What to Stock in Your Freezer Before Baby Arrives
I have less than two weeks before my baby girl is due, so things are really coming down to the wire. Most of the preparations for the baby are done — the nursery is decorated, the newborn clothes are washed, the diapers are stashed, and my hospital checklist is taped to the front door. Now, I have the luxury of time to stock up on a supply of food for after the baby arrives. Based on talking to other moms and devouring pretty much every Internet article on the topic, I’ve started to organize my freezing frenzy into a few simple categories. (See also: 24 Tips for Having a Baby Without Going Broke)
Breastfeeding moms say that high-protein snacks and meals are all-important in those first months when your body is consuming vast amounts of energy to produce milk for your little one. Anticipating this, I’m cooking and freezing plenty of protein-rich foods.
Cook a big batch of meat sauce and freeze it in individual-size Tupperware or plastic baggies. Stack them in your freezer, and you’ll have something quick to microwave and throw on some pasta or even on a slice of toast for a quick protein-rich meal.
Quiches freeze well, and it’s pretty easy to make several of them at once. Bake them in individual foil pie pans, and then freeze them for an easy meal. Even your non-cooking partner can figure out how to warm up a quiche in a preheated oven for 25 minutes while baby nurses.
A healthy beef or turkey chili, bulked up with beans, freezes really well. Be aware, however, that some babies are sensitive to beans or tomato sauce, so make sure you freeze a variety of foods.
When cooking dinner, make a double batch of beef or chicken stew, and freeze leftovers in individual portions.
Make your own gourmet version of frozen burritos for a meal you can grab and eat. Heat them up in the microwave or oven (definitely go for the oven for better-tasting burritos).
In addition to protein-rich meals, you’re going to want snacks throughout the day. Muffins and quick breads freeze well — just thaw them, and they’re just as moist and good as they were when you made them.
Stock up on fiber-rich muffins that are hearty and will fill you up. Oatmeal muffins are a great choice because oatmeal is said to help your breast milk come in. Corn muffins and whole wheat muffins with antioxidant-rich berries are also delicious and healthy.
Breads with fruit and vegetables in them will help you get fiber and nutrients and stay moist when frozen. Banana and zucchini bread, as well as carrot cake, are good choices. Cakes made with oil instead of butter are quicker and easier to make big batches of, and are healthier too.
Place a few loaves of your favorite sliced bread in the freezer so you don’t have to go shopping for it when it runs out. You can thaw the entire loaf, or just pull out a couple frozen slices and pop them in the toaster for a quick PB&J sandwich. You can also freeze your favorite flour tortillas and artisan breads for thawing later. Pre-slice bagels and freeze them so they’re ready to be warmed up in the toaster.
If you like to make your own granola bars, be sure to freeze a stash of them for a quick postpartum snack. Beef them up with nuts and dried fruit for a more nutritionally complete snack (or meal, in some cases).
Just because you know you’re going to miss fresh-baked cookies in those first few weeks.
Soups and Casseroles
Soups and casseroles are great dishes to stock up on because they can be complete meals in one dish. You’re likely to receive a lot of lasagnas from helpful friends, so think about other casseroles that you can freeze for a little variety.
Pureed soups that are bulked up with a potato or two (and perhaps a smidgen of cream) are filling and healthy. Try a creamy cauliflower soup, leek and potato, butternut squash or pumpkin, lentil soup, or a filling edamame soup. Chowders are also hearty — try making an easy corn chowder with cream of corn, bacon or ham, veggies, and chunks of potato. Freeze them in individual-sized containers for easy reheating. I run them under the hot water tap for a minute, pop the frozen soup into a saucepan, and heat it up on the stove.
Tuna casserole, chicken and rice, shepherd’s pie, baked ziti with sausage — these dishes are entire meals in one dish.
Store-Bought Frozen Foods
I’d love to be able to stock my entire freezer with homemade foods, but given that D-day could come along any time now, I made a run to Costco and a few of my favorite grocery stores to stock up on premade frozen items.
Frozen Ravioli and Tortellini
Big bags of frozen stuffed pasta are cheap and easy to cook — they cook even faster than dried pasta and because they’re stuffed, they don’t need a whole lot more other than a jar of sauce.
Frozen Meatballs and Sausages
Precooked meatballs are a favorite in our house because all you have to do is thaw them and throw them in some sauce. Sausages, even uncooked ones, are also easy to cook once thawed — 12 minutes in a covered skillet with a bit of water and the bratwurst is ready. I separate the meatballs and sausages into meal-size portions in plastic baggies for the freezer. To thaw them quickly, I submerge the plastic bag in a cold water bath.
I’d prefer a fresh salad every time, but in a pinch, good quality frozen veggies can be steamed, stir-fried, or tossed with some pasta. No grocery store trip required.
Whether it’s a giant bag of potstickers or simple cheese and potato pierogies, dumplings are just as good after they’ve been frozen. Steam or fry them, and add a salad or some steamed veggies for a quick meal.
Get your partner into the habit of grilling you a meal by stocking hamburgers, salmon burgers, and veggie burgers in the freezer.
What quick meals do you have stocked in your freezer?