(Since I’m sleep-deprived because of my new bundle of joy, I’m delighted to share this guest post by Lisa from Cooking Up a Sale.)
Each time we were blessed with a new little one, I was reminded afresh of how much time and attention newborns require! Time and attention that we are willing and ready to dole out, of course. But also time that (in our pre-new-baby life) we spent on menu planning, grocery shopping, or cooking, among other things. It would be nice if we could just clock out from those duties for a few months, right? But dad, kids, and the new mom still need to eat!
So how does a family with a new baby manage to sit down to dinner without resorting to take-out every night?
(These ideas can also be adapted to other times when you are entering a busy season of life.)
1. Accept help. Many churches (mine included) have programs in place that coordinate meals for new moms. If your church (or your neighbor, friend, or cousin) calls to see if you need a meal or two, don’t say no! You might feel great, but you’ll still have less time in a day to plan and prepare a meal than you did before this baby was born.
A few tips for handling meal deliveries:
- Don’t stress about your appearance (or the appearance of your house!). Whomever delivers the meal has probably been in your shoes, so they realize that things won’t be perfect in your house right now.
- Write it on the calendar. In your sleep-deprived haze, you might not remember that Aunt Betty is going to bring a meal on Tuesday when the care group calls to see what days you need meals.
- Spread it out. If you have an overabundance of people offering to bring meals, don’t schedule a meal every single night. Three meals per week is plenty for a small family, especially when you factor in a few nights eating leftovers or home-cooked convenience foods. There’s no shame in politely saying “I think I’m all set for this week, but I’m sure I could still use one next week!”
- Make sure to relay any allergy information. You’d hate to have someone put a bunch of work into their famous Cheesy Chicken Spaghetti if your daughter has a milk allergy.
- Get more mileage out of your meals. If someone brings over an unbaked 9×13 Chicken Broccoli Casserole for your family of 4, just split it into two 9x9s. Bake one for supper that night and freeze the other one for next month. Leftovers are also great for quick no-thought-required lunches.
2. Eat freezer meals. This will require some planning and preparation before the baby arrives. If you don’t have the time or energy to spend an entire day filling your freezer with casseroles and side dishes, just do it gradually: a few times a week, double your dinner recipe. Eat your regular amount for supper, and freeze the remainder (unbaked). You’ll build up a supply of freezer meals with minimal time and effort.
3. Stock your freezer and pantry with easy dinner options…things that your husband can handle if you are tied up with the new little one. Again, this takes some pre-baby planning.
A few easy menu ideas:
- Hamburgers or brats on the grill with oven fries
- Grilled chicken with baked potatoes and frozen veggies
- Chicken wraps
- Grilled ham and cheese
4. Rely on convenience foods. Things like macaroni and cheese, Hamburger Helper, and frozen pizza are not exactly in the running for “Healthy Dinner of the Year”, but they’re sure nice to fall back on after a rough day with a fussy baby! Pair up the junk food with a salad or veggie to add a little nutrition.
A few more convenience food suggestions:
- frozen ravioli or tortellini (serve with spaghetti sauce and parmesan cheese)
- frozen meatballs (add to spaghetti sauce and serve over noodles)
- pork barbeque
- chicken nuggets
- breaded chicken patties (put on a hamburger bun with lettuce and tomato for a chicken sandwich, or serve over packaged alfredo noodles)
- frozen fish served with microwaveable seasoned rice
- frozen meal kits…so many varieties to just heat and serve.
5. Utilize your crockpot. When you have a spare minute in the morning, throw a hunk of meat in it along with some potatoes and veggies. You’ll spare yourself that harried hour before dinner when everyone is hungry, including the baby!
Everyone in your household still needs to eat even though you’re busy with that new little bundle of joy. But with a little planning and minimal effort, you can still get dinner on the table most nights. And if you can’t? Don’t beat yourself up if you have to resort to pizza delivery once in awhile!
What are your tips for eating well during busy seasons of life?
Lisa is a West Michigan wife and mom who loves to spend time in the kitchen. She enjoys the challenges of menu-planning around grocery sales and creating delicious food using on-sale ingredients. Lisa blogs about two of her favorite topics ~ food and saving money on groceries at Cooking Up a Sale.