Alright mama, you need some make ahead meal ideas now that you’re breastfeeding – or getting ready to breastfeed – a new baby! Or maybe you’ve been breastfeeding awhile and you realize how limited and precious your time has become…and you need to fast-track your meal planning, preparation, and cooking time.
I get it.
And think about this: isn’t it nice when friends and family help out by bringing over pre-made meals you can keep in the fridge or freezer? How easy is it to pop a casserole in the oven and sit down to a hot meal even when you’re busy with breastfeeding and kids and housework and a job?
You can give the gift of “pre-made” and “ease” to yourself just by taking a little time to plan and pre-make your meals!
Pre-Planning Will Save You Time
Before you decide which make-ahead meal ideas you’re actually going to prepare ahead of time, take a close look at your daily schedule. Are you faced with hectic mornings and not enough time to prepare a healthy breakfast for you and your family?
Or, perhaps you have trouble gathering around the table in the evening for a nutritious and well-planned meal. If you find yourself stopping at McDonald’s or ordering pizza, you may benefit from make ahead meal ideas for dinner.
Lunches can also change for the better when planned ahead. If you usually go out for lunch, you’ll save money by pre-planning your lunches – ones that will be much more nutritious for you than fast food or restaurant meals.
Have kids at home? They’ll quickly tire of cafeteria food and will thank you for a lunch they’ll enjoy; one that’s a nice change from the norm.
Maybe eating out is keeping you from losing the baby weight. Or making you gain more.
It’s definitely easy to skimp on quality meals when you’re breastfeeding. Not to mention when you have a family to care for!
Drive-through certainly isn’t the answer.
The meals that you tend to go through the drive-through for are the ones you should consider planning ahead.
The planning part doesn’t have to be hard. A simple list of what you’ll eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner as well as a grocery list for the store is all you need. I like using a planning pad for this and this one sticks right on my fridge for easy access.
Easy Make-Ahead Breakfast Ideas
On busy mornings when you barely have time to look in the pantry for ideas, it’s nice to have a plan. Pre-planning the breakfast meal can make the usual morning hassles run much smoother and you’ll feel better all day because you know you and your family got the fuel they needed to perform the best they can – whether in school or at the job.
Use ingredients such as whole grains, low-fat dairy and protein and fruits and veggies to ensure a healthy and tasty breakfast to tide you over until lunchtime, keep you from using the drive-thru at a fast food place, increase productivity and alertness and spending money needlessly.
Your first thought in breakfast planning and prep is to gather some well-made storage containers and bags. Then, take a few minutes to plan a meal that you and your family will enjoy.
This will help immensely when it’s time to shop for the ingredients. Use your meal planner pad to make a list of ingredients you’ll need for recipes and pay attention to the staples that you can purchase in bulk and the sales, if any, on items you’ll need.
An evening or a day (depending on the prep times for recipes) should be all you need to prep breakfast meals. Prepping may consist of boiling grains such as oatmeal, slicing and washing fruits and cooking some complete breakfasts in advance so you can add fruit and other items to make it complete.
A good idea for an easy prep breakfast that’s ready anytime you are is oatmeal, a great source of fiber and a good choice for lowering cholesterol. One of my favorite ways to prepare oatmeal is this make-ahead growing oatmeal bowl. You can add just about anything to it, it’s low-cal, and really tasty!
Find a good variety of recipes and prepare them ahead. I’d consider picking up a 5-ingredient cookbook (this one is my favorite!) or a cookbook with quick and easy recipes like this one.
Use your blender to whip up delicious fruit smoothies using fresh fruits such as bananas, mango and blueberries. Add extra nutritional value with veggies such as cucumber and yogurt or almond milk to make it creamy.
Convenience foods don’t need to be ignored, either. English muffins, breads, even frozen foods have their place.
Easy Make-Ahead Lunch Ideas
One great idea for pre-planned lunches is to combine a protein, vegetable, and carb so you’ll be getting a balanced meal. I feel my best when my plate is balanced but you’ll need to find a combo that works for you.
My favorite proteins include eggs, chicken, steak and fish. Tofu is another protein that’s versatile and can be used in all kinds of ways.
Great lunch veggies are abundant. Choose from broccoli, cauliflower, snow peas, lettuce, zucchini and so much more.
And for a carb, you’ll find good choices in whole grain breads, potatoes, brown rice, couscous, and quinoa.
There are so many ways to prepare your favorite foods, you’ll never run out of ideas or new tastes.
Mason jar salads have become the trend for healthy and filling lunches. One of my favorite easy salads includes ground beef, lettuce, tomato, sour cream, and crumbled Doritos. You could swap in chicken, avocado dressing, corn, and black beans for variety.
You’ll look forward to your“mason jar taco salad” come lunchtime.
I can’t stress how important containers are. Mason jars and storage containers in various sizes and shapes are a must.
Flour tortillas are a great choice for all types of healthy wraps. Be creative with versatile ingredients such as rice, chicken and quinoa and healthy veggies. They’re also easy to eat and less messy than many choices.
Add fruits such as mandarin oranges and strawberries to your salad for a healthy and tasty way to get your fruit quota – and nuts such as walnuts and pecans can add a bit of crunch to jazz up a boring salad.
Don’t forget the old standby, sandwich, choice. You can prepare them ahead of time and choose ingredients that are low in calories and rich in nutrients. Tomato, hummus and spinach or low-calorie chicken salad on whole grain bread are great lunchtime choices.
Make Ahead Meal Recipes
Make ahead meal recipes are everywhere, even online. And while I do love spending time searching for fun new recipes to try, I don’t always – and won’t always – have time to devote to searching. So I highly recommend finding a cookbook with make ahead meal recipes, tips, and ideas so that when you need to do your planning, you have a reference ready-to-go.
Check out some of these options!
Make-Ahead Dinner Ideas
When you’re a pregnant or new mom, you might be struggling with the idea of spending any time in the kitchen or even thinking about make ahead dinner ideas. But a little pre-planning and the right tools make cooking and cleanup a breeze – make sure you use containers that are easily washable or disposable.
Start preplanning dinners by using your own recipes. You’ll know what to expect because it’s something you’ve made before and you won’t be overwhelmed by recipes you’re unfamiliar with.
Also, try planning only one or two dinners per week.
And when you’re ready to branch out, start with easy recipes – 5-ingredient meals, casseroles, and salads you can throw together quickly.
My Top Make-Ahead Dinners – Reheat and Eat!
- Lasagna – Ground Beef, Ground Turkey, Chicken, even Meatless!
- Crunchy Chicken Cheddar Broccoli Bake
- Grilled Steak and Veggies (Portion out into individual containers)
Don’t Get Bored!
Preplanning can result in boring meals. If you’re like me, you go a little crazy having the same thing over an over again.
So separate your meats, vary your seasonings (barbeque, marinade, or grill) and save time by cooking your meats in one pan – simply use aluminum foil as a separator.
For veggie prep, chop or slice a variety of veggies in advance and use them in a sauté mixture or for a quick and easy salad combo. Zucchini and butternut squash noodles will last for up to 5 days in the refrigerator and if you seal onions or peppers properly, they’ll last a good amount of time, too.
Think about how your ingredients – and the recipes themselves – can do double duty. Use the same ingredients in multiple recipes and combine finished meals in creative ways so you never feel bored and unsatisfied.
Make Mealtime Easy
Muffin tins can be used for make-ahead quiches and frittatas, which can be heated in the microwave when ready to serve. Sure, you can find these in the freezer aisle, but they’re very easy to make and if you have a big enough muffin pan, you can make 24+ at a time!
Grilling out on weekends is a great way to cook up meals ahead of time – and it’s one of my favorite ways to dine. Grill up some kabobs and then freeze and bring out during the week for a real treat.
You want to focus on quick, easy, healthy make-ahead dinners.
What About Dessert?
Don’t forget dessert. Make-ahead sorbets or yogurt and fruit cups are tasty and healthy treats.
Mason jars are great for prepping desserts, too. I like to use them when I make oatmeal parfaits that double as breakfast and dessert. This Dreamsicle oatmeal parfait is probably my favorite recipe but I’ve used fresh berries, canned peaches…any combination of fruit would work.
And I love combining fruits. Blueberries and pineapple is a wonderful combo. I also love strawberries and peaches.
But you can make traditional desserts ahead of time, too. Even with your slow cooker.
You’ll want to remember to use all of your tools – slow cooker, blender, containers – and think BIG. Cook up more than just a few servings (of ANY meal) because foods last a good while in your freezer.
Make Ahead Meal Ideas – Wrapping Up
Think about which make ahead meal ideas you can benefit most from if you planned ahead – and which will provide the most nutrition and better health.
You’ll save yourself a lot of stress by taking a few hours or one day a week to shop and prepare meals for the week ahead.
Even better if you can have Hubby do it. Or you could also easily outsource this task to a willing friend or family member!
Choosing the best meals to prepare ahead can be as simple as assessing your stress level when trying to provide tasty and healthy meals for you and your family.
If you’re more stressed in the morning, then consider breakfast as your main plan-ahead meal.
If you’re worried about spending too much money on lunches or not getting a good value in matters of nutrition at lunchtime, begin by planning lunches.
Many choose dinner as their favorite meal to plan ahead. That’s easy to understand when you consider how busy most families are in the evening. Hungry husbands get home from work. Kids are often coming in to eat at various times because of sports and study schedules. And you may be too tired from the long day to prepare a nutritious meal and opt for pizza or fast food.
You can turn your meal frustration around by thinking ahead and choosing just one meal to have prepped and ready to cook ahead. You’ll transform a time-consuming and dreaded task into a quick, easy and delicious meal to enjoy – not to mention saving yourself the precious time you could be spending with your baby and family.
All while being a rock star breastfeeding mama! 😉
Back to Breastfeeding Nutrition Guide