Baby Preparation | Maintaining Freezer Meal Organization | Part 4

One of the most challenging things I find is maintaining a system. Cleaning, cooking, starting a new habit…it doesn’t matter what it is, finding a practical way to maintain anything can be HARD!

It took a bit of trial and error, but I finally came up with a system that works for maintaining our pre-made freezer meals.

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If you have no idea what I’m talking about when it comes to this Freezer Meal prep work, you can go and get caught up with these two posts–Freezer Meals Part 1 and Freezer Meals Part 2.

I had a few guidelines that I was hoping to follow. This system needed to be simple, SUPER easy to use, and easy to find the items. With parents/family visiting, I want them to be able to utilize the system with very little (or no) guidance.

The first maintenance step actually started during the cooking and bagging process. I labeled every bag/container with the following:

Meal name
Ingredient/add-in instructions
Cooking instructions.

Each bag was then placed in the freezer with a bit of order. Going from left to right, and top to bottom we have

  • Breakfast muffins, egg scrambles, fried potatoes, waffles, English muffins
  • Lasagnas, chicken bakes
  • Cookie dough
  • Kung Pao chicken, stir fry kits, teriyaki salmon
  • Chili, Chicken soup kits, chicken soap broths
  • (In the basket) Taco, pizza, and fajita kits
  • Miscellaneous extras–bread, bacon, veggies, chicken breasts, etc.

Knowing what I had and the number of containers, I set about looking for an easy maintenance system.

After some trial and error, I came up with this simple, easy to use system.

A check-off list!

Every item is accounted for and each vertical line represents a bag or container. These lists are broken up into 3 sections.

Breakfast

Meals

Miscellaneous

It’s pretty simple. These lists sit taped to the top of the freezer, in a sheet protector. A dry erase marker sits near the lists to check things off as they are removed from the freezer and brought into the house. If you want a FREE printable version click here!

It isn’t a new state of the art system, but it’s simplicity and functionality work for this chaotic time! 

Baby Preparation | What’s In My Hospital Bag?

Wow! Writing out this list (and looking at the photos) makes it seem like I have A LOT of things!

At our hospital tour, we were given a Mom and Baby list to help guide our bag packing. After going through our list, I significantly paired down because it was overwhelming and seemed insane that we’d need everything (and in the quantities) it mentioned. Since being diagnosed with Preeclampsia and having to be induced early, we are being prepared for a C-section stay, but hoping for a vaginal birth. The hospital said to come prepared to stay for 3-5 days (C-section stay), so prepared I am coming!

Surprising Recommendations

The hospital surprisingly recommended that we bring our own pillow(s), with a patterned case so that we were more comfortable and felt more at home. After 4 L&D stints, leading up to the actual Labor and Delivery, we agreed that bringing our own pillows (and a blanket for my husband) was, in fact, a great idea!

Friends/neighbors of ours, that delivered at this same hospital, also had a couple of recommendations for use. First, a Chromecast to watch videos or play music. Second, a small diffuser and oil (the hospital actually recommended this, too). Third, and last, a small makeup bag so that after delivery and recovery (with visitors and photos) I can feel a little more like myself.

Hospital Bags

Before we get into what is in my hospital bag, I want to let you know that everything I brought could have fit into 1 large duffel bag, or 2 smaller bags. I decided, however, to break the items up into 3 bags, each with a different purpose/function. I have a Labor bag, a Post Delivery bag, and a Bathroom bag. 

Also, to keep in mind, I had an induction at 38 weeks due to Preeclampsia. Because we were basically starting from 0 and waiting for labor to begin at the hospital, I packed some things to pass the time before labor really started.

Now, let’s get started!

Labor Bag

Eye drops

Pillow/patterned cases (2)

The hospital recommended that the cases be patterned so when our room was being cleaned they wouldn’t mistake our pillows for theirs.

Chromecast

Camera?/Camcorder/Charger

Wallet (ID, ins. card, debit card)

Phone and wall charger (quad)

Portable charger

Headphones

Headbands/Hair ties/Hair clip

Diffuser and oils

Book

Laptop and charger

Reminder/Focus cards to calm anxiety

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Post Delivery Bag (Mom and  Baby)

Mom

Robe (2)

I packed a longer robe (similar to this) for walking the halls during labor and a shorter, lighter one for after delivery so that I could be covered when people came into the room. The shorter robe is actually a beach coverup and similar to the blue floral print I have.

PJ set (1)

I bought the short and button down set during the summer, but it was surprisingly a little too warm for me to wear at night. I’m bringing it now because the elastic stretch in the shorts seems recovery friendly and the top nursing friendly!

Soft pants (2)

Just bring comfortable, baggier bottoms!

Baggy shirt (2)

I brought a couple of these just to throw on in case I was tired of wearing hospital gowns and robes. I don’t care what happens to these shirts either (leaking, baby juice, etc.)

Go Home Outfit

This consists of comfortable clothes. Jogger sweats and a floral t-shirt.

Nursing bras (2)

I was able to pick up a bunch from Motherhood Maternity during their $8 sale! 

Flip Flops (go in wearing)

Cheap Underwear

I bought these “granny panties” for a few reasons. One, they are cheap! Two, I don’t truly know what will be happening with my body and I won’t mind having to throw these ones away. Three, the underwear I currently have just aren’t comfortable and I wanted some that were high-rise in case of a C-section. 

Snacks

After delivery and/or for my husband. No one needs to be hangry…Enough said 

Baby

Go Home outfit

I picked this up on sale from Buy Buy Baby. It’s gender neutral so every baby we bring home can wear it. Our own little tradition!

Mittens (2)

Onesies/Sleepers (Newborn 1, 0-3 months 2) 

Swaddle blanket/hat (1)

I snagged these off of Amazon! They were cheaper than going through an actual store! Swaddle set | Hat 

Clippers/file

Carseat (stays in the car)

Newborn/size 1 diaper (1/size)

For the above baby items the hospital suggested we bring them so that the dogs could smell them before we got home, we’d have nicer photos, and the baby could be warmer in their clothes.

Bathroom Bag (Travel Sizes)

Shampoo

Body/face wash/moisturizer

Vaseline

Toothpaste/brush

Glasses/Contacts/Solution/Cases

Lens Cleaner

Deodorant

Baby Wipes

Small Makeup bag–mascara, eyebrow pencil, concealer, and makeup/face wipes

Brush/comb

Medications

Lotion

Nipple butter

Breast pads (5)

Silicon Pump

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Now, I’ve written this BEFORE Baby Boy is here so I’m not sure how much of this I will end up using. I will, though, keep you updated and let you know soon!

What did you pack in your hospital bag as a first time (delivering) mom-to-be? Did you over pack? Under pack?

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Baby Preparation |Pantry Organization | Part 3

Another day, another how-to! Today, it is all about organizing our pantry. While it was pretty easy to organize, the pantry took about two-and-a-half hours. Everything that can be linked will be linked, so that you can easily find what I’m referring to.

Full disclosure: These links do not alter the pricing of the items discussed. My linking them is simply to make it easier for you to find! I, also, had a 20% off coupon for my entire order from The Container Store making this the cheapest place for me to purchase.

Let’s get started!

The first step to ANY organization project for me is to get everything off the floor. I don’t care what it is, just elevate it. The next thing I do is quickly clean off the floor. For the pantry floor, I just did a quick dry and wet Swiffer. It took no more than 5 minutes to clean and let it air dry.

Keep in mind that we had just had our floors redone and needed to have everything up off the floors anyway. The big boxes that look ridiculous on the selves were all on the floor and under the shelving prior to these photos. 

As you can see our pantry was chock-full of many items, both food and non-food. Our kitchen area is our main hub and the pantry is servicing our family as more of a multi-purpose room. Finding a way to keep each category separated, clean/easy to see, and organized was key.

After getting everything off the floors and the floors cleaned, I went shelf by shelf throwing away items. Wrappers, old (accounted for) receipts, scrap papers, expired items, empty food containers, and things that were broken were tossed.

Once the trash was tossed, I started pulling out every item and categorizing.  Breakfast foods and bread items. Snacks. Non-refrigerated produce. Baking essentials. Beverages and mixes. Small appliances. Cooking, Tupperware, and lunch items. Household goods. Mail and paperwork. Dog items. Paper goods. You get the idea!

Every surface of the kitchen was dedicated to a different category. While categorizing, I noticed multiple open containers of the same thing. With these items, I consolidated them into one container (or ziplock bag) and then tossed those empties. You’ll be amazed by the amount of garbage and recycling you’ll find!

When the pantry was empty, I quickly wiped down the shelves with a Clorox wipe. Nothing fancy. I spent maybe 10 minutes doing this.

Translucent Bins

Once I knew exactly what I had, I started putting items into the clear containers I bought.

Before organizing the pantry, I bought a bunch of different sized clear containers. The only thing I knew for sure was the number of bulk food storage containers I would need, everything else was purchased knowing that I could return it later.

The bulk food and their coordinating containers were sorted first. This was flour, rice, and brown sugar. I buy these three items from Costco in 25 pound bags, so I purchased 3-22 pound airtight bins on wheels. The next bulk item I had designated containers for was white sugar (bought from Costco in a 10 or 15 pound bag). I used 2 five quart containers for the sugar. The remaining, smaller baking items went into other clear containers that I already had around the house. Chocolate chips, whole wheat flour, and miscellaneous baking items.

After using the airtight bins, I walked away to focus on the next most populated area–the dog items! Food, treats, cleaning supplies, toys, anything pet related. I used 4 new containers total to hold open and unopened treats, walking items and their bandanas, and then a miscellaneous bin (medications, grooming supplies, and so on). I used 2 medium bins, 1 large bin, and 1 small bin.

The next set of bins used were the extra-large translucent. One for bread and breakfast items, one for snacks and chips, and one for drinks. For the two food bins, I placed the items that weren’t in some type of orderly box. When something is sitting on a shelf in a bag, it looks messier to me than having something in a box. For the drinks, I tossed in the K-cups that were floating around.

Two more of the extra-large bins were used for baby items. For now, I just tossed all the baby items we’ll need accessible downstairs into the bins. Eventually (once cleaned and sterilized), the bins will be broken down into eating/drinking and gear (extra wipes, pacifiers, diaper bag needs, etc.).

The last extra-large bin was used for miscellaneous snacks/candies.

The last large bin now holds our household items, like batteries. This keeps them from being scattered around the shelves, drawers, and floors.

Shelving

Going from top to bottom was the trick for me to organize efficiently. The top shelves hold items that we do not need access to every day. The farther down you go, the more used the items are.

The top shelves, from left to right, holds:

  1. General housing paper goods (tissues, paper towels, etc.)
  2. Plastic for lunches or events (plates, cups, utensils)
  3. Some miscellaneous items (dog items we don’t want them seeing, unused kitchen items)
  4. Large cooking aids and appliances (bowls, woks, Keurig).

The second set of shelving, from left to right, holds:

  1. Beverages
  2. Table linens
  3. Extra pasta/pastas that are to be used with freezer meals
  4. Extra kitchen utensils (I’ve owned the clear box for some time)
  5. Small kitchen appliances and meal prep items.

The third set of shelving, from left to right, holds:

  1. Cooking and food storage accessories (bags, foil, etc.)
  2. Canned goods and prepackaged seasonings
  3. Nuts, oils, and cooking wines
  4. Pasta and sauces
  5. Baking goods
  6. Place mats, lids, and lunch box items
  7. Household needs (Swiffer accessories and miscellaneous items).

The fourth set of shelving, from left to right, holds:

  1. Bread and breakfast needs
  2. Non-refrigerated produce and hot sauces
  3. Baby needs
  4. Extra hand towels and aprons
  5. Household needs (large recipe cards, batteries, lightbulbs, candles and waxes, small cleaning appliances/accessories).

The five, and final, set of shelving, from left to right, holds:

  1. Snacks and lunch add-ins
  2. Extra food items
  3. Baby bibs/burp clothes
  4. Special snacks/candy
  5. Extra (empty) bins and oven accessories
  6. Dog area.

Flooring

The floors were a little tricky to decide on. I didn’t want to clutter it with a lot of items, but really wanted to keep the shelving open and easy to see the contents. After some deliberation, the floors, from left to right, hold:

  1. Extra snacks and breakfast items
  2. Extra cooking and food storage accessories (bags, foil, etc.)
  3. Extra beverages
  4. Large bulk food
  5. Small appliances (frequently used)
  6. Dog food, bowls, and cleaner
  7. Miscellaneous paper work
  8. Tupperware (this is kept in a wheeling unit to bring in and out of the pantry).

Tips and Tricks

Dry Erase Boards

In order to keep track of what we need, I have 2 magnetic dry erase boards on the side fo the fridge. The top board is for food items from either the grocery store or Costco. The bottom board is for household/non-food items. This makes preparing to shop a lot easier for me, especially if I am in a rush. As something gets low, or is gone altogether, we write it down. For the food, it doesn’t matter if it’s from the pantry, freezers, or fridge.

Give Yourself Some Space

If you can, leave some bins and shelf space empty. One, it looks cleaner. Two, you have just made it easier for you (and the entire family) to keep things organized. The extra bins can be grabbed and used without hesitation. You’ll be able to quickly sort what category the item fits. And, lastly, you’ll keeping the area clean will be easier. If you can stick to the categories you create, everything will be in its place–no matter how full it gets!

Pick a Clean Out Time

I chose to clean out the pantry once a quarter. Trust me, this isn’t as big of an undertaking as it sounds. You can choose any time frame that works for you and your family. Every month, quarter, twice a year, etc.

This dedicated time is put into our calendar and is a non-negotiable. It requires us to check expiration dates (something we should be doing regularly anyway), toss out any trash, clean bins, and see what items we need–bulk, household needs, etc.

Shelf Challenges

Sometimes after cleaning out the pantry, we will give ourselves a shelf challenge. It does not happen every quarter, but if we notice that we have items that are close to (but not yet) expired, we will create meals around those items.

Let’s say for example, we have 2 unopened pasta sauces. I’ll take one of the sauces and make a freezer meal for a later date. It might be a lasagna, chicken parmesan, anything. For the second sauce, we will do a simple pasta night. I’ll add some sausage or meatballs to the sauce, add your pasta, a veggie, and garlic bread. Simple and oh so easy.

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Let me know what you do to keep your pantry/kitchen storage area organized, or if this made you think of something! Don’t forget to share any tips and tricks you have in the comments below!

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Baby Preparation | Hospital Classes

Our hospital offers MANY, almost too many, baby prep classes that they HIGHLY recommended (and one series they require) each couple/family take prior to giving birth at their hospital. I decided to make a list of the classes we took, my thoughts, and if I would recommend them!

Let’s jump right into it!

Breastfeeding Class

The Breastfeeding class was the shortest of them all, informative, and nerve-wracking. I’ve always said that I’d like to breastfeed, but that I’m not putting pressure on myself (because some things are just out of our control). With that being said, though, HOLY PRESSURE…from everyone!

Anyway, back on topic! When you register for the class, they ask you to bring your support person with you. At first I thought that this was quite odd–what on EARTH will a second person (who can’t feed baby) do?!?!

The answer? They will do OH SO MUCH! You’ll have their memory, a second set of hands for the “dad/support person sandwich” (yes, that’s a thing), a diaper changer and burper, and just an overall cheerleader…that support person will be SO helpful. Just make sure your support person for breastfeeding is someone who you don’t mind getting up close and personal with! 

I HIGHLY recommend this class! As nervous and overwhelmed as I was walking out of the class, I left with so much information (the breastfeeding process, support groups, free in-hospital help, at home care). More importantly, I felt like we started the solidification process on our “team effort” mentality.

Childbirth Series (2 Part)

The next class was a 2-part, two and a half hour each, class. Let me start by saying that this was the class that I was most looking forward to. I wanted to dive deeply into the Lamaze techniques I’ve heard so much about and really practice the steps with my husband/birthing partner.

This series was the required hospital class and honestly one that I will NOT recommend. The class description (and I’m paraphrasing) said that it was a Lamaze technique class that discussed the 3 delivery options (vaginal/natural labor, vaginal/induced labor, and c-section). We were to bring a pillow and be comfortable practicing different Lamaze techniques in a group setting.

What the class actually turned out to be was very long and drawn out.

Day One: We watched a video of two births (vaginal and c-section) that talked about “how showing your emotions was a physical manifestation of how you are feeling on the inside”. No, s**t! Then we talked about pain management and what to expect during labor (contractions, back labor, pushing, etc.).

We left thinking that the next class would be learning the Lamaze techniques. We also left in agreement on some birthing topics and goals. So, overall we gave Day One a weird thumbs up.

Day Two: We recapped (discussed everything we had in the class prior) the pain management and labor expectations, discussed postpartum care, answered audience questions, and delved deeper into a c-section birth. The last 15 minutes was practicing Lamaze techniques! That’s it, just 15 minutes!

We were given a sheet of paper with different positions, quickly reviewed the “he-he-who” breathing, and were told to practice. This is NOT what I would call beneficial. Especially, when the class is described as “Lamaze technique class”. I think we will get more out of a free YouTube video than this class, which is very disappointing.

Safe and Sound at Home Class

The last class was a 3 hour class all about taking care of baby from 24 hours old through the newborn stage. They reviewed swaddling, bathing, diapering, problem solving methods, car seat safety, CPR/First Aid…really anything you can think of, they touched on. It was a Baby 101 class.

As someone who has grown up around babies, worked as a nanny, and purposefully tries to surround herself with small children, this was a nice refresher course. For someone who hasn’t been surrounded by babies, or had little interest in them growing up, this was a great hands-on class!

The instructor was fantastic! Funnily, enough she has been our nurse during one of our Labor and Delivery stints. She gave just enough personal insight, without being pushy, and balanced her thoughts with the American Association of Pediatrics information.

The only thing I would change about this class is the CPR/First Aid portion. Both my husband and I have our CPR/First Aid certificates and wished that we could have taken the class without this section. It would have cut the class down by 45-60 minutes and we could have focused more on the at home, day-to-day, care of baby.

This is another HIGHLY recommend class.

Overall Rankings

In order of what classes I’d most to least recommend…

  1. Safe and Sound at Home
  2. Breastfeeding
  3. Childbirth Series– I would check with your hospital to see if what the description reads is actually what is taught in the class. If it is not, or you’re not wanting that type of class, see if they’ll allow you to take a class outside of the hospital and show proof of attendance. Just know that you may have to pay for an outside/private practice class.

When all is said and done, though, I am glad that we took the classes we have. We walked out of each one more on the same page as when we walked in. We had a good laugh at the videos we had to watch, a better idea of what to expect, and an inexpensive (weird) date night. In the end, we felt like we solidified that “team effort” mentality even before the parenting begins.

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Baby Preparation | Making Freezer Meals | Part 2

If you just stumbled upon this post, or need a refresher, read this to get a better understanding of how I prepare for making freezer meals!

One thing I didn’t mention, though, was once I made my lists of food to buy, I went back through and put a blue dot next to the items to get at Costco or Amazon. My main reasons for purchasing these items online or at a big box store are:

  1. Buy in bulk and save money (especially if you hit their sale days)
  2. Stores in my area do not sell certain items
  3. Overall cheaper than in store.

I purchased these items over the course of the month (maybe six weeks), buying items that freeze well or are non-perishable first.

FL Costco
Costco
FL Amazon
Amazon
FL KS
King Soopers

Once everything was purchased, I made a quick schedule of how the weekend would look. It totally took the guess work out and made things run smoothly.

But, I digress! Let’s get into the recipes, cooking, organization, and storage! Basically, my guidelines for choosing what to cook and/or prep were simple. They needed to have

  1. at least 4 servings per meal (leftovers or feed family that visits)
  2. easy to prep, cook, and store/freeze
  3. hearty and filling
  4. requires minimal effort beyond throwing it in a crockpot, oven, or reheating on the stovetop.

My reasoning behind food prepping was to be able to spend my time recovering, caring for baby, and for us to learn how to be a family without having to think about preparing and cooking full meals for a little while.

I looked on Pinterest, rummaged through favored cookbooks, and searched through family recipes to create the perfect list of nutritious, diverse, and flavorful foods.

The meals found through Pinterest were:

  1. chicken and vegetable bake
    Follow the given directions
  2. lasagna
    Follow the given directions
  3. no bean chili
    To freeze, cook only the meat (let cool) toss everything into a gallon ziplock bag and freeze upright. When ready to cook/eat thaw over night, place into crockpot, and cook on low for 6-8 hours.
  4. bran muffins
    I omit the raisins. To freeze, bake as directed and let cool. To speed up the cooling process, I will let muffins cool on wire rack for 5 minutes and then place them on a cookie sheet, and into the freezer for 30 minutes. From there, they can go into a freezer bag, into the freezer, and stay until ready to eat. Take out the night before and let them thaw. You can warm them in a toaster or conventional oven on low for 5 minutes, if desired. 

Meals from family/old (unknown books)

  1. teriyaki salmonSalmon
  2. chiliChili
  3. kung pao chickenKPC
  4. stir-fryStir Fry
  5. egg scrambleScramble

Lastly, was creating dinner kits! Hands down the EASIEST thing to do! I made fajita, taco, and pizza kits for easy, fun dinners.

Fajita
Taco
Pizza

Once everything was prepped, cooked, and ready for the freezer I re-tallied all the meals to create a check off list. Then into the garage freezer it all went! Slowly as we plan out meals, the food will make it’s way into our main freezer, fridge, and/or crockpot!

Be on the lookout for Part 3 of the Food Prep in the coming weeks! It will be all about organizing the pantry and the checklist for the freezer meals! 

alaina

Baby Preparation | Hospital Tour

So now that I’ve had time to process the whole thing, I’m able to talk about the Hospital Tour! Holy anxiety ridden, “I have so many questions and concerns”, week. The week leading up to this tour seemed so long.

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Bumping through the tour!

Our tour was 30 minutes long, highly informative, and a lot of my questions were answered as we went. Every hospital is different, and every year things change, and I highly recommend going to your hospital’s tour. 

Anyway…we learned everything from how to navigate the Labor and Delivery floor, checking-in, pre-registering to avoid filling out paperwork while in labor, and what we wanted to happen in an ideal world (a.k.a our birth plan).

Going into the Tour, I had 33 questions. Yes, I realize that’s a LOT and that most of them were answered by the end, but … hello, anxiety and grasping for some control! Of the 33 questions, these 14 were at the top of my list. They also led to other conversations that would not have come up had we not asked.

Hospital Questions

I hope these questions help guide you in your hospital tour journey! Leave your hospital tour experiences and top questions in the comments!

alaina