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Freezer Cooking Q&A: Freezer Cooking as a New Mom

One new feature of freezer cooking days is a Q&A from readers. Sometimes I receive questions that I can answer and sometimes I receive questions that I know there are more than one answer to. So, each month we’ll look at a question together and try to help each other out.

This month’s question is from a new mom who wants to get started in freezer cooking. I can totally relate! I was 8 months pregnant the first time my friend Jessika and I tackled this kind of cooking. It was so nice in that last month of pregnancy to be able to put up my swollen feet and not worry about making dinner.

Here’s Jennifer’s question:

I am due April 5th with my first child. And I have no clue what to expect!! :) Ok I expect to be really tired and I’ve been told I’ll be lucky to be able to chop an onion. LOL.

I would like to set some meals aside for that time. However, I have yet to get into the swing of freezer cooking. When should I start? How many meals do you recommend setting aside for the post pregnancy period? What kind?

Casseroles sound easiest, but I’d love other recommendations. Does soup freeze well? How does fish do in soup? What else should I expect? Any advice would be great.

— Jennifer

Well, first I would suggest starting small. Consider meals that you know you and your husband love and make some double batches. Eat one and freeze the other. This is one of the simplest ways to stock your freezer. And there are many foods that do well in the freezer. Consider these ideas for developing a freezer cooking plan.

Next, I would look at preparing meal components. Rather than whole meals, I’d think about taco meat, cooked beans, shredded chicken, and other items that can go in a number of meals.

Not only do meal components thaw much more quickly than entire casseroles, but they give you tons of flexibility when it comes to meal preparation. Precooked meats can top salads, fill sandwiches, stretch soup, or mix into pasta dishes. Having the protein already cooked makes for very easy meals without a lot of work.

Soups do freeze well. My favorite is Cheese Soup. Since you may find yourself hungry a lot during those early weeks, it would be great for you to pull out a meal size portion to nuke in the microwave or reheat in a pan. Make a big batch of your favorite soup and divide it into two-cup portions.

As for fish…. we buy fish from the fish counter and often store it in the freezer. But, I rarely precook it. I think it’s too delicate and prefer to avoid any fishy flavors.

Well, there’s my two cents. But, I know LifeasMOM readers have more thoughts and ideas.

How would YOU advise Jennifer?

What advice do you have for an expectant mom and freezer cooking newbie wanting to prepare freezer meals for the postpartum period?

Curious about freezer cooking? Consider purchasing my cookbook, Not Your Mother’s Make-Ahead and Freeze Cookbook from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or your local bookstore. It’s chock full with over 200 freezer-friendly recipes, planning pages, shopping lists, cooking plans, and basic and advanced how-to’s to making freezer cooking work for any home, family, and lifestyle.

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Comments

  1. I have a 3 yo and 8 week old twins. When I was pregnant with the twins, I did a lot of freezer prep (first time), too. I second your advice to make components. That’s been my biggest help in the kitchen. I cooked ground beef and shredded/cubed chicken (neither with seasoning other than s&p). I also cooked rice, beans, and mashed potatoes. And as for chopping onions – I chopped onions (triple bag them!), carrots, celery, green pepper, etc for soups, stews, casseroles, or whatever. Having the onions chopped is wonderful!

    I made a few casseroles and a few soups. Otherwise, I like having the components and putting them together that day. Make the crockpot your friend… And another time saver – work on dinner while your baby naps (if you’re not napping yourself!). Even if it’s 2pm, get all your prep work done or put together the meal and have it ready to go to cook at dinner time.

    Lastly, accept help. My mom, MIL, and friends offered many meals. Take them up on it!

    Good luck and congrats!

  2. I do pots of soup all the time and then freeze my leftovers. One tip I would offer is if you make chicken noodle soup, set aside your freezer portion prior to putting the noodles in the pot. I’ve frozen it both ways and my husband and I prefer the noodles to be fresh in the pot instead of a mushy mess when they are reheated. It’s just as easy to add them in when you’re heating it up the second time as it is if you’re doing it all the first time.

    Also, I just started a job outside of our home, but thankfully I had gotten into the habit of cooking “parts” of meals and freezing them for the days when I didn’t feel like cooking. Three days last weeks I came home at lunch and was able to put together meals in the Crock Pot (another favorite kitchen item!) out of stuff that I had already taken the time to cook and/or chop and then freeze. It also saves us money because I can get green peppers in the summer for $0.25/each, but in the winter I’m sometimes looking at $0.99 – $2.00 for one! I was sick of cutting peppers this summer, but I am seriously happy about my decision to do it as we’ve gone through the winter!

    Congratulations and Blessings!

  3. I am a big fan of SavingDinner.com. They sell freezer menus of 5, 10, or 20 meals you can prep assembly-line style and freeze so they’re ready to go. All the recipes I’ve found and frozen on my own never seem to work right, so for me it’s worth it to pay a little to get stuff that will work.

  4. I had my first baby last May, and I discovered that also have easy meals and meal components in the freezer the last month or so helped tremendously. I also tried to have everything (other than fresh produce/milk) I thought we would need to enable my husband or anyone else to go to the store for me.

    Any casserole dishes I prepared I did in 2 8 x 8 pans, ate one and froze the other, I used my food saver to freeze them or wrapped in foil and then stuck in a gallon ziploc bag.

    I would also highly recommend finding easy meals that you and your husband like — and making a list of them with recipes if necessary, especially in the first weeks if your husband is helping you in the kitchen — that you can prep ahead of time during the day or make in the crock pot.

    I also received some skillet meals from my sister. There is you tube video, but essentially all you do is chop and freeze the components and then bag them. (To work like the bertolli skillet meals in the freezer section).

    I also found I needed more “snack” items in the first few weeks, so freezing some healthy muffins or making up/having the ingredients for trail mix at home was something I wish I had done more of.

  5. My freezer cooking is usually marinated meats and beans. I love having beans in the freezer– toss in a salad, make a burrito, hummus. Marinated meats are easy to grill–freshly cooked meat seems to balance out the ‘freezer casserole AGAIN’ syndrome.

    Don’t forget breakfast..Muffins, quick breads, pancakes, and waffles are wonderful. I freeze individually wrapped slices of banana bread and muffins for a ‘one handed’ snack while nursing. Quiche freezes well- cut into individual servings for an easy breakfast or snack.

    • @karen,

      You can also cook quiche (the crustless kind) in muffin pans to have individually frozen servings. Just use liners to pop them out easily.

  6. Casseroles and lasagnas are good. You can freeze the entire thing or meal size portions that are easier to thaw. Same thing goes for pasta sauce and chili.

    Meatballs and meat loaves are also life savers to keep on hand. Meatballs can be added to pasta, made into meatball subs, or eaten plain with mashed potatoes and a side veggie.

    Meal components are SO NICE to have. Marinated chicken breasts and steaks eliminate a lot of the prep work required for dinner. I also freeze chopped onions and other veggies whenever I can. I usually just store those in their own ziploc bags or tupperware container in the freezer.

    Browned ground beef is handy too. You can season it before freezing or after, but sometimes its easier to do it before. Just be sure you label each one so you know which is which.

    Don’t forget about breakfast items. We mostly freeze home made muffins, but waffles and pancakes are easy to freeze too. If you aren’t into breakfast baked goods, consider keeping frozen fruit that you can add into a yogurt or blend into a smoothie.

    So basically, keep in mind that you don’t have to freeze an entire meal. Even doing meal components will save you time later. There’s not really a wrong way to do freezer cooking.

  7. First of all, congrats.

    It is great that you are thinking ahead. I wish I did a little more this time with my second little boy last October. I second a lot of the other ideas above, just make extra when making regular supper. Think of the easiest way to build up a stock pile.

    I would also recommend having healthy items you like, for a goto snack. You may get really hungry, and feel you do not have enough time to thaw.

    Make sure you have a few fall back plans like take out menus, and help from friends or husband to do the cooking.

    There maybe days you will be to busy being mom, to take care of more than that. So have backup plans.

    Congrats again…and wishing you all the best. You will Rock This!

  8. Shannon L says:

    When I began freezer cooking, I would make double batches of whatever we were already eating. Then I would place it into a gallon-sized plastic bag, lie it flat on a box and freeze. This doesn’t take up very much room and thaws quickly in a sink of water. We do taco meat, soups, beef and broccoli(the broccoli gets mushy, but we don’t mind), spaghetti sauce, bread, etc. You are going to want healthy food that you can grab and eat before and especially after the baby is born. Remember, you are not just eating three times a day, so it is crucial to have pre-prepared snacks on hand to grab when you are pulling those all nighters the first few weeks.

  9. If you are planning on breast feeding your baby you might want to make sure everything you freezer cook is going to be friendly for your baby’s tummy. I found this out the hard way after having baby number two. Turns out onion really upset his little tummy, and I put onion in everything! If it has a possiblity of giving you gas, it can definately do it for your baby! Especially at first.

    I also give myself permission to use paper the first couple of months after baby is born. I do not have a dishwasher and paper was a major timesaver! We almost never use paper but even just using the plates, napkins, and sometimes cups helped out a lot!

    I have really loved freezing soups this winter! Our family is still small enough that a crockpot full will feed us twice with some for my hubby to take to work in his lunch. Some that I have frozen are chili, taco soup,(both came out even better than fresh) potato bacon, (potato was little bit of a different texture, not bad just different) corn chowder, (came out just the way it was the first time) cowboy stew (again the potato thing, but we liked the flavor even better the second time). I just put some chicken noodle in there this week so I am not sure how it will be.

    I also liked to make anything in a pocket, so easy to grab for a quick meal or to pack in a lunch. You can make them, mexican, pizza, breakfast, bierocks, ham n cheese. The list goes on and on!

  10. I meal planned 2 weeks of “easy for my man to make” dinners, so my husband could make dinner but not feel overwhelmed. Quesadilla, sloppy joe, bagel pizzas etc. But when I started cooking again the single best help was having precooked/cubed chicken frozen. I also froze 1 cup portions of diced onion and bell pepper. For the next baby I think I will freeze full meals too. I’ll be coming back to this site often for freezer cooking ideas!

  11. Besides things for freezing I would make a list of simple meals that you already like and stock your pantry with the ingredients you need to make them. Maybe make a months menu and make sure you have all you can on hand. If you or your hubby like to grill make sure to have marinated meats in the freezer. And if you are going to be nursing make sure to think of snacks/lunches you enjoy. You will need extra calories during nursing and it really helps to have things within reach to eat quickly.

    Enjoy your new addition!

  12. Oh Jennifer – you will be amazed how much you can get done with little sleep :D All kidding aside I will tell you what worked for me. As a new mother it is key to remember that even though it worked for one person it may not work for you. If it doesn’t work don’t force it, scrap it and try again.

    I have 3 boys (one month, one year and 2.5) The oldest has a communication delay so he goes to a special school 4 hours M-Th.

    I started freezer cooking in November of last year (at 8 months pregnant) In November I choose one weekend where the boys were Dad’s responsibility. On Friday I gathered my recipes (from this site and Food.com by typing OAMC) of what I thought would work. I then went shopping on Saturday and Sunday was cooking time. I cooked from after church (noon) until 10pm. Food that day was takeout and sandwiches. I was tired and ready for bed but I had dinners for the next 20 days so I was happy. I also took as much time as I could sitting at the dinner table doing prep – like trimming chicken and placing food in the containers.

    I had my son (c-section) January 3rd but was back in the kitchen the following week. There was no way I could do a weekend like that with my energy level and getting over a major surgery. I could, however, carve out a few hours a day when my two little ones were napping and my big one was at school. I took a 20 minute nap <— this was a must according to my grandmother, mother of 7 kids herself. After my nap I started the prep for 2 recipes I had picked. When the kids were in bed at 7 I did the finishing touches and placed the items in the freezer. Some were stuff I knew would work – I made enough for 4 meals. Some were stuff I wasn't sure if it would freeze right – I made one meal for dinner and placed some for lunch in the freezer with a sandwich as my backup if it didn't turn out. (so far nothing has needed a replacement. Some will need tweaking, some will not return but all were edible). I did this for 2 weeks, Monday – Thursday. I used 3 hours a day total but with it broken up and the nap I didn't feel it at all.

    With the 3 boys and trying to get the two older ones fed – by myself since my husband works 1pm – 9pm – I find freezer cooking a necessity. I am still learning but I don't fret when something doesn't work.

    Honesty is a HUGE key to make sure your time and resources are not wasted. I ask my husbands opinion on everything and tell him not to worry about my feelings. If he won't eat it, then I don't see why I would waste my time making it.

  13. All the above suggestions are awesome!

    I must say, though, that I LOVED that our church had a “meals ministry” for new Moms!
    We got large meals 3x week for 2 weeks!
    Usually we were able to eat leftovers, too!
    Don’t be too shy — most “experienced” moms love making a meal for new moms!

  14. I have a 2 month old son. I seriously stocked my freezer before I had him! Here are my favorite things to freeze:

    -shredded chicken and turkey
    -cubes of ham (like leftover from Easter)
    -peppers and onions
    -celery
    -beans and rice (thaw, add onions and peppers or salsa and cheese or spices :)
    -eggplant balls (like meatballs)
    -refried

  15. I definitely agree with Karen that it’s important to also remember breakfast, plus quick nutritious snacks to grab. Starting the day with breakfast really helps when you’re tired! Try making & freezing some pumpkin or banana breads, muffins, waffles or pancakes, breakfast burritos (we use scrambled eggs, cheese, & crumbled bacon in ours – roll in a tortilla, wrap in foil, & freeze), and steel cut oatmeal (I spoon it into jumbo muffin pan cups, freeze, then pop the frozen portions into ziploc bags). All of these can be quickly microwaved for an easy breakfast or snack. Some homemade cookies & brownies in the freezer for a quick treat once in a while can’t hurt either! Best of luck with your new little one!

  16. I have a 2 month old son. I seriously stocked my freezer before I had him! Here are my favorite things to freeze:

    -shredded chicken and turkey
    -cubes of ham (like leftover from Easter)
    -peppers and onions
    -celery
    -beans and rice (thaw, add onions and peppers or salsa and cheese or spices :)
    -eggplant balls (like meatballs)
    -refried beans for quesadillas
    -hummus (with veggies or add to a chix veggie soup!)
    -chicken broth (love to make egg drop soup)
    -pita pizzas (pita, pest, chix, mozzarella or montery jack)
    -regular homemade pizzas
    -stir fry
    -fajita fillings
    -browned beef (with or without taco seasoning)
    -tomato sauce

    One favorite dinner:
    2 frozen tilapia filets
    1/2 bag frozen broccoli
    Evoo and lemon
    Spices (options: Italian seasoning, any spice blends, old bay… Haven’t had a bad spice yet!)

    Thaw tilapia (thaws fast!) heat oven to 350. Put fish in glass casserole did with cover. Drizzle with evoo and lemon, sprinkle spices. Arrange broccoli around fish (overlapping is ok), drizzle with evoo, sprinkle with Italian seasoning. Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Hands on time is only 5-10 minutes and it’s ready to bake by the time the oven is heated! Not a “freezer meal” bit it is all frozen!

    Have fun!
    -

  17. I just had my 3rd baby a few months ago and what worked for our family was to have breakfast, snack, and lunch items in the freezer. My hubby was home in the evening so he would play with kids and baby while I got a break in the kitchen cooking supper. But while he was at work, things were harder for me to prepare so having breakfast (waffles, pancakes, baked oatmeal, breakfast cookies, etc), snacks (granola bars, hummus), and lunch (soup mainly) was easiest. I wish I would have done a lot more batch cooking in those areas since we ran out relatively quickly and had to rely on store bought convenience foods for a while. Also, I second above comments about nursing and baby being sensitive to what you eat. Mine had reflux which was made worse when I ate tomatoes, spicy stuff like onions and peppers, and chocolate! So try to go easy on those things at first if you are nursing. Best of luck! Being a mommy is the best job in the whole world!

  18. When I was 8 months pregnant, I couldn’t stand for very long. I would recommend that for the last few weeks, just cook a meal for you and your husband and double it. Put one in the freezer (casserole, soup, chicken breasts, etc.) In 4 weeks time you could easily, painlessly have 28 meals in the freezer.

    Check out food.com and look up OAMC or dump chicken. There are many freezer recipes that just require you to put the raw chicken breasts in a bag with marinade. Then, the night you are ready to eat, just pop them in the oven (you don’t even need to unthaw) and dinner will be ready in about an hour. It doesn’t get any easier!

  19. This is something I should have done – and will the next time around! While family and friends brought by food items and gift certificates those first few days home from the hospital, those items were quickly used. But we were still exhausted and starving! I would recommend stocking as much as possible in two ways:
    1) Meals for the whole family. Make items that you can easily throw in the oven, or pop into your crockpot that will feed the whole family. If you are breastfeeding remember you will be needing those extra calories & you will be extra hungry! This will save you a lot of stress and less trip to the grocery store while recovering.

    2) My husband had to return to work after two weeks – so it was just me and the baby. I was starving, exhausted, fighting depression, overwhelmed…. needless to say I didn’t cook much. I was breastfeeding too. Not eating properly had a serious negative impact on my recovery (and my milk flow.) I wish I’d frozen single serving meals for myself, that I could have popped in the microwave or oven for a quick meal during nap times.

  20. I found having meals ready to go was a tremendous help after the baby was born, too. Main thing I’d recommend is to have a good variety in case some foods give baby gas (if you breastfeed)..when my son was born we had dozens of meals worth of chili and spaghetti sauce prepared in the freezer..but I couldn’t eat lots of tomatoes cause my son had reflux!

  21. Jennifer B says:

    Thank you everyone! You’ve given me lots of ideas and great tips. I really hadn’t thought much about lunch or breakfast. I will definitely, look into some quick breads, pancakes, and muffins.
    Thanks again!

  22. We were blessed with almost a month of meals every other day from our church family. However, I had about 2 weeks worth of freezer meals prepared and that was really nice. This time around my goal is to have about 2-3 months prepared (though I’m not sure what my 2 over the fridge freezers will accomodate). If we have the money I might buy a small chest freezer. My babies will be 13 months apart so I know I’ll need all the help I can get. Lunch and especially breakfast and snacks were something I didn’t plan for and so I’ll try to do that as well.

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