That bit of maternity leave you have before bub arrives is a great time to stock the freezer and pantry. Trust me, once baby is home you will not be able to duck out to the shops to pick up milk. Nor will you feel like making a cordon bleu dinner.
By this stage of the pregnancy you should not be feeling as queasy, even if you did have a bad bout of morning sickness for most of the pregnancy. But if you do, and the smell of cooking turns your tummy, then you can still do some basic prep like making and freezing loaves of sandwiches or baking.
Things to think about before you start:
No, I am not talking about farmers markets and getting only ‘in season’ produce. I am asking what season will it be when bub is here. What will you feel like eating. It may just be the end of summer now and you are happy to have salads and light meals every day, but that means it will be time for warming soups and stews soon. So stock up on them.
However, if it is coming into summer when baby is due then stock up on lighter meals. Such as quiches, vegetarian lasagnas, and home made pies that you can have with salad.
If you like lasagna or spaghetti bolognese or chicken parmigiana then make a few variants of your favourite. For example you can make a traditional lasagna, a light pumpkin and ricotta one, spinach and pine nuts, eggplant and parma ham, or chicken even! You would be surprised how many nice recipes you can find online.
Stick to food you like and know. This is not the time to be fancy and try new things. Chances are you will just want simple, plain foods that you know. You will want them in a hurry and with little effort.
How much space do you have?
If you have a huge chest freezer with lots of space then you can prepare ‘complete meals’ and freeze in individual serves. For example make a batch of stew and a pot of mash and portion them out into tupperwares together. Or make a bolognese sauce and cook a packet of spaghetti and portion together.
If you do not have a lot of space then just make the stew or sauce and portion in containers enough serves for one family meal. If there are just two of you, then a small tuppaware of sauce is enough. You can cook pasta fresh and serve with the re-heated sauce for an easy dinner. If you want leftovers, or have more mouthes to feed, then freeze enough for a few serves in larger containers.
Cook in big batches.
If you are a fussy eater and don’t like to have the same flavours over again then cook a plain base dish and flavour it in batches. For example cook a plain risotto and divide into three. Stir through roast pumpkin and parmesan in one third. Season a third with lots of herbs, fresh diced tomatoes and baby bocconcini. Flavour the last third with spinach and ricotta or chicken, tarragon and cream.
The same can be done with a stew. Cook the meat and vegetables in a plain stock until tender, then add red wine and black pepper to a portion and tomato and saffron to another. The flavours will have time to mingle in the freezer and when you re-heat them.
A great idea for baked dinners is to buy a stack of small or medium foil tins. Make lasagnas, enchiladas or pasta bakes in the small to medium foil tins so you don’t have dirty baked pans to deal with and you don’t need as many baking dishes. Plus they will all stack neatly in the freezer.
Don’t just make dinners
Think of easy breakfasts and lunches as well. My family loves banana bread and carrot cake. Both of which can be made healthily enough to enjoy for breakfast. One loaf makes about 12 large slices or 6 breakfasts for two. Loaves take less space than individual muffins and you can still use your favourite muffin recipe and just make it in a loaf pan and slice.
We also have a waffle maker, so I made batches and batches of waffles and froze them. That way you can take out a waffle and pop it in the toaster. Stocking up on your favourite raisin loaf or fruit bread in the freezer is also great.
If you like smoothies then freeze bananas and have a few packets of berries in the freezer. Just toss a diced frozen banana and some frozen berries in the blender with a handful of oats and milk for a filling liquid breakfast.
For lunches, you can make individual quiches in muffin tins. Use a slice of bread to line the tin instead of pastry if you like. Or line with slices of bacon or ham if you want a gluten free or low carb option.
Sandwiches can be made by the loaf-full and placed back in the bread bag and frozen. Great flavours are ham and cheese with mustard or onion; Chicken or tuna mayo; or roast vegetable and pesto. They can be eaten fresh once defrosted or toasted.
Freeze a few 1L bottles of milk and some bread and bread rolls. Have a pack of vacuum packed sausages and hamburgers in the freezer. Vac-packed meat does not get freezer burnt. This makes an easy BBQ dinner that hubby can cook.
Don’t forget the pantry!
Have a few tins of soup in the pantry for easy lunches or a quick dinner. Make sure that if you have pasta sauces in the freezer, you have dry pasta in the pantry! Have rice for curries or stir fry’s.
You should also have some jars of pasta sauce to toss through pasta for an easy light dinner. There are also really great mild curry sauces and other simmer sauces.
Make sure to have a box or two of your favourite cereal. Have a few long life milks as well just in case you run out and cant get to the shops. I had a variety, some dairy and almond milks.
If you don’t label it you will not know what it is! One frozen meal can look very similar to another and you don’t really want to have spaghetti with lamb rogan josh!
So, you have decided what season it will be and what you will want to eat for a few months, as well as how much space you have. Now its time to make your ready meals.
Really easy ‘heat and eat’ meals for the freezer
Lasagnas – vegetarian or meat
Enchiladas and burritos
Pasta bakes – tuna mornay, chicken etc
Shepard’s or cottage pie
Quiche or fritata
Just needs a side to make a meal
Chilli con carne
Indian curries – butter chicken, lamb korma
Asian curries – Thai green or red
Stews – Chicken and vege, beef and red wine
Stir fry’s – dice all the raw vegetables and mix with meat or tofu and a sauce, then defrost and stir fry
Pizza bases or home made dough (or frozen pizzas)
Home made pies
Chicken or eggplant parmigiana
Crumbed schnitzels or skewers for the BBQ
Sliced loaves of banana bread or carrot cake
Frozen fruit for smoothies
loaves of sandwiches
Vegetable patties – that you can pop in a deli toaster
Have fun cooking and knowing that when bubba is here you don’t have to worry about dinner!