Planning Post-Baby Meals
Moms and cookbook authors Cynthia Stevens Graubart and Catherine Fliegel understand how tough it can be to get food on the table when you've got a baby on the hip. Here, they discuss how to make post-baby life easier through some simple pre-baby kitchen prep work, how to keep on cookin' using great-tasting and easy-to-prepare-while-holding-a-baby recipes, as well as how to get older kids involved in fun and learning in the kitchen.
AmericanBaby.com: What kind of meal advice do you both wish you had received before becoming new moms?
Catherine: When you're pregnant, you're still kind of in that honeymoon phase and everything in the world looks rosy and idealistic and it's such a wonderful happy time. I wasn't truly prepared for all of the challenges that having a new baby adds to your life.
All I wanted was to take care of my baby, but at the end of it all, you still have to prepare a meal, you still have to do the laundry, you still have to clean the house. And while the vacuuming and the laundry can wait, a family's got to eat. I knew how to cook, I cooked regularly for my husband, felt comfortable in my kitchen -- you know, had my whole stash of kitchen and equipment and everything and knew how to use it. I was armed and dangerous. And yet, with a baby thrown into the mix, it became nearly impossible. Surely someone should have come up with some pointers or someone should have prepared me in childbirth class about how challenging and difficult this was going to be.
AB: When a couple is expecting a baby within a few months, what would you recommend they do in the kitchen to prepare for the baby's arrival?
Cynthia: Really the key to success is being prepared, particularly for those early weeks at home when you should be spending all of your time bonding with your baby and taking care of yourself. Expectant parents should stock their freezer with some fabulous meals that they can just take out and defrost and reheat, so that dinnertime is not a challenge. It is a lifesaver to do that; it takes an incredible amount of stress off of whoever is the usual dinner cook -- but also anybody who happens to be around -- if you're lucky enough to have your mom or other help. It is really nice to not have to worry about dinner.
Cynthia: In terms of preparing in the kitchen, we recommend not only stocking your freezer with prepared meals, but stocking up in general. You're going to want to learn to grocery shop just once a week, because it's a challenge.
Cynthia: Learn to make a weekly grocery list. Keep a running list on the fridge of items that you've run out of. Do keep a good pantry stock. And there are items like frozen chopped onions, for example, that you can keep in the freezer. They're invaluable. You don't have to take the time to get out the cutting board and the knife, and dirty up the surface and chop an onion, which does take two hands.
Catherine: It will be all you can handle when you have a baby.
AB: For expectant parents who never really learned how to cook and are accustomed to take-out or delivery food options, where would you recommend they start?
Catherine: I think that so many couples take pregnancy and the expectation of adding to their family as a time to shift to healthier eating habits. They want to set a good example from the very beginning with their baby -- and those rituals start early, so there's no better time than before you have the baby to get our book, The One-Armed Cook (Meredith Books, 2004), so that you can start experimenting with some of these quick and easy recipes.
You might even want to put something like a slow cooker on your baby shower gift registry because it will see you through so many difficult times, and is probably far more valuable than, say, a baby wipes warmer or anything like that.