I’ve been really good about keeping up my fitness and wellness routines throughout pregnancy, and I want to make sure I maintain these good habits once my baby arrives. To maintain my fitness postpartum, I’ll need to make an active effort to prioritize my workouts, which I know may be quite challenging.
To maintain my healthy eating, especially since I’ll be nursing and incredibly hungry, I’ll need to do a lot of planning – my specialty! I scoured my recipe boxes and pestered friends and family for their favorite healthy meals that would freeze well. I wanted recipes that are easy to reheat and filled with veggies. Since being Type A means I just had to give all the recipes a test run, I set out to determine which meals were still tasty after spending some time deep inside my freezer. I hope this list of my five favorite freezer meals will make your newborn days just a bit easier.
1. Campfire Chicken
I’m not sure why, but my family has always called this Campfire Chicken even though we’ve never eaten it around a campfire. It’s the perfect comfort food! I added vegetables and swapped out some of our traditional ingredients for healthier options.
1 box brown rice
1 cup plain, fat-free Greek yogurt
1 cup water
2 cups cut broccoli, frozen or fresh
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, uncooked
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp paprika
Mix together rice, water, garlic, and paprika. Stir in broccoli.
Pour into 9x9 disposable foil pan and top with 4 chicken breasts. Spoon Greek yogurt over the chicken. This meal is now ready to freeze!
When you want to eat it, thaw and bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 60 minutes. If you happen to have cheddar cheese on hand, sprinkle it on top for some extra deliciousness!
2. Chicken Tortilla Soup
This was a favorite in our household the week my husband and I prepped freezer meals! It was also the easiest recipe.
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, uncooked, cubed
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, not drained
1 14.5-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 small onion
2 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 15.25-ounce can corn
1 jalapeno, finely diced
2 limes, juiced
1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
3 14.5-ounce cans low-sodium chicken broth
Salt and pepper to taste
Sriracha to taste
Add all of the ingredients except the broth to a gallon freezer bag.
When you’re ready to eat it, take the bag out of the freezer and add the broth! I prefer to heat this in a crockpot. Set it to low for 6-8 hours or high for 3-4 hours. If you don’t have a crockpot, no biggie! Add the ingredients to a pot and cook it on the stove for 45 minutes on medium.
Feel free to eliminate the jalapeno. My husband and I like our food extra spicy and actually ended up adding two jalapenos. When it comes to lime, fresh is always better, but the juice in the little bottle works just as well. Sriracha is also optional. My husband has recently fallen in love with it, so we added 2 Tbsp.
This is my favorite chili recipe, and I’ve been making it for years. Since my baby is due in the fall, I figured this would be perfect. When I was testing how it would taste after freezing, my husband was not so happy to be eating chili in the middle of August in the desert, but he survived and said it was delicious.
1.5 pounds ground beef
1 tsp celery, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, not drained
1 15-ounce can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 15-ounce can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 tsp cumin
3 Tbsp. chili powder
1 Tbsp. cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
Brown the ground beef in a pan. Add cumin, chili, cayenne, salt, and pepper. Once the ground beef has cooled, add it and the rest of the ingredients to a gallon freezer bag.
I used a crockpot to reheat this one as well. Since the meat is already cooked, just cook on low for 2 hours or high for 30-45 minutes.
I’ve made this with bison, and it comes out so tasty. Chili really lends itself to whatever meat you want. Ground turkey would make a great substitute for an even healthier option, but I haven’t yet talked my husband into eating it.
4. Stuffed Peppers
This is another comforting recipe from my childhood that makes me feel closer to home (we live about 2,000 miles away from my family). It was great to call my grandmother and ask her how to make it. When I was growing up, she was the only person who would ever make this dish, and she always refused to share the recipe. I think the idea of a great-grandbaby has made her soft because she told me how to make these stuffed peppers, AND she offered up her recipe for eclairs, another one she vowed she would never share. Don’t worry! She knew this was for a blog post, so I promise I’m not breaking her trust by publishing her recipe here!
1.5 lbs ground beef
8 bell peppers
2 tsp paprika
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1 cup instant brown rice (Minute Rice), uncooked
Salt and pepper
Brown the ground beef with paprika, adding salt and pepper to taste. While the beef is cooking, cut the tops off of the peppers and scoop out any seeds. I also cut a little off the bottoms so that the peppers stay flat. You can either throw out the pepper bottoms or dice them and put them in with the ground beef. Place peppers in a disposable foil pan. In a bowl, combine the ground beef, onion, garlic, tomato sauce, and uncooked rice. Stuff each pepper generously. If there is leftover stuffing, put it around the peppers.
When you’re ready to eat, cook the frozen peppers uncovered for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.
5. Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burritos
Don’t tell my husband, but this meal has exactly zero meat. If you have someone in your family who feels no meal is complete without meat, add ground beef or chicken. You could also add eggs to make this a breakfast burrito.
3 medium sweet potatoes
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp chili powder
A few dashes of red pepper flakes
6 whole wheat or corn tortillas
1 avocado, diced
1/2 cup shredded Mexican or Colby Jack cheese
1/3 cup red enchilada sauce
Pierce sweet potatoes with a fork a few times. Microwave on high for 4-6 minutes or until cooked through. This may take up to 10 minutes depending on how big your sweet potatoes are. Once they are cooked, remove the skins and place the potatoes in a medium bowl. Mash with a fork and set aside. In a large bowl, add black beans, cumin, chili powder, and red pepper flakes. Stir to combine then set aside.
A trick my mother-in-law taught me: tortillas are so much easier to fold when they are warmed a little. She says 10-20 seconds in the microwave is plenty, but she prefers the traditional way of heating them on the stove. I am lazy and very pregnant, so I microwaved.
Lay out warm tortillas and evenly spread mashed sweet potato on each. Evenly distribute the black bean mixture, diced avocado, and shredded cheese on each tortilla. Drizzle about a tablespoon of enchilada sauce on each. Season with salt and pepper. Tuck the ends in, then roll the tortillas into burritos. I put each burrito in tin foil and wrote heating instructions on the foil.
When you’re ready to eat, place the burritos on a baking sheet in the oven at 300 degrees for 5-10 minutes or microwave them for a minute or two. They tasted great with the salsa verde we had in the fridge and worked for both dinner and breakfast!
Bonus: Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
I decided that while I was at it, I might as well make something sweet. I know that cookies aren’t exactly healthy, but the flaxseed meal means extra fiber, and the oatmeal can potentially boost milk supply for some women. Plus, nursing mamas can consume extra calories to help with milk production! Cookie dough freezes really well, and these can easily be made into lactation cookies by adding 2 Tbsp. of brewer’s yeast. Tasty and functional!
2 Tbsp. water
2 Tbsp. flaxseed meal
½ cup softened butter
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups old-fashioned rolled oats
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp baking powder
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ cup mini chocolate chips
½ cup shredded coconut
I don’t ever preheat my oven, but if you do, preheat to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, stir the flax and water. Set aside. Cream the butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla with either a hand or standing mixer. Stir in the flour, soda, powder, cinnamon, and flax/water mixture until they are just incorporated. Fold in the oats, chocolate chips, and coconut. Put the dough in a gallon freezer bag and label it with baking instructions.
When you’re ready to make the cookies, be sure to thaw out the dough beforehand! Scoop out round mounds on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Flatten each cookie with your palm. These cookies don’t flatten much while baking, so whatever thickness you make them is how they will stay. Bake for 9-12 minutes or until the edges are lightly brown. I store mine in a covered container with a slice of bread to help keep the cookies soft.
For the brown sugar and granulated sugar, I used the Truvia baking substitutes and just followed the suggested conversions on the bags. I also didn’t measure the chocolate chips because, honestly, who does? The shredded coconut adds a really nice texture but isn’t necessary for flavor or consistency.
After testing out these recipes, I have two pieces of advice for mamas who want to prep meals ahead of time. The first is to do all of the prep and cooking for the week in one day. I set aside a Sunday, gathered all my ingredients, and prepared everything in a few hours. It made the week much easier, so I am hopeful that doing this before my baby is born will make the first week with a newborn a little easier to handle. I made sure to label all of my dishes with the name of the meal and the directions for reheating/cooking. This also meant my husband could pull one out and cook it before I got home from work!
The second piece of advice is to make it fun! Invite over fellow moms who are expecting around the same time. Bring over Mom, Grandma, and anyone else you enjoy cooking with. Call on your tribe and recognize that help is essential. It takes a village to raise a child, but it also takes a village to get ready for one! Do not be afraid to ask for help before your baby gets here. It takes a lot of bravery for people to admit that they need a hand (or six) from time to time.
My husband and I set it up as a date day! We spent the whole day in the kitchen, laughing and talking about what we thought parenting would be like. He is convinced our boy is going to be a world-class Formula 1 driver. Much to my surprise, my husband had already looked up the age limits and requirements for racing. In case anyone is curious, little ones can start kart racing at five! Five! I can’t believe he wants to let our son drive a motorized vehicle at five.
We both agreed, however, that the most important thing in this whole scary, new endeavor is that we make time for our partnership. Seeing him in the kitchen helping me cook meals has reaffirmed that he is an excellent partner who will be a loving and patient father. Hearing him share his hopes and fears about parenting made me feel better about sharing mine. I know that this parenting journey is going to be hard, but if you surround yourself with good people, good thoughts, and good food, it makes life much easier and much sweeter.