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Having a new baby is a whirlwind of cuddles, diaper changes, emotions, and exhaustion– the last thing on most of our minds is figuring out what to make for dinner! After all, if you’re anything like me, planning meals is hard enough normally; throw a newborn into the mix, and it can seem downright impossible.
So, what can a new mama do to alleviate some of their mealtime stress? The answer is pretty simple: plan ahead!
The good news is that meal prepping before baby is a helpful addition to any “preparing for a baby checklist.”
Meal prepping will save you time in the long run and alleviate getting hangry because you’re nursing or tired or changing a baby and haven’t even BEGUN to think about how to feed yourself and your partner.
But how do you do it?
When should you start?
And how many meals should you plan on putting together?
The first time I meal prepped, I felt overwhelmed by the process. Thankfully, I’ve learned some fantastic tips and tricks since then that I’d love to share with you!
Read on to learn more about what to prep, when to prep, and how to do it! Trust me; you’ll be glad you started planning meals before your little one makes their big debut.
Do You Have to Meal Prep Before Baby is Born?
The short answer is no–you don’t HAVE to do any meal prepping before your baby is born. Some new parents are blessed with folks who will bring over casseroles to freeze, and some of us even have friends who will create whole meal trains in preparation for the arrival of our babies.
But here’s the thing: people will only bring food for so long, and the weeks and months after baby is born aren’t easy.
From feedings to bath time, you will be so busy learning about your little one and trying to figure out your routine as a family.
I only did a small amount of meal prepping before my first daughter was born. I figured I would have plenty of time to throw meals together.
Boy, was I wrong!
Our beloved firstborn had a significant case of colic and enjoyed a witching hour (or 2 or 3) every evening around dinner time! Attempting to cook a well-balanced meal while tending to a screaming baby was interesting, to say the least.
I got pretty familiar with our local pizza and Chinese delivery drivers and accepted that the neighbors probably thought I’d delivered a screaming banshee instead of a baby.
When kid #2 rolled around, I’d learned from my past mistakes and went down a meal-planning rabbit hole.
I loaded up on bulk boxes of snacks and easy breakfast items, bought major stock in canned soup and boxed macaroni and cheese, and threw endless frozen meals into my stockpile for later use.
Once our baby arrived, I was ready.
Let me tell you, not needing to mindlessly wander around the kitchen with a fussy baby while I figured out what to feed my family felt like a daily reward!
So while you don’t have to do any food planning pre-birth, if you have the time and patience to do so, I give meal prepping before baby five stars!
When Should You Start the Meal Planning Process?
Generally, you should eat freezer meals (the bread and butter of meal prepping before childbirth) within three months of freezing. After that, your ingredients’ overall quality, taste, and texture will start to decline.
So, while you might be tempted to start packing away portions earlier in your pregnancy, it’s best to wait until you’re closer to the end.
Many mamas I’ve talked to begin their prep work one month before their due date.
How Many Snacks and Meals Should You Prepare?
Most of us don’t have endless freezer space at our disposal to load up before our babies are born. That makes it hard to plan too many meals for your postpartum period.
When I was prepping for our second daughter’s arrival, I wanted close to two full weeks of food in my stockpile. I knew family and friends would be bringing by dishes in those early post-delivery days and wanted a couple more weeks not to worry about what I would cook.
There’s no set rule about how prepared you need to be.
Think about how much space you have and how long you think you’ll want the convenience of a pre-prepared meal after your baby’s birth.
Note: Not all my meals during those two weeks were freezer meals. I also planned simple options that were shelf-stable, such as boxed macaroni, protein bars, pasta and sauce, and classic peanut butter and jelly. These were easy to throw together, especially during lunch, and didn’t take up room in the freezer.
Tricks to Simplify Your Postpartum Meal Prep Process
One of the things that stop many of us mamas from starting the meal prep process is feeling stressed out about how the process will work.
To ease your anxiety and streamline the process, we’ve put together a list of tips and tricks to simplify your meal planning before childbirth.
1. Clean Out Your Freezer
While you can certainly plan meals that don’t involve your freezer, most of them will. That’s why your first step should always be making some extra space.
If you’re anything like me, your freezer is currently loaded down with various meals, ingredients, and other odds and ends that make it hard to find anything within the depths of the drawers and shelves.
There’s no better time for a freezer deep clean than before you start doing your postpartum meal prepping.
2. Plan Out Your Meals
Deciding what recipes you want to use can be hard, but it’s also the most fun part of the process, at least, I think so!
Instead of just going down a list of Google’s “easiest make-ahead meals,” think about what you’ll have a taste for after delivery. Are there things that you stayed away from during pregnancy that you know you’ll have a craving for? Is there an ingredient that made you nauseous that you’re ready to give another shot? Do you plan to eat healthier?
Start with questions like these, and then focus on creating variety within your meal plan.
This doesn’t just mean flavor variety, though.
Also, consider how you can cook the meals you make ahead. Choose some things you can bake, some you can throw in the slow cooker, and some options you can heat up in a pot.
3. Make Bigger Batches of Meals Before Baby Arrives
One of my favorite tricks when meal prepping before the baby was making larger batches that I could divvy into smaller portions.
After all, whether you’re meal planning or not, you’ll still have to eat before the baby makes their big debut. Look for meals that you know will freeze well and double the recipe. Some great options are chili, baked ziti, and vegetable soup.
4. Create a Detailed Shopping List
Whether you use an Excel document, notebook, or a downloadable shopping list, make sure that your shopping list is easy-to-follow and includes everything you need.
I triple-check all of my recipes when making my shopping lists–that way, I guarantee I’m getting everything I need.
I use Excel to organize my list when I’m gearing up for meal prep. I’ll make columns for various areas, such as produce, meat, bakery, frozen, etc. Then I’ll go recipe by recipe and fill in every item I need.
As I go, there are usually multiples, so I’ll adjust the number to or type of item based on how much of something I need. For instance, if I have a recipe that requires 8 oz of chicken broth and another that needs 3 cups, I know it’s better to buy a box of broth instead of a single can.
5. Get the Right Tools
For meal prep success, you’ll want to ensure you have everything you need to handle your project correctly.
Our Favorite Make-Ahead Breakfasts for New Moms
Mornings are busy on a normal day–add in the unpredictable schedule of a newborn, and squeezing in breakfast can be problematic.
I’m a big fan of breakfast burritos in the morning. They’re tasty, filling, and a great way to pack tons of protein to start your day on the right foot. Plus, they’re incredibly versatile.
All you need are a few simple ingredients, such as:
This recipe from Budget Bytes gives you all the essential information to put together some pre-baby breakfast burritos to stock your freezer. One of the best things about them is that reheating is super simple. Just take one out the night before to thaw, and then zap them in the microwave or heat them in a pan on the stove.
Similarly, you can also make breakfast sandwiches the same way. Tastes Better from Scratch has some great suggestions.
Can we all agree that it’s rare to find someone who doesn’t love a good smoothie? That’s why they’re one of our top picks for meal-prepping before baby.
Take your favorite smoothie ingredients, such as bananas, berries, spinach, etc., wash them, slice them (if needed), and throw them into a small freezer storage bag. Super Healthy Kids has yummy suggestions if you need ideas.
When you’re ready for one, you don’t even have to thaw it out. Add the smoothie pack ingredients to a blender with your favorite liquid base (we like greek yogurt, low-fat milk, or almond milk), and you’re ready to enjoy.
Banana bread is a staple in our house, and this recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction is one of our favorites! It’s an easy recipe to throw together; best of all, it freezes wonderfully.
Just bake the bread per the instructions, let it cool, and then wrap the entire loaf or individual slices in plastic for freezing. Take it out, let it thaw, and eat whenever you’re ready!
Quick and Easy Lunch Ideas After Baby Arrives
Lunch is a daily meal that often slips our minds, especially when we’re in the throes of new parenthood. You’ll love the suggestions below if you want some easy mid-day meal ideas.
Any food I can conveniently hold is a winner in my book. They make it easy to scarf down food while nursing a baby, for example.
That’s where these Homemade Hot Pockets from Happy Money Saver come in!
Made with homemade calzone dough, this yummy lunch option should be on every soon-to-be mama’s lunchtime meal prep list.
Prepare all your favorite burrito ingredients, combine them in a storage container, and throw them in the freezer; that’s how easy it is to make a meal-prep burrito bowl!
I love these because there are an endless number of ingredient options. From rice to salsa, put anything you love in and make it your own. You don’t even have to use chicken breast. You can substitute with beef or vegetarian alternatives, such as tofu, sweet potatoes, or beans.
3. Soups and Stews
One of my favorite meal-planning lunch options is making a big batch of your favorite soup, stew, or chili and breaking it down into smaller lunchtime portions. This way, you can pull out one container at a time and enjoy it longer.
Grab your favorite crackers, and you’ll be grateful for these easy lunch options.
Delicious Meal Prep Dinners Your Family Will Love
Let’s be straight; planning an elaborate dinner during the first weeks and months with a new baby will be the last thing on your mind.
Thankfully, making a delicious meal for your family doesn’t have to be a hassle.
From slow cooker recipes to sheet pan ideas, the recipes below will streamline your evening meal prep and leave more time for baby cuddles on the couch!
Sausage and peppers are one of my husband’s favorite meals, and luckily, it’s a really simple option when you’re meal-prepping dinners before your baby arrives. All it takes is slicing up your meat and veggies, adding some seasonings, and throwing it in a freezer bag or container.
On cook day, let your meal thaw out for a few hours and then place it on a cookie sheet for baking. I also toss my meals like this in a little olive oil on the pan.
I love this freezer dinner recipe for those nights when you want something warm and comforting to eat. Plus, it’s so easy to put together! Just brown up some ground beef, throw in some vegetables, and add beef broth and seasonings to a freezer bag–that’s it!
To make this recipe even easier, you can use frozen vegetables instead of fresh ones.
When it comes to cooking, you can either warm it up in a pot on the stove or place it in the slow cooker on low for 3-5 hours.
After our eldest was born, Chinese food was on regular rotation at our house. Ordering in, however, got old quickly.
If you’re a big fan of Chinese food and want to make a healthier version that will save you food delivery costs, I love this recipe for make-ahead beef and broccoli. You could even substitute chicken if you’re not a fan of red meat.
While you could easily make an entire lasagna and freeze it for future use, it will not only take up a lot of space, but it will also probably be too much food for you to eat at once unless you have a large family.
Instead, these lasagna roll-ups are a great way to get all the delicious flavors in a smaller batch.
Using aluminum loaf pans, you’ll roll up your lasagna noodles with all the traditional ingredients, such as tomato sauce, ricotta, and ground beef. Then you’ll put a few rolls into each pan.
I love this recipe because it works great as a lunch or dinner recipe. You can also add a simple salad and bread to the meal to make it go further.
Stock Your Kitchen with These Snacks and Lactation Goodies
Whether you want an energy boost or a tasty breastfeeding snack, you will love these make-ahead treats.
Look up any article or blog post on how to increase your breastmilk supply, and there’s a good chance you’ll come across suggestions for foods and ingredients that naturally enhance milk production.
Well, get ready to get excited! These delicious cookies are full of them, such as Brewer’s yeast, oats, and flax seed!
What makes them even better is that you can make the dough ahead of time and freeze it for later use. Just prepare the dough per the recipe instructions and roll it into 1-inch balls. Then you’ll freeze those rounds on a cookie sheet for 2 hours.
Once they’re firm and frozen, you can transfer the pre-prepared dough to a storage bag until you’re ready to bake them.
If you need an energy boost during those early days post-delivery, you’ll want to pay close attention to this recipe for peanut butter bites!
These delicious treats are full of great protein that will help prevent you from feeling sluggish throughout the day. My favorite thing about them? You don’t even have to bake them! Mix the ingredients, roll them into balls, and place them in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Alternatives to Meal Prepping Before Baby
If you’re not into meal planning before the baby, that’s fine! There are other things you can do to set yourself up with breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.
For starters, you can always set up a Meal Train for family and friends. Often, our loved ones are thrilled to have a way of helping after the baby comes. Set up some guidelines for how you’d like the process to work. That way, you don’t have people sticking around for hours at a time.
You could also add some meal delivery service gift cards to your baby registry checklist.
Just find something that will work for your family’s routine. And remember, you’re not a superhero. You deserve time to recover, relax, and enjoy getting to know the beautiful baby you’ve brought into the world instead of fretting over what’s for dinner!
Are you planning on doing any meal prepping before baby? Tell us about it in the comments!
Getting Ready for Baby Link Round-Up
Planning postpartum meals isn’t the only thing you can do to get ready to have a baby. Check out the articles below for some other great tips!
- Things to Do to Prepare for a Baby
- How to Write a Birth Plan
- Hospital Bag Checklist
- Choosing a Baby Name
- Braxton Hicks or Contractions
Kristen Bergeron is a freelance writer from Florida. In addition to writing, she is a wife, mother of two beautiful girls, Hadley and Scarlett, and a part-time photographer. After overcoming infertility and having two successful IVF cycles, she’s made it a personal goal to help educate men and women on the realities of fertility struggles. She is passionate about supporting fellow women who are trying to navigate the complicated world of conception, pregnancy, and learning to be the best mothers we can be.