I’m hitting the latter phase of my third trimester at the moment and am focused on nesting. I’ve got two more weeks of work left before I go on maternity leave, but I’ve already started working on stocking up my freezer. From what everyone tells me, the last thing you feel like doing in the first few months of having a newborn is cooking. I’m pretty uncoordinated at the best of times, so it is probably best for me to stay away from sharp knives on that little sleep anyway. Once I’m finished, I’ll post again with the recipes I used to stock my freezer!
Here are my top ten tips to keep things manageable:
- Don’t try to do it all in one day. All of your energy goes into making a tiny human, so of course you get tired! Try to plan ahead to space out the cooking. I’m trying to stick to one a day, not every day, and only on days when I’m at home (so no bulk cooking after work). You could try to do it all in one day, but I can’t image you would be enjoying the process by about half way through.
- Pace Yourself If you have really low energy, try pre-chopping the night before so all you have to do is throw everything in a pan on cooking day.
- Have a theme for cooking each week – based on grocery store sales! Each week check the protein section for sales – buy whichever meat is going cheap in bulk, and make your bulk freezer meals with this meat in that week. It can be good to have a theme. I’m doing a lean beef mince week, a chicken week etc.
- Eat the Rainbow. There are heaps of freezer meal youtube videos and blog posts. Most of these were 90% unhealthy and I want to make sure I”m still getting lots of good nutrients for breast feeding so I didn’t copy them. Try to get a variety of freezer friendly veggies into each meal. I found a good guide on which veggies freeze well (and which don’t) here.
- Cook what you normally enjoy eating. There are so many online lists and videos of what others make to freeze, but you might be stuck with a whole lot of food you don’t like if you just copy. Try before you batch cook, and make what you love.
- Label, label, label. It is easy to forget which bag of brown stuff is bolognese and which is chilli con carne. Make sure to label all of your food INCLUDING when it needs to be eaten by. Here is a guide for how long you can freeze various foods. Not every ingredient can freeze well, so if you have extra things to add once thawed (eg noodles, leafy green vegetables etc), include this in your label too.
- Research before you cook! Please do your research – I made a zucchini slice at 34 weeks thinking it could make for good lunches in the first week, but bacon shouldn’t be frozen for more than a month. Oops.
- Get all the air out of zip lock bags. Freezer burn happens when the food you freeze gets too much contact with air. I filled my double zip lock freezer bags by placing them in a container for stability, ladelling in the ingredients, then flattening them, squeezing the air out and then sealing them fully. If there’s a fair bit of liquid in there, please double bag. No one has time to clean up the mess in the freezer if it all leaks.
- Use baking paper between ziplock bags. To prevent your bags from sticking together in the freezer, use a sheet of baking paper between each. My freezer is a standing one with glass drawers which makes things easy, but if your freezer has wire /basket style shelves, please put something hard underneath the bags.
- Chill in the fridge for a few hours first. Rather than sticking hot food straight into the freezer to melt all of your cold stuff, pop it into the fridge for a couple of hours before transferring the food to your freezer. Otherwise, it might interfere with the safe freezing of other foods if they melt and re-freeze in the freezer.