Our world changed in so many ways when these little twins arrived on our family scene. I really wanted to find a way to help; a very concrete way; a way that would make a difference in my daughter’s and her new family’s life. It hit me all of a sudden that being a new mum Ash would be feeling overwhelmed by trying to take care of herself and her babies! To make that more complicated, she has some serious allergies and dietary restrictions, so meal planning takes some time and thought. I made a commitment to help by keeping her freezer stocked.
Pinterest became my nightly best friend as I scoured Boards after work (for hours on end!), searching for dinners that they would like, that were allergen free, that wouldn’t need extra prep at dinner time, and that froze well. So, I was off on a new adventure, and I learned a few things that I think will stick with me and hopefully help some of you!
Do something that means something to you
I’m not sure why I landed on cooking for Ash. I work full time and have many commitments – what was I thinking??? As the list of possible meals became longer, I began to have this odd feeling I couldn’t quite put my finger on….finally, I had an “aha” moment and realised that I was getting very excited about cooking. You see, I have always loved to cook, but I have worked full time outside my home for my entire adult life, and somewhere along the way, I abdicated the role of cooking for my family to whoever could get dinner on the table fastest. I hadn’t cooked anything, other than special occasions, for many years. In fact, it was Ash who did most of our family cooking while she lived at home. This desire to help Ash led me to rediscover something that brings me great joy – cooking, especially cooking for the people I love and care for.
While the meals I prepare are planned in advance, I began to think of those times when people have prepared a meal for my family or me during times of need. What has touched me most about these people who cared for us when we were sick or grieving or under stress is that they didn’t ask; they just cooked. They may not have been gourmet chefs, but they brought us food without asking. They didn’t offer platitudes or ask shallow questions like “Is there anything I can do?” They wanted to be there for us, and they were. So I decided these people who had touched me with their gifts of food laced with love would be my model of how I was going to cook for my favourite twin momma!
Keep it simple…..no I mean really simple and hearty
Time to get real though – cooking for a momma of twin newborns has a few basic requirements; no additional pans, as little clean up as possible, hold up well, and on the table quickly – for those fleeting few minutes when hopefully both babies would be asleep at the same time and dinner could be “enjoyed”.
I discovered the importance of the “holding up well” requirement the hard way. Ash had removed a meal from the freezer and put it in the fridge, but there was to be no dinner that night because of crying babies (and likely a crying momma). What was in the fridge by the end of day 2 was a thawed but soggy mess. I realised that I had to think about preparing meals that could hold up for a day or more in the fridge and wouldn’t get soggy, crusty, or completely dried out!
No fancy cutlery or tools required
The next required criteria for their meals should have been a no-brainer, but I didn’t think of it off the mark. Meals for a new twin momma have to be fairly simple and easy to eat (picture a breastfeeding mother of twins – using a knife and fork, or having to assemble something just won’t work – there are not enough hands! Soup, while convenient is a burn risk with babies.
Find your own rhythm – it doesn’t have to be a freezer cooking marathon
We’re learning as we go, but we have found that for me at least, focusing on one menu item and making multiples of that at one time works best. I know others cook 10, 15, or 25 different meals at once by blitzing the prep. This hasn’t worked so well for me, and I end up feeling chaotic and that things are a mess. I like the rhythm of cooking one menu, in assembly line fashion and freezing that. Now that we have a bunch in the freezer, I generally cook one or two items a week like this. Usually, I prepare four meals for that one item.
Simple things to make life easier – searching through a freezer
We made a few labelling errors along the way too – marking the meal with ingredients and cooking instructions is essential, because you know that once frozen, everything looks the same!!! We originally used masking tape or permanent marker to put on the zip lock freezer bags – big mistake. Within a few days, the marker had wiped off in the freezer, and the masking tape came off. We had a muddle of meals with no labels and a pile of unattached masking tape at the bottom of the freezer – at that point, it became a bit of a “guess what we’re having for dinner” adventure. We eventually found a good solution. Everything gets packaged in either a foil container or a zip lock freezer bag (both throw away, so NO clean up required), then labelled with a laser printed label. Unlike the masking tape, these labels stick, and the directions are right there. We also add the date that the meal was frozen so that the contents of the freezer can be rotated and we reduce the risk of freezer burn from meals that have been in there too long.
At the beginning I focused mostly on crock pot meals because they are so simple (there is a reason they are unceremoniously called dump meals!). But, we soon realised that I could use an extra-large zip lock bag to hold a foil container of a meat, a bag of chopped vegetables or pre-cooked mashed potatoes and a bag with a sauce. No offence to those who love crock pot meals – we do too, but not every night!
Family love through cooking – a way to share
We continue to learn and refine how I can best contribute to my little family’s well-being through cooking. As we continue on this journey, I will post more tips, actual meal plans we have found work well, and some of our adventures in sharing our meals as a family. In the meantime, I want to be sure you know that this small gesture of cooking meals for my favourite twin momma and papa may be a help to them, it is a real blessing to me. Some nights when I talk to my daughter, I realise that their lives have been made better, or a stressful day has been made more bearable just because a meal was there for them during a time of need.
Maybe the things we remember about our lives aren’t the times we did something adventurous – skiing Whistler’s 7th heaven, hiking across South America, or diving (my favourite pastime). When we look back on our lives, maybe what we’ll remember most are the most mundane moments – the crockpot meal, the parmesan ranch chicken that rocked or those little everyday moments we got to spend with those we love the most.