personal essay

Meal Prepping with My Mom While I Was Pregnant Taught Me About More than Just Cooking

published Jun 10, 2020
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Annalise Mabe with mom
Credit: Annalise Mabe

I tied the apron strings around my 38-week pregnant belly, asked Alexa to play the Alabama Shakes radio, and then opened the door to my mom and the many bags filled with groceries. My kitchen quickly became filled with chicken cutlets, quinoa, squash, and lasagna fillings. It felt like we were trying to make enough meals to feed a small army, when in reality we were preparing for my first baby.

Initially, I was inspired to prep a ton of ready-to-go freezer meals after hearing about how Food Network’s Molly Yeh did exactly this before her first babe arrived. She prepped everything from breakfast sandwiches to homemade frozen burritos and packed her freezer with enough meals to last a good couple of months. I thought it would be a foolproof way to keep me busy in the last few weeks of pregnancy, while also stocking our freezer so we wouldn’t need to leave the house once our own baby girl arrived. 

The problem was that I had never seriously meal prepped like this before in my life, so I enlisted the help of my mom. And being the amazing person she is, she drove to my house, bags of ingredients and piles of recipes in tow, and we got to work. To my surprise, we were not just making a few simple casseroles — we were making 12 semi-involved recipes for food that would last me and my husband more than a month once the baby was born.

Soon, my little kitchen was covered in our multi-tasking. We emulsified butternut squash for a Thai coconut squash soup at one end of the kitchen, and cooked noodles for Greek baked ziti at the other. We made multiple marinades for slow cooker chicken recipes. We even made a few breakfast staples: caramelized onion quiches and baked French toast, both of which could be popped in the toaster oven and ready in less than 20 minutes.

Credit: Annalise Mabe

When I was growing up, my mom was always in the kitchen whipping up something new. For football games, she’d throw together caramelized onion and steak nachos, or hoisin and teriyaki chicken wings. Every Christmas morning (even now that we are grown) we can count on her famous crème brûlée French toast. Over the years, my mom has been creative, dependable, and nourishing in the kitchen and this is exactly the kind of mom I want to be for my daughter. 

Learning How to Cook (and Share Love) from My Mom

As my mother guided me through each recipe this time, I asked for clarification and advice: Should I use the serrated knife? How much heavy cream? What if we added more? Should it be eye-balled or does it need to be precise? Does it matter what size we chop the onions?

We made our way through all 12 recipes, and while the soups simmered and quiches baked, I got to ask her more: What was it like when you went into labor the first time with Arlen (my older sister)? Was it different with me? Did your water break? How long did it take you and Dad to choose our names? How did you choose them?

While sautéing onions and greens, my mother answered each of my questions with stories, all while my own baby squirmed and shifted inside of me. I thought of how I’d like to make my mom’s sticky, monkey bread for breakfast for my daughter when she’s old enough, and wondered if my baby would like scrambled eggs and avocado as much as I did. I thought of how, when she’s older, we’ll get our hands dirty as I teach her how to crack an egg with one hand, and I thought of all the questions she might ask me then, and the stories I hope to share.

Credit: Annalise Mabe

Having my mom over to help me meal prep while pregnant gave me a ton of practical tools. Now that I’d seen how to prepare large amounts of lasagna and easy freezer bags of Crock-Pot chicken meals, I felt way less worried about how we would navigate dinnertime in our post-baby haze. But beyond practicality, I learned that cooking and preparing food is an act of love, and meal prepping with my mom showed me this in a way I hadn’t fully realized before. This moment was my mom passing on so much of what she has learned to me, just weeks before I would embark on my own new adventure of motherhood and all that this brings. 

Now my daughter is 8 months old, and I’ve started to make her very first foods (sweet potato purée, roasted bananas, and, her favorite, scrambled eggs). I think of my own mother and how she lovingly poured herself into all the fresh meals that allowed my sister and me to thrive. Already I can’t wait to greet my daughter in the kitchen when she wakes up before school, asking if she’d like cinnamon toast, egg in a hat, or a smoothie on the go. And now that I’ve meal prepped once, I feel more prepared than ever to do it again when our family is in need. 

The Recipes I Made with My Mom

Here are some of the recipes that helped my mom and me meal prep together while I waited for my daughter to arrive.

Did you meal prep before your new baby? What did you make? Let us know in the comments.