As you prepare for the arrival of your little one, there is so much to think about! Have you got the cot? Have you got enough nappies? Have you got enough clothes?But with all these endless thoughts and decisions to make, it is easy for us to forget about what we need as parents too. One of the first rules of saving money is to plan, but it’s often the last thing we do when it comes to feeding ourselves when a baby arrives. Sleep deprivation, establishing feeding routines, endless nappy changes and all the visitors can mean we just grab something quick to eat when we can, or we reach for the takeaway app to get something delivered in a hurry. Yet nutrition is so important for good health. And it’s especially important for mums as they recover from birth and, for nursing mums, if they are breastfeeding. I recommend planning ahead BEFORE the baby arrives and you’re on that newborn rollercoaster - because it can be hard to get yourself organised whilst it’s moving!
Here are 5 money saving tips to help you eat well with a newborn:
1. Stock your freezerBefore baby arrives, batch cook some meals which can easily be put in the oven or the microwave to heat through. Remember to cool them within 90 minutes after batch cooking and reheat thoroughly to keep them safe to eat. Try to include at least 2 portions of vegetables in each meal so you don’t have to do the one-handed vegetable chop whilst holding the baby (it isn’t safe!) Meals like casseroles, stews, fish pie, curries and pasta sauces freeze well. If you have the space in the freezer, freeze portions of cooked rice, pasta or mashed potatoes ready to reheat too. Meals which require both hands to eat are not ideal with babies who don’t want to be put down, so prepare for meals that can easily be eaten one-handed. One more thing – don’t forget to label what you have made so you know what you’ve got in the freezer!
2. Plan a simple weekly menuYou might not want to stick to this forever, but a simple weekly menu will help in the first few months. It will help you reduce food waste because you will be able to buy just what you need and not all the things your sleep deprived brain thought you needed (I’ve been there!) Plus, your shopping list will largely stay the same, which makes it a whole lot easier week to week rather than rewriting it or, if you do an online shop, re-entering it all. You can include your batch cooked meals on this menu too. A simple menu should include:
- at least 5 portions of different fruit and veg a day (1 portion is 80g)
- wholegrain starches at mealtimes (like oats, brown rice/pasta/bread, quinoa, or corn)
- a range of protein foods (like lean and unprocessed meat, nuts, seeds, peas, beans, lentils, eggs) across the day
- 2 portions of fish a week – one of which is oily fish eg salmon, mackerel, sardines (1 portion is 140g)
- 3 portions of dairy or unsweetened, fortified dairy alternatives a day
- limited unsaturated fat (like olive or rapeseed oils)
Easy breakfast optionsIt’s okay to have cereal for breakfast each day. Try and choose one which is wholegrain and low in sugar, and include a portion of fruit with it.
Grab and go lunchesIt’s also okay to have a sandwich for lunch. Opt for wholegrain bread and have a sandwich filling which is unprocessed, like cooked chicken breast, egg, nut butter or fish. And don’t forget to have some salad with it and a piece of fruit.
Quick win dinnersDinner time tends to be more restless for babies, so having something quick and easy is important. Try to include 2 portions of veg with each meal. It can be helpful to have some tinned and frozen veg on hand to add if you haven’t got the time or energy to chop veg. For example, alongside your batch cooking, a simple pasta sauce using tinned beans or lentils and frozen veg will save you from chopping meat and fresh vegetables. To cut down on food waste, plan for at least one meal a week in which you can use up leftover veg. Risottos, pasta sauces, stir fries, curries and stews are great for this.
3. Get your friends and family involvedYou might be lucky enough to have lots of people visiting. It has its downsides but those visitors can be a great help if you let them. Ask your friends and family to bring a meal with them rather than flowers or chocolates. And if they can’t bring a meal, ask them to wash up or help with the baby whilst you cook.
4. Have a range of snacks available to give you more than just fat and sugarSnacks like fruit, nuts, plain yoghurt, cream cheese and crackers, houmous and carrot sticks provide more than just energy.
If you are breastfeeding, your appetite will increase and, even if you are not, it’s so important to help keep your immune system functioning well to allow your body to navigate sleep deprivation and recovery.5. Keep hydratedWe tend to reach for food when we are thirsty. Drinking plenty of water can help avoid you reaching for food unnecessarily.
Other money saving tips for new parentsDon’t let your money-saving stop at food. There are pennies (and pounds!) to be saved on everything - from essentials like nappies, to the less essential items like bespoke nursery furniture.
Here are 5 ways you can save money on your baby shopping list:
- Before spending money, see what you can get free – ask friends for hand me downs and check local swapping sites -, it’s amazing what people give away!
- Where it is safe to do so, buy second hand - charity shops, local selling sites and online marketplaces are great for picking up pre-loved baby items in good condition.
- Buy only the essentials before the baby arrives and then pick up other things as you go. You will be surprised by how much you don’t need!
- Ask other parents for reviews. They might even let you road test their buggy so you don’t end up spending a fortune on a pram you can’t lift or fit through your door!
- Don’t assume cheap is the best option. Whether it’s nappies or furniture, buying cheap options may not always be better. Cheaper nappies might leak more and you might end up doing more washing and low-cost furniture might not last for your next baby, or retain its value if you intend to sell it on. Sometimes investing in higher-cost but better quality items pays off in the long run.
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