Only 7 more weeks to go until my due date! Seeing this written down makes me feel both excited and anxious at the same time. Excited because I cannot wait to meet our little one, and anxious because I feel like I still have so much to do to prepare. Now that I’m in full-blown nesting mode, I’ve been making list after list of things that I would like to do before our little one makes their big arrival. A big part of my list is making pregnancy freezer meals so that my husband and I will have healthy meals that are either heat and eat or able to be dumped into the crockpot.
Pregnancy freezer meals – healthy casserole dishes
I feel very fortunate that my parents will be able to come to stay with us for about a week once our baby gets here, it is extremely reassuring to know that we will have some extra help at the start. But with the evolving coronavirus situation, we are limiting having any other visitors at this time. Knowing that it will just be my husband and me with our little one for a while, I wanted to prep ahead when it comes to some of our meals.
We have always meal planned as a family to be able to center our weeks around eating healthy meals, the majority of which we prepare at home. But with a newborn, I have a feeling that we will not have nearly the same amount of time we are used to having for meal prep. This is why over the next couple of weeks, I am prepping a number of meals to have stored in our freezer that will help us to stay eating healthy and enjoying more time with our baby.
The first meals I decided to make and store in our freezer are pre-made casserole dishes that just need to be heated.
As a side note, I love casseroles. They do not always have the reputation of being the healthiest meals, but there are several ways to substitute ingredients that can make them a lot healthier. Another great way to amplify making the meal healthier is to serve the casseroles with a side salad or a side of steamed veggies.
Recipes for Casserole freezer meals
Frozen casserole dishes take up a fair amount of space in the freezer, and with our space, I decided about 6 frozen casseroles would be the perfect amount to have stored. After taking some of our favorite recipes, I put in an order for curbside grocery pickup and was ready to get to it. I thought it would be no big deal to be able to make 6 of these meals in a day, but I was a little too over-ambitious. After making the first two dishes Saturday morning, I knew it would be a better idea to spread out the actual cooking.
Standing in front of the stove doing the prep work for the casseroles, my back started to get fairly sore ,and I would get really hot. This led to a fair number of breaks in the process, making it take much longer than I originally expected. It was at this point that I decided to break the process up over a few more days. I found it to be much easier to spread out the cooking over a couple of days. It was much easier to prep one extra meal in a day rather than trying to prep all 6 meals in one day.
There are a couple of items that make the meal prep process a little smoother and easier. For casserole freezer meals, one of the best ideas is to use recycable foil pans. This way once the casserole is prepped, it can be frozen and then heated in the same pan. For most of these recipes a large nonstick skillet is the primary pan needed.
King ranch casserole
My husband and I were first introduced to king ranch casserole from our friends and neighbors, both of whom are native Texans. We were both huge fans of the dish, and liked the fact that an entire meal was ready in one dish. After eating it at their house, I set out to find a great recipe for it on Pinterest. My favorite that I’ve found to date is the Texas Ranch Chicken Casserole from Six Sisters’ Stuff.
It’s pretty quick and simple to put together. The only change I like to make to the recipe as listed is that I use shredded chicken. Another recipe in my list called for shredded chicken, which made it easier to make a larger batch and use it to prep both meals. One of the quickest ways I’ve found to make shredded chicken, is to first boil the chicken until it is cooked through, and then shred the chicken in a stand mixer.
Buffalo Mac ‘n Cheese
I think this might be one of my husband’s all-time favorite meals. He was actually the one who originally found the recipe on Sugar Spun Run and asked me to make it. After the first time we made it, it was such a huge hit with us that we make it probably every couple of weeks. We’ve even made it when we’ve had our friends over. The prep for this took about 30 minutes, and to freeze, I completed the recipe right up until where it says to bake in the oven.
This is a very rich meal, but to make it healthier, I like to serve roasted broccoli as a side dish. This meal also goes great with a salad. As a side note, the recipe calls for toasting the bread crumbs. As this takes a bit of extra time, I skip this step when freezing the meal, as I find that it doesn’t make a big difference to the flavor.
Living in Texas, tacos and tex-mex food are staples in our diet. Which definitely means a tex-mex dish needed to be included in our list of freezer meals. This taco casserole from the Cozy Cook is fantastic. It was really easy and quick to assemble – Something this mama-to-be really appreciated.
The key to making this meal freezer-friendly is to not add the lettuce and Fritos before freezing. I make a note of this on the lid before freezing it so that I remember to pick up these at the store the week we are planning on heating up our taco casserole. With any tex-mex dish, I usually like to serve a giant bowl of guacamole on the side. I’ve always been a huge guac fan, and the avocados are full of healthy fats that make a meal more satisfying. I don’t know about you, but I also find guac to be the perfect dish on a really hot summer day.
Cheeseburger macaroni is a great family-friendly meal, so if you have other little ones at home, this is a great meal to have prepped and ready in your freezer. I really like the recipe from Organize Yourself Skinny since she lightens up her recipe compared to your average Cheeseburger Macaroni casserole and uses minimally processed ingredients.
Compared to the other recipes in this list, this recipe makes A LOT! This is perfect for a freezer meal, but make sure your pan is big enough to hold all of it. I made this mistake and ended up splitting the meal in between two pains. 2 meals for 1 recipe – definitely not the worst outcome to have. This is the perfect meal to pair with a crisp and refreshing salad. I really like the salad kits that have everything you need in 1 bag. Super convenient for all mamas-to-be.
cajun sausage and quinoa bake
When I was prepping this meal, it smelled unreal delicious. This was another recipe from Organize Yourself Skinny, but with this one, I made a fair number of substitutions. Instead of chicken, I used turkey sausage that was browned in a skillet before adding it to the baking dish. I also added in a small yellow onion while cooking the mushrooms, since a meal is always better with onion 🙂
Quinoa is a great grain to incorporate into any dish due to its nutritious benefits. It has a much higher protein content than any other grain and has an increased fiber content. Quinoa also contains a number of important micronutrients, including iron and manganese. Both of these are important for breastfeeding mamas. To amp up the nutrients in this meal, I like to serve it with a side of roasted brussel sprouts or broccoli.
This was the last and final dish I made for the week. I have been making lasagna and freezing half of it for almost as long as I can remember. I always did this because a 9×13 pan full of lasagna seemed like too much for one week. I know I definitely won’t be saying that once the baby arrives and the leftover lasagna is that many fewer meals that I have to cook for the week.
My family has been making the same lasgana recipe starting back with my grandma. It always goes over well at family events or dinner parties, and over the few years that I’ve started to make it, I’ve tweaked the recipe to make it easier to prepare. The original recipe used too many pans for my taste, so I simplified it to only needing 2 to complete the prep work. My favorite way to eat this lasagna is to pair it with garlic bread and a caesar salad.
Did you have any recipe must haves as freezer meals for you and your family? Let me know in the comment section below!