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Easy New Mom Dinners

About to be a mom and am going to need some really easy throw together at the last minute meals. I am in need of some inspiration. Also - are there any good pre-made products out there? Haven't really ventured into that area before but I'm thinking it could be a time saver. Thank you.

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  1. Congratulations akp! A new baby does mean time in the kitchen is harder to come by... I'd suggest making some meals ahead now that can be frozen and reheated, especially if you'd rather avoid premade food. Winter dishes like chili, canneloni, stews, soups(most), pot pies, quiches(not a winter dish but an easy meal at any rate), all freeze well. It also wouldn't hurt to encourage your SO to take over some of the kitchen duties (if possible) at least for the first little while.

    2 Replies
    1. re: maplesugar

      What maplesugar said. Freeze lasagne, quiche, etc now. There won't be much time for cooking in the first few weeks.

      The other technique, don't allow people to come to the house to see the baby unless they bring food! We didn't suggest this when our baby was born, but I would for the next one.

      About half the people who came over after our son was born brought food. They were *very* welcome to come. Other folks? Not as much...

      1. re: greglor

        I'm not a mom, but I've organized "feeding circles" for new moms at work and for friends. We came up with schedule where every other night someone would bring over a nutritious meal in a dishwasher safe/disposable container to the new mom and dad (every night and people's kitchens would overflow with food!). I know that my mommies really appreciated it, and all her friends were more than glad to visit and be helpful at the same time.

        You should mention it to a good friend/family member, and have them get to work!

    2. Something I like to do is make a big batch of spaghetti sauce, divide and freeze. The you can do so many things with it. Like, duh, spaghetti, or spaghetti pie, or a spaghetti pasta skillet. If you get the Butoni noodles at the store, it makes it quick and easy.

      I have only used a few of the jarred pasta sauces, and can't really give a recommendation, but I will say that they are a good base to start with, and you can add whatever you want to please your tastes.

      Tyson roasted chickens from the grocery store are a real time saver, as well, and the leftover can be used for tacos, chicken salad, in soups, etc.

      1. Do up a big batch of chicken soup and freeze, but leave the noodles out. Buy fresh pasta (I usually get linguine) in the refrigerated section of the store and chop into 1.5" lengths and you can freeze separately -- this is so noodles don't get mushy -- and then you can heat up as needed. This is good because it isn't too spicy (troublesome to the babe if you're breastfeeding), and you can eat it one handed, if necessary.

        1. Do you have a crockpot? You can make some decent meals (chicken, beef, crockpot lasagna) in that. If you keep frozen veggies in the freezer, you can have a balanced meal with little effort.

          If you have a Costco around, both their refrigerated pre-made meals (meatloaf, pasta bolognese) and the frozen foods (beef tips, short ribs, mashed potatoes, etc) are very good if you have no energy to cook and just want to heat food up. You can also get an idea of what kinds of meals you can make and freeze for later.

          2 Replies
          1. re: leanneabe

            Agreed. A crockpot can be your new best friend. How easy is this??? Place country ribs or spare ribs in the bottom of a crockpot. Cover with sliced mushrooms and onions. Pour barbecue sauce over all and turn it on in the morning.......dinner's ready at night. I absolutely LOVE Costco. What did we ever do without them? I buy the mesquite grilled chicken breasts (already cooked, then frozen) and they are so simple to turn into a meal. Heat in the oven or fry pan, serve with smashed potatoes or eat on a sandwich. Dinner's ready in 10 minutes! They have so many frozen convenience foods. I also love the egg rolls. Nuke two minutes and I have lunch or a dinner if I'm cooking just for me. Hubby doesn't like Chinese.......silly boy. Another low-cal, easy meal: Cut boneless, skinless chicken breasts into bite sized pieces. Pour Kraft Free Italian Salad Dressing about 1/4- to 1/2-inch deep in a 10-inch skillet. Add chicken and saute until all the dressing has evaporated and the chicken is covered in all the remaining yummy herbs and spices. Be sure it is Kraft Free as it is water-, not oil-based. Talk about quick and easy! Treasure the new addition to your family. They don't stay babies long......unfortunately!!

            1. re: leanneabe

              Costco also now has chicken noodle soup that's pretty amazing. They use the roasted chicken they have over at the end of the day. It's pretty thick....I think it with some broth. But it has great flavor. And, in the Costco tradition, there's plenty say it lasts a while. It's in the refrigerated section with the prepared foods.

            2. Best convenience food ever: eggs. So many options ready in 5-15 minutes.

              Precooked brown rice (NOT instant rice, but frozen cooked rice) is a great time-saver. Also, premade pizza crusts, no-boil lasagna noodles and couscous make quick meals.

              You can make your own biscuit mix ahead of time, so you can use it for dumplings or pancakes or whatever when you're in a rush.

              1. Congrats! I will say that I did freeze some food before my baby was born (11 weeks now) and it was nice to have, but I've felt like cooking more since she was born than I did during my entire pregnancy. We do buy some premade stuff from Trader Joe's, which is pretty good, and I like simple meat dishes -- pork or lamb tenderloin, steaks ... that cook quickly. I also make thai curry from the recipe on the back of the thai kitchen curry paste jar

                  1. I'd suggest grilling up some protein (chicken, steak, whatever you like) on a Sunday when there are extra hands around to hold the baby. Then you'll have it in the fridge for a few days for quesadillas, sandwiches, salads. I remember being a young nursing mother and, while everyone else's focus was on making sure that we had dinner, I was home alone during the day and needed to eat myself. Also, keep the fixings for smoothies around (frozen fruit, yogurt, etc.) for times when you know you need to eat semi-healthy but are also craving sweets. Good luck!

                    1. Congrats! Try looking for one-pot dinners as well, like rice and beans, jambalaya, etc, which are frequently just a matter of dumping a bunch of things into the pot and letting it cook together til it's done. These usually reheat well for lunch or dinner again, and freeze well. And they can range from real brown rice to using a Lipton rice base, depending on your time/interest.

                      Another thing I like to do: when I make spanish rice or rice and beans, I mix the leftovers with cheese and salsa, then make up burritos on whole wheat tortills. Wrap each individually in wax paper, put them all in a big freezer bag- and end up with frozen burritos that can be microwaved for lunch or dinner anytime.

                      1. With both my kids I was surprised at how hungry and thirsty I was! Keep a big vessel for water by your nursing chair, because assuming you are nursing, you will need it. I also kept prunes - but that is a different story - ahem.

                        After the first 4 weeks or so, it was easier to cook with my first, until he hit about 8 months - then he was a nightmare around dinner time. Second time around harder with a toddler.

                        When you do cook, make extras. I hated leftovers until I had kids. Now I gladly scarf them up! Extra rice, for instance is easily transformed into a quick fried rice, adding peas, carrots, eggs, scallions, or whatever you have on hand. You can make it as simple or complicated as you have time.

                        Some easy quick meals: Frittata filled with good pre-prepped veggies and sausage if you like meat.

                        But - a toaster oven was/is my best friend for quick meals. I would make pizzas on tortillas (or you can buy better crusts). I bake off frozen rolls one at a time, char peppers, brown tofu, cook chicken tenders (mostly for the kids, but if you like them, they are fast, from freezer to table in 20 minutes with no work). Broil fish or seafood mixes. Re-warm portioned size pasta, so it doesn't get as goopy as the microwave.

                        Other ideas: simmer sauces, even a good jarred, or deli salsa to cook fish or chicken in (or beans), indian simmer sauces, thai curry paste with coconut milk. Peanut noodles (there are tons of ways of doing this, but basically I do ginger, peanut butter, rice vinegar or lime juice, sometimes coconut milk, sometimes seseme oil with soy sauce - blend, and mix with garlic chili sauce if you like it - I do. Throw over rice noodles, or even just plain pasta with some fresh chopped carrots, lettuce, peas, top with fresh lemon juice.

                        Also - rotisserie chicken can be your friend. Think tacos or burritos, salad, quick pasta, egg. Canned beans are also good. Keep some hummus around for isntance - eat with red peppers - nutrient packed and fast.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: jsaimd

                          Oh, ditto on the leftovers! I make a big pot of braised greens with garlic and eat off of them all week.

                        2. Congratulations! I'm expecting the second week of January, and I've been cooking to freeze this week. So far I've done chicken curry (simple- boneless skinless thighs in tikka masala sauce), beef stew with red wine, cheese sauce (for quick and dirty fondue), and I did black bean soup today.

                          Next week I'm planning chili, goulash, spaghetti sauce and seasoned beef beef for tacos. I was going to do scalloped potatoes, but my oven broke on me. I've been doing a very large quantity of each dish, we eat it once for dinner, and I divide up the rest and freeze it in dinner-for-two sized portions.

                          It's a helpful thing to do to cope with the nesting instinct. :)

                          1. I definitely don't do nearly as much cooking as I did pre-baby - and mine is 18 mos old now. My favorite thing is to make a LOT when I cook so we have leftovers and food in the freezer. For a "fresh" meal each day of the week: Day one, roast veggies & serve with ciabatta toasted w/ mozzarella. Day two, mix leftover veg w/ 1 lb pasta. Throw in a new veg or two. Day three, add jar of sauce and baked in oven with grated mozzarella, parmesan, etc on top. Day 4, leftovers w/ bagged salad. Hey, nearly a week on one dish! I also make a lot of soup. Chicken soup is a great base - First day we have it just with noodles & veg, second day use kreplach & have cooked veg w/ it, third, use it to make chicken pot pie w/ leftover soup chicken. Fourth, leftovers of pot pie (puff pastry! Frozen!). Fifth, use the remaining soup as a base to make another soup such as tortilla or egg drop. I don't cook every day, but I make huge quantities when I do cook. Good luck. It's a challenge to balance, but honestly SO much easier before they start moving around and getting into trouble. Ahhh, those days of immobility... what I would give to NOT find magazines in the toilet!

                            1. I actually cooked quite a bit after my daughter was born - cooking was a good release for me after being with a colicky baby all day once my husband got home from work. Now once I went back to work, that's a different story! It gets harder and harder to cook good meals during the week, especially with a toddler who thinks dinner should be waiting for her the minute we walk in the door. I make lots of use of my crockpot, and depend on TJ's a lot. I never used sauce out of jar until recently, but lately I've been buying 3-packs of Classico at Costco and doctoring it a little on the stove. Our grocery store also has lots of good convenience food near the deli. The key is definitely to plan for leftovers. I always cook enough for at least two dinners. I use to despise leftovers, now they are a blessing.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: MrsCheese

                                I feel like a dork replying to my own post, but I forgot to mention that the one cookbook that is now indispensable to me is "The Best 30 Minute Recipe". It's no Rachael Ray cookbook - almost all of the recipes are actually good. I'm cooking the Chili Mac right now.

                                1. re: MrsCheese

                                  I have 4 month old. We did freeze quite a few things. But I wish I had frozen homemade bread, which I love. The whole baking thing is just way too complicated with an infant. IMO, bread freezes really well if you wrap it in plastic wrap then in foil. Also, I wish I had made a ginormous bag of trail mix for snacking on while nursing. My appetite has calmed down now, but boy was I hungry those first weeks!

                              2. Two websites with hundreds of quick meals, the first is from Mark Bittman and the second is all vegan food.


                                1. Congratulations to you!

                                  I have four kids, so I know what you're in for... Yes, freezing ahead of time was great for me too, but it was so, so incredibly depressing when we'd blown through all my premade meals! I'm not one who easily asks for help from others, so we found ourselves on our own pretty quickly after each baby was born.

                                  I'm a serious chowhound, and my kids have been raised on food that most people (people who don't know about this website, of course :)!) can't even pronounce. But we've recently discovered something in the pre-made products category that makes my fellow foodies cringe until they taste it -- but I swear it's a lifesaver when I don't want to do anything but sit and REST! It's in the frozen food section -- by Stouffer's, in a red package, called "Skillets." I like the Teriyaki chicken the best (embarrassing, coming from a Japanese family background, but hey -- we moms need some vices like this!). It's a meal in a bag, with vegetables, starch and protein (important for nursing moms). I add a bag of frozen edamame, and we're good to go.

                                  Yes, crock pots are great too -- but I found that I couldn't think ahead that well after my babies were born. Without several hours of notice, a crockpot is useless. With each baby I vowed I'd work harder to think ahead better, but here I am, four babies and fourteen years later, and I still haven't touched that crock pot.

                                  When I had a little more energy, I found that fixing finger foods for dinner was terrific -- I could lounge comfortably on the couch, nurse the baby, hold a toddler, and still feed myself without making a huge mess! :)

                                  1. Congratulations. May I suggest you check out the recent thread on "Your best no-muss, no fuss recipes"? If you don't feel like cooking them yourself, maybe you can enlist friends or family. Once baby comes, people will ask you "What do you need?" Don't be shy about saying you could use a casserole and a salad for dinner one night.
                                    I like some of the recipes in a book I ordered on-line called "The Big Cook". If you look on their site there are probably some "freebie" recipes. We like "Amazing Chicken". The premise is that you "pre-assemble" meals in freezer bags and then defrost and put them in the oven when you need them. I started doing this because my experience with pre-made (even the "premium" brands such as President's Choice here in Canada) hasn't been the greatest.
                                    Roast beef with potatoes and carrots all in the same pan is always easy. You might also try roasting a chicken with lemon and rosemary, and then putting on some mashed potatoes and steamed veg.
                                    Oh, and make friends with your local Thai/Indian take-out/delivery!
                                    All the best with your new child!!!

                                    1. I worked out a recipe for a huge batch of chicken-vegetable lasagna, anticipating being in exactly your situation next summer. I wanted a one-dish, leave it in the oven, protein, veg starch meal, and came up with this:


                                      1. homemade gnocchi is great because you can freeze them and then you just toss them in a pot of boiling water and when they float to the top you skim them off the top with a slotted spoon like skimming a pool. I made sweet potato gnocchi which are great with some melted butter and garlic