What to Cook When You're Expecting (Pregnancy Freezer Meal Ideas)

Let me just say right off the bat that no, I am not expecting. I'm in no rush for that, thank you very much.

But...one of my very best friends was!

She had a beautiful baby girl just a few days ago, and just before the birth I hopped on the train down to the DC area to spend a few days with her, and to stock her fridge and freezer with lots of delicious meals for her to eat during her first few weeks as a mama.

I took a few pictures while cooking, and I want to share them with you here. I'll also include a full list of all the dishes I made (and will link to the recipes as I post them) in case you're in a similar situation cooking for yourself or for another new mom in your life. Note that this kind of in-advance batch cooking is actually not just for new moms.

I've been doing a lot of traveling this month, so it's great to be able to leave meals like this for my husband to eat while I'm away. It's also great for busy folks, whether single or with large families, who just want to save themselves time during the crazy workweek without having to rely on processed or take-out food.

(I also personally think it's a great idea for the summer months, when it can sometimes just be too hot to turn on the stove or oven.)

Mise en Place
I ordered the groceries via Peapod before I arrived in DC, and they got there along with me. The next morning, I drew my friend a bubble bath, handed her a copy of Dirty Dancing, and basically forced her to go "relax, already!" while I started on my prep.

Whenever you're cooking a lot of food at once, it's always easiest if you get all your chopping out of the way first. Dice up all the onions, celery, carrots, zucchini. Mince the garlic and herbs. Separate everything into containers and line it up somewhere you can easily access.  

"Mise en Place" means "everything in its place,"; and is the way that cooks in professional kitchens work. It makes it possible to make sure you have everything you need and makes the cooking go much quicker since you're not stopping and starting with each recipe.

One of the first dishes I made was a batch of Homemade Frozen Beef and Cheese Burritos.

I sauteed ground beef with an assortment of veggies including mushrooms, carrots, celery, zucchini, peppers, and lots of fresh herbs. I let it cool, and then assembled about a dozen burritos with whole Greek yogurt, shredded cheese, and fresh cilantro.

I wrapped them up in plastic wrap and foil, labeled them, and froze them individually so that all she has to do is remove the foil and pop the burrito in the microwave or toaster oven to heat up for a quick one-handed lunch or dinner.

I was sure to include reheating instructions to make them as easy as possible for her.

I used the same meat mixture that I made for the burritos to make a large platter of Beef Shepherd's Pie, topped off with homemade mashed potatoes. We ate this for dinner one night along with a salad, and then I portioned out and froze the leftovers.

Quinoa is believed to be especially good for helping lactating moms boost milk production, so I made a large batch of one of her favorite Fruit & Nut Quinoa Salads, loaded up with dried cranberries, sliced almonds, fresh herbs, grated parmesan cheese, and plenty of lemon zest.

(I posted a similar quinoa recipe here.)

Bright, colorful, and packed with protein and vitamins, it's a great summer dish as it can be enjoyed both hot and cold. I divided individual portions into zipped baggies and froze them for her to grab as needed.

All she needs to do is let it thaw a bit before eating on its own as a salad, or along with meat or chicken as an easy side.

I wanted to make sure she had plenty of quick and easy protein options, so I made her a batch of Homemade Herbed Chicken Patties.

These are super simple--I just ground up chicken breasts in the food processor along with some olive oil, garlic, fresh herbs, salt, and pepper (you can also buy pre-ground chicken). I then shaped them into patties and baked them until cooked through.

I wrapped them individually in plastic wrap, and then put them all into a freezer bag so she can grab them as she needs them.

These homemade patties are free of the funky fillers you find in store-bought versions, and can be eaten on their own or tucked into a roll with a little mayo for a quick chicken sandwich.

You can also leave them raw and freeze them that way, but cooking them in advance makes it even easier for her when the free minutes are scarce.

I contributed this chicken patty recipe to iVillage.com so click over to get it. (Note that this version has a bit of cayenne in it, which you may want to skip if cooking for a new mom--ask her what she prefers.)

Cooked Shredded Chicken is an incredible time-saver that I really recommend for everyone. I simply took whole chicken breasts and tossed them with some olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, oregano, salt, pepper, and paprika. I baked them in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes, and then let them cool slightly.

I used a fork to shred all the chicken, mixing it back in with the juices that came out during cooking to keep it moist.

I then divided the chicken into 6oz portions in zipped baggies, and put these into freezer bags. She'll be able to use the cooked chicken to make quick quesadillas or wraps, chicken salad, to serve with rice or over mixed greens, to add to pasta sauce, or even to add to boxed chicken broth for a quick chicken soup!

(Click here for a detailed recipe and more meal ideas using shredded chicken!)

Healthy snacks are key when time and energy is low, so I made her a batch of Homemade Chewy Granola Bars loaded up with nuts, oats, dried fruit, seeds, and peanut butter for extra protein. (I also added a few semi-sweet chocolate chips for extra deliciousness!).

I took advantage of some ripe bananas I found and baked several mini loaves of my favorite Classic Banana Bread Recipe,  swapping in whole wheat flour for half the white, and topping it with oats.

This will be great for breakfast either on its own or slightly heated and spread with a little butter or cream cheese. They also make for a great late-night snack with a mug of tea.

This Creamy Dairy-Free Vegetable Soup was an improvisation and I ended up being so happy with it that I made myself a batch of it as soon as I got back to New York. I simply simmered chopped onions, red peppers, carrots, tomatoes, garlic, celery, and squash in chicken stock until tender, then pureed it in batches until smooth and creamy.

The pureed carrots make it thick and silky without adding cream. A bit of seasoning was all it needed. I served it with a handful of freshly grated parmesan and some fresh cilantro on top.

Here's my soup recipe which I wrote for iVillage.com, but know that it's very flexible so use whatever ingredients you prefer to personalize it for the new mom.

I think once of Sara's favorite dishes that I made that weekend was the giant pot of Stovetop Mac and Cheese that I prepared my first night there. "This is SO much better than anything from a box!" she exclaimed as she served herself a second bowl.

I added diced ham for protein and spinach for iron to my basic recipe, and made it with whole wheat noodles for extra nourishment.

Nothing like a comforting bowl of homemade macaroni and cheese when you're feeling exhausted.

I couldn't leave without making her dessert, so I baked some of my Cinnamon Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies.  It's a super easy one-bowl recipe that takes minutes to assemble (thank goodness, as I had to make a few extra since the first tray totally disappeared in about a day!).  These also freeze very well and are loaded up with oats and peanut butter so they're great for snacking on.

I didn't get a photo of them, but I also made her Mashed Sweet Potatoes, Creamed Spinach, and Beef and Mushroom Meatloaf. I sliced the meatloaf into thick portions that I wrapped individually and froze in a large freezer bag.

I also taught Sara how to make a very easy homemade salad dressing she can use over mixed greens throughout the summer, and I gave her an in-person tutorial for how to prepare my Mustard & Panko Crusted Salmon Fillets. 

Have you stocked your (or a friend's) fridge pre-baby or other major event? Share some of your favorite freezer recipes in the comments. I'd love to get more ideas!

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