Postpartum recovery is hard, to put it lightly. Whether you’re a new mom or seasoned pro, those early months are marked by exhaustion, disrupted schedules, sleep deprivation, and the constant demand of a hungry little baby. Even in the thick of it, your own hunger often takes a backseat, and the idea of preparing a meal might be the furthest thing from your mind as you navigate the transition to motherhood. If you’re lucky enough to have your village support you with a meal train, we know you’re in good hands, but we’re here to offer guidance with our top meal-prep tips for all those in-between times when you’re left to your own devices. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be winning the meal-prep game—without the discomfort of a growling stomach. 

Plan your prep

What’s on the menu and how can you predict your cravings? Honestly, it’s a bit unpredictable, but your best bet is to make a variety of foods ranging from savory to sweet. Many women claim that their taste preferences change after having a baby (I can personally vouch for that!) so embrace variety and cater to those evolving taste buds. 

Prioritize dishes that are easy to assemble. (If the process of preparing your reheated meals is a hassle, you’ve defeated the purpose of meal prepping.) Choose foods that reheat easily and retain their tastiness once warmed. For example, while roasted broccoli is easy to whip up, its high water content doesn’t make it the best reheating candidate. Instead, concentrate on foods like comforting soups, hearty baked dishes, and various animal proteins.

If you’re a breastfeeding mama, focus on foods that offer extra energy and nourishment to support both you and your baby. Stock up on nutrient dense foods like whole grains, leafy greens (frozen works too!), and lean proteins. Don’t forget about foods that stimulate and enhance milk supply like oats, flaxseed, and nuts and seeds. 

Stock your pantry

Before going into a cooking frenzy, be well-prepared with pantry staples. Beyond having a stocked freezer for your baby’s arrival, having a stash of pantry staples comes in handy when you want to prepare fresh meals. While a freezer stocked with lasagna and meat sauce is convenient, let’s be real—sometimes all you want is a freshly cooked meal. And don’t forget the snacks! Postpartum hunger (or should we say hanger) is very real. 

Here’s a list of pantry essentials that can be effortlessly assembled into quick and easy meals:

  • Nut butters 
  • Pasta
  • Dry split peas
  • Canned beans
  • Tomato sauce 
  • Coconut milk
  • Rolled oats
  • Rice
  • Quinoa
  • Protein powder
  • Nuts
  • Dried fruit
  • Flour
  • Popcorn
  • Granola/protein bars
  • Chia, hemp and flaxseeds
  • Boxed bone broth

Freezing tips for postpartum meal planning

Beyond selecting freezer-friendly recipes, make sure you have ample space in your freezer. Before loading it up, consider using what’s already there—that lonely bag of peas could jazz up mac and cheese, and that half-eaten bagel can be turned into breadcrumbs. After you’ve made some room, think about storage containers and bags that take up minimal space. Mason jars, plastic ziplock bags or reusable silicone ones are pretty versatile for storing everything from soups to stews to banana bread and casseroles slices. To optimize space, be sure you remove all the air from the bags and assemble the contents as flat as possible for easy stacking. 

Store foods in single-serving portions to reduce reheating time and to minimize waste. Don’t forget to label your food to keep track of preparation dates and contents. It can be frustrating to stare at a bag of frozen mystery food, so clear labeling is key! When organizing your freezer, adopt a ‘first in, first out’ approach to prioritize food safety, ensuring you use the oldest items first. 

Defrosting hacks

For baked goods like sliced bread, muffins, pancakes, and loaves, microwaving is the quickest and easiest method for defrosting. This method is particularly effective for smaller items, so if you have an entire loaf of pumpkin bread that needs to thaw, microwaving isn’t your best bet.

Instead, larger, denser food items like bulk proteins, breads or soup, are best thawed in the fridge overnight. In case they haven’t completely defrosted by morning, a microwave can come to the rescue or, in the case of soup, a stovetop reheat can do the trick.

To maintain food safety and quality, avoid thawing food on the counter or at room temperature. Once food starts warming up, it creates a breeding ground for bacteria, potentially compromising the safety and quality of your dish. This precaution is even more crucial during pregnancy, so please adhere to safety guidelines.

Make a meal calendar 

If you’re type-A, planning meals in advance is right up your alley. You can outline meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, complete with grocery lists and suitable storage containers for prepping your freezer. 

If you have a more go-with-the-flow personality, consider themed meals for each day of the week like Taco Tuesday or Meatless Monday. Regardless of your style, crafting a meal calendar, in whatever form it takes, can be a stress-reliever and smooth out mealtime planning, especially during the postpartum period.

Best postpartum freezer meals 

While friends might generously gift you with takeout meals, there’s a certain comfort in homemade dishes that just can’t be matched. Homemade meals often lean towards being healthier, with less salt and added sugar, and are undeniably a more sustainable and economical choice. Here are some of the best meals to freeze:

Breakfast 

Our favorite make-ahead breakfasts are baked goods because they freeze exceptionally well. Whether it’s pancakes, waffles, blueberry muffins, filling smoothies, breakfast cookies, breakfast burritos (we also love the options from Red’s) apple crisps or baked oatmeal, we’re all in! When choosing flours, opt for whole grain for that extra fiber and reduce added sugar by using banana or applesauce as substitutes. For added Omega-3s, incorporate ground flaxseed, chia seeds, or hemp seeds into the batter.

Lunch and dinner

Our top freezer-friendly lunch and dinner dishes are roasted chicken, meat sauce and meatballs, soups and stews, pasta bakes and casseroles. To amp up the nutritional value, consider bulking these dishes with extra veggies—toss chopped bell peppers into the meat sauce or add sautéed spinach to pasta bakes. For soups and stews, make them complete meals by incorporating elements like rice into chicken-veggie soup or beans into stews. This not only ensures a well-balanced meal but also takes away any worries about additional side dishes.

Prepared snacks for postpartum

Snacks on snacks on snacks becomes a relatable postpartum mantra because sometimes all you can think about is food. From healing and recovery, it can feel like you’re in a constant state of hunger, and snacks will become your best friend. Just make sure they pack a nutritional punch: Our top picks include smoothie packs or fruit-and-veg-based popsicles (we’re into the new frozen pops from Daily Harvest!), overnight oats, chia pudding, green muffins and energy bites. Stock up on Greek yogurt and cottage cheese to create yogurt parfaits and hummus or whipped cottage cheese for crudité and crackers. Happy snacking!