One of the ways that I prepare to survive the chaos of postpartum is to bulk-make meals and freeze them. There are so many reasons that this strategy is a lifesaver for me. Between the sleep deprivation that comes with caring for a newborn and the extreme hunger that is brought on by breastfeeding, I find that having meals ready to heat and eat are essential to survival. In addition to nurturing a newborn, I will be home with a toddler. My son eats a plant-based diet, with very limited processed foods and refined sugars so the majority of his meals are home cooked. I cannot reasonably expect to have time to make sure each meal is completely nutritionally balanced in the first few weeks after baby’s arrival. I am the primary cook and between myself, husband and the two kids, there are three different diets to feed. So having nutritionally sound meals (plus a few indulgent favorites) stashed for everyone will help support the overall operation of the house.
There may be some days that I actually have the time and energy to prepare a meal or have a craving for something specific. We may opt for take-out to enjoy a particular cuisine or have an easy night. And of course there may be days that family and friends will kindly offer to bring food. But knowing that I have my own home-cooked food as a solid option is so comforting when I’ll have limited energy and a million other things occupying my mind.
Stocking the freezer can seem like a daunting task that is more trouble than it’s worth. It can also end up being a disaster if not done practically, causing waste and plenty of frustration. There are definitely ways to keep the process simple and effective. Here are my seven tips for successfully freezing meals that are equally practical and delicious!
- Airtight storage is key to preserving the life and taste of food.
There is nothing worse than pulling out a meal to enjoy and realizing that it wasn’t properly stored and is either no good or tastes horrible. To prevent this, be sure to let any excess air out of storage bags and containers before freezing. A good way to do this is to fill the storage unit up as much as possible with the food leaving little room for air.
- Freeze soups and stews in plastic bags verses containers to preserve space.
I figured this out way later than I would have liked but freezing soups and stews in plastic bags allows you to lay the bags flat and stack them once frozen which is incredible for maximizing precious freezer real estate.
- Freeze in single serving portions.
Storing your freezer meals in single portions will save a ton of time since it will be quicker to heat than an entire family size portion. It also helps prevent waste by allowing you to only thaw out what you know you will use. So slice up that tray of lasagna and pan of macaroni so that you can package a few pieces together for freezing.
- Flash freeze when sensible.
Some items are best flash frozen. Think things that you will only want to have a few of at a time: bread slices, chicken tenders, meatballs, pancakes, fruit, etc. Flash freezing means freezing items individually by laying them out on a parchment lined baking sheet and placing into the freezer for a minimum of two hours. Once frozen, the items can be stored together in a large container or freezer bag without sticking together. When you are ready to use, you simply take out the amount you need.
- Allow food to cool completely before freezing.
Cooling your meals completely in the refrigerator before freezing will prevent warm food from lowering the temperature of surrounding foods in the freezer which compromises the preservation.
- Date and label everything.
Writing the date frozen is obviously important to monitoring the life of the food. You’ll also want to label the meal – some things aren’t easily recognizable once frozen and goodness knows you have enough to remember! I sometimes even list all the ingredients if there is an ingredient that someone in the house doesn’t like or shouldn’t have to avoid any dietary mishaps.
- Make extra dinner a couple of nights a week to quickly build your stash.
If you are worried that building your stash will be too time-consuming, preparing extra dinner with the intention of freezing a portion of it is an effective strategy. You can also sacrifice having leftovers the next day and instead pop them in the freezer for an easy meal later.
So now that you know my tips for how to freeze, you may be wondering what kinds of meals you can freeze. Stay tuned for some of my favorite recipes from my postpartum meal stash.