It’s that time of year again! (Already?!?!) The kids are heading back to school and the various sports and activities are starting up. This means everyone is about to be shorter on time and energy 🙁
It’s not always easy finding the time to eat right, never mind finding the time to cook a balanced meal 7 nights a week (or at least 5 – the other 1 or 2 nights, for my family anyway, are for splurging on ‘treat’ food!). Not to mention the nutritious breakfasts and school lunches we have to make all week. I don’t know about you but during the school year, despite setting the alarm and getting up on time, I/we seem to be running late a lot and I’m caught trying to figure out what the heck I can throw together for breakfast and/or pack my kids for lunch that will be filling, healthy, tasty AND take under 5 minutes to make. Haha (I really wish peanut butter wasn’t a no-no at school!).
The key to making healthy food choices (and life easier for yourself) is to do a little planning ahead. Just a bit of extra work on the weekend will ensure things run much smoother for the following week!
Below are some tips that have really helped me (I hope they can help you too!):
STOCK UP ON HEALTHY FOOD – for breakfast and packed lunches
- I stock up on a few pre-packaged, healthy snacks that I know my kids like. These come in handy when I’m running late and need to grab something quick for them. I don’t use these all the time. I Keep them for when I’m ‘in a pinch’. Examples are granola bars, dehydrated fruit (which I buy from the bulk aisle to save a lot of money), whole grain crackers, pre-packaged cheese (like Babybel). Obviously, choose things your kid enjoys.
- I stock up on yogurt, cottage cheese, fruits and lots of veggies (I ALWAYS have apples and bananas on hand, at the very least). I also always have peanut butter, jam, frozen fruit for smoothies, hard boiled eggs, instant oatmeal and healthy NON SUGARY cereal (such as whole grain cheerios), so the kids can get a quick, but healthy, breakfast.
MAKE FOOD IN LARGE BATCHES AND FREEZE – for dinners
- There are certain foods I always make in large batches so I can pull them out at any time for a quick, nutritious meal, snack or dessert. Having a few frozen ‘go to’ items that are still healthy ensures you can make healthy choices and don’t end up eating fast food, without having to sacrifice time (pizza, chicken fingers, fries, etc. also don’t count in our house. Those are considered ‘treat foods’). Some examples of things I make in bulk are meatballs, lasagna, pizza dough, casserole, tomato sauce, hamburger patties (or turkey burger, quinoa burger, etc), and pesto. I also always make healthy muffins in large batches and freeze so I can grab a one for breakfast, lunch or just a snack whenever I want!
PREPARE FOOD FOR THE WEEK ON SUNDAY
- I cut up some veggies that will last several days such as peppers, carrots and celery.
- I ensure I have everything ready for several kinds of sandwiches. I pull out English muffins, wraps, bread and even a few buns from the freezer to ensure there is variety for breakfasts and lunches for the week (I keep ALL my bread products that I’m not using within 3 days in the freezer to keep everything fresh!). I make tuna salad or salmon salad and egg salad (I love egg salad because I can use it for breakfast OR lunch) and I ensure I have some deli meat such as lean turkey, chicken and/or ham in the fridge at all times. As long as I do this prep on Sunday, I know it will only take me seconds to make great sandwiches all week!
- Prepare a few starches ahead of time. Too often I’ve been short on time and turned to Kraft Dinner or instant rice as a side dish. While there is nothing wrong with this once in a while, I try to avoid ‘instant, pre-packaged’ foods whenever I can. Now I make a large batch of brown rice, quinoa and sometimes even pasta (like rotini or bowtie) all at once. I keep it simple because I can add vegetables or sauce to any of these starches when I’m reheating them. If I haven’t used some of them within a few days, I add whatever I have leftover into a salad or soup. There are endless options for using these things up so I never worry about them going bad before I get a chance to eat them! I also defrost the meat and/or fish I’ll be using for the next few days on Sunday so I don’t have to remember to defrost/buy it later.
WRITE A WEEKLY MEAL PLAN!
- Some days just feel so busy that the last thing you want to worry about is what to make for lunch and/or dinner. Take the guess work out by making a weekly meal plan! If you do this, you’ll know exactly what to shop for for the week and you can defrost/buy whatever meat and fish you’ll be using for the next 5 days so don’t have to worry about doing it each day. You’ll also know what starches and how many you’ll need and can pre-make them accordingly. It saves a LOT of time and mental energy.
I hope some of these tips help you!