The newborn phase is hard work! You’ll definitely need to take a few shortcuts to get through! In this week’s episode we’re going to talk about these meal prep shortcuts that help keep everyone fed during this difficult transition.
After my 3rd child I thought I would never feel like life was normal again. Every night I (attempted) to make a meal from scratch all while my husband was in dental school until 6:00 or 7:00 at night, and I was managing a preschooler, rambunctious toddler, and a colicky baby.
It was pretty stupid to be honest.
At the time I felt an immense pressure to make everything from scratch. I’m not even totally sure where this perfectionism came from. Part of it may have been my background as a dietitian that made me feel like I should use whole foods all the time. Some of it might have been that I enjoyed cooking and trying new things and I didn’t want to give up my autonomy in the kitchen, some of it was that I was a food blogger and for some reason I felt like I was a hypocrite if I taught people to make things from scratch but I didn’t live up to that standard all the time. Some of it was probably based on the antiquated view that women should have a homemade meal on the table and a bow in their hair when their husband comes home (something that is NOT an expectation my husband has of me, but one that I often have myself).
Anyway, it shouldn’t be surprising that I was exhausted, burned out, and couldn’t do it anymore.
The funny thing is, that perfectionism really keeps you from your goals.
Because I had such high standards and expectations, I often thought “why even try” and ran out to get takeout.
When I could have instead, toned down the homemade meals I was making and not make every single thing from scratch, and still enjoy relatively healthy, inexpensive, simple meals at home like I always had.
Needless to say, things have been a lot different this time around (starting with the fact that my baby is not colicky and I now have a 7-year old to hold him while I cook, and ending with the fact that I don’t expect myself to make every single thing from scratch anymore.
It’s still something I value, but I recognize that in this season there are more important things, and I can go back to my old ways when things are more stable.
You may not have a newborn right now, or you may not even relate to wanting to make everything from scratch making these shortcuts seem super obvious, so if that’s you, I hope the message you get here is that your meals and mealtimes should evolve and ebb and flow based on your season. This is totally normal. Putting a hot meal on the table every night like June Cleaver when everything else in your life is crazy. Find the shortcuts that work for you, but get the help you need (and if you’ve got a colicky newborn, I’ve been there and feel your pain!)
So let’s dig into the meal prep shortcuts I’ve been using to get through the newborn phase. These are all foods that I normally would have made from scratch, but make my meals come together a bit faster when I purchase them. I will likely make all of these from scratch again at least some of the time, but I’m not now because my sanity is more important.
Storebought meal prep shortcuts that are getting me through the newborn phase
Guacamole, Mashed, or frozen avocado-I make a mean guacamole, like soo good. If I’m going to a party or need a late night snack, I’m definintely going to make it from scratch. But the thing about guacamole at dinner is that most of the time you’re having it with tacos or nachos that already have a lot of different components so it’s just another thing to make. So in this case I’m buying it. Along with salsa and maybe even dressing for that matter.
Frozen Rice-I love that the grocery stores are catching on to some of the things that can be frozen that they never used to sell before! …if you are wondering, yes you absolutely can cook and freeze your own rice, and I do that often. But I love the option of grabbing frozen rice to take one more thing off of the list when I’m making dinner. They even have some flavored options that are pretty good and less processed and high in sodium than packaged rice would be so it’s a win for us!
Smoothie Packs-Once again, making smoothie packs isn’t crazy difficult, but you can also buy individual smoothie packs that make the process so easy so if you didn’t get an ounce of sleep the night before you can still make a wholesome breakfast super quick and easy!
Frozen soups-This is one of those cases where you can get a more homemade type option at the store since they are catching on to the trends. Our associated foods stores have tons of options of big bags of frozen soups and they taste as good as something you would get in a restaurant. They can be a bit pricey, but you get a whole bunch when you purchase and could easily feed your whole family so it’s definitely worth considering from time to time!
Rotisserie/Frozen shredded chicken–Frozen shredded chicken is a game-changer when it comes to putting meals on the table quick. Start looking at recipes and see how many either call for cooked chicken or have you spend the first step of the recipe cooking chicken just to be thrown in at the end. Think foods like pasta, casseroles, soups, the list is endless. I almost always have cooked shredded chicken in my freezer that I’ve cooked in my crockpot. It’s relatively easy to cook, but if you don’t have time you can buy bags of plain shredded chicken frozen! You can also buy rotisserie chickens that have been taken off the bones for you that are so easy to add to any meal!
Jarred sauces-I’m not generally a jarred sauce girl. I can bust out a teriyaki sauce in about 5 minutes, and spaghetti sauce tastes so much better made from scratch. However, making a sauce tends to be one of the more time-consuming steps of my recipes and even if it’s not time-consuming it can be a little bit messy if it has a lot of ingredients. So in this season, storebought sauce one of my favorite meal prep shortcuts. Do your research to see which storebought sauces taste the best or have the most minimal ingredients lists if you are trying to eat more whole foods.
Potstickers– This one is oddly specific, but I absolutely LOVE frozen potstickers, and so does my whole family. They taste almost as good as any restaurant and if you’ve ever tried making them from scratch you probably know it is not worth it. They’re so time-consuming and don’t taste much better. Costco and Sam’s club have them in bulk, pair them with frozen fried rice that you can purchase as well for the easiest weeknight meal ever!
Coleslaw mix-I may have mentioned this before, but one of my favorite shortcut foods is coleslaw mix. It’s so versatile and so cheap! You can obviously make it into coleslaw or salads , but I love throwing it into stir-fries or other dishes cooked. Skipping out on all of that chopping another one of my favorite meal prep shortcuts.
Frozen Veggies-One of my favorite things to do right now is peruse the freezer aisle for unique frozen vegetables. Lately I’ve seen diced butternut squash, frozen sweet potatoes, cauliflower rice, and even chopped peppers and onions. Getting the chopping done before you cook is a huge time saver and these frozen veggie options mean you don’t even have to do that chopping yourself!
Pitas/Naan Bread-I’m a huge fan of using pitas or naan breads for all sorts of different purposes. Eat them plain on the side, make pizzas or flatbreads, make sandwiches. There’s tons of options. I’ve got a recipe for naan that I try to stock my freezer with, but if making it from scratch isn’t happening I love to keep these on hand from the store! Again, costco or sam’s club come in handy here because you can buy large quantities that aren’t very expensive!
Alright my friends, there you have my meal prep shortcuts that I’m taking to get through the newborn phase. Next week we’ve got another fun guest for you who will be helping teach us to raise capable kids in the kitchen!
Until next week friends, happy planning!