As I’m about to become the mother of an infant again, I started thinking about how I wanted to prepare my home. Since I’m not really a new mom (this being my 4th child), I didn’t need to worry about common things that first time moms need to worry about, such as:
- Childproofing – that’s already been done.
- Clothes – this is my 4th boy, so I have tubs and tubs full of clothes.
- Diapers – we know what works for us (or at least what’s worked for the last 3 babes) and have already loaded up a decent amount.
- Toys, cribs, and other baby stuff – we have it all.
But I did want to prepare my kitchen. For my first child, I worried about this a lot. I had this vision that, for several months, I wouldn’t have enough time to make a meal. I had this thought that I’d never have the energy to make dinner for quite a while. Since my husband didn’t get any paternity leave, I didn’t want to plan on much of his time dedicated to meal prep. I made a plan that consisted of a bunch of freezer meals plus a bunch of gift cards to restaurants for carryout plus a mental acknowledgement that we’d probably spend some extra ‘Dining Out’ money for a bit.
That isn’t how it turned out to be – at least not for me. I gave birth to a pretty healthy baby (some small jaundice issues and a lower birth weight, but that’s it). I didn’t have a c-section. I wasn’t exhausted beyond belief – most days anyway! As it turned out, getting dinner on the table wasn’t that big of a deal. Part of it was because I had prepped so much. But part of it was that I had more time in my day than I thought I would.
Things are a little different for me now – I have 4 young boys now, 3 of whom are in diapers, 2 of whom take a bottle either exclusively or quite a bit and we’ll all be home during the day (before we had a daycare). This translates to: not many hands available, more meals to prepare and my time is not always my own. My husband is great at following dinner instructions, picking up carryout and even grocery shopping (with a list!), but much of meal prep falls to me in our house.
As I started to think about what I wanted to do to prepare my kitchen, pantry and freezer for this newborn time, I realized that I don’t need to make many changes. I already can’t guarantee that I’ll have lots of time to make meals. I already have my hands full – 4 kids isn’t THAT much more than 3 kids. I didn’t need to make any radical changes because of several reasons:
- Because I already have a good, reasonable stockpile. If all else fails, I just shop from my pantry.
- I’m already in the habit of making a menu plan. I’m used to looking at the food that I have on hand
- I’m used to doubling recipes and freezing the “leftovers” for future use.
But what if you’re new to all of this? What if you don’t have those things in place already? Well, here’s what I recommend!
Tip #1: Lower Expectations!
You might have a really easy (relatively speaking, of course) birth and recovery and might find yourself with lots of time on your hands – well, more than you expected at least. But you might not. You might end up with a difficult delivery, a c-section or a child in the NICU for some time. You might not have any dietary restrictions after birth. But you might also need to give up certain foods because of allergies. It’s better to over-prepare than to under-prepare. So set your expectations accordingly.
Maybe, for you, you need to:
- Recognize that its going to be okay to ask others for help.
- Let your partner handle a couple of meals a week. Even if his idea is running to Taco Bell or Godfather’s, let him tackle it!
- Rely on leftovers more often.
- Use store bought ingredients for a short time instead of homemade. It’s only a couple of months.
Tip #2: Build a stockpile!
Think about the meals that you make often. Stock up on the shelf-stable & freezable ingredients in those meals. If you have plenty of time before the baby is due, you can wait for those items to go on sale and stock up at the best price. If your due date is a little closer, then you might have to resign yourself to buying some items at full price, knowing that you’re trading money for sanity! Remember that you don’t need to have a year’s worth of these items on hand – just a couple of month’s worth. There’s no need to buy 12 bottles of ketchup when just an extra one or two will get you through.
Things that I like having in my pantry:
- Spaghetti sauce
- Tomato sauce
- Rice & noodles
- Diced tomatoes
- Canned soups
- Canned fruits & veggies
- Mixes for pancakes, muffins, brownies and cake mixes
- Condiments like BBQ sauces, ketchup, mustard, mayo and salad dressings
- Baking ingredients like white sugar, brown sugar, flour
Tip #3: Simplify your menu!
Build a menu plan for the first few weeks. But keep it way simpler than you might normally. Repeat meals more often than you might otherwise. Build a two-week menu plan and just repeat it a few times. Having spaghetti 3 times in 2 months won’t kill you! Think about things that pull together really quickly. Think about meals that you can ask others to prepare. Think about meals that can be started almost any time of the day rather than needing to be eaten within minutes of making them. Some simple meals that I like:
- Ham & Cheese Crescent Bake
- Taco Salad
- Grilled Ham & Cheese Sandwiches
- Ham & Cheese Pinwheels
- Italian BBQ Chicken
- Pepperoni Roll
- Baked Potato Buffet – You can use all kinds of toppings – chopped deli meat, chili, cheese, veggies, sour cream, salsa, you name it!
- Sweet Asian Chicken
- Italian Baked Hoagies
- Tuna Noodle Casserole
Tip #4: Stock your freezer with complete meals!
Do you love the idea of pulling out complete meals from the freezer and just needing to bake them? Then do that! Each time you’re making a meal, ask yourself if you can double it and freeze something for later. Some good meals for this are:
- Baked Spaghetti
- Sloppy Joes
- Loose Meat Sandwiches (Maid-Rite)
- Pulled Pork Sandwiches
- Pancake Bites
- French Toast Sticks
- Chicken Tetrazinni
- Bow Tie Fiesta Pasta
- Sausage Lasagna Rolls
- Chicken Enchiladas
- Chile Colorado Burritos
- Pizza Casserole
Tip #5: Stock your freezer with meal components!
I also love being able to pull out “components” that make meals really easy to throw together. And I’m not above pulling out a frozen pizza in a crunch!
- Ground beef, already browned & separated
- Chicken, already cooked and diced (or shredded)
- Frozen pizzas or lasagnas
- Cooked Rice
- Salsa chicken for tacos, fajitas for nachos, quesdillas
- Hamburgers & hotdogs
- The “insides” to French Bread Pizza
- Spaghetti sauce
Having a new baby in the house is a fun time, even if it does involve less sleep and more stress! Hopefully some of these tips will resonate with you and make this special time in your life less stressful, and thus, more special!
Jayme is a wife to 1 and to four little boys. She coupons, but isn’t super extreme about it. She price matches and loves it! While she likes to cook, she’s in the stage of life where simple is usually better. She never knows how many hands she’ll have free at dinner time. You can find her at No Regrets Living.