When women are pregnant we get to hear a lot of advice from other people. Much of it is well meaning, some of it is helpful, and other advice doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. Take your prenatals. Yes please. Bank some sleep now because you won’t sleep much when the baby gets here. Hmm, I’m not sure that’s how sleep works. I wish I could save a couple of hours in a sleep bank to withdraw when I am about to fall over from fatigue. And then there is the advice to build up a freezer stash.
What exactly is a freezer stash?
A freezer stash is simply meals that have been prepared and frozen so that the worn out parents to a newborn can defrost and heat up a delicious home cooked meal.
The advice to build up a freezer stash of food is both well-meaning and helpful, but what if it’s just not possible for you?
Freezer Stash Preparation is not for Everyone
Before Squish was born, our entire freezer space consisted of a small 2.5 cubic foot area at the top of our petite fridge/freezer. We did eventually buy a compact deep freezer for our basement but we didn’t have it while I was pregnant. Because I had my own catering business/bakery, people assumed I would have weeks of food squirreled away for when we needed it but that wasn’t the case. As much as I love to cook, we only had room for a couple of leftover dinners.
Not everyone is going to be able to build up a freezer stash while they are pregnant. Here are some of the many reasons why it might not work for you:
- You don’t have the freezer space. Like us, maybe you would have liked to save more prepared food for postpartum. Not everybody has a large freezer or extra freezer so space is sometimes an issue.
- You don’t have the time. Many women work outside of the home right up until close to their due date. Some women even work until they feel signs of labor. A lot of people already have kids that keep them more than busy while they wait for the arrival of their newest little one. You are already feeding yourself and possibly others and that is what you can fit in right now.
- You’re pregnant and having difficult symptoms and you’re the main cook in your family. If you are having extreme nausea all throughout your pregnancy, if back pain has made it hard for you to even stand or walk, if your body is just so tired and so done, you will probably not want to spend hours in the kitchen making extra food.
- You just plain don’t like to cook. If you don’t like to cook in general, it is very highly unlikely that your inner Julia Child is going to kick in when you are nine months pregnant.
I’m here to encourage you to let go of any stress you might feel about not having a freezer stuffed with prepared foods. Let yourself off the hook. You are growing a teeny tiny human and that is so amazing.
That doesn’t mean that you will not need to eat food postpartum. On the contrary, you will likely be a ravenous beast and would even consider fighting the dog for his food if you got desperate enough and there was no food around.
Don’t let it get to that point. 🙂
When 30 minutes in the kitchen seems impossibly long
You can get back to more how you eat normally after a while, but change your expectations for right now. Postpartum meal prep time can be so limited that those supposed “quick” 30-minute meals feel like an impossibility. After Squish was born, I remember thinking it seemed like a huge luxury the idea of getting to spend a whole 30 minutes making a meal.
Though I would have liked to have a large freezer stash of food to go to and defrost every mealtime, that was not our reality. After spending the first few days snacking (copious amounts and at all hours!!!) without eating real meals, as well as ordering too much takeout, I needed to figure out some ideas of balanced meals that could be assembled in no time. I quickly put together a meal plan and put it on our fridge.
My requirements for these meals were:
- They must require very little cooking
- Not be takeout
- Include at least 3 of the 4 main food groups
- Be delicious (though to be fair, I don’t know how important this one was at the time as I would have eaten almost anything put in front of me)
Benefits of a postpartum meal plan
This meal plan helped my husband have ideas concretely laid out when my most important job was to feed baby and my husband’s most important job at the time was to help keep me fed.
Even if you don’t think of yourself as the meal-planning, organize-ahead-of-time type, this will come in so handy in the crazy few weeks and months after birth when your whole world is turned upside down in the best possible way.
This meal plan will also help save you money as you won’t have to resort to take-out when you’re starving because you have a simple plan in place. Planning ahead is so important when it comes to saving money.
Even though my daughter is now approaching two years old, I still keep this list on our fridge. On busy weeks where I don’t have time to spend in the kitchen, and really don’t want to reinvent the wheel and make up something new, I will refer back to that postpartum meal plan.
Having one less thing to think about in this busy time
Because having this meal plan was such a useful tool for me postpartum, I wanted to share it with other new parents or soon-to-be parents. When you are incredibly sleep deprived, and healing from birth, and taking care of this tiny new needy little human, it helps to have things laid out for you and not have to overly think. This is a nice way of saying my own brain felt like mush postpartum. Sometimes a little help planning is just what you need.
These are quick, nutritious meals you can put together with only a few minutes of hands-on work, and with very little cooking. This is a one week meal plan and I focused on dinners. Dinner is the meal that is the focus of the freezer stash and that’s the gap we are trying to fill here. We would cycle through the meals and repeat it the following weeks, but would switch up what day of the week we had different meals. I found it provided a great balance of interest and simplicity.
7 day postpartum meal plan for those who don’t have a freezer stash
Note: I have been vegetarian and even vegan at different times of my life. At this life stage I was eating everything and this meal plan includes meat and dairy.
- Fresh salmon or arctic char
- Basic cooked buttered carrots
- White rice
Salmon and arctic char are both delicious fatty fish. They are good for brain health which is important postpartum (and really, always!) If you get a slimmer piece they can cook in less than 15 minutes on the barbecue or in the oven.
For carrots we simply sliced and steamed them and added butter. For an extra shortcut you can buy bags of fresh pre-sliced carrots.
- Roasted free range chicken
- Salad kit
One of the grocery stores close to us sells not only regular roasted whole chicken, but also a free range version. Since when we eat meat I want it to have been ethically handled, we only eat free range meat and eggs.
Salad kits are wonderful postpartum. Get used to picking them up, they will come in so handy when you need a vegetable to round out a meal and don’t want to prepare any.
- Cut vegetables and dip
- Leftover rice or pasta from Monday or Tuesday
The steak can be any kind that is your favorite, or just what is on sale is great too. This will cook on the barbecue very quickly and without any extra steps like marinades (save those for way later postpartum!)
Grocery stores sell healthy fast food and they are called prepared vegetables. We absolutely took advantage of this in the early bleary-eyed weeks. A container of cut veggies and your favorite dip doesn’t cost much more than the whole versions in many cases. It is a time saving step that is so worth it at this time and will help you easily get in those servings of vegetables.
- Scrambled eggs with cheese and vegetables (spinach, peppers, zucchini, olives)
- Toast and peanut butter or avocado
Thursday was our breakfast for dinner day. Scrambled eggs and cheese make a quick and protein packed dinner. Add in some veggies that either can be cooked quickly or don’t need to be cooked at all, and a side of toast and you are done. I would add whatever vegetables we had kicking around in the fridge or pantry (olives!) if we were out of fresh produce. If we had a salad kit in the fridge that had spinach in it, I would throw a handful of that in with the eggs.
- Salad kit
- Baked potato or sweet potato
We buy Jamie Oliver free range sausages and either barbecue them or bake them in the oven. Either way is super simple – all you have to do is flip once halfway through cooking.
My husband is a fan of the plain white potato while I prefer sweet potatoes. I cut in half a large one for each of us and bake them cut side down in the same dish as the sausage. So easy, this could barely be called cooking!
- Pork tenderloin
- Cheese and crackers
- Sugar snap peas
Pork tenderloin is something I never bought or cooked before meeting my husband. He introduced me to it and it is a super simple, basically foolproof meat to cook with barely any hands-on kitchen time. This makes it a perfect dinner food for postpartum. Because it is so important to cook meat to the proper temperature for food safety, I started using (and love!) a meat thermometer. This one is great as you keep the probe in the meat while it’s cooking. The display stays on the outside of the oven, showing you the temperature of the meat while it is still in the oven.
Don’t knock crackers and cheese for part of dinner. When we were dating, some of our favorite date night at home dinners were fancy cheese and crackers, with fruit, maybe some crusty bread and butter, and a bottle of wine. While that leisurely kind of date night dinner probably is not going to happen in the first few weeks (or months for many people) postpartum, cheese and crackers work well as a quick and easy part of this dinner.
- Sandwiches (chicken salad, egg salad, tuna)
- Perogies and plain yogurt
- Sliced sweet peppers with hummus
Though sandwiches sound simple in theory, they can involve a little too much prep work in the kitchen for when you are postpartum. We did not make egg salad sandwiches or tuna salad from scratch during this time. We found a great local grocer that sold delicious sandwiches and wraps and so that’s what we ate once a week.
My husband has a Ukrainian background and I have a Polish background and we both love our perogies. I love sour cream with them too but we almost always have plain yogurt on us and perogies in our freezer so this part of the dinner wouldn’t take any extra planning at all.
This postpartum meal plan is easy to switch up
You can see from this meal plan that there are ways to easily switch it up without having to overly think. There are many types of salad kits you could try; my favorites are caesar and ranch and there are so many others. Pasta can be macaroni, spaghetti, ravioli, you get the idea. We bought different packages of cut veggies and dip to mix things up, sometimes broccoli and cauliflower, sometimes carrots and celery, and many others.
Save you money postpartum
Having a simple meal plan such as this one will save you money. Yes there are some prepared foods on here that you could buy for less money, such as the pre-cut veggies. But you have to find your own balance between doing everything yourself, and taking a few shortcuts to help you eat healthier at this time. I know for myself during those first few weeks, I was so hungry that when hunger hit I needed to eat quickly. It was so helpful for me to have a plan with some shortcuts. There are many inexpensive foods on this plan including pasta, rice, and eggs.
Having a postpartum meal plan will save money by giving you an alternative to take-out. If you know what’s on the menu for dinner tonight, and it is simple and quick, this will give you an alternative to ordering takeout over and over in those first few weeks. We definitely splurged on delivery here and there, but I know we would have ordered a lot more takeout if we didn’t have this meal plan on the fridge.
Remember that this is a temporary, exhausting, amazing time in your life. It will pass and one day you will have time to make risotto again if that’s your thing. For now, don’t worry if you don’t have a freezer stash of food.