Freezer Meals, Slow Cooker Meals and Easy Recipes That Saved My Life As a New Parent
If we could add another one to this hilariously true list, it’d be “every time you sit down to eat a meal together, you feel like you deserve a freakin’ medal.” Because finding the time to eat — let alone cook — is a monumental feat when you’ve got a newborn at home (especially your first one!).
I’d heard this from other moms, and, before I gave birth, one of the biggest pieces of advice I received was to have food on hand for when you got home. Considering I had the longest pregnancy ever (Okay, fine. That’s an exaggeration, but it felt like it!), I had plenty of extra time to get my freezer meal on. And test out slow cooker meals. And make a list of easy meals to make. Again, I had a lot of time.
Some were awesome. Some were not. Some “easy meals” weren’t actually that easy once we were home with baby. Some were! And now that my little one is three months old(!), I feel like I have enough experience with meal time to share some recipes and ideas that are working — and that turned out really well. Healthy, easy and tasty!
Healthy Freezer Meals and Snacks
All the advice is true; make freezer meals and snacks when you’re pregnant and you’ll be in love with yourself later for doing when you open that freezer after a long day with baby and there is healthy food, glorious food, right there just waiting for you.
Here are the three freezer meals I had really, really good luck with!
Savory Shepherds Pie: This one took time to make but was probably the best freezer meal we had. Go ahead and make a double batch.
Savory Breakfast Casserole: Great for brinner … or paired with a pot of coffee after you’ve been up all night with baby.
Enchiladas: I just put all kinds of veggies plus chicken and cheese in mine and don’t follow a recipe, but here’s a good one to try if you want a set recipe to follow.
Protein Pancakes: I made these in huge batches and used FlapJacked mix to save time. We’re still noshing on these as snacks and quick breakfasts!
Healthy Slow Cooker Meals
The slow cooker is my healthy eating BFF. I love it and use it so much that I went ahead and upgraded my Crock-Pot to this one that allows you to brown/cook on the stove and slow cook in one pot. I know, it blew my mind, too.
Enchilada Chicken Stew: Add more liquid if you want a more traditional stew or cut it back and cook it longer for just really tasty chicken to put in tacos, enchiladas, taco salads — anything!
Crock-Pot Beef Roast: So ridiculously easy and so ridiculously delicious. I subbed coconut aminos (you could do soy sauce, too) for the Worcester sauce and it was perfection.
Chicken Chile Verde: When in a pinch, this also turns out really well if you only throw in the chicken and green salsa. Really!
Easy Meals, Snacks and Dessert
These are on heavy rotation in our weekly meal plan …
Noodles or Zoodles with Canned Spaghetti Sauce and Shrimp: Shrimp is fast and easy to cook — I usually just sautee it until cooked then mix in the spaghetti sauce. Top over your noodles and done. (Also, if I don’t have time to make traditional “zoodles” that are curly strands, I’ve found that using a food processor to make zucchini slices, works just as well and tastes just as good. It doesn’t look as cool, but, hey, it’s dinner.)
Big Ass Salads: Take 15 minutes to cut up a ton of veggies over the weekend and then go to town building your perfect salad during the week. No time to make dressing? No worries. A drizzle of olive oil and balasmic vinegar works just fine.
Veggie and Chicken Stir-Fry: Chop up pre-cooked chicken strips from the store, add to some of your favorite sauteed veggies (I’ll use a bag of frozen broccoli, a bag of baby carrots and some mushrooms or squash), sprinkle on a mix of sriracha and soy sauce plus a drizzle of honey, and serve over brown rice (the TJ’s pre-cooked packages take five minutes in the microwave and come out perfect every time). It’s pretty darn awesome, and is easy to make a lot of.
Grilled Sandwiches: Whether it’s a panini or a tuna melt, create your fave sandwich, drizzle the bread with a little olive oil and grill them up. That extra quick step makes this dinner darn tasty. And, hey, if the night goes crazy and an extra step is too much, you can just eat the sandwich, sans grill.
Tilapia With Tomato Chutney: I’ve made this one so many times I no longer need to consult the recipe. Almost everything you need for it is canned, and I routinely cook the fish from frozen (takes just a touch longer but you don’t have to remember to defrost) and skip toasting the almonds. The chutney is so good, I always make a double batch — it makes for a great salad topping the next day!
Hard-boiled Eggs: You can make them in the oven. Really!
Healthy No-Bake Cookies: My husband and I are obsessed with these. Plus, they have a lot of oatmeal in them, which is good for supply if you’re breastfeeding!
Roasted Veggies: You can basically cook any veggie covered in olive oil and salt and pepper at 425 degrees until slightly browned and it comes out awesome. Cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts … the list goes on and on.
Leftovers: Of course. Always.
Other Options: Especially for the First Week Home
When cooking isn’t an option …
Food From Others: This goes without saying, but take everyone up on their offer to bring you food. Say yes. Eat it. Enjoy it.
Healthy Meal Delivery Service: Totally worth it.
Take-Out: So many good restaurants deliver now, so don’t just limit yourself to pizza. (Although, ahem, pizza is awesome.)
What recipes/meals are easy that you go to time and time again? Any freezer meals I should try? Hopefully that gives you mamas a few new fun ideas for dinners and snacks! —Jenn