Hello, sweet mama. Are you looking for some postpartum meal prep ideas? You’ve come to the right place. One of the best ways to nourish yourself and your precious new baby in the first few weeks after birth is to have a freezer full of wholesome meals ready to heat and eat.
I know how tempting it can be to focus all your attention on your due date and getting everything ready for your little one’s arrival. But trust me, you don’t want to forget about preparing for your own postpartum recovery. The last thing you need when you’re snuggling with your newborn and soaking in all the love is to worry about what’s for dinner. That’s why I’ve created this postpartum meal prep guide with 20 delicious and easy recipes that you can make ahead and freeze.
As a naturopath and a mama myself, I’ve carefully selected each recipe to be packed with nutrients that will support your healing, energy, and milk supply if you’re breastfeeding. You’ll find cozy soups and stews, simple slow cooker meals, family-friendly comfort food, and some traditional postpartum dishes from around the world. I’ll also share with you some tips and tricks for planning your meal prep, making it fun and enjoyable, and choosing the best non-toxic containers for freezing your food. So grab your apron and let’s get started!
The Importance of Postpartum Nutrition
The first few months after birth, and especially the first 6 weeks, are a time for replenishment and renewal. Your body is going to require a lot of energy and nutrients to heal from birth, navigate the tidal shift of hormones going on within and adjust to life with this new little person in your life. If you choose to breastfeed, your nutrient needs are going to be higher still to support milk production.
If you’re not getting the essential nutrients from your food, it’s going to come from your nutrient stores. Evolution has developed in such a way that baby is going to get first dibs on these nutritional building blocks. To avoid depletion down the track, you need to take your postpartum recovery seriously. Different cultures around the world approach this period in different ways. There are some common denominators when it comes to traditional postpartum food, and modern nutritional science is catching up.
What Meals Are Good for Postpartum?
These guidelines are what have guided my choice of 20 recipes that I’m making for my postpartum recovery. When you’re planning your postpartum meal prep, it’s a good idea to keep these guidelines top of mind:
Warming Foods and Drinks
Warm foods and drinks are great for promoting circulation, which is important for both breastfeeding and supporting your uterus to contract back down to its pre-pregnancy size. Choosing warming foods will considerably help with afterpains as well. While soups, stews and teas are physically warming, some herbs and spices have a warming effect on the body. These include ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, fennel, fenugreek, and nutmeg.
Soups, Stews, and Curries Made with Bone Broth
Think of bone broth as your postpartum meal prep’s DNA. When made the traditional way, bone broth is an excellent source of minerals, gelatine and collagen. These are all essential for tissue repair and growth. Soups, stews, and curries made with bone broth can be easily prepared in advance and stored in the freezer for later use. It’s a win/win!
Foods High in Iron and Protein
When you’re doing any biological building, you need protein in higher amounts. And there is no human-building project quite like growing and nourishing a baby! Iron is also required in higher amounts, especially if you lose a significant amount of blood after birth. Slow-cooked cheaper cuts of meat (as they usually contain connective tissue, fat and gelatine in addition to protein) and organ meats like liver and kidney are excellent sources of iron and protein. An easy way to include liver or kidney in your postpartum meal prep is finely chopping them and adding them to dishes such as bolognese, shepherd’s pie and chill in the final stages of cooking. You won’t even know they’re there!
Foods High in Healthy Fats
Healthy fats are essential for building baby’s brain, hormone production, and lovely smooth energy. They can also help you feel fuller for longer and improve the fat content of your breast milk, which will mean bubba will also feel fuller for longer. Foods like avocados, fatty fish, nuts, and seeds are great sources of healthy fats. You can also add healthy fats to your meals by cooking with extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, butter and ghee.
Foods Rich in Omega-3 Fats & Choline
Omega-3 is a healthy fat that’s needed more during pregnancy and after but can be hard to get enough of in a typical Western diet. I supplement with fish oil instead of eating a lot of fish. I still eat salmon, sardines, anchovies, rainbow trout, and fish roe when possible. Choline is a B vitamin that’s rich in eggs and important for DNA replication and brain development. We need more of it during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Consume 3 eggs a day for postpartum, like scrambled eggs or congee with toast and 1/2 an avocado. I’ve included my favourite frittata recipe below that freezes well!
Foods Rich In Iodine
Iodine is essential for thyroid health and can help prevent postpartum thyroiditis, and also brain development. Foods like fish and seafood, or broths made with seaweed, are great sources of iodine. My favourite way to include iodine in a healing dish that combines bone broth slow-cooked meat and ample amounts of seaweed is the Korean postpartum classic – miyeok guk. In Korea, this is served to new mothers three times a day for the first few months.
Lots of Soft-Cooked Veggies, Legumes & Fruits
Warm, soft-cooked veggies and fruits are easier to digest than raw veggies, fresh fruit, salads and smoothies. Having plenty of fruits and veggies is important for not only all the nourishing goodies they contain, but also fibre, and fibre is your best friend postpartum. Keeping your bowel motions as soft and easy to pass as possible is a high priority! Vegetables and legumes that lend themselves well to soups and broths that can be frozen include:
- Onions and leeks
- Carrots, pumpkin, sweet potato
- Lentils, chickpeas, black bean, mung beans and aduki beans.
To increase the digestibility and nutrient profile of your legume, soak overnight in water and a dash of apple cider vinegar. As for fruits, embrace compotes and stewed fruits (bonus points if you add warming spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg). These also freeze beautifully. For a yummy dessert, transform your compote into a crumble or cobbler. Enjoy with lashings of natural yogurt or cream as a perfect snack.
Well-cooked Grains and Starches
Whole grains and starches are great sources of energy, and they can help stabilize your blood sugar levels when eaten with protein and fat-rich meals. Well-cooked grains like oats, rice, quinoa and sourdough bread are all great options. My favourite postpartum bread is Scandinavian-style dark rye bread. It contains wholemeal rye, steel-cut oats, nuts and seeds and all sourdough fermented to make a nutritious dense loaf that is perfect as a side to soups and stews, and can be topped with all manner of delicious, nutritious things for a great postpartum snack. I’ve included a recipe below.
And finally, fermented foods! If you’re breastfeeding, you’re going to be “seeding” your little one’s microbiome. While you can take breastfeeding-specific probiotics, I like to make sure my day-to-day nourishment contains sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir or yogurt. They’re all very easy to make and much more affordable than probiotics in the long run.
Postpartum Meal Prep Tips
At this point, you may be excited, or you may be daunted! Either way, it’s important to keep it simple and break it down into manageable chunks. It can be overwhelming to plan and cook everything yourself, so here are some tips to make the process easier:
- Around 28 weeks into your pregnancy, aim to prepare 1-2 postpartum meals per week that can be doubled or tripled. This way, you’ll have 20-40 meals by the time your baby arrives. All these meals are great for nutrition during pregnancy too!
- Buy a deep freezer. You can find great deals on Facebook Marketplace and it’s a worthwhile investment.
- Ask for help from family or friends with cooking meals. You can provide them with recipes, ask them to go grocery shopping for you, or even organise a meal train. You can also request contributions for postpartum meal delivery services or meal kits instead of traditional baby shower gifts.
- Keep it simple and consider your family’s favourite dishes, dietary preferences, and food allergies. Family-friendly dishes like bolognese, lasagne, chilli, and shepherd’s pie are great for postpartum recovery.
- Create a running document with simple instructions for any special prep or pairings that go with a meal. Print it off and keep it near the freezer so those preparing the meals know what to do.
Postpartum Meal Prep Freezing Tips
The best freezer meals are ones that you can easily defrost and assemble into a great meal in under 10 minutes. When it comes to freezing your meals, I have learned a few helpful tricks.
- Freeze both family-sized portions and individual portions of the meals you prepare. Being able to quickly grab single-serving meals and heat them is far easier.
- For healthier freezing, choose glass containers with ample expansion space and allow food to cool before freezing to prevent cracking. Pyrex trays with clip-on tops are a great option. However, buying enough for postpartum needs may not be financially feasible.
- Although plastic and zip-lock bags are convenient, they are not the healthiest choice. To work around this, defrost food in the plastic in the fridge and reheat on the stove, but avoid defrosting or heating directly in the plastic.
- To simplify, use food-safe paper cups and bowls for individual portions found at a hospitality supply shop.
- Keep a freezer inventory of cooked and frozen meals to make it easier to navigate your freezer stash.
- Label everything to avoid confusion when trying to identify frozen foods.
Postpartum Meal Prep Equipment & Supplies
- Slow cooker/Crockpot
- Instant Pot or pressure cooker (not essential but helpful!)
- Sharpie pen
- Storage for food – do your research ahead of time:
- Mason jars
- Pyrex casserole dishes
- Individual portion paper bowls
- Ziploc bags
20 Healthy Postpartum Freezer Meals & Side Dishes
Here’s my list of the nutritious meals I’ve been making to prepare for my postpartum. It’s a mix of comfort foods, foods my husband and toddler love, as well as some more adventurous classic postpartum dishes that I will likely be the only one eating (pig trotters for one!).
You can use this list as your own postpartum meal prep plan if you have similar tastes to me. Otherwise, I hope it serves as encouraging inspiration for making your own!
Postpartum Meal Prep Basics
A healing base for your soups and stews made by simmering animal bones and connective tissue in water with a dash of vinegar, vegetables and herbs. I love making beef, chicken or pork broth in my Instant Pot using this method. You can also make it on your stovetop easily.
My favourite sourdough bread to make, and I’m stockpiling precut loaves. I fell in love with it on a trip to Denmark, and it’s what opened my eyes up to the world of sourdough making at home, simply because I couldn’t find anything like it in Australia. It’s dense, based on whole-grain rye and oats, coupled with flaxseeds and sunflower seeds. This is a recipe similar to what I make and uses yeast instead of sourdough.
Kimchi and Sauerkraut
These fermented vegetables are loaded with probiotics and other beneficial nutrients, making them great for gut health. I have a batch of one or the other always in rotation. For saurkraut, I use this method. And for kimchi, I follow this simple traditional recipe.
Nourishing Postpartum Soups
Coq a Leekie Soup
This one is straight from my childhood and always reminds me of my mum. It’s a traditional Scottish soup made with chicken, leeks, and prunes. Instead of water, I use chicken broth, and instead of chicken thighs, I’ll use whole chicken. This is a great recipe to base your version on. I love having steaming bowls of this with thick pieces of spelt sourdough with lashings of butter.
Another one that reminds me of my mum’s comforting cooking. I like to use beef broth as my base, whatever veggies I have on hand, a handful of rice or barley for body and soaked beans. This delightful video from Diane in Denmark shows how to make it in the Instant Pot as is extremely close to how my family has always made Minestrone.
Marrow, Barley & Vegetable Soup
This one comes from my granny. It’s a thrifty and hearty soup using expensive marrow bones, barley, and a variety of vegetables. My postpartum spin is to add generous amounts of fennel and star anise, along with thyme, for their breastfeeding-supportive properties. Ask your butcher to pre-cut the marrow bones. This recipe from Rhonda Hetzel is very similar to my granny’s recipe.
Dahl is my idea of soul food. Starchy, is filled with warming spices and vegetables and can be transformed in so many ways depending on what toppings you have. This is a great basic recipe. If you’d like to make it in your Instant Pot, this is a particularly lush version. I like to use red lentils, pumpkin, sweet potato, ghee or butter, coconut cream, cardamom, turmeric, ginger, cumin and coriander in mine. Some favourite toppings include natural yogurt, handfuls of fresh spinach, spring onions, mint, coriander, lemon juice or toasted cashews. It’s extremely versatile!
Hearty Postpartum Stews
Warming Lamb Stew
Slow-cooked chunks of lamb shoulder in broth, with black-eyed peas, sultanas, napa cabbage and warming spices. In addition to hitting all the satisfying taste notes, this is a nutritional powerhouse of a meal. I make a triple batch in my slower cooker and get 18 serves out of it!
This has been my go-to Irish Stew recipe since my university days when all I could afford was the cheapest cuts of meat. This recipe calls for lamb’s neck, which in Traditional Chinese Medicine, is considered one of the most restorative cuts of meat. Slices of the neck are layered with small potatoes, leek, celery, carrots and barley, covered in broth and cooked slowly. Making the herbal butter to serve it with is a bit of a hassle, but if you have the bandwidth, it’s worth your trouble as it completely elevates the stew. You can freeze the herb butter and use with the Osso Buco, oxtail stew and Coq a Leekie Soup soup.
I married into an Italian family, so Osso Buco is taken seriously around here! It just so happens to be the most perfect postpartum recovery food. Meat cooked slowly on the bone filled with marrow in a rich, flavourful sauce. The recipe we use in our home is very much based on instinct and feel, but this one comes close. Serve with rissoto, rice or rissoni and gremolata.
This recipe from Jamie Oliver is absolutely heavenly and ridiculously tasty. It’s in concept to Osso Buco, in that it’s beef on the bone simmered into a rich and hearty stew, but it has more gelatin and fat, making it melt in your mouth. This version I have found works best when cooked in a Dutch oven, as the heat adds an extra dimension of flavour that’s hard to get in the slow cooker or instant pot. Serve over rice or baked sweet potatoes.
Kimchi Stew with Pork Belly and Tofu
For both of my pregnancies, Korean food is something I crave (if you couldn’t tell already). Something about rich broths, toasted sesame oil, bright notes of spring onion, its signature sweet spiciness, along with perfectly boiled rice is what has me going. This stew is a gorgeous one for postpartum. Soothing gelatin and collagen from the pork belly, a satisfying broth and warming kimchi create a bowl of comfort. This recipe is from my adoptive online Auntie, Maangchi, who has taught me everything I now know about Korean cooking.
Traditional Postpartum Healing Dishes
Black Vinegar and Ginger Braised Pig’s Trotters
I’m a fairly adventurous cook. I’m spurred on further when I understand just how healing a certain dish for a particular health need. I learned about it in the wonderful book “The First Forty Days” by Heung Ou, and was intrigued to add it to my postpartum meal prep plan. It turned out to be one of my favourite dishes. Black vinegar is like an Asian version of Worshteshire sauce – sour, sweet and a little spicy. And when combined with brown sugar and ginger, it turns pigs trotters into delectable morsels of tender goodness. This dish + rice + a bowl of seaweed soup is going to feature heavily in the early weeks of my fourth trimester. This recipe is very similar to the one from “The First Forty Days” and has Instant Pot instructions too.
I first came across this dish in Julia Jone’s “Newborn Mothers” book. She didn’t provide a recipe, but just mentioned in passing that it was a Moroccan tradition to keep new mothers hydrated with warm Lemon Balm tea and feed them Chicken Rfissa, a dish made with chicken, lentils, soaked fenugreek and spices. Lemon balm tea is one of my favourites, so I was intrigued to try making the chicken dish. It is delicious! It uses (to Western sensibilities) insane amounts of spices – which I’m all for – and creates a fragrant broth. I serve mine with rice, but it’s traditionally eaten with Morrocon-style flatbreads. Since learning this dish, I made it for all my omnivore friends and family members having babies. Recipe can be found over here.
Korean Seaweed Soup (Miyeok Guk)
This Korean soup is nourishing and comforting, made with seaweed, beef, and beef broth. It has it all! Which is why it is a supreme postpartum food. I only made a single batch for my last postpartum meal prep. This time I’m going to make enough for 14 serves so I have a constant supply for the first 2 weeks. There are so many recipes out there, but this is a lovely simple one to get you started.
“Bolo” is a mainstay in our home and the version that I love to make sneaks liver, bone broth, and plenty of veggies and lentils in with my mince and tomato (excellent for my currently fussy toddler, who will happily munch this up. Over the coming weeks, I’ll make a couple of mega-batches of this, and keep some for spaghetti bolognese, some to make lasagnas and the rest for moussaka. If you’d like to do the same, add 30g of very finely chopped liver per 500g/1 pound of minced meat in your favourite recipe. I love this moussaka recipe (thyme and cinnamon added to the bolognese is such a gorgeous combination) and this classic lasagna.
These are so simple to make, and you can use either fresh, frozen or canned salmon. I even use white fish on occasion when that’s all I have to make a more Scandinavian-style fish cake. These feature heavily in my regular meal plans. But for postpartum, I’ll be pre-cooking them and freezing them between squares of baking paper. Lovely served with boiled potatoes and salad. Lisa’s recipe is so simple and gets perfect salmon burgers every time.
This is so satisfying to batch! In 20 minutes, you could easily prep 10 dinners. Simply add your chicken of choice (I use drumettes and wings, which is what my toddler and husband adore, and a very inexpensive way to eat quality chicken) and then add all the different condiments, herbs and spices to marinate. All they need to do is defrost, put in the oven, get the rice going in the rice cooker and make a salad and dinner is made. This post has five easy marinades using from-scratch ingredients (no premade sauces here).
Roast Vegetable & Bacon Frittata
When making roast veggies, I always make as many as I can fit into my oven. I can then whip them into this delicious and easy-to-make dish the next day. It freezes beautifully and can be served for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. For postpartum, I’m going to be freezing in individual portions, and enjoying an English sourdough muffin with tomato relish and fresh greens as an easy breakfast.
Nepali Rice Pudding
I’m not normally a sweet tooth, but I remember in those first tender days after the birth of my son, sweet tea and sweet rice pudding felt so life-giving. This version is from postpartum Doula, Julia Jones. It’s a sweet and creamy concoction made with rice, milk, and a variety of spices. I have a feeling my toddler is going to love this one, so I’m going to make a batch that will cover me for the first couple of days, and a few extra serves for the new big brother.
Postpartum Meal Planning FAQs
How many freezer meals should I make?
In my opinion, the best way to approach postpartum meal prep is by making 1-2 easy postpartum meals per week as part of your regular meal plan starting around week 28 of pregnancy. And you can always double or triple the recipes to make more. This could mean having 20-40 meals tucked away by the time your newest addition joins the clan. I like to aim for having one month of meals covered, and then with additional food brought by our friends, family and community, this brings us to the magical six weeks postpartum mark (a.k.a first forty days). But really, the number of freezer meals you make is up to you and what you think you’ll need.
When should you begin postpartum meal prep?
Ideally, starting at the beginning of your third trimester (28 weeks) makes this a stress-free process. If you’re just coming to this a few weeks before your due date, no worries, start where you are! Plan a couple of batch cooking sessions by choosing a handful of recipes that have lots of cross-over of ingredients. I like to divide and conquer by choosing four recipes with different cooking methods. For me, this is the stovetop, the oven, the slow cooker and the instant pot.
What foods should I avoid during postpartum?
Postpartum is not a time for restriction or deprivation. That being said though, try to steer clear of processed foods (especially those with trans fats), overly sugary snacks and drinks, and keep your caffeine intake in check. If you’re focusing on whole, real foods as I’ve shared here, you don’t need to worry about avoiding foods. Be sure to indulge yourself though, these lactation cookies will hit the sweet spot but uses real foods.
And that’s it! I hope this postpartum meal prep guide has been helpful to you. Remember, the most important thing is to nourish, rest and take care of yourself during this special time. Don’t hesitate to ask for help from friends and family, and consider delegating some of the meal prep responsibilities leading up to birth and in your postpartum. With a little planning and preparation, you can set yourself up for a nurturing and restful postpartum period. Happy cooking!