During my first and second trimesters, I had big ideas of all the freezer meals I’d make to stock my kitchen for those hectic days (and nights!) with a newborn. But now that the third trimester has rolled around, me and my extra 30 pounds don’t exactly feel like standing in the kitchen to prep meals for hours on end — especially if I can’t eat them right away.
If you’re one of those pregnant women with endless nesting energy, hey, more power to you. But if you’re more like me and want quick and simple ideas for how to stock your kitchen for baby’s arrival, try these five steps. Each will help make cooking simple, nutritious meals easier when your energy is, well, spent on something other than cooking.
1. Get (even more) familiar with your Instant Pot.
The Instant Pot has really earned its keep during this last leg of pregnancy. My energy tends to be highest in the morning, so I do all of my prep then, hit the slow cooker button with time delay (which you can learn all about in our quick guide to the buttons on your Instant Pot), and give myself a pat on my (very sore) back for having a hot meal ready in the evening.
And when I don’t have time — or energy — I rely on great pressure cooker recipes that don’t require any prep. There are many! I love this No-Stir Pressure Cooker Risotto at Sweet and Savory by Shinee (pictured) and there are great options on our list of favorite family-friendly Instant Pot recipes too.
Oh, and if you don’t have an Instant Pot, you probably won’t be surprised to hear that I think you should consider buying one. Here are just a handful of things you can make with an Instant Pot that make it worth it.
2. Start using your freezer more.
When it was finally time to start thinking about freezing meals to have on hand for after baby’s arrival, I was already in my third trimester and, well, not particularly interested in the task. With a couple of exceptions:
Jane’s make-ahead stir-fry freezer packs are so easy to make that even I can handle them. Plus, they’re also fast and easy to cook when it’s time to eat. No remembering to pre-heat the oven or thaw food required. A good thing since I hear that remembering things can be a challenge in those early days with baby.
Also, instead of taking time to cook entire meals just to freeze them, I’ve been making double portions of whatever I happen to be cooking for the night and freeze the leftovers.
This approach has been working especially well with sweets. I made myself a big now-and-later batch of Dorie Greenspan’s World Peace Cookies, which freeze beautifully and taste amazing (you’re welcome, future self), and hope to give these breastfeeding cookies a try too.
If making better use of your freezer is new to you, too, you might find this comprehensive guide to freezing food at Serious Eats as helpful as I have.
3. Embrace store-bought shortcuts.
As much we love cooking from scratch, we here at Cool Mom HQ have a serious no-judgement policy about using store-bought short cuts like rotisserie chicken or an especially yummy jarred pasta sauce when they make life easier. And post-delivery days are one time when I’m silencing my inner top chef and giving in to all-natural pre-packaged ingredients in a big way.
And, yes, there are tons of all-natural pre-packaged ingredients these days that are really quite good and incredibly useful. If you have one nearby, Trader Joe’s is a great place to find bargains on quality pantry staples, frozen foods, and canned sauces. After trying a sample (because you know about the amazing Trader Joe’s samples policy, right?), I grabbed a jar of their Pesto and Quinoa pasta sauce that I’m super excited to make at home, because yum and protein.
And if you’re really serious about making the most of your supermarket short cuts, you need to check out our editor, Stacie’s cookbook, Make It Easy, which includes a comprehensive supermarket guide to the healthiest store-bought short cuts available in conventional markets.
4. Let people help you!
New Baby Taco Kit | The Kitchn
This is the perfect time to use your baby’s cuteness to draw casserole-bearing friends and family from near and far. If you are a part of a faith or community group — or just have a big old group of fabulous friends — consider asking someone to help organize a meal calendar so that folks can bring you dinner in that first week or two after baby arrives. I’ve used Google docs to organize meals for new parent friends, but I know others who swear by Mealbaby, which includes options for food allergies and gift cards. Plus, you can specify if you want visitors or just the meals themselves.
Oh, and maybe share this list of fresh takes on great meals for a new mom so that you can keep from getting 10 trays of baked ziti. I’ve already put in a request for my New Baby Taco Kit at The Kitchn.
5. Buy in bulk to stock up.
How to freeze dairy products | Once a Month Meals
I’m usually a weekly shopper because I like to keep my menu open to the forces of whim, fancy, and Pinterest inspiration. But in these weeks before delivery, I created a list of pantry essentials that I’ll need for an entire month and bought pasta, canned goods, cereal, and non-perishables in bulk accordingly.
I even bought some dairy in bulk, including shredded mozzarella that I divided into baggies and stashed in the freezer. (Because, yes, some dairy can freeze — check out our list of foods you probably didn’t know you could freeze, but totally can for more surprising freezer tips!). My hope is that by stocking up this way, baby and I won’t have to make regular runs to the grocery store, unless we want to.
And, hey, if the zombie apocalypse comes, I’ll have plenty to survive. Major bonus.