One of my top tips for a smooth transition from pregnancy into motherhood: be prepared with good food! Whether this is your first baby or your fifth, having an action plan for meals during those first few post-delivery weeks is incredibly helpful. It will allow you to spend plenty of well-deserved time bonding with your baby and recovering from the marathon of childbirth.
Creating Your Postpartum Meal Action Plan
Depending on your local community, proximity to family and friends, and the support network you have at home, an action plan for meals could include any of the following:
- A meal registry such as MealBaby. Friends and family use this service to schedule a time to bring home-cooked meals to your door. Don’t be shy about giving clear instructions about your food preferences or allergies (for example, meals that are modeled on the Whole30 food template). Your loved ones want to take care of you while you recover, and healthy meals is one way they can do so.
- A postpartum doula who helps you cook meals and stock your kitchen.
- A family member or friend who stays with you and helps with the grocery shopping and meal preparation.
- Local grocery delivery services that bring your groceries directly to your door. In some major cities, Amazon is now offering this service as well.
- Ordering from a pre-made meal delivery service like Pre-Made Paleo.
- Homemade meals that you cook and freeze ahead of your delivery.
Every mama’s situation is different, so pick what suits your needs. For me, that was a combination of meal registry meals, support from my family and freezer meals that I prepared before my delivery. When I was in my third trimester, I spent a weekend batch cooking meals and freezing them for my postpartum recovery. This was quite a bit of work for a pregnant woman in her third trimester, but I was thankful for the time and effort once I had my son and was in recovery mode.
Your Freezer Meal Plan
There are many freezer cooking methods, but here’s the step-by-step process that I used.
Create a list of some of your favorite meals that will freeze well
Uncertain about what meals work for the freezer? Check out this 5-part Freezer Cooking series on the Whole30 blog. Soups, stews, and chili are always options. The website Once A Month Meals is a resource, too. They even have a section for specific dietary needs (such as paleo, gluten-free, whole foods, vegetarian, and baby). In addition to the recipe, they include advice on how to freeze and reheat the meal.
Calculate how much food you will need.
How long do you want your freezer meals to last? I wanted to have enough meals to last us at least one month. Here’s how I calculated our meals: A typical recipe usually allows for about 3 servings between my husband and I, and I wanted to make enough food to cover lunches and dinners for a month.
That means we needed enough freezer meals for 60 meals. Sixty meals, divided by 3 servings per recipe is 20 recipes.
Let’s be real. Batch cooking 20 different recipes is a LOT of work. I chose five of our favorite recipes and made four batches of each. This streamlined my shopping and prepping effort.
- Paleo Crockpot Meatballs from Once a Month Meals
- Slow Cooker Thai Chicken from Once a Month Meals
- Pineapple Salsa Chicken Bake from Once a Month Meals
- Spaghetti Squash Pizza PaleOMG
- Spaghetti Squash Bolognese from Balanced Bites
Go Grocery Shopping.
Once you’ve calculated your meals and quantities, it’s time for a marathon grocery shopping session. Assemble your shopping list (I use Cozi) and sort the list by best price. You probably know where to find the best deals for different ingredients in your area, so do your homework ahead of time and make separate lists for each grocery store you want to visit.
Make your cooking and freezing strategy
Most likely, you won’t cook all of your meals in one go. Set a goal to make a certain amount of meals over the course of a few days (I liked doing 1-2 meals a day). Start every cooking session by chopping all of the veggies and measuring the ingredients, so that you can quickly move from one pan to the next.
Another option would be to just double or triple the recipe of a few meals you’re already cooking in your third trimester. Since you already have the ingredients on hand, are making a mess in the kitchen, and have the oven heated, you’re on your way to easily stocking your freezer.
After the meal is done cooking let it cool down and portion it into freezer bags, making sure all of the air is out of the bag. Be sure to label and date the bags. If you don’t like the idea of using plastic, feel free to use another freezer-safe, airtight container, such as a Mason jar. Just make sure to leave about an inch empty on top to allow for food expansion. Trust me on this.
You may also consider typing up a “Cheat Sheet” with instructions on how to reheat the meat and post it on the top of your freezer as a reference. That way your partner or family and friends can find their way around your freezer meals without having to consult you.
Additional Freezer Options
If batch cooking and freezing meals isn’t your speed, there are other ways to utilize your freezer. You can prep and freeze:
- Homemade bone broth
- Frozen veggies and fruit
- Individual smoothie bags filled with all of your favorite ingredients
- Trail mix made from your favorite nuts, seeds, coconut flakes, and dried fruit
- Gluten-free muffins (or lactation cookies)
- Favorite sauces (such as spaghetti sauce) or condiments like guacamole or hummus
- Homemade Larabars
- Frozen ground beef or ground turkey (just thaw and saute with your favorite spices).
Remember, your objective isn’t to prepare and freeze the most amazing freezer meals of all time. You’re simply trying to work ahead so that your first several weeks postpartum are a little bit easier. Decide what strategy works best for you and your family, and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.
This article was originally published as a post on Rock Your Hormones. Post photographs via Flickr users Pip, Chriss and Chiot’s Run. Used under Creative Commons license.
Stephanie Greunke is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in nutrition who specializes in women’s health. She is a certified personal trainer and prenatal and postnatal corrective exercise specialist. Stephanie guides and supports women locally and globally through her web-based private practice,RockYourHormones.com.