I shared in my last post that the BEST thing I did to prepare for a healthier (and easier!) postpartum was prepping a whole bunch of food ahead of time and freezing it, so we would have healthy, nourishing meals on hand in a pinch. Not only that, but I did it without much extra change to my normal meal prep routine, making the prep-ahead process less of a burden, and more of a gift to my future self (and family!). Today I wanted to share with you the how: how exactly I planned out my freezer prep, and how I implemented it into my weekly meal prep (and grocery list) to ease the workload and the financial burden of making weeks worth of meals.
I spread my prep out over six weeks; you could do so with whatever time you have available. My thought was to start at 30 weeks; it's not too far from baby day that the food will no longer be fresh; gives plenty of time for make-up meals if you don't quite get to everything, and it finishes up before that ever-uncomfortable last month (or for me, last week!) of pregnancy.
The way I divided the prep was within my weekly meal prep. Whether you take a full day and prep all at once or prep ingredients to cook throughout the week (check out my Healthy Mama Meal Prep course for more on the different types of meal prep I teach), by adding a little extra each week and also providing yourself with immediate meals for throughout the present week, you can easily prep ahead without the burden of super-long cook days (been there, done that!) and start a stash slowly, instead of the pain of having to clean out your freezer just to fill it up again and not having room for weekly staples.
Recipes The recipes I chose were not all that varied in terms of nutritional value (I didn't venture into seafood or really any proteins other than beef, chicken and turkey), but that's ok- they are all nutrient-dense, real food recipes that freeze well and I did it intentionally: choosing similar ingredients and using less-expensive cuts (like ground meat and stew meat) meant I could prep multiple ingredients at once and keep budget to a minimum.
On the flip side, recipes were similar in style because that is what freezes best. Stews, Chilis and Casserole-style dishes traditionally freeze and reheat easily, and I wanted to make sure anything I made was easy for my husband or myself to defrost and re-heat in no time when we wanted them (and it worked out very well). I also made sure that the recipes I chose were easy to double or triple when needed.
I also chose recipes that were, for the most part, an entire meal (or only needed one simple side, such as pasta-- we like fiber-packed chickpea or quinoa pasta; or rice/cauliflower rice). There's really no point in cooking and freezing a beautiful roast that needs two sides to make it a full meal- sure the ease is in the protein but we wanted quick meals! Check out the last post for the meals and links to some of the recipes I chose.
I created my plan simply- I decided what meals or items I wanted to make multiples of (usually our family favorites, and ones we wouldn't mind eating two or three times in a 3-month span) and mapped out what I would make. Then, I divided those meals between weeks, ensuring the meals were easy to add into my typical routine by simply doubling, ensuring I was actually prepping for the week ahead, and not just postpartum.
I also made sure to divide meals between equipment I was using. Save for a couple days that required the slow cooker twice for bone broth (I made the chicken the day prior when I made bone broth, and the broth cooked overnight-- then I could use it in the stew recipe, as well). The key on my plan indicates the main equipment I used (if any).
Here is the plan I ultimately came up with:
I was so excited every time I cooked, cooled and added a new recipe to the freezer. It was so fun to see the freezer fill up with food we could easily grab and eat when our sweet new addition came along, and I was so happy I stuck with a plan instead of overwhelming myself in the busy third trimester.
Stay tuned later this week for a few of my favorite freezer prep tips (and a recipe!).