Cooking Tips for New ParentsAugust 01, 2016
Pretty much everything surrounding pregnancy, birth and child rearing seems to be open to public judgement and opinion, harsh or otherwise. Just how much you 'should' be doing once your new tiny person has arrived is also hotly debated.
I like to cook, obviously, so for me I really want to cook and be in the kitchen. But I also really want to be hanging out with my new tiny people, let alone ensuring they're fed, cleaned and properly rested. It only leaves a little bit of time here and there, on inconsistent days, so I've started to figure out a couple of strategies to allow me to fit some cooking into those moments.
My tinies were born very early, eight weeks to be exact. They were in the NICU for just over a month, and even when they came home were (and still are) very small. Whilst they are happy and healthy, their prematurity does mean they still haven't figured out breastfeeding. Wanting them to have the benefit of my milk I express milk for them to have by bottle which also has a nutritional supplement added to it to chunk them up faster. As such I NEED calories, but decent ones, not just the ones that are oh so conveniently tucked up in the delicious take out pizza that could be delivered to my door within 20 minutes.
Having two babies, however small, also means our coffers have been working overtime to get all the gadgetry, equipment and diapers (OMG the diapers) that two small boys seem to require. So as convenient as my oh so delicious, calories laded pizza is, the cost of calling in our order is a bit prohibitive as a long term plan.
It's no secret that I'm a major home cooking fan, so because of that and my personal reasons above, I'm back in the kitchen... but I'm totally not going to judge anyone for using their oven as diaper storage a la a maternal version of Carrie Bradshaw, stacking their fridge with microwave burritos, or being on first name terms with the take out delivery guy (which incidentally we totally are as well).
KISSing in the Kitchen:
Keep. It. Simple. Stupid. If you're going to be a home cooking mama or papa don't over burden yourself with trying to cook a Lobster Thermidore in between diaper changes. If a recipe requires precise measurements and timings it's probably not the best one to get stuck into right now.
Stick to one pot meals, slow cooker favourites and stuff you can shove in the oven and won't be entirely ruined if your little one decides they need their dinner RIGHT NOW.
Nobody puts baby in the corner:
....Except when you've got a pot of boiling liquid on the stove and a literal box of fire you're standing in front of. Cooking with kiddos is so much fun and I can't wait to get my little guys making cookies and cakes, but for now they stay waaaaaaaay out of the kitchen.
You're tired, trying to do things quickly, and probably dashing back and forward to placate a fussy bub in between stirring the pot. Mistakes and spills happen. There's no point crying over spilt milk, but there's a lot of crying if that milk is boiling hot...
One of our investments in preparation for the babies was a video monitor, I can keep an eye on the babies who are safely tucked up in their crib in the other room. If your budget doesn't stretch to a video monitor call in one of those people who are desperate to help, to watch over the kiddo for a little bit.
Whenever you do get a chance to cook, double or even triple the recipe. Leftovers may have previously been the sign of slightly sad dinner plans, but nowadays they are as exciting to me as a dinner date to the fanciest place in town.
I'll make a huge batch of something, serve up what we need for our meal, and allow the rest to cool. Then I'll portion it into freezer bags and sling it in the freezer for a day down the line when cooking is absolutely not on the agenda.
Also, bulk up your meals with loads of vegetables, whilst not quite as refreshing and invigorating as a just steamed portion of glistening greens, it'll mean that even if you don't have the chance to stock up on fresh rations you'll be getting some vitamin laden vegetation- it'll also help your batch cooking budget!
Prepared items are not the devil:
That might sound a bit counter intuitive for a home cooking advocate but hear me out. It isn't a case of black or white when it comes to home cooked meals; you don't have to chose sides between entirely from scratch vs. delivered to your door. Your time is now your most valuable commodity, use it well.
Buying a pot of pre-chopped onion, a tray of sliced mushrooms and a packet of cubed peppers is going to cost you a couple of dollars more than the whole versions, but it'll save you precious minutes you can use to get the rest of the ingredients in the pot, and the dish in the oven. Overall the cost of the pre-chopped onions isn't going to break your bank compared to take out seven days a week.
For example: microwave rice pouches to go with your home cooked, slow cooker curry will save you 15 minutes of cooking and pot watching time, plus the minutes it'll take to wash up an extra pan- and when the baby is crying those minutes add up.
I'm talking about prepared vegetables, filleted meats and skinned fish portions here, not the fiddled about with, additive laden gunk that the word 'prepared' often evokes. By cutting a few corners in the prep department you can end up with meals that are made from ingredients you're confident in, and fit into your squeezed schedule.
Register somewhere with an appliance department:
Or at least add a chest freezer to your baby shopping list. When I was expressing milk for the babies whilst they were in the NICU we ended up with a surplus that fast outgrew our standard freezer. $150 bought us a decent sized chest freezer that now lives in the basement and basically keeps us all alive.
It's stocked entirely with breastmilk and frozen, batch cooked meals. That thing will keep us fed through the kids' 3rd birthday.
I freeze the meals in single portions as it's not guarunteed that ma and pa will get to eat together, and if we do manage a synchronised dinner date we just defrost two bags instead of one.
Ideally clean up and wash your hands as you go along, so if you have to abandon your station you can do so without covering the baby in marinade or onion fumes.
If you're going to be doing something particularly messy, or if your baby is very fussy stick a pair of disposable gloves on. They are cheap and can be whipped off in a moments notice to administer bbq sauce free cuddles, replace chili-less pacifiers, and avoid a tomato sauce stained baby incident.
Likely if you're reading this, you fail pretty hard at this point... like me! People want to help you, let them! My mum arrived on the boy's birthday and hasn't left since, we'd all be dead without her... I'd like to laugh and say 'figuratively' here but I fear it might actually be in more of the literal sense.
I'm AWFUL at accepting help, though having premature twins is definitely a crash course in learning to do it a bit more.
Whether people offer to cook, clean or watch your baby, let them. Let them fill your freezer, stack your dishwasher, or keep an eye on the LO whilst you dust off your apron strings. Say yes and be super glad you did.
Take is slow mama and dadda, you've just experienced a life changing thing. Whether you had the picture perfect birth and are now parents to a placid little cherub, or your road to parenthood was pockmarked with challenges and you suspect your newborn might actually be the devil incarnate with colic as its means of torture (though you still love that little ball of madness as fiercely as any parent), life is very, very different now:
You manage to get a home cooked meal on the table? Great!
It's 10pm and your lasagne now looks like that plastic toy food in kids play kitchens, so out comes the take out app again? Awesome- you'll get to eat oh so convenient take out!
You've subsisted entirely on toast for three weeks and have seriously considered drinking some gripe water because you hear it used to be made with gin? You're winning at parenting!
You've got this parents. Your kiddos love you more than homecooking right now so enjoy that microwave burrito with a side of spit up, and give yourself a break*
*hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha... I'm so tired.