During the busy school months it is helpful to have a plan in place and establish a routine. It can also be helpful to get your family involved to take some of the pressure off you and have back up staples for when life gets really crazy! Here are 5 steps you can take to make back to school meal planning easier and more enjoyable!
1. Make planning and preparing a family event! One of the best tips I could give on making back to school breakfast and lunch prep easier is to get your kids involved! From picking out the meals, to getting in the kitchen; When you get your kids involved in making their own meals it gives them a sense of excitement about eating healthy! Giving them a small piece of control teaches them about the importance of meal planning and cooking. The pride they feel when the meals are made will most likely also carry over into meal time, which will make them more inclined to eat what is on their plate. Start by sitting down with your family at the beginning of each week and go through the Dashing Dish website, (or your favorite website, cookbook, recipe cards, etc) together. Let your kids choose at least 1-2 of the breakfast ideas, as well as their lunch choices, and 1-2 dinner choices for the week. Write down the selections on a calendar, or Dashing Dish meal plan builder and prepare a grocery list. Next, go shopping, or to save even more time, enter your grocery list into a delivery service or curb side pickup.
2. Get kids involved in the cooking and clean up. When it comes to letting your kids in the kitchen with you, this has the potential to get some parents stressed out before it has even begun! But, I promise you, it doesn't have to be a stressful event, and it can actually be very beneficial for both you and your children! Some ways to make it more peaceful is to think about the tasks or “jobs” they would enjoy and that you can peacefully let go of. Rather than offering open access to the kitchen, give them a choice such as, "Would you rather chop the peppers or stir the batter?” invite them to help with me responsibilities that won’t cause your blood pressure to rise, and give them tasks to help clean up and organize when the task is done.
3. Make all of the breakfast and lunches at one time in an assembly line fashion. By assembling your breakfast and lunches ahead of time, the two busiest meals of the day can be ready to go before the week has even begun! To start, designate a place in the pantry and refrigerator for just breakfast and lunch items. Whether it be a basket, bowl, or specific drawer or shelf, when you make it easy for kids to locate and choose, everything will come together quicker, and without the stress of too many choices. Next, lay everything out for the meals in an assembly fashion, and allow kids to put everything together for their breakfasts and put their lunches in a cooler.
4. Do your best to make meals balanced. When planning back to school meals, it is important to make sure they are balanced to give your kids the energy they need to fuel their day. A healthy meal is comprised of three main food groups which include a healthy source of protein, fat, and carbohydrate. Lean proteins are important for maintaining, and building your child's muscles, organs, and immune system. Healthy fats are important for developing your child's brain and nervous system. Healthy carbohydrates are important for your child's blood sugar levels to be stable, and gives them sustained energy levels. Complex carbohydrates (such as unrefined grains, fruits and vegetables) are also rich in fiber, which helps your child's digestive system work well, and keeps them feeling satisfied.
5. Have back up freezer staples. When life gets busy and you simply don’t have the time to plan, cook, or assemble, having a few go-to freezer staples that you can pack up and go is key to long term success! Some examples are pre-made sandwiches, yogurts, and homemade Dashing Dish muffins that you can grab out of the freezer and pop in your kids lunches, and they will be thawed perfectly at lunchtime! It is also great to have a few go-to dinner options that you can put directly into your crockpot in the morning or thaw and bake on a busy school day.