Like it or not, summer is coming to an end and the kids are heading back to school. That means countless households are back to a busy schedule. Fortunately, with a little planning, meal preparation, and a few easy recipes under your belt, it doesn’t mean you have to give up healthy eating or spend hours in the kitchen.
Tips to Make Back-to-School Easier (and Healthier)
Both of our girls are heading off to high school next week: one in her first year, and one in her final year. High school lunches usually mean a trip through the cafeteria line, or bumming something off of friends. But not this year. This year, packing a good lunch has become more important that ever. Thanks to COVID-19, sharing lunch items and cafeteria runs are no longer lunchtime options for the kids.
That means extra time needs to be taken at home to prepare enough food to get the kids through their day. Whether it’s preparing lunch bags the night before, or in the morning before school, a little time and attention can make the process easier. Here are a few tips to help:
- Organize your kitchen. Keep all the lunch making tools and supplies together in one area for a fast and easy process. In our house, we have one cupboard dedicated to quick-grab snack items like granola bars, fruit cups, crackers, etc. Under that, we have one large drawer for storing various plastic containers and thermoses, cutlery, and napkins.
- Make extra portions when you’re cooking. You can pack leftovers into lunch containers and put in the fridge for easy lunch options that anyone can grab during the week. Enjoying popcorn with a movie at home on Sunday evening? Make extras and portion into plastic containers or bags to go in lunches. Making pancakes Sunday morning? Make extras and freeze those too!
- Meal plan. Planning your meals ahead allows your kids to have a say in what they’d like to have for their lunches, and it means you can look at grocery store flyers and take advantage of what might be on sale. It also allows you to ensure you don’t run out of anything and that you have healthy food options available at all times so the kids (hopefully) aren’t just reaching for prepackaged snacks and junk food. Meal planning can also make your meal prep session (my next tip) easier and faster because you know exactly what you’ll be eating for the next few days.
- Meal prep. Set time aside to do an hour or so of meal preparation on weekends – it can save you a lot of time during your busy week and gives everyone healthier options to choose from. In our house, meal prep happens every Sunday and is limited to two hours. You don’t have to do it for hours. The key is to do it how and when it works for you. When you get home from the grocery store, set time aside to cut and chop fresh fruits and vegetables and pack them into lunch containers or plastic baggies to store in the fridge. While you’re chopping, maybe throw a pot of eggs on the stove to make hard-boiled eggs. Cook up a quick batch of muffins and freeze them. Put a batch of chili or soup on the stove and let it simmer while you whip up a batch of granola bars. It doesn’t have to take long or be complicated.
A Little Help
Here are a few links to recipes and meal prep posts that might help make things easier in your house: