Today I’m going to smash together the preparedness series with a reader question about my pregnancy:
What sort of “easy meals” are you planning for when baby comes? What do you do when the fatigue hits and you’re just too tired to cook?
Really, the answer to that question is all about preparedness – in the same forward-looking sense as the emergency preparedness we’ve been discussing here, but with a narrower focus (and a more definite cause – I know I’m going to be tired, so I should be even better prepared for that than for a natural disaster or economic breakdown that might happen).
5 Tips for Easy Eating When You’re Just Tired
Particularly during the first trimester, I just didn’t feel like standing on my feet, planning meals, chopping vegetables, baking anything, or cooking. I just wanted to eat food.
The great temptation there is, of course, to grab something bad for me out of a box or bag, or to eat out for dinner (or both!). A little planning ahead, even inside my own mind, helped me avoid doing too much of that.
1. Easy Chicken Meals
My husband made the call that we could spend a little more to help me have “convenience” foods that weren’t bad for us during my fatigue time. (One reason our real food budget is expanding…!)
He said that I should just buy chicken breasts once a week, well-raised, and just not look at the cost. (Yikes!)
Since pastured, organic, boneless skinless chicken breasts from local farms generally run $6-8/lb., I still couldn’t quite stomach it. Paying $4/lb. for split chicken breasts (bone-in) was hard enough. I just asked our local butcher (and now the farmer himself) to cut the meat off the bones and wrap them separately. The meat makes for a super easy meal, and the bones pop into the freezer until I have a quantity for homemade chicken stock.
I often kept it super simple and just baked the chicken, perhaps with spaghetti sauce and mozzarella cheese or just herbed seasonings, served with a baked potato. A quick pan-fry with fresh garlic, salt, pepper, and paprika and a side of simple potatoes and steamed veggies (or frozen peas) made an appearance a few times, too.
Thank you, honey, for the great idea and allowance!
2. Baked Potatoes
Particularly in the first trimester and early second trimester when we went grain-free, I was craving butter in massive quantities. When you’re making your own bread, it’s much easier to bake some potatoes than make a batch of bread to be a carrier for your butter.
I typically made an extra-large quantity of baked potatoes once a week using the restaurant-style baked potatoes instructions. Whenever I didn’t know what to have for lunch (or even breakfast), I’d pop a few into the toaster oven and 5-10 minutes later – long enough to serve drinks and get some homemade yogurt dished up – the butter was a’melting and I was satisfied. (Why I didn’t just use a microwave…)
The Bradley Birth Method’s diet requires 2-3 baked potatoes per week, in part because of the iron content in the skin, if I remember correctly.
Simple to make, simple to reheat. Baked potatoes were the perfect food to always have on hand, and all it took was 10 minutes of scrubbing and a little pre-planning.
The photo above is my Potato Crispies from Healthy Snacks to Go, a demonstration of what I do with potato skins when I have to peel the bakers for potato salad or something.
3. Easy Soups
Thaw some chicken stock, slice a few carrots and celery, toss in a bag of frozen, shredded chicken (from making the stock), and, perhaps with rice that you mustered up the energy to soak the night before with this method, you’ve made homemade soup. Done. Ship it.
I also feel like this sausage, bean and kale soup with bagged organic spinach is a quick and easy option, since I only had to cut up one onion, one potato, and a few carrots. I could usually freeze a jar or two at the end of the meal, too, making another easy dinner later.
4. Baby Carrots and Bagged Lettuce
It had been a year, I bet, since I bought “baby” carrots. It tastes better and is less expensive to wash and cut your own from the real thing, and I’d read that info that went around the email forwards about the chlorine bleach and other weird chemicals that go on the “baby” version to keep them looking nice.
This winter, I decided that at least organic baby carrots can’t have chemicals added to them, so I’ve been cutting five minutes from my dinner salad making routine (and lunch prep) quite often by digging into a bag of babies. It’s been lovely, and I’m very thankful for them.
If organic baby carrots have anything nasty on them, don’t tell me. I don’t want to know. I’m pretty happy in my ignorance!
I’ve also chosen to splurge on the bagged lettuce from time to time, knowing that saving the ten minutes of cutting lettuce with my favorite lettuce knife will help my overall amount of energy for making the rest of the meal and ensure that I won’t just skip the salad, and with it 20% of our vegetables for the day.
It’s okay to make some compromises when your life gets crazy. Far better to buy some bags of baby carrots and greens than to grab a pizza because you have nothing in the house to eat.
5. Cutting Grains
If you follow KS, you know that our family went grain-free for Lent (just gluten-free for the second half). It may seem like a huge dietary change would be difficult just when you’re feeling the most fatigued, but I mostly made it easy on myself.
Rather than try a bunch of new recipes for things that would remind us of and take the place of bread products, I just skipped the breads.
Soup, Salad and Biscuits became Soup + Salad.
Cheese and Crackers became “cheese.” Or maybe cheese and an apple, or cheese and frozen peas.
Sandwiches and wraps were replaced by the easy chicken meals from number one in this post.
Preparing for Baby’s Arrival
Your freezer is your friend. And your friends? Even better than your freezer.
I’ve been blessed with an amazing group of mommy friends, from my mothers’ Bible study to the moms I know because our kids are the same age, and we had meals 3 days a week for two months after Leah was born. Awesome.
I haven’t yet figured out how to be polite about our real food lifestyle this time around, though. I have a feeling people will be intimidated bringing me food, and I feel badly about that. I know we had a lot of pasta and white flour dishes last time (delicious, but hubs gained some weight and triglycerides because of it). It’s tricky to ask people to cook differently when they’re doing you a favor, you know?
If we end up with a formal gluten sensitivity in the family, that would actually make things easier, because then we say, “we have to eat this way, and here’s how you can do it,” rather than, “would you please only send healthy foods according to my new nutritional philosophy?”
I’ll work on that issue over the next few months and see what I come up with (maybe a free copy of The Everything Beans Book to anyone who brings me a meal, as long as the meal is from the book???).
For now, I’m just thinking about some stockpiles I want to have when baby is born and hoping I’ll have room in the freezer after summer fruit picking!
5 Foods for After Baby
There are two goals here: (1) food I can prepare before baby that will wait in the freezer for after baby, and (2) food I can prepare while baby is napping that can be eaten without any preparation when baby is screaming.
Anything I can make double and freeze during the next few months, I’m going to. Some options from the archives:
- Shepherd’s Pie
- Honey Dijon Chicken Casserole
- Potato Beef Bake
- Easy Chicken & Biscuits Casserole
- Black Bean Burgers
- Sausage Zucchini Bake (although this one will be in season at that time and pretty easy to throw together, so I might be able to handle it in real time)
- Pepper Steak (you can freeze cooked brown rice in single serving portions, too)
2. Soups, Again
I probably have five different soups in my freezer right now, frozen in glass jars. I’m so thankful they’re there when I have a crazy day and just don’t feel like cooking. Soup and salad is a mainstay around here. Can’t wait for Farmer’s Market season to pick up so the salads are even easier to come by!
My tip? Make huge batches of soup and always freeze a meal-sized portion. You can browse my many soup recipes here; I make soup at least once a week, so there are a lot of them!
3. Potato Salad
I just love potato salad, so this might be a very personal answer. Although it takes a long time to cut up all the parts, the initial steps are in short bursts:
- bake potatoes
- hard-boil eggs
- peel eggs
Then there’s all that cutting. I’m hoping my kids remain in an “I like to help in the kitchen” mood by the end of the summer, because cutting the eggs and cooked potatoes up is a great task with which to involve the kids, and then I can spend some QT with them while new baby is sleeping or in a sling.
Once potato salad is made (and I always make a humongous bowl of it, in case you didn’t guess), I love the ease of it.
That’s the kind of food I need when baby gives me about a two-second notice before it’s time to “NURSE. NOW.” It’s got a few food groups in there, has the eggs to be super nourishing, and I love it. We’re going to eat a lot of potato salad in August.
4. Power Bars, Granola Bars, & Nuts
For the one-second head start times…I’ll want some shelf stable food sitting in the “nursing nest.” I plan to make a batch of granola bars and freeze them a month or so before baby comes, and the power bars (pictured above from Healthy Snacks to Go, sorry I can’t share the recipe here!) last a few weeks as well, so I can plan ahead.
I just made a triple batch of my soaked granola and my grain-free granola from Healthy Snacks to Go, completely filling my 9-tray dehydrator but making very few dishes otherwise. They’re both going fast, so I’m pondering whether I’ll be able to keep that up after baby or if I should try to freeze a few gallon bags of the stuff a month (or more) before baby comes.
I want to have granola and yogurt in the hospital, not caf food. I’ll pass it around to the nurses along with my business card.
5. Foods Husbands Can Make
Spousal support is such an essential part of having a baby, at least in my household. I have a feeling my husband will be doing a lot of grilling in August (my due date is the 8th), and he can make a great Dad’s Homemade Cheeseburger Helper. I bet baked potatoes will be a big feature in the rotation, as my butcher knife intimidates him and his left-handed poor cutting skills.
To plan ahead for this awesome and important assistance, I need to make sure I have plenty of ground beef and chicken breasts on hand. Stocking up will be well worth it!
What foods do you like to have on hand for the post-baby-birth days? What does your husband handle?