The expanding family…

freezer meals
This pregnancy has been exhausting!  I wont lie, I’ve been unmotivated to do much of anything (including much on the blog), but still miraculously accomplished my at home to-do list with the help of my hubby and mom.  Eight days to go (give or take) until this wee one doing ninja kicks in my belly arrives, so I had to share some of the things I did in preparing for having a new baby at home (plus a toddler!).  

And it comes down to food!  But, doesn’t it always?  This is about preparing and freezing ready to eat meals that just need to be warmed up or need minimal additions to make them meal ready.

Our first child didn’t want to be left alone and always wanted to be held.  ALWAYS.  It’s hard to make dinner with one hand on the days you are completely alone (breakfast too), so this really helped me out on those tough days!  This wont however help you on those occasions where you have to pee and you do it one handed with a baby in your other arm. Hey… most new moms have been there.

Back to making ready to eat meals!  Keep in mind the following things when deciding on what to make and freeze;

  • Consider the foods you and your family like to eat
  • Meals that use ingredients that freeze or store well
  • Foods that need minimal additions to make them table ready
  • Make a dedicated shopping list for the meals you will be making
  • Cost effective

Here is a list of foods I made, links to the recipes (if used) and some products that I like to use!  

Meat Pasta Sauce 
I don’t use a recipe for my pasta sauce so I don’t have one to share, but I did have a garden full of fresh tomatoes to use up!  Use your favourite recipe or simply brown some meat, add some bottled sauce and some extra seasoning.  It doesn’t have to be complicated, just convenient. 

Tomato sauce for pasta
Same as above, just left out the meat and added some extra basil, fresh from the garden.

Chili
Again, I don’t have a recipe to share, I wing it like many others.  I do however cheat and add a packet of store bought seasoning to bump up the flavour of what I normally do to it.

Chicken Pot Pie
Again, I don’t use a recipe lol…. but I do make mine the more traditional way… somewhat similar to this recipe.  If you want a quick and tasty shortcut, mix together a can of condensed cream of chicken soup and add a cup of cooked shredded chicken and some frozen veggies to your liking, some dried thyme… and the filling is done.  I buy some ‘just add water and butter’ pie crust mix for the top, assemble it all in a foil pan and voila!  Serve up with some rice or salad when the time comes.

Beef and Vegetable Stew
This I do have a recipe for!  Yummy and totally flexible with ingredients to suit your taste.  I add some mushrooms and after cooking the beef, de-glaze the pan with a splash of red wine if I’ve got a bottle open.  When ready to eat, just cut some fresh bread and you’re good to go.  I’ve made dumplings for it too and it was yum-o!

Ground Beef for Tacos
Like tacos?  Brown some ground beef and season it so it’s ready to go for tacos.  Freeze the seasoned meat so all you’ll have to do is add the fresh toppings for dinner.

Butter Chicken
I use Kitchens of India Butter Chicken curry paste.  The flavour of this curry paste is really good in my opinion and is readily available at most grocery stores.  Not to mention, inexpensive.  I often do a double batch and along with the chicken, add cubed potatoes and stir in some canned or frozen peas near the end.  Serve with basmati rice.

Vegetable Stock
I made all of the above in one day and set aside all of my veggie clippings as I went, including mushroom stems, which have great deal of flavour.  At the end, I threw them in a pot, added enough water to cover the veggies, a bay leaf, some dried thyme, salt and pepper.  Let it simmer until veggies were soft and stock aromatic.  Strain through a fine strainer and discard the veggies and herbs.  Stock done and veggie scraps not wasted.

Instant Oatmeal Mix (breakfast!)
Oatmeal is fab for breakfast.  It’s also said to help with milk production when nursing.  Make your own instant oatmeal at a fraction of the cost.  Just add hot water or milk to your desired consistency. 

Muffin Mix (just add wet ingredients)
I like to bake.  Having the dry ingredients all measured out and ready to go, helps tremendously!  I add a note with what wet ingredients need to be added, what temp to bake at and how long.

Pancake Mix
Same as above.  I don’t buy boxed pancake mix.  Again, I add a note with what wet ingredients need to be added.  Add choco chips or fruit to pancakes when cooking for variety.

When all was said and done, I had enough for 14 family meals (dinners), a good amount of veggie stock, oatmeal to last a long while, two batches of muffins and two generous pancake breakfasts for my family!  So it may have taken hours to get it all done, but easier now then with a newborn ;)

There is one more trick though!  Storage!  

I used large, good quality freezer bags for the sauces and such, labelled and dated every bag and put a family meal portion in each.  Squeezed out excess air and froze them all flat on cookie sheets.  Once frozen, they stack neatly and thaw really fast when needed.  For the veggie stock it’s convenient as you can break off just a portion of the frozen stock and use just what you need.  Freezing stock in ice cube trays then transferring to a freezer bag is handy as well… just grab what you need when you are cooking.

You don’t have to be expecting a baby to do all this, it’s great to do in advance of the holiday season, or any time of year when you know it’s going to be hectic.  

Pssst…. I even made a batch of sugar cookie dough since my sons birthday will be soon after baby arrives.  One less thing to think about!