Baby on the way, small freezer!
I have 3 months yet, but I am anxious to start planning and prepping for those first few months of having an infant in the home. We are first time parents with no family in town... eek! Since I have left my job to finish out the last trimester and get ready for motherhood, we are on a tight budget.
We are always concerned about getting good nutrition in while also keeping food very flavorful and whole. Anything packaged and "convenient" is out. I will be breastfeeding exclusively, so I imagine beyond being tired, I will also be tied up much of the time. I am the cook in the home, and my husband works 50-60 hour weeks... god love him, he really tries to whip things up for me when I am sick or tired, but he's just not very inclined towards anything culinary.
We have a very small freezer. (Enough room generally for a few frozen meals at a time.)
Here's my concern, especially from those of you who have been there before:
How do I still feed my husband and myself (I have to get good nutrition and calories in to facilitate breastfeeding) without spending alot of time in the kitchen? I typically spend an hour on dinner. I have a feeling I can't do that anymore! He is a big guy, works so hard, and I love having something flavorful and hearty and warm ready for him at the end of the day... I know he would understand if I didn't, but it would break my heart to serve us sandwiches or eggs every night, and cold cereal for breakfast!
It sounds like a silly question, but all of my friends have turned to Stouffers and take out those first few months (and of course, meals from neighbors and friends, I'm sure we will have a few...)
Just looking for suggestions, recipe ideas, etc to get the wheels turning and start to figure this out and plan!
I appreciate your replies in advance.
oh my gosh - you all are so wonderful!! Thank You for taking the time to write out such detailed suggestions. I am printing the whole thread out!! Not only have you inspired me with food suggestions, but have given me some valuable new mom suggestions as well... It's nice to feel supported during this very interesting time of transition. :)
It seems like planning and being creative with my time and resources is the way to survive this! I especially love the suggestion of prepping the meals at various stages during the day. Would never have thought of that...
I seems my days of deciding whats for dinner that night, wandering the grocery store a few days per week perusing ingredients and spending time prepping and drinking wine over some itunes are over!! I'm okay with that. :) I have to just get organized (thank you for the excel spreadsheet suggestion budeez!) and plan meals out - and stock some Rice a Roni so I am always prepared!!
I'm also considering getting a LeCrueset pot for the stovetop - I'm sure this will also inspire me to cook more stews and braises and just toss stuff in and let it go... Yummy leftovers here we come!
Don't fret. I have 2 babies at home under the age of 2. My advice to you is to take things one step at a time. You will probably have a time of great adjustment in the 1st few months when the baby arrives. I know I did. Remember, if you are serving "sandwiches or eggs every night" it is okay - your sanity and happiness is what's best for the whole family. Having said all that, I know what you mean about serving decent and healthy meals. What I try to do with meals (dinner especially), is plan ahead. What I do sometimes is organize my meals on a spreadsheet for everyday of the week. I think up meals that are fast, easy and healthy to make because when you know ahead of time what you are making, it is much faster. On this spreadsheet, I also list the ingredients I would need so when grocery shopping, I know exactly what I need. This saves on time too at the grocery store. Also, always keep your eyes peeled for healthy convenience foods and delivery foods, this also adds variety and saves time. Some examples of already prepared convenience foods and fast/easy solutions:
- pre-cooked rotisserie chickens - eat as is or even shred and make soft tacos (you only need to chop up some veggies to go with it and open a jar of salsa/sour cream)
- fish? - i get salmon and just wrap in aluminum foil and throw in whatever veggies (frozen veggies are great here - no cutting/washing) I feel like. Salt and pepper with a little olive oil. Stick it in the oven and voila, a tastey healthy meal. Serve with bread.
- Buy a good bread from a bakery. Make yourself a nice platter. Cut up the bread, some tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, few slices of prosciutto, cucumber, olives, etc. Serve bread with some good olive oil and balsamic to dip.
- Stew is good too (make that ahead on the weekend).
- Lasagna is a make ahead too on the weekend.
My point is, plan ahead... I find it gets easier as you discover your babies routine. I find if I get my babies on a routine, I know at which times of the day I will have time for myself.
Good Luck... :-)
1) You mention not serving a cold breakfast to a hard worker. Consider a small-size crockpot which can cook hot cereal overnight. Consider the many breakfast casseroles listed under "strata" which can be made ahead of time and zapped by the portion when needed. Consider frozen waffles with brown&serve sausage or bought-cooked sausage patties. Consider a pound of bacon cooked all at once by laying it on a big pan and baking it in the oven (then keep it in a plastic bag in the refrigerator). If you have the cooked sausage or bacon on hand, it's a matter of three minutes to make a hot breakfast sandwich with egg and meat. Quiche also makes a substantial breakfast. and one quiche (frozen pie shell, eggs, milk, cheese, & misc stuff) will supply quiche for 2-3 breakfasts. Caveat: there will be mornings when you have had no sleep at all and McDonald's breakfast for Daddy may be a good emergency plan. 2) Definitely listen to those advising a crockpot (and get a big one, 5 or 6 quart size). Not only can you set up dinner at some convenient time, but a lot of the things that do well in a crockpot make extra to save for the future (spaghetti sauce, chili, BBQ beef, beef or chicken curry, shrimp creole, African chicken, beef Burgundy, carbonade a la flamande, or a beef stew which can do an encore as meat pie). 3) Lay in a supply of spaghetti sauce in jars. Use it for spaghetti, sloppy joes, shrimp marinara, chicken cacciatore, frozen meat or cheese tortellini or ravioli, and that new lasagna that you don't have to cook---just lay in in the baking dish raw with plenty of sauce and anything else you want. 4) Cans or jars of gravy are useful (leftover beef from potroast, or sliced deli roast beef, + canned beef gravy = hot beef sandwiches a la diner). 5) A big pot of hearty soup or chili can be dipped into many times. 6) Set your pride as a good cook aside for this emergency, eg it's time to try Boil-in-the-Bag rice and the biscuits that come in a refrigerated can.
First of all Congratulations!!! :)
The first few months your precious new arrival will eat, sleep, cry, need a change, repeat... there will be stretches where he/she is sleeping and I'd suggest that most of the time baby is sleeping, you sleep too...much easier to deal with all-night feedings when you grabbed a nap earlier on... And if kitchen time is still high on the list of priorities but the housework is piling up I'd suggest splurging on a weekly cleaning service to take care of all the things you want to scrub but don't have time for.
Now I know you're used to an hour in the kitchen...well, odds are you won't have all that prep time in one stretch anymore... If the night's meal is salmon and roast potatoes and carrots for instance... peel the potatoes early in the day and throw them in a pot of water. Next naptime, quarter, dress them and throw them in the fridge til dinner. Save prep time by getting baby carrots, cherry tomatoes and other veggies requiring little or no cutting and peeling. Prep time can be used better by planning meals that use similar ingredients - the leftover mashed potatoes from one night become the topping for a shepherd's pie the next...that kind of thing.
myrecipes.com has a wealth of freezer-friendly meal ideas, and I know there have been lots of threads on what freezes well.
Congratulations in advance, op! My dd is now six and I remember those first few months fondly, actually. We also live far away from family. LIfe became simpler, somehow, and I loved it. You may have already considered this, but do you have any room at all for an additional small chest freezer? If you live in an area with a lively and active Craig's List population, you can get such a freezer for cheap or even free. I got mine for $20 and it was such a great investment. We store it on a covered side porch with an electrical outlet and only use it for part of the year, but it has come in handy.
We also learned during that time of our daughter's life that it is very time saving to cook big once a week. We'd microwave steam and chop all our veggies while roasting some meat and baking a loaf of bread in the oven. Less cleanup (this is the biggest payoff, if you ask me!) and the stuff is in the fridge, ready to be assembled and perhaps briefly reheated before enjoying. Having a team helps, so consider using those visits from friends as an opportunity to attack some cooking for the week!
My favorite hint from a friend was to use paper plates for that first week home. We have a small home and doing dishes (even in the dishwasher, what with all the loading/unloading clinking clanging noises) was noisy enough to wake our little one just when we'd gotten her down, which was the time we'd use to get some cleanup done! We love Mother Earth and hate to use disposable anything, but it was a great suggestion for those first few days.
Best of luck with your birth.
I know Rice-a-Roni probably counts as convenience and isn't gourmet by any stretch, but hear me out. I only buy one flavor of it - the Spanish Rice. It's the only one - I think - that doesn't have anything hydrogenated in it, and isn't as bad as the others. You could even use your own seasonings and toss the season packet that comes with it since that's where most of the "bad" stuff is (sodium, etc.). So, dice up some pepper (green, red, whatever), toss in some paprika, cumin, coriander (if not using the spice packet), add 2 cans of diced tomatoes, and simmer until nearly done. Then, toss in 1/2 pound of frozen shrimp and 1/2 cup of frozen peas. It takes me less than 30 minutes to make this and it's warm and hearty.
This is my emergency, have no time to cook, don't wanna go out meal.
Congratulations! If I have any advice for you, it would be to remember that the early months are really a period of rapid transition and lack of sleep. So, though you may feel frustrated with not being able to do all you want, it will change very quickly.
One of my favorite go-to dinnerrs in the early months after having a child was to roast a whole chicken with veggies cut into the pan to cook along with it. Simple, easy, tasty, satisfying.
I loved to make homemade sauce as well, so early in the morning, I'd cut some meat into a pan, saute it quickly, take out the excess oil, and then add some canned tomatoes and herbs. Let it cook on very low heat all day. Not elegant, but the sauce is delicious, much better than jarred, and since it has meat might be hearty enough for your husband.. With a nice salad, it could work as well.
I second the roast chicken idea; and even though there are only two of you (who will be eating it) go ahead and roast two chickens at a time. Hardly any more work, and the leftovers make great, easy sandwiches. (and your view of sandwiches may change a bit once baby is in the picture).
Which is one thing to remember: of course you want to serve nourishing, hot meals, but your life will change, and even if hubby is working 50 hours a week, so will you be, and you both must make compromises and pitch in for the parenting thing to work. You can still do better than Stouffer's, not that there is anything wrong with Stouffers now and then (other than cost...)...
Crockpot recipes are also a great idea, as are simple pasta dishes. You can make many pasta dishes with pantry items, so no need for a big freezer.
You can get some pretty warm and hearty meals out of a crockpot that don't require a ton of fussing. Some are better than others, of course, but we have a few favorite standby dishes where we toss the ingredients in the crock in the morning and have a hearty dinner by evening.
One of our favorites is a flank steak+can of beans+jar of salsa+bag of corn
Lots of posts about crockpot recipes if you want to search on them. You'll want to avoid all the recipes that call for Campbell's Cream of _________ Soup, but most of the ones people post about on chowhound aren't like that.
We also use a pressure cooker and rice cooker mostly for grains and legumes but I still find the crockpot to be the easiest and least fuss of all.
I just got my hands on Barbara Kakfa's Microwave Gourmet, which I thought could be fun to try, too. A lot of the recipes in there look pretty quick and easy, though I haven't tried any of them yet.
Congrats in advance for your upcoming blessed event! Maybe give us an idea of what he'll eat and/or not eat....Is fish an option for him? Very quick to prepare and excellent source of protein for all. Do you have a crock pot or pressure cooker? There are some good recipes out there for both these days that are healthy.
The number of hours in any given day are constant. Each of us own a wide range of daily responsibilities. The answer to your question is to list all of the things you have on your schedule over a period of time, arrange them in order of priority (looks to me like an hour a day in the kitchen is going to be pretty high on the list) and start eliminating from the bottom. If you had tea with your neighbor every morning and, with the new arrival, found yourself having to visit the park for mother/child recreation before noon every day, you'd have to tell your neighbor that the daily tea parties were no longer possible. Same thing with your life as a mother. Ask your husband to help you with prioritizing the list. He may even want to adjust his own schedule to pick up some of the pieces.