Are you looking for healthy family meal plans for back to school? As we head into the middle of August with September just weeks away, the back to school fury is underway. Endless trips to Target, the mall, checking off summer reading (or scrambling to get the book these last few weeks of summer!),…the lists go on and on. Also, for many of us, back to school also means a return to routines and regular dinner times. If the thought of having to get organized with dinner gives you a major case of the blahs after a summer of just “winging it” with dinner, we want to share some of our top tips for making sure healthy family meals are a reality for this school year that is easy to fit into your busy life. At The Dinner Daily, we are obsessed with this topic of dinner, what makes it work, what makes it fall apart, and how to keep stress levels in check so our members can focus on their families. Outlined below are 5 proven tips that can really help you embrace weeknight dinners this fall:
5 Tips for Healthy Family Meal Plans for Back to School:
1. Plan for Success: I realize this seems really obvious but if you are reading this because you want to have calmer and more enjoyable weeknight dinners, you just cannot skip the planning part. If you don’t, family dinners are just too often a rushed and stressed out event. Now your plan does not have to be a color coded chart that is a practically a work of art (that was never me) but it does need to exist. Just commit to setting aside a 20 to 30 minute time slot each week (maybe it is a weekend morning while you are having coffee) to just plot out what you are doing for dinner each night of the week, the side dish to go with it, and who is doing the cooking. (or better yet, let someone else do the planning for you!) If you have older children or teenagers, get them involved by giving them some prep work to do. In our house, we used to have a chart on the fridge indicating who was on for what day so the expectations are set up in advance.
2. Shop Once a Week: Once you have a plan and an organized list, head to the store (or shop online per tip #5 below) just once a week. Really, just once. Invest the time to make sure your list is complete before heading to store and make sure to check your pantry before you go so you remember to buy any staples you need. I realize this is one of the more time consuming parts as we often hear from our members that having a ready-to-go shopping list for their week is such a big time saver. Also, if you have to get more milk or any other essentials during the week, head to your local convenience store vs the supermarket. It is quicker to get in and out and will keep you away from those impulse purchases, keeping your budget in check.
3. 15 minutes of Prep to Calm the Chaos: Again, this might seem obvious but when you are rushing to get dinner on the table for a hungry family, it is a huge stress buster. Either in the morning or night before, take 10 to 15 minutes to do a few items of prep for dinner. Chop a couple veggies, make the salad, get the required pots out on the stove top, line up your spices. You get the point. It is all those little steps that prevent chaos during dinner. Plus, you can do this at a time you pick, such as early am when your house is calm and quiet, vs. rummaging through your spice cabinet or pot draw while your kids are waving their new school year forms at you that have to be filled out for the next day. As the famous saying slogan says, just do it!
4. Schedule a No-Cook Night: Just because it is dinner, it does not always have to mean you are cooking a hot meal. While you are planning out your week, intentionally schedule a night with little to no cooking. Schedule a sandwich night, a dinner salad with some already cooked protein, or do “breakfast for dinner”. There is no need to always have a Pinterest worthy meal on the table just because the clock says it is dinner time. What matters most is you are sitting down as a family for a healthy meal, your mind is present, with stress kept to a minimum.
5. Skip the store and order online: Shopping for groceries online is becoming more and more popular and there is a big reason for this: it is a HUGE time saver. This past year, The Dinner Daily became a partner of Peapod and in the process, we tested home delivery numerous times. You can check out how easy it is here. I was hooked! Whether I had the groceries delivered right to my house or I used the convenient store pick up option, I was blown away at how much time I saved during the week. Many stores are adding a delivery option and there are often first time discounts and promos that will make the delivery free. So instead of using precious time to drive to and from the store, walk up and down aisles, load all the groceries in and out of your car, you can do your shopping from the comfort of your home (with your organized list of course) for most likely less time than it would take to drive to the store.
Lastly, be kind to yourself: grab hold of what really matters and commit to a less chaotic school year. It sounds so simple, but often times we can be our own worst enemy and over book our lives. Say “No” more often to events or commitments that will interfere with dinner time. Give your kids the space they need to just be kids after school and more importantly, give yourself the space that you need to enjoy the time with your family. W e hope that this Meal Plan guide for back to school will help you in the weeks ahead.
Before you know it, you will be preparing your kids to go off to college or other adventures and your family dinner times will be forever changed. Investing today in making sure family dinners around the table are a regular part of your week will create memories and family connections that will last a lifetime.
What other resolutions will you be making this school year? We would love to hear your tips for getting through the school year chaos like a pro!