of each as you need to
                                carrots
                                celery
                                onion
                                zuccini
                                mushrooms
                                parsnips
                                peas
                                corn

                                Also toss in LOTS of fresh taragon leaves. If I had to count I'd say...40 leaves?

                                Add 1 tbs minced garlic, tsp paprika, dash oregano, 1 tsp coarse ground pepper, sea salt to taste

                                Chuck everything in a pot, cover with water, and bring to boil. skim off fat. Reduce heat and simmer covered for about 3-4 hours. Remove meat to platter and discard bones, chop up meat, and return to soup.

                                Prepare barley according to package or basic recipe in seperate pot.

                                Add barley to soup just prior to serving and to individual bowls only to avoid it absorbing liquid.

                                Enjoy!!! I love this soup!!! It is my secret weapon in the winter for avoiding colds. It works!

                            2. After the birth of my first baby only one person brought me food, and I lived on that food for a week. I ate her food for breakfast lunch and dinner, because I could just pop it in the microwave. What she brought me was meatloaf and a noodle pudding. I think it was the best food I ever ate.

                              1. I always have frozen roasted chicken in the freezer . Just roasted on the bone and shredded. Then it's easy to add to a jar of pasta sauce or a quesadilla or anything else. I also have portions of steamed rice in the freezer to add to a meal or an easy side dish.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: jenjunum

                                  That's great, I've never thought to freeze roasted chicken! And I had no idea that rice freezed well. Does that mean I could freeze arroz con pollo w/o compromising the dish too much?

                                  Many thanks!!

                                  Laura

                                2. So funny you mention this...my 2nd is 5 months old now, and since I've been back into cooking, some freezer stuff is still there. My husband & I decided last week that we need to finish it off.

                                  One thing that worked well, was breading/coating fish, chicken, pork then freezing. I was skeptical as I had always coated at cooking time, but it worked!

                                  Also, along with the roasted chicken, I had some cooked ground beef to throw into stuff.
                                  I made a ton of soups and stews were great. Chicken pot pie worked well. Many people brought me fresh pasta dishes, we'd eat half & freeze half. Muffins & scones are nice on hand.

                                  Also, I like to keep bags of frozen shredded cheese in the freezer, just incase, as it keeps longer. Great to throw on things- eggs, quesadillas, potatoes, etc...

                                  One thing I will recommend which was great, is that I stocked up on items that I could use to make things if I couldn't get to the store - mostly things for soups/stews.

                                  good luck!
                                  If anyone offers...it's so nice to have fresh bread, veggies & fruit brought over!

                                  oh...and I've always eaten EVERYTHING with nursing both kids - and my 2 yr old loves spicy foods..and practically all foods! So, everyone is different, don't just avoid from the start, be sure to try & see.

                                  1. I laughed about the spilling on the baby's head while nursing... my daughter always had crumbs in her ears because I found that muffins were great for instantaneous satiety to hold you over until a meal. Unless you live close to a great bakery, I found it well worth it to bake some great muffins that you could grab off the counter or toss into the microwave so that you could eat while you feed. You have NO idea how much time you will spend in that armchair, pinned down by a mere 8 pound bundle, staring longingly at the kitchen and cursing yourself for not remembering to eat something.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: alex8alot

                                      I'm a momma who nursed her baby until he was three. I was very grateful for Trader Joes easy to microvwave food. Salads and fruit also helped a lot. I am a single mom who didn't have help in the house so I was delighted when friends showed up (and they did a lot in the first year) with prepared food.
                                      I'm also a pediatrician with experience in breastfeeding management-- there are many resources outside of chowhound.com with more up to date information on breastfeeding. My biggest caveat is that wine and beer are a no no on a regular basis.
                                      Decreases the amount of breast milk, can also get the baby intoxicated. Babies are also not fans of the flavor of breastmilk with alcohol.
                                      My best cooking tip-- it is a lot easier to prep food with baby in a sling on your side or back than with baby in front. Also a lot safer. My little guy wanted to be in the middle of everything- so having him "on board" kept him happier.
                                      Happy baby and keep it simple...

                                      1. re: drmimi

                                        Agreed - been slinging baby on my back while I cook (of course, no feet/hands out, and no frying bacon or boiling polenta while I'm wearing him!) since birth - he HATED his bouncy seat and I wouldn't have had enough time to boil water without my Ergo!

                                        The Trader Joe's frozen things are pretty good (mandarin chicken and pad thai are what we usually get for lazy nights.) We made lots of enchiladas, lasagnas, and other casserole type things and were very glad to have them - and we definitely took people up on offers of food/shopping help. I made lots of pizza dough and rolled it out into pizza shapes, then partially pre-baked and froze them, along with one-pizza size containers of marinara, and plenty of frozen shredded mozz. Instant pizza! Also, a couple of batches of cookie dough, portioned into spoonfuls and frozen to be baked at the slightest whim, was a NECESSITY for me - those hormones are swinging wildly for a good long time after delivery, and sometimes you will need chocolate and butter and sugar.

                                        You WILL have time to cook as a hobby again - especially if you raise a sling baby. Mine's 9 1/2 months now and I can cook to my heart's content - I wear him while I do non-dangerous tasks, explaining as I go (he cranes around me to see over my shoulder at what I'm telling him about) and then put him on the floor with his toys and let him play independently for a few minutes while I pull bain-maries out of the oven or brown roasts. AND he eats everything! Raising a baby with a broad palate is an absolute joy!

                                        Congratulations and best of luck! (And I found that our BEST investment in those early days was wireless internet connection!! I watched the entire first 3 seasons of America's Next Top Model on youtube with earphones on in my baby's first 4 weeks of life. You can't really read a normal book b/c you don't have hands to hold it open/turn pages, and it's often not light enough in the room, so the backlit display makes it possible for you to read while baby sleeps and nurses.)

                                        1. re: marigolds

                                          Wonderful, I hadn't thought of the connection b/w my need to cook and nurturing diverse tastes for the baby! I definitely plan to wear baby as much as s/he wil tolerate, I love the idea of being in the kitchen together!

                                          I am feeling heartened! My neighbors just had their first, and I brought over some arroz con pollo. Now I'm feeling inspired to cook for ours, perhaps I'll start this weekend!!

                                          Many thanks!!

                                          sljones

                                    2. Not having been a mother, but how about marinated meats and fish portioned out in ziplocs. If you have a significant other that can BBQ, it is really easy and not a lot of pots and pans to clean.

                                      Salmon/Chicken (for quesadillas and to eat on its own) , chicken wings, snrimp kabobs, scallop kabobs, lamb chops, pork ribs, veal chops, etc.
                                      Lasagna, Manicotti, Stuffed Shells, Chicken Piccata to bake off, Mexican Lasagna, Fajita casserole, chicken and wild rice casserole, baggies of roasted peppers, minstrone, homemade chicken stock, turkey in gravy, your favourite good quality bread in thin or thick slices so you can take out as many slices as you need.

                                      Good luck and have a great time.