Squeaker is, obviously, baby number three for us. After our experience transitioning to our second baby, I really worked to make this transition easier. For starters, by the luck of the draw, I had a much more low maintenance baby. That made the transition MUCH easier. But since we can't control that, we'll move on to the things we can control.
I did quite a bit of freezer cooking before Squeaker came. Ok, really, I did a lot of research, recipe gathering, menu planning, grocery list making, and general groundwork. I did a bit of the general prep work, but mostly, Papa did the cooking that several weeks I was on bed rest. Thank you, Papa.
I planned it so that we doubled recipes that we were having for dinner. We froze a regular size portion at an appropriate point in the process and ate the other portion that night. This gave us quite an array of food for very little extra effort. There are many excellent sources out there for freezer cooking. Just google "freezer cooking" or "once a month cooking" if you are looking for more information. I also searched my library's catalog for books on once a month or freezer cooking and scoured any one I could get my hands on.
I found that there are many, many recipes out there that work for the freezer and our restricted diet, which surprised me. I expected to find mainly soups and casseroles that called for cream of mushroom sauce as the base. Instead, I discovered a pleothera of amazing marinades, recipes to make from scratch items that I think of as only being available in processed form and containing ingredients we can't have. I found recipes for Teriyaki sauce, Worcestershire sauce, gluten and dairy free casseroles, and one dish meals that I had never even considered. I've found that my favorite freezer recipes are ones that go from the freezer to the crockpot. How much easier can it get?
When we were done with phase 1 of our freezer cooking, I had a month's worth of meals in my freezer. Then we moved into our maintenance phase. I menu plan 2 weeks at a time, to coincide with paydays. I determined that we eat fish twice a week, which we don't freeze. This left 10 days each cycle. Five of these days, we eat from the freezer. The other 5, we double batch. If I keep up with my system, we always have a month's worth of meals in the freezer.
Freezer cooking has been such a savings, in so many ways. First, in time. It really is so much quicker to cook this way. It is like doing half the work. It is such a big sanity saver. When I can't get the baby down for a nap at the right time, I don't have to worry about choosing between dinner or him screaming. Papa is much less stressed if he has to come in from work and pop dinner in the oven or make a salad instead of coming home to a frazzled wife and orders to make dinner because I can't put the baby down. And it is nice to have variety. If the only thing on sale this week is pork, we can stock up and still eat chicken and beef that week.
I highly suggest freezer meals amounting to at least a week's worth of food to any busy mom trying to eat better and still save time and money.