Preparing food

Serving up a nutritious family meal on time can be difficult when you have a newborn. Including meal preparation as part of my routine in the lead-up to the birth of each baby made this task easier.

Cooking in bulk

Most pregnancy books tell you to cook some meals in advance and have them in the freezer for when baby is born. It sounds easy, but in reality, towards the end of a pregnancy tiredness can hit, and even serving up an evening meal for the family can be a challenge in itself. Preparing a simple, bulk-cooking schedule can really help make this task doable. It makes it part of your daily routine rather than a separate task that has to be added to the ‘to do’ list.

For some meals — such as lasagne — you’ll have leftovers even when you cook the standard quantity. Instead of eating the leftovers for lunch or another meal, begin freezing these portions over a couple of months and you’ll soon have enough in the freezer for extra meals. Other meals — such as pumpkin soup and spaghetti bolognaise — are easy to cook in double quantities so you can freeze one full serve. Try following these steps to help get you started on building your freezer supplies.

• Find out which meals your family likes that freeze well.

• Work out the freezer life of these meals (for example, beef stroganoff will last for about three months and lasagne about two months).

• Schedule preparing and freezing these meals into your menu plans in the months leading up to the birth of your baby.

• Either freeze them as a family-sized meal or in individual adult or child portions.

The pre-baby, bulk-cooking plan shown in table 1 is an example of a cooking schedule that would provide you with a combination of full-sized family meals and leftover portions in your freezer. Each of these meals can be added to the weekly menu plan for that week so that the extra cooking fits easily into that part of your day. 

Table 1: pre-baby bulk-cooking plan

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Menu planning in advance

Unless you have an amazingly large freezer that you can stockpile with tons of prepared meals, the reality is that you’ll still have to cook meals most days of the week when you have a newborn. If you’re not into regular menu planning yet, a couple of weeks before your due date take the time to prepare a month of menu plans. The meals don’t have to be assigned to any permanent dates, but you can plan them for a four-week period so that you’ll have a weekly menu plan for you and others to follow and a grocery shopping list for each week that anyone can shop from. This will help you through the mealtime workload, whenever your beautiful baby decides to arrive.

Menu plans can really help with sharing the workload when baby needs your attention the most. My husband is a pretty good shopper if he has a list. When our last baby was born, we had six weeks of menu plans and associated shopping lists hanging on a clip on the fridge. He went to the market each weekend to buy the fresh fruit and vegetables using these lists and made a trip to the supermarket once a fortnight. It was fabulous not to have to think about the planning and shopping for meals for a few weeks knowing that we had everything we needed.

Stocking up on essentials

When you have more than one child, it’s hard to have a set routine for a new baby. They’re frequently lugged in and out of the car during the run-around that takes place due to their siblings’ requirements. Prior to my due date for the last two babies I stocked up on necessary items for the house that I knew would eventually be used or consumed. This helped cut out trips to the shops with a newborn, meaning baby’s routine was less interrupted and I wasn’t so busy. I had a checklist that ensured the following household areas were well stocked:

• pantry

• fridge

• freezer

• medicine cabinet

• toiletries

• kids’ socks

• cleaning products

• laundry products.

Preparing for celebrations

Two of our babies were born close to Christmas. I made sure I had all the Christmas shopping done a couple of weeks before my due date. I’m not a fan of shopping in crowds anytime, especially not when I have a newborn baby. I take a similar approach with birthday presents: I write up a list of upcoming birthdays for the three months following baby’s arrival and determine the presents I need to buy. I then purchase them (and the cards) so they’re ready in time for each birthday.

Preparing baby’s clothes

I boxed up baby clothes as each baby outgrew theirs: a boys’ box, a girls’ box and a ‘neutral’ box. We chose not to find out the sex of our babies, which meant organising baby clothes required a bit of preparation. Before each baby was born I would wash all the baby clothes, placing the neutral clothes in baby’s drawers (and some in the hospital bag). Then we’d wait to see what other clothes we’d need.

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