Primal Tot’s First Foods – Part 2 – MEAL PREP

PART 1 RECAP – FIRST FOODS

Last week, I explained how we started our son out on a nutrient dense real food diet from the beginning. Back when he didn’t have an opinion, meal prep was easy. He ate what we fed him and rarely refused foods. Once he turned 18 months, he became more aware of his surroundings and became more opinionated around meal time. It was at this time that I started preparing food for school resembling the non-paleo version his classmates were fed. I am fortunate that his school provides a menu at the end of each week for the next week’s meals. It has been a learning process and one I have not yet mastered. One element that has made my life easier and given me more free time to play is meal prep.

FIRST FOODS MEAL PREP – The Good, The Bad, The Burnt

It all started with the frozen cubes of fruits and vegetables. Because we are a busy family, I have always looked for ways to simplify our life while still feeding real, fresh, nutrient dense food, essentially Paleo. As I have mentioned a few times now, cooking doesn’t come natural to me. I can make something really great from scratch then try to recreate it and write down the ingredients only to have a Pinterest worthy fail come out of the oven. Throughout each phase of my son’s young life I have tried different recipes and ways to prepare snacks and meals for him that include Caro approved ingredients. The goal of this is to make daily prep simple and keep us on course. What they don’t tell you about meal prep is that the prep itself can take hours and is exhausting if you don’t enjoy the process.

When my son got his first few teeth and started eating more solid foods, I tried making crackers. His teachers were feeding his classmates teething biscuits as a snack and I wanted my little one to have something similar. I found a great recipe in Danielle Walker’s cookbook and decided to take it up a notch. Instead of making simple square crackers using a pizza cutter, I used tiny cookie cutters to make alphabet crackers. Two hours later (no joke – it took me two hours to cut out all the alphabet pieces), the burnt alphabet crackers came out of the oven – Pinterest worthy fail and a mom in tears. At that moment I realized that I am not supermom, and that I don’t have a future in baking alphabet crackers. As a side note, I still make the same crackers to this day. They are a big party hit. I just stay away from the cookie cutters.

I came to the conclusion that while my son’s crackers wouldn’t be perfectly shaped like fish or bunnies, or even animals, his crackers would not hurt his stomach or cause skin irritation. I had to be okay with this. If not, I was going to drive myself (and my husband) crazy trying to reach perfection. I started doing more recipe research. My goal was to find foods with minimal ingredients (anything more than 5 usually ends in failure for me – mainly because I am terrible at following instructions) that would freeze well for easy meal prep. I focused on foods that could act as the main ingredient and would add fresh fruits and vegetables, crackers, chips, treats, etc to complete his meal. Note: This is my trick to five minute lunch prep.

I have mentioned a few of my favorite freeze ahead recipes in a previous post but it’s important you understand my reasoning behind that. As my little one has started to form an opinion on what he eats, it has gotten tricky to figure out exactly what to make ahead and freeze in bulk. I also learned early on that it’s important to make things that can serve multiple functions because eating the same thing every day is boring. When working with limited freezer space, this can be difficult. I purchased a few large freezer safe storage containers that I use repeatedly. Each container holds a different prepared food and when one container runs out, I make something else.This can either be a repeat of a current favorite or a new recipe I want to test out. The goal here is to keep it simple but interesting.

WHAT I FREEZE

I keep a few constants but overall, I try to rotate what stays in the freezer to keep my son interested in his food. This is easier than it sounds. Things like pancakes, breakfast muffins, and sandwich bread are all constants in the freezer but I use different ingredients for the muffins and pancakes each time. For example, I currently have a batch of blueberry pancakes in my freezer that I made after the banana pancakes ran out. I am constantly trying different recipes for sandwich bread to find one that freezes well and doesn’t taste too dry when reheated. I rotate things like chicken nuggets, empanadas, kolaches, breakfast bars, veggie bites, etc. I also have individual pouches of ground turkey, chicken breast, and breakfast sausage stored that I add to meals.

MEAL PREP FUTURE STEPS

As my son gets older, I fully expect this to get more difficult. I have to get more creative and loosen the reigns a little bit. I know there will come a day when he wants Doritos. He already gets excited when he sees the Goldfish carton at the grocery store. I take it a day at a time and at each step, I evaluate my wellbeing. After all, if I am losing my mind to create perfectly healthy food for my son, is there really a benefit? He will be eating great food but he will have a stressed out mom. That’s not cool. My goal is to grow with him in a sense. As his tastes change, my methods change, my prep changes, and his lunchbox ingredients change. The underlying theme will still be real, nutrient dense food with a kid friendly twist. I hope you will join me on this journey!