Tips on Meal Planning for Back-to-school
As the school year gets into full swing, you may find yourself busier than you were over the summer — especially if your kids will be learning from home. While this year might be a change of pace for many, being organized from day one can help make the transition smoother. One thing you can do to make things easier on yourself is to plan your weekly meals.
From writing your grocery list to go-to meal-prep tech, we’ve got some simple tips to make back-to-school meal planning a breeze this school year.
How to Make an Easy Meal-planning Grocery List
With the main goal of getting in and out of the grocery store quickly, do your best to stay on-task while finding the ingredients on your list. Here are a few tips to keep your trip to the grocery store short and sweet.
Plan your meals ahead of time. Get the family together and make a calendar of what meals you’ll prepare for breakfast, lunch and dinner during the school week. You can switch meals up every couple of weeks to keep things fresh or keep your calendar the same for consistency. Making the same kinds of meals over and over again will help you stick to a routine when it comes to meal prep, make your grocery store trip much quicker and can help you save money since you’ll know exactly what you need week after week. Just don’t forget to try different meals every now and then!
Explore the contents of your fridge and pantry when making your list. This is a good practice for a few reasons. Check in with the staples you use all the time and be sure you’ve got enough to get through another week. Remember to look deep into your pantry, too. You may find things hiding back there that you can use — and that can save you money.
Use a magnetic white board to track out-of-stock groceries. Have your family jot down the out-of-stock staples that your kitchen needs. You’ll have a better idea of what has to go on your list and where to look when you’re not sure about what you need.
Only buy what you need. Discipline yourself when shopping by avoiding impulse purchases. This is where that calendar can help! Stay focused on your shopping list and your weekly meal plan — your budget will thank you later.
Get Your Lunch-packing Game On
Whether your kids will be eating lunch at home or heading to the cafeteria, you can keep your busy family well fed with nourishing lunches that don’t take long to make. Transform your skills from a lunchbox zero to a lunchbox hero with our great tips for hearty and healthy school lunches:
Pick up reusable, insulated lunch bags. A good, durable bag that can stand up to the demands of youngsters can be hard to find. Source these online over the summer as you’re readying your kid for their return to school and look for bags that come with zippers to help contain food in transit.
Avoid processed foods. Nutritional studies are singing the praises of raw foods and recommending that highly processed foods be avoided in kid’s meals. Work on selecting veggies and foods you know your kids will eat and keep away from foods that reinforce bad eating habits.
Prep lunches for the week on Sunday night. Save yourself from the standard morning rush of throwing a lunch together by preparing Sunday evening. You’ll have the time and energy for planning your meals then, and kids will be able to grab and go whether on their way out the door or at home.
Easy Meal Preparation Tips
Like most things, a little planning goes a long way, and making dinners exciting and nutritious is no different. Get your kids involved in making their meals and turn meal-time prep into family time. Take a look at these important tips to help plot out your dinner plans.
Take it slow. If you’re new to making meals daily, remember to give yourself room to grow into this role. Although getting a plan together makes great sense, you may want to push for preparing food every other day — with enough remaining to have leftovers the following day.
Start with step-by-step instruction cards. For meals you do plan, take time and create a recipe card for each dish. That way you’ll have a few main dishes and side dishes you can mix and match later.
Follow up with notes after serving. Dedicate space on the recipe card for notes on what needs improvement the next time you make the dish. By refining your approach, your kids will love it even more when you make it again.
Select meals that are in your wheelhouse. This is important. If you take on unfamiliar recipes, you may find yourself struggling to get into the rhythm of preparing the meal quickly. Start with thinking about the meals you love to make, and the food you know will go over well when it’s dinner time.
Consult your calendar as you plan. By knowing when you’re busy after school, you can select dinner options with quicker prep times when time is limited. For quick and tasty options, try making simple dishes with a bag of salad, some pasta and marinated meat that you can cook on the gas grill.
Invest in Meal Storage and Meal Prep Tech
You’re probably familiar with the benefits of a Crock Pot and its ability for easy-to-make meals. But you may not be up-to-speed on other technology that can revolutionize the way you prepare and save food in your home. Here are a few key cooking and food storage items that can really help with weekday meal planning for busy families.
Prep and portion like a pro with FoodSaver. Good for both prep and storage, this vacuum bagging kitchen tool keeps perishables fresh, longer. And even better, you can prep veggies and store them in the amounts you’ll need for upcoming recipes.
Cook food quicker with an Instant Pot. Boasting the ability to cook food anywhere from 2 to 6 times faster than on the stovetop, this is one smart pressure cooker. Advanced, and more expensive, models have real gourmet appeal with the addition of a sous vide mode, which carefully cooks meats to a very specific temperature. This is a great way to ensure the meat’s fully cooked before you store it in the fridge for future meals. More recent models are Wi-Fi enabled helping you track the progress of meals as they’re cooking.
A better blender makes more than smoothies. Investing in a high-end blender can keep your family eating healthy — without realizing it. Options like Blendtech and VitaMix have modes that cook the food by the sheer friction of the dazzling speed of the blender’s blades. You can also quickly whip up your own homemade mayonnaise, or aioli as it’s called in Europe, in no time at all. These are also great for creating vegetable-based gluten free options too.
With great ideas like these to help you get through the workweek, you’ll be a meal-prep pro in no time at all. Now that you’ve got your mealtime know-how, tools and equipment, all that’s left to do is dive in and wow the family at the dinner table!