Even if you’ve been looking forward to it since June, the start of a new school year always seems to sneak up quickly. Between getting kids ready and out the door, stocking up on supplies, figuring out a lunch game plan, shuttling to after-school activities – not to mention fitting in your own busy schedule – September can be stressful. Help ward off back-to-school blues (at least for grownups) with these five simple ideas to plan, prep, and streamline eating during the busiest time of year.
1. Make a week’s worth of breakfast in advance
It’s the most important meal of the day, but serving a nutritious breakfast can be challenging on busy weekday mornings. Skip pre-packaged pastries, but keep the portability and ease, by making a week’s worth of AM eats that are ready to roll when you are. Prep a batch of these bacon, egg, cheese, and spinach sandwiches on the weekend and freeze for a filling, grab-and-go breakfast that reheats in two minutes.
2. Serve sauces in cupcake liners for a no-mess lunchbox
Ask almost any student what the best part of the school day is, and you’ll hear the resounding answer: “lunch time!” Keep kids full and fueled with a midday meal they’ll love, complete with their favorite sides and snacks. Cupcake liners are an easy way to serve and transport small finger foods, like veggies, crackers, and chips, while keeping lunchboxes mess-free. With a range of colors and patterns to choose from, they’re also a fun way to customize whatever’s on the menu.
3. Make a spot in your pantry for kid-friendly snacks
When the school day is done, for most hungry students, a major snack attack is just beginning. Avoid the dreaded chorus of “there’s nothing to eat!” by keeping a stash of filling, nutritious munchies for kids to help themselves. Trail and snack mixes are a tasty option with satisfying crunch (and typically less sodium and fewer preservatives than chips) that hungry kiddos can devour by the handful. Making your own customized creation is as easy as tossing ingredients in a bowl, like this recipe that brings the protein power with beef jerky, cheese crackers, and two kinds of unsalted nuts.
4. Prep and marinate freezer meals for low-stress, heat-and-eat dinners
Juggling schedules and a roster of school-related activities can leave anyone exhausted at the end of the day…so what about dinner? Do your future self a favor by letting the freezer do some of the work. Prepping, marinating, and freezing protein in advance, like these balsamic-maple chicken breasts, makes it easy to put a homemade meal on the table with next-to-no effort during the week. Take advantage of sales and stock up on value-packs in the meat aisle to stretch a buck and cross dinner off your to-do list ahead of time.
5. Prep a week’s worth of grains for mix-and-match meals
Another smart way to get a jump on midweek meals is likely already in your pantry. Fiber-rich grains, like brown rice and quinoa, are a delicious, versatile way to fill bellies and get more nutrients on the table. Cook and cool grains in advance and keep them in the fridge so you’ll always have building blocks for a healthy meal at your fingertips. Combine any of your family’s favorite proteins, veggies, and condiments for filling grain bowls that never get old. We love this vegan-friendly riff on banh mi sandwiches that replaces the bread with a bed of brown rice.