This month's Eat Well, Spend Less topic is all about BABIES! Okay, babies and food. ;)
In the past few weeks, Aimee, Carrie, and I have all given birth to baby girls! The rest of the team decided to help us celebrate and picked baby-related topics to write about. (Scroll down for links to the other posts in this series!)
You know, I love having children. Every age (that I've experienced so far... my oldest is only 8) is amazing in a different way.
My older children are inspiring to me, make me laugh, and bring so much love to our home. My littler ones say cute things, make big messes, and bring so much love to our home. ;)
And my newborn, Channah -- she makes me feel so relaxed and content, everyone fights over getting to hold her (but I get her the most :D) and she brings even more love to our home.
And I sure don't feel like working in the kitchen when I could be cuddling with a sweet little baby!
So, I don't. I mean, as much as possible. And how is this possible?
1. Make freezer meals.
This was my biggest regret after having my first baby: I hadn't made any meals for the freezer. Oh, I'd planned on just making "easy stuff" but with a fussy baby who didn't sleep much, I very quickly realized that my 30-minute "easy meal" was not at all easy to pull off as a new mom. In fact, things that normally took me 30-uninterrupted-minutes suddenly took 90-very-interrupted-minutes. Or more. :)
With subsequent babies, I have made freezer meals my top priority when getting ready for the baby. And with even more hungry tummies to keep filled, having dinners made ahead transforms any afternoon into a much easier juggling feat of naps and quiet-time activities, minus dinner prep.
We're picky about what we consider a good freezer meal (e.g. it really shouldn't taste like frozen reheated leftovers!), but I've been able to find a good variety of freezer meals we like. At the very least, freezing cooked or grilled chicken breast, cooked taco meat, cooked beans, or other "ingredients" can make from-scratch cooking a lot faster!
My freezer meal plan in 2010 (with baby #4)
My freezer meal plan this year (with baby #5)
2. Don't do dishes. (Or: Have a dishes plan.)
When we lived in a house without a dishwasher, we bought paper plates and bowls to use for the first few weeks after baby was born. This really kept the kitchen cleaner, and with no effort on my part. (For some reason, Joshua enjoys kitchen clean-up a lot more when it doesn't involve him having to wash dishes!)
Where we live now, we have a dishwasher and haven't felt the need to use lots of disposable dishes. Using my homemade freezer meals means there is already a lot fewer dishes to be done each day, and with the dishwasher, kitchen clean-up is something I've been able to do in ~20 minutes after dinner (for the whole day's dishes).
At any rate, if you hate dishes or don't have a dishwasher, have a plan so you don't need to worry about them.
3. Clean the kitchen floor.
A dirty kitchen floor drives me crazy! It wasn't so bad before we had all these kids who drop so many crumbs with every meal. Seriously, it is next to impossible to keep the kitchen floor clean with kids unless you...
...have the kids help clean up their crumbs! (And if you don't have kids to help sweep crumbs, then hopefully this means you have way less crumbs on your floor than I have on mine!!)
My favorite kid-friendly sweep-up method is to have a Dirt Devil or similar sort of cordless hand-held vacuum and let them use it to sweep dry crumbs (I make them pick up wet food spills by hand). We had a Dust Buster for several years and used it multiple times a day before it wore out. It's easy enough for even a 2-year-old to sweep up crumbs from the floor.
Currently, we use good old fashioned brooms and dust pans. The kids have their choice of a regular broom or whisk broom, and after a meal I usually assign someone the task of sweeping up crumbs. They don't do a perfect job, but they do get a lot of the crumbs -- and I know there will just be more after the next meal anyway. ;) Every couple days the vacuum cleaner gets brought out and then we really do get every last crumb swept up. :)
4. Grocery shop before the baby's born.
I found it helpful to stock up on pantry staples (at Costco, of course) before a new baby. With a stocked pantry and freezer meals made, it's so nice to not need as many groceries each week for a while!
Grocery shopping is also one of those things you can mention when someone asks if you need anything. Armed with a detailed list (and your grocery money, of course!), having a friend or relative pick up groceries for you is such a blessing if you don't feel like going out with a new baby in tow.
(Personally, I just never feel like going anywhere with a new baby. I'm such a homebody!)
5. Use appliances.
If you have a crock pot, bread machine, rice cooker, or other handy kitchen appliances -- learn how to use them for foods your family likes!
Babies are often really unpredictable, so when you can start a meal early in the crock pot, or use the timer feature on your bread machine, you can fit dinner prep into whatever snippet of time you have early in the day rather than scrambling at the last minute (or stressing out because you need to work on dinner but you'd rather rock your baby to sleep!).
I don't have a lot of kitchen appliances, so help me out here -- what other appliances streamline dinner prep or include timer features? :)
6. Accept help.
This only works if you have offers of help, which I hope every new mom does -- from her husband, family, or friends. When someone wants to help, accept their offer! Okay, so your husband doesn't do housework just like you would -- but that's okay. Your kids fold the laundry and it's not folded "right" -- but that's okay.
I feel really blessed right now because my husband and kids can and DO do so much around the house for me! And honestly, they do a pretty good job most of the time. No, it's not all exactly how it would be if I were doing it. But it's definitely okay and I thank them and tell them how awesome they are. :)
More on preparing for a new baby: All the stuff I did before #2 was born :)
6 Tips for Cooking with a Baby (because eventually, you gotta do it!)
More about babies and food from the Eat Well, Spend Less team:
Food celebration and a new baby (Jessica at Life As Mom)
The postpartum diet (Aimee at Simple Bites)
A homemade baby food primer (Mandi at Life...Your Way)
Taking meals to a new mom (Carrie at Denver Bargains)
Kitchen planning when you're pregnant (Amy at Keeping the Kingdom First)
...and more to come from Katie at Kitchen Stewardship and Shaina at Food for my Family! :)