We’ve all been there. Tired. Heck, not tired, exhausted. Babies demand so much from us. Rushed and ragged, we tend to let ourselves go while we take care of our little ones.
But we just can’t do that. Anyone who has flown has heard the flight attendant say, “You have to put on your own oxygen mask before you start helping others.”
It’s the same at home, in our kitchens: We need to eat well in order to be there for our little ones. Easier said than done, I know. So let me share with you how I did it and how I’ve helped the new families in my life (great gift idea) do the same.
It’s called a vacuum sealer. Nope, I’m not getting any endorsements from any companies. I’m simply telling you how I made my life much easier (and economical) from the time my son was little—and I still benefit from the process today.
I cook and prepare once, and we eat for weeks (sometimes months) afterward. When I know life is going to get away from me, I make up meals that I know will freeze well and are easily warmed. Some of my favorites include roasts, chicken cacciatore and soups. And because I never know when I’ll be able to eat these items, I freeze them into both individual and family-sized portions.
Do you have a friend who loves to cook? If so, invite him or her to pick up the groceries and join you, then split the costs and the food. No one in your area? What about having your groceries delivered? I know it sounds expensive, but compared with eating out, and eating foods with too much salt, fat and sugar, it’s a bargain. Or order groceries online and have someone pick them up for you.
So when do you make these items? If the baby is napping, that’s a good time. But if you need to nap then, wait until you have help. Or, better yet, put the baby in a swing, bring it into the kitchen, and have that precious angel coo along directions to you as you create these amazing meals.
I prefer vacuum bags to zip bags and plastic containers because they remove the air and help prevent freezer burn. Items can stay in the freezer for months. And that’s just one part of my multitasking process. Rather than just making one item, I make several at once; that way I leave the kitchen with several meals for the same amount of time in the room.
Here’s an example. Before I start my chicken cacciatore I put a couple of sweet potatoes and a roast seasoned heavily with garlic, pepper and a little salt in the oven. No need for fresh herbs—dried spices are fine. In fact, they’re a new parent’s best friend. I also tuck a spaghetti squash in the oven, too. I prefer that to pasta with my chicken cacciatore.
While the oven does most of the work I start the chicken. Save time and energy by using boneless, skinless thighs (breasts if you are trying to lose the baby weight, but I find thighs are so much more flavorful and moist).
My recipe calls for onion and peppers, but they don’t have to be freshly sliced. There are two ways I shortcut this in a rush: either from the salad bar at the grocery, or the diced version in the freezer section. As Americans, we only eat one-third of the recommended daily amount of vegetables each day. So, while they might not be fresh from the farm, frozen vegetables are sometimes actually “fresher” than some we get at the store because they are picked the moment they are ripe and then flash-frozen. I use them without apologies.
After you’re done with this meal, repackage it into another. Dice the remaining roast to mix with frozen stew vegetables. Cover with a low-sodium broth to create an easy soup. Thicken with instant tapioca if you prefer a stew. Even your chicken cacciatore can be made into a soup, too. Add chicken or vegetable stock, and a few noodles (whole wheat) to create another completely different meal.
Finally, when I freeze soup, I first put it in a container that is wider on top than it is the bottom. Then, I freeze solid. I briefly dip the container in a sink of warm water (to loosen, think: big ice cube) and then pop into my freezer vacuum bag. Voila: four meals in less than 40 minutes of prep time. Even busy parents can make time for good food. After all, parents have to eat, too.
Click to view recipe.
Chris Xaver, Ph.D., is a local TV and radio personality with three children and five grandchildren. Her healthy lifestyle show, The Sweet Life, is airing on public television stations nationwide.
Photo above: © Kadokarci | Dreamstime.com