5 Strategies for Meal Prep to Make Back-to-School a Breeze

Are you a parent of children who are heading into another school season? If so, then you might be feeling overwhelmed by the preparations that need to be made for this time of year. 

There is so much to do before that school bell rings! One thing I’m really looking forward to this fall is a new well-oiled meal prep routine.

One important strategy to lighten your load this school season is your meal prep strategy. In this post we will explore five strategies for back-to-school meal prep that will save you time and energy. Plus, you’ll love that your family is eating well.

I hope it helps make things easier for you and keeps everyone happy and healthy during these busy days!

Delegate

No matter your children’s age, they can help at some level with meal prep and lunch packing. Unfortunately, this is one parenting lesson I didn’t learn early enough. So get the kiddos involved as soon as possible and make it fun! 

Kids love to participate in food prep. Whether it’s cutting up ingredients, packing sections of their bento lunch boxes or stirring muffin batter, giving them some responsibilities will help your child to eat their meals if they’ve had a role in their creation!

Kids are also more likely to try new foods – even fruits and vegetables – if they’ve helped to prepare them. I’ll never forget the time my daughter ate smoked salmon in 1st grade and loved the idea of packing her “lox in the box” for lunch.

Plan and prep ahead

It is hard for any of us to make the best food decisions when we’re tired or frazzled – even a dietitian! Having a plan A and even a plan B helps to keep meals running smoothly, no matter how the day unfolds. 

Using a meal plan as a guide can be REALLY helpful. It doesn’t mean that you have to make every meal on a meal plan but it can help to get started with preparing healthy meals the whole family can enjoy. Select three dinners and a few snacks for each week of the month. Stick with it until you have a repertoire of at least 10 dinner meals you can put into rotation – this can take up to 4-6 weeks. Dinners such as soups, stews, and roasted proteins make excellent lunch box appearances when paired with non-prep items such as fruits, vegetables, cheese, and crackers. 

My favorite dinner leftover combinations include: 

  • Shredded chicken tacos with salsa and prepared guacamole
  • Vegetable chili with cheese and crackers
  • Beef stew with rice 
  • Tofu or other protein kabobs with pasta and prepared pesto sauce
  • Broccoli Cheddar soup with whole grain toast wedges

A  helpful tip to leveraging dinner as lunch is to scale your recipes to ensure you have enough for lunch the next day. Also, pack lunches BEFORE you eat dinner to avoid adding burden to your already busy morning schedule.

Batch your work

We talk about batching work with tasks at the office, but what about in the kitchen? Same time-saving principle applies!

Here are a few ideas:

If your kiddos love smoothies for breakfast, batch your smoothie packs in cups or bags in the freezer so that breakfast is as simple as dumping the ingredients into the blender and adding their favorite milk or juice to blend. 

Cutting veggies take time so why not cut up your child’s favorite vegetables (or have your child do it with you) once or twice a week and store them in baggies that are ready to toss into the lunch box. Or store all of the sliced veggies in a container so that packing their bento lunch box is that much faster.

And if you know that you’re cooking two different dinners that call for chopped onions and celery, chop up enough veggies for both dinners. You’ll be thankful for less chopping when the time comes to cook the second recipe! 

Use a template

How else can we reduce your mental load? Follow a template whenever you can!

If your child uses a bento box to pack their lunch, assign a food group to each section. Whole grains go on the left, fruits below, a protein on the right, and so on. Discuss what “counts” for each section of their lunch and brainstorm choices that fit into each category. From there, your child can pack their lunch with less input from you.

And for dinners, have some regular meals that you can depend on to be quick and delicious, without needing too much brain power. For example, Taco Tuesdays! Use the crockpot to cook your favorite taco filling and dinner will be mostly ready when you and your crew get home hungry. A few other ideas are breakfast for dinner, pizza Fridays and getting a rotisserie chicken on Mondays. My favorite is sheet pan dinners where I roast pre-cut vegetables and protein coated with olive oil and our favorite seasonings in a 425F oven for 15-20 minutes. I have included the recipe for the Balsamic Vegetable Sheet Pan Dinner as a template below. Just vary the vegetables (remember to batch your work), protein and seasonings to make it your own.  

Adjust your expectations

When your circumstances change, so too does your patience and bandwidth. This is completely normal! In this back-to-school season, remember to be gentle with yourself. If you have more activities to attend and more to-dos each day, it is reasonable to look for ways to simplify and delegate. You do not have to do everything yourself, or create meals in the same way as when you have more time. You can have a happy and healthy family, even with a few shortcuts.

Key takeaways:

Change always comes with a bit of stress, and back-to-school is full of changes! Be patient  with yourself and your family as you establish new routines. Consider what steps you need to take to ensure that you’re eating the meals that help you to thrive. Plan ahead and don’t forget to make that plan B!


5 Budget-Friendly Sleep Solutions Any Family Can Use 

Guest blog by Ana Willis, http://fitkids.info 

We all know we need sleep, but many of us may not realize just how important sleep is to our overall health. Not only can it help improve your concentration and resulting in heightened productivity, but sleep can also help bolster your immune system and fight off the symptoms of depression. The benefits of a good night’s rest are far-reaching, but finding budget-friendly sleep solutions can seem like an impossible task.

With that in mind, you may be Looking for some ways to help your family sleep better without breaking your budget. With cash back offers, coupons, and special online offers, it’s easier than ever to get the sleep you need while saving money. We will share 5 inexpensive ways you can improve your family’s sleep. 


Shop for a New Mattress  

You may have heard that a mattress needs to be replaced every 7 to 10 years, but that may not necessarily be the case. Your comfort should be a priority when it comes to your mattress, and, as The Spruce notes, that’s the most important factor to consider when you are thinking of replacing it. If you have springs poking into your back or if you find your back constantly hurting, it may be time to shop for a new one. 

Luckily, there are tons of cost-effective, comfortable mattress options on the market these days, whether you’re a side, back, or stomach sleeper. You may also be able to purchase a mattress from a major retailer, and you can take advantage of promo codes to help you save a little money. 

Get Affordable New Linens 

Your sheets and blankets can also have an impact on how well you sleep, and you don’t have to spend hundreds to get quality linens into your life. Higher thread counts often mean higher prices, but thread count does not always equal comfort. Huffington Post explains how to never buy your sheets wrong again by looking at other more important factors, such as fiber and weave, which really affect how your bedding feels. As far as thread count, anything over 200 should do the trick, and it’s easy to find this style of sheet at affordable prices from online stores like Overstock.com. 

Build a Better Relaxation Routine

Getting ready for a good night’s sleep doesn’t have to involve pricey spa treatments to help you feel relaxed. In fact, exercise has been shown to promote better sleep, so work in a fitness regimen or simply take a walk around the block or get active in the backyard with the kiddos. Look into kids smartwatches that come with features that help your children stay active.

There are other simple steps that can help you unwind and improve your sleep much more. Shut off your screens a couple of hours before your bedtime, and try relaxing with a book instead. Reading before bed is a great way to relax your brain, so hit up a used bookstore or Amazon to pick up some relaxing books. Amazon has some of the best prices on popular titles, and while you’re there, pick up some essential oils and a diffuser to further boost your relaxation. 

Create a Cozy, Comfortable Bedroom  

If your bedroom is pretty bare, spend some time sprucing it up with inexpensive, relaxing touches. The ideal bedroom should pretty much resemble a cave: dark, cool, and quiet. If you have outside light peeking into your windows or noisy neighbors keeping you up at night, plan a trip to Target to pick up some sleep essentials. You can find affordable blackout curtains, noise machines, and fans that will transform your room into your own personal sleep cave.

Watch What You Eat and Drink 

Photo by Viktoria Alipatova on Pexels.com

Your food and drink choices can also hinder your sleep. Consuming tons of caffeine — even during the day — and eating heavy meals can make it difficult to get comfy at night. Instead of spending money on coffee, try switching to inexpensive herbal teas instead. You can even use chamomile tea to calm your anxieties and help you fall asleep faster. 

Making healthy choices when it comes to meals can also mean better sleep for you and your family. Try putting together a menu to keep you on track with your eating and your spending – look around online for grocery coupons to help you stay within your budget. More helpful tips on staying healthy can be found on home-related websites like Home Life Daily and healthydigz.com. There, you can find resources like best cooking appliances, home improvement articles, and more. 

Getting a good night’s sleep and saving money are both important. So, use these cost-effective, sleep-enhancing tips to boost your sleep and keep your budget on track too.

Photo Credit: Pixabay