Let me start by saying that I’m the least organised person ever! But when I was pregnant with Síofra the nesting instinct really kicked in, as well as panic about looking after the two boys with a newborn, and I decided to freeze lots of food for after she was born. I also stocked up the cupboards with so much food that I still have about half of it left, two months later! I started preparing a few weeks before she was due and kept buying and cooking and freezing more and more food until she was born at 41 weeks + 4 days!
I had never frozen any food before, apart from vegan ice-cream, so I really didn’t know what I was doing. I always envied those people who were so prepared before having a baby with a freezer full of food, and also I was a bit restless waiting for the baby to get here so needed something to pass the time! I did a bit of research and read that you can freeze almost any food and it’ll keep for ages, but will taste best if used within about two or three months. I also found out that you can freeze cake, which has been life-changing…So I thought I’d try it out and write a blog post about my experience of it.
I decided to make a lot of meals from the Happy Pear cookbooks. They are vegetarian cookbooks, not completely vegan, but most of the recipes are vegan or easy to adapt. I had read that meals like curries, stews and shepherd’s pies are great for freezing, and The Happy Pear have a lot of those kinds of recipes. They’re also really wholesome and hearty meals, so perfect for after having a baby. I think a lot of vegans eat these kind of meals, so vegan food works well for freezing.
I got these foil dishes with lids in my local supermarket, that said suitable for freezing. They were a little expensive but so worth it. You could also just use regular casserole dishes to be more environmentally friendly, but I didn’t have enough dishes since I made two shepherd’s pies, two lasagnes and two potato and chickpea bakes! I followed the recipe until the part where they’re meant to go in the oven, then simply froze them at that stage. These were my favourite things after the baby was born, because they were so easy to cook in the oven from frozen, and were a meal all on their own, and just really comforting and nice.
I also made lots of curries, stews and chili, with plenty of vegetables and beans in them so they’d be really filling and healthy. I put these in large freezer bags with enough to serve the whole family (keeping in mind how hungry I knew I’d be with breastfeeding a newborn). You could also freeze them in resusable containers to be more environmentally friendly. I just made far too much food to have enough containers! And I guess using freezer bags saved on washing up, which is important when you have a new baby. When I wanted to eat them, I simply took a bag out of the freezer and put it in the fridge to defrost overnight, then heated it in a sauce pan or the microwave the next day, and cooked some rice to go with it. They were really nutritious and filling meals, with minimal effort. And they still tasted really good after freezing. Some of the textures of the veg weren’t quite as good, but the convenience more than made up for that.
I also made big batches of veggie burgers and falafel, which I partly cooked and then froze in freezer bags. These were so handy to pop in the oven straight from the freezer, and it was easy to make a double or triple batch of the recipes so we had enough for so many meals. Then I simply served them with some simple things to prepare like salad, kale chips, frozen veg, bread, etc. They tasted just as good after freezing.
The best idea ever was making cake to freeze it! I can’t explain how nice it was to be able to have a muffin or slice of cake every day when I was tired and hungry looking after a newborn. As usual I used recipes from Ms Cupcake, which are always lovely. I made a huge batch of blueberry muffins, which I simply put in a freezer bag to freeze, and a banana chocolate walnut loaf cake, which I sliced and then froze in a freezer bag. When I wanted some cake, I either took some out of the freezer and left to defrost for a while, or defrosted it in the microwave. They still tasted great after freezing! I’ll definitely do this again all the time.
I also stocked up the freezer with lots of store-bought bread, rolls, wraps, pitta and bagels, so that we always had some and I didn’t have to worry about shopping. We ate wholegrain toast with houmous or beans on toast for many, many lunches, and it’s such an easy but still nutritious meal.
I also bought plenty of frozen veg, which I don’t usually bother with much. I found these Strong Roots sweet potato fries especially handy, as well as frozen peas, sweetcorn, broccoli and spinach.
I said how I stocked up the cupboards with food, well I might have gone a bit overboard! It’s all stuff that lasts a long time, so worked out well. I haven’t had to worry too much about running out of food or getting shopping in. There’s always something you can prepare when you have plenty of grains, beans, lentils, tins of tomatoes, and a well-stocked spice cupboard. I don’t usually buy ready-made sauces or things like that, but I found them really useful with a new baby. They worked out a little expensive, but all the beans, lentils, rice, etc. were really cheap so it didn’t cost that much to fill up the cupboards. There was another cupboard also full of wholegrain pasta, wholegrain rice, and more tinned food! Another convenient thing I found was buying both wholegrain rice and white rice. I prefer wholegrain and it’s healthier, but sometimes I only have the time to cook white rice so that’s fine.
These Janet’s Just Delicious sauces were great. We eat a lot of pasta because it’s so easy and the kids always love it, and the sauces contain no added sugar or salt so are great for the kids. With some wholegrain pasta and a few tinned chickpeas or lentils thrown in, that’s a pretty good meal in about ten minutes!
I also got a few of these Green Saffron curry sauces, which are suitable for vegans and fairly healthy, and a few jars of Korma, Tikka Masala and Thai curry pastes. My favourite really quick curries are with tinned chickpeas, just add some to the sauce and simmer it for a few minutes, maybe add some spinach too. So easy.
And I got a few pizza bases. (These are gluten free ones because I have coeliac disease, and are also suitable for vegans, but it’s usually easy enough to find regular vegan pizza bases too.) These with some store-bought pizza sauce, a few vegetables and some vegan cheese (I like Violife pizza cheese or Mozzarella) makes a really easy meal.
I also stocked up on lots of different Amy’s Kitchen soups. They made a really nice and filling quick meal or snack when I was really hungry (which is all the time).
And I bought a LOT of cereal and UHT soya milk to have something easy to give the kids whenever they got hungry, or if I didn’t have time to cook, and so that we could all get breakfast fast before I got cranky from lack of food/sleep! I always like having a few cartons of UHT soya milk in the cupboard so we don’t run out. I had to hide a lot of the cereal because the boys wanted to eat it all before the baby got here!
And after the baby was born I bought a lot of vegan convenience foods most weeks, like soups, houmous, etc. which really made life easier too.
And that’s pretty much it. I hope I gave you some good ideas for preparing and buying food, whether you’re having a baby or just want to stock up on food. It was definitely worthwhile doing, and a lot of fun. I cooked so many meals that I’ve only finished eating them all recently, and it made the first few weeks with a baby so much easier. I was able to concentrate on just spending time with my baby, and not worry too much about cooking or whether the boys were getting nutritious enough food. I got all the food cooked over about three days, and as an added bonus everyone thought I was really organised for getting it all done! Seriously though, I’m really not a very organised person, but it was much easier than it seems. Even if you cook bigger batches of the meals you’re making anyway, then you can freeze half of it to eat later. So it’s definitely worth freezing a few meals if you’re having a baby soon.