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Freezer Meal Cooking: Postpartum Lifesaver!

This is Part 1 of a 4-part series! I LOVE freezer meals, and I love helping people navigate using this tool of freezing meals ahead of when Baby arrives – to make dinnertime nourishing, sane, and less stressful. Following the links may lead you to my affiliates, or blog sites that I like. If affiliates, I may receive a small commission if you purchase something — which will enable me to keep freezer cooking for MY family! Thanks!

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Have fun. Make meals with a friend.

I encourage my doula clients to plan for their postpartum time, just as they are planning for the birth. I like to use the reminder of planning for a wedding. It is a big day, exciting, one you’ll remember forever — but what about the rest of your life? Sometimes newly married couples experience some post-wedding, or post-honeymoon, blues. It is very real. And, new parents can experience this, too. The BIG EVENT of birth is over, and suddenly, Mom and Dad need to eat.

Enter Freezer Meals! (Sometimes my kids ask me if I had to choose one super power, what would it be? I tell them, besides making milk, my superpower IS – making freezer meals! They truly make me a more Super-Happy Mommy, because I don’t get quite so anxious about what-everybody’s-gonna-eat around-here! Level up!)

In this series, I’d love to talk about several subjects that I’m quite passionate about: healthy nutritious food, efficiency, budgeting, and process. Freezer meals are the epi-center around which these passions can easily revolve.

But first – Why freeze food? Which foods freeze well? and, How do I do this?

Having meals on hand that easily are re-heatable in a crockpot, stovetop skillet or oven can really be a sanity-saver in the early weeks/months of having a new baby in your house. Oftentimes, Baby needs to eat right when its time to cook. Or, Baby has a ‘fussy spell’ right around that time. Or, one or both parents is exhausted, so it’s McDonalds or take-out once again — which is hard on the budget, and not very nutritious in the long run. Freezer meals easily solve the question, “What’s for dinner?” in a way that is healthy, enjoyable, and much less stressful!

There are many things that freeze well – including rice, pasta, tortillas or quinoa (for a good carbohydrate for dinner), oatmeal and eggs (for breakfasts), soups and most veggies. There are some foods that are tricky to freeze, and some that really shouldn’t be frozen. I find that Extension Services have great information, and I’m linking one such list here, on safe, nutritious food freezing: http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/freeze/dont_freeze_foods.html

So, with those first two questions answered, how do you get started? I have tried MANY different ways/methods of freezer cooking over the past nearly 15 years. Here is a chart I came up with on the pros and cons of different methods that I’ve tried (and I’m sure there’s a few methods I haven’t tried!):

Method Description Pros Cons Resources/Tools

Cook for a Day, Eat for a Month, OR, Cook for a Day, Eat for Two Weeks

Maybe slightly misnamed, as it really is about a 2-3 day process. You’ll need to gather recipes, a shopping list and take a shopping trip, spend time prepping veggies and meats, and then have a day where you basically cook the entire day. You’ll make 20 – 30 meals, and could include breakfasts and lunches, too. A lot of effort in the day, but then you really don’t have to think about much, just reheating, for up to a month! A lot of effort in one day ( can be hard for pregnant moms – so enlist help!)!  Might not be doable for everyone’s budget. You can find books in the public library, online lists and resources (some free, some with minimal fees) to help you organize. You can also use online tools that are subscription based (see below). Because of the quantity, it’s helpful to have a food processor, but not strictly necessary (just will take longer without one!)
Double all the meals you’re making for 1 week, take the following week off At every supper, make two quantities of whatever you’re making – freeze the extra. You’re cooking anyway, might as well make 2! Pretty easy. Take next week off! You get a week off from cooking, but no more.  Not ideal for those who’d like a longer break. Use your favorite recipes, and have extra dishes/freezer bags on hand to put them away. I LOVE the online tool Once a Month Meals – check it out!
Attend a Freezer Meal Workshop (10 meals in 90 minutes) with me and Wildtree Foods. You’ll prep some ingredients, and receive some at your workshop. These are NON-cooking recipes (for the most part) so they are very easy prep. You’ll add organic, no-preservative, high quality spices and sauces to complete your meals, and have enough left over to repeat the 10 meals again on your own, with the benefit of the in-person training you’ve received. All the planning and thinking is done for you.  Budget friendly, Meals are tested nationally and only used in the workshops if they get good reviews. Many crockpot and skillet meals for easy reheating. Not a good fit it you’d like to choose different spice blends. If you would like to choose all spice blends yourself, this might not be a good fit. Recipes, shopping list, and some ingredients provided as part of the kit you purchase when you sign up to participate. Workshops can be hosted by an expectant mom as a shower as well, or to get friends together to cook (and if 6 friends attend, the new Mom’s kit is free). Though not necessary, this really neat tool is GREAT for filling freezer bags – it holds the bag while you fill it, no fuss, no muss: http://amzn.to/2liP3Jz

Contact me for more info!

Take 1-2 hours and make 6 variations of the same meal This works great for some favorites that are also flexible, like burgers with varieties of seasonings, meatballs, a casserole dish that is easy to double or triple (I plan to do part of this series with my favorite easy-doubling recipes, so watch for that!) Takes very little time or even advance planning. You can do this in just a couple hours, but it really pays off in less stress later. Can be budget friendly, as you can just do a session when an ingredient, for instance, chicken breasts, are on sale. If you like a ton of variety and don’t want to eat the same thing twice in 2 weeks, this might not be for you. As well as library and online lists, I’d again point to Once a Month Meals for some great ideas, as you can search by ingredient or type of recipe. **For all of the above, keep in mind you’ll need freezer-safe bags or dishes to freeze in, as well as the appropriate amount of freezer space. More on this (and pictures!) in a later post.

 

The next post includes 2 methods I Love. The 3rd post I plan to talk about my FAVORITE way to freezer cook! and my last post will feature a new service I will offer, Freezer Meal Consulting, new to Culture of Life Doula in April! Watch for all these posts, and FILL your FREEZER!

4 Tips for Your Postpartum Fitness Journey

Pregnancy and birth are journeys in themselves, and the postpartum time is no different. Often, moms are concerned about getting back into shape, and after ‘sharing’ your body with a growing baby for 40 + weeks, you’re eager to have yourself back. I wanted to share my top 4 tips for adding healthy movement into your life after Baby arrives.

Go Slow

Don’t rush your recovery. Gentle walks might be appropriate before six weeks, but training for a marathon or even a 3 or 5k isn’t!  Even the most athletic mothers who I’ve been a doula for, needed to wait that 6 weeks. Check out some Q and Z from ACOG about their recommendations.

Remember, six weeks is a minimum. The key is:  Listening to your body (a phrase I hope you got very acquainted with during pregnancy and birthing your baby!). And so, I repeat: Six weeks is a minimum. For me, a gentle hike in the woods at 8 weeks postpartum after my sixth was born started my postpartum bleeding again! Now, for some moms, this hike might have been no big deal. For me, it was too much, too fast. What did I do? I waited a couple more weeks until I attempted such a feat again. And, what’s more – I didn’t beat myself up about it (see third tip, but read the 2nd one, too).

Go Gentle

Your abdominal muscles, all of ’em, have really been through a lot! Even if you don’t have or suspect a diastisis recti, treat your tummy gently and safely. I have really benefited personally from Fit2B streaming online workouts. Not only could I do them in my own home, in my pajamas if I like, but they are all built around healing the core — a true healing, mind you, not one that just focuses on getting a six-pack ab look as quickly as possible (and think 6 packs are still cool? This article, or this one, might change your mind!).

Another set of muscles, connected to the core, is your pelvic floor. As the body changes during pregnancy, and your baby grows inside you, your pelvic floor experiences stress. Safe exercises that focus on core strength can’t help but benefit the seat or your core – which IS your pelvic floor. (Did you know that? I didn’t always know that connection!) The creator of Fit2B, Bethany Learn, has several pelvic floor routines, very gentle, and so affirming, for moms (or dads!). Read a lovely blog post from her by clicking here. You don’t HAVE to join the women who say that after they had a baby they couldn’t sneeze without leaking.  If gentle exercises aren’t giving you much improvement, though, consider seeing a Pelvic Floor physical therapist. Contact me for references in the Fargo, ND – Moorhead, MN area — they are here, and they can help!

Go Easy

Go easy on yourself. Make your fitness about more than burning calories. Make it about eating healthful calories, getting good sleep, and having realistic and affirming goals — for a good and happy LIFE. Whether your goal is to fit into your jeans again (try not to set a firm timeline!), or to be able to take a brisk walk without being winded, pay attention to YOUR goal, not to the goals (or accomplishments) of others. It can be very depressing if we measure our own goals by others’ goals. We are all different, and we’re all on our own journey towards our best selves. Be gentle with yourself. We can be happy for others, as we are happy when we meet our own goals, step by step.

Go Together

Don’t be fooled into thinking a gym membership is the only way to get fit after Baby is here, nor is high intensity and large amounts of time going to get you in shape faster. In fact, studies indicate that joining an expensive (and time consuming!) gym is not as likely to make you healthy or help you lose weight as some other slower-going, gentler options, which I’ll focus on below! While joining a gym can be some valuable ‘away time’ (which I want to talk about in another post!), in the early stages, especially if you are breastfeeding on demand, it might be really stressful for your and your baby. So, is there a way to involve your baby and family, and get some movement in your day?

Focusing on being strong in your daily movements. Squatting, reaching, stretching, core-aware movement is safe and healthy. Things like:  squatting to reach something off the floor, in a cupboard, getting up and down safely out of bed, off the rug where you’re playing with your Baby or Baby’s siblings, stretching as you pull a weed in the yard or garden, reaching for things off the shelves as you’re cooking, walking around your yard or block. Involve your Baby as you do squats while putting him to sleep, roll on the floor or crawl with her, while keeping your tummy tight. All these things keep you and your family together in that tender postpartum time, but also gives you a sense of confidence and courage as you move forward in postpartum fitness.  Katy Bowman of Nutritional Movement has some amazing articles, like this one, so go head to her site right now and read about some postpartum ideas that make fitness a natural part of life!

When you’re ready to burn some more calories, challenge yourself to think not in terms of total time all at once, but small intervals throughout the day — which can actually be more effective, actually, as well as realistic! This article could give you some ideas to start. For me, even just having a cheap-o pedometer (like the Omron HJ-321 Tri-Axis Alvita Pedometer, Black       which is the one I use) helped me think about getting in some more motion to my day.

The last aspect of going together is having an accountability partner. It could be your spouse, a friend, or even an online buddy. Reach out to someone who shares your goals, and set up a way to encourage, not race, each other. For myself and good girlfriend, we emailed once a week, striving to get in a minimum of 3 workouts. We set the bar reasonably, too. To count as a workout, we needed a total of at least 5 min, and didn’t specify it had to be cardio, anaerobic, etc. As we are Christians, we dedicated the three workouts to the Holy Trinity! Insert your own motivational idea that will spur you on to good health and happiness.

Sincerely,

Disclosure and DIsclaimer: As an affiliate of Fit2B, I do receive a commission if you should choose to join the online streaming Tummy-Safe workout program. However,  I am not paid to blog for Fit2B, and my opinions are my own. I’m also an Amazon Affiliate, and if you choose to purchase any of my recommended products, please know that I’m not paid to give a good review. I only include products I have personally used, and felt satisfied with. I’m not in the business of giving medical advice. Every situation is different, and please rely on your care provider and your own research as you make any decisions regarding health, fitness, and your unique pregnancy.