Meals to make for new parents—including how to send meals to new parents from a distance.
When my first child was born, my mother arrived to help out. In addition to soothing the baby and helping with laundry, she kept our new family fed. But what was even more appreciated was that when she left us a week later, she left us with a full freezer.
One of the best ways grandparents can help new parents is by providing meals for those early days. If you are close enough to make and deliver meals for a new mom to freeze, it’s just a question of which meals to give new parents. But even if you live far away, you can still help new parents from a distance. Read on for ideas for grandparents near and far, including recipes.
First things first
Whether you are near or far, the first thing you need to do is to be clear on what would be most helpful. There may be a church or neighborhood meal train set up already to provide dinners, or there may be dietary considerations that you aren’t aware of (like the passionate dislike of reheated chicken I recently discovered in one of my sisters!). Start by saying, “I’d love to help keep you fed after the baby comes.” Then make sure to ask the following questions:
These questions should get you started on a conversation to find out what would be most helpful and when. Then you can move on to figuring out what meal to make for new parents!
Meals for new parents if you live nearby
My youngest granddaughter was born just days before Covid shut down the country, so I wasn’t able to go help out after her birth as planned. Luckily, my mother and I had visited a just a couple weeks before and filled the freezer, so they had at least a few meals to help them along.
In figuring out what meal to make for new parents, the key is to make things as simple as possible. Make and freeze favorite casseroles, or prep some easy to assemble meals. Cook chicken breasts and shred them before freezing in meal-sized portions, and they are easy to thaw and make tacos, add to a bagged salad, or just throw on a bun with some barbeque sauce.
My go-to chicken breast recipe:
Make a rub of 2 t paprika, 1 t cumin, 1/2 t thyme, 1 t salt, 1 t pepper and 2 T olive oil. Coat 4-6 chicken breasts, put them on a foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet, and bake at 325 for about 20 minutes or until done (the time varies wildly with different sized breast—check after 20 minutes, but be prepared for it to take an additional 10 minutes or more). This spice blend goes with almost any cuisine, but feel free to add cayenne, garlic, oregano, lemon zest, or any other flavors you like.
Pro tip: To shred a large number of chicken breasts, toss them in the bowl of your stand mixer with the mixing blade and turn on low. You will have beautifully shredded chicken in minutes.
Shredded beef or pork is equally useful. The Mexican Beef my mother made when my first child was born has become a family staple. It’s easy and cheap, and infinitely flexible. As you can see by the picture, it’s a well-used recipe!
In case you can’t decipher the incomplete instructions in the picture, here’s how to make it:
Take 2 pounds of meat (chuck, round, or other inexpensive cut) and cut into 1.5” cubes. Combine with 1.5 cups water, 1 T vinegar, 2 minced cloves of garlic, 2 T chili powder, 2 t oregano, 1 t cumin, 1 t salt and 1/8 t pepper. Bring to a boil and simmer for two hours or until meat is tender. When meat is tender, bring to a furious boil to reduce the liquid to 4 T or so. Make sure to stir and watch it at the end of the process so the meat doesn’t stick to the pan. Then shred the meat with 2 forks. (I have never remembered to try the mixer hack with this, but I’d bet it works—let me know if you try it.) Freeze in 8-12 ounce portions to be used for tacos, nachos, grain bowls and more. (Note: while this makes good tasting shredded beef, it’s even better if you first sear the cubes of meat in a little olive oil.)
If the new parents have an Instant Pot, you can’t go wrong with this blog post on Pinchofyum. You’ll find recipes for 22 healthy freezer meals, complete with shopping lists, master cooking instructions for prepping the meals, and printable labels for the meals when you freeze them. We used it as our basis for meal prep in February 2020, and all of the meals were a hit with the family.
Another handy thing to have on hand is quick snacks and healthy breakfast options. Muffins can be both, and they freeze beautifully. These Oatmeal-Banana-Applesauce Muffins are winners, as are these incredibly delicious and healthy Acorn Squash Cardamom Muffins (full disclosure—I just use cinnamon). I also used butternut squash in place of the acorn squash once with stellar results.
How to help new parents from a distance
If you are looking for meals to send new parents in the US, there are a few options that can be useful for grandparents who want to know how to help new parents from a distance. In addition to the meal delivery services I mention in this blog post, I found these great options:
Magic Kitchen offers a wide variety of flash-frozen prepared meals that can be shipped to new parents. Make sure you look for promo codes—they often have free shipping available on your first order, or on ongoing orders.
In addition to meal delivery, there are a couple of good options for snacks to keep the new parents’ energy up. Mouth.com offers a “Happy + Healthy” box full of healthy munchies, and Zingerman’s Vegetarian New Baby Gift Box will provide several midnight snacks.
Another option is a gift card to a local grocery store that offers delivery. Most grocery stores offer a selection of prepared meals that can be ordered and delivered. Just search for “grocery delivery” and your family’s zip code. You’ll have to scroll past the Instacart ads, but you’ll be able to find local stores that can help you out.
If you’d like information on meal delivery for new parents in other parts of the world, please let me know in the comments!