Are you looking to get organized with easy family meals for back to school? As we head into the middle of August, the back to school fury is truly 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. Also, for many of us, back to school means a return to routines and regular meals. If the thought of getting organized gives you a major case of the blahs after a summer with more spontaneous and “just winging it” dinners, we want to share some of our top tips for making sure healthy family meals are a reality for this school year. 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. Create your weekly Plan: 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. Otherwise, family dinners are too often a rushed and stressed out event. Your plan does not have to be a color coded chart that is a practically a work of art (a simple list posted on the fridge works just fine) but it does need to exist. Just commit to setting aside a block of time each week to just plan 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. (we’ve even created a Meal Planner’s Guide to get you started 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. Although putting together a complete shopping list does take some time, it is really a critical part of shopping once a week. Also, if you run out of milk or bread (or other essentials during the week) consider going 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: when you are rushing to get dinner on the table for a hungry family, doing just a few things in advance is a huge stress buster. Either in the morning or the 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, or simply line up your spices called for in the recipe. It is all those little steps that can make a big difference when energy levels are low at the end of the day. Plus, you can do this at a time that works for you, such as early am when your house is calm and quiet, vs. rummaging through your spice cabinet or pot draw while your kids are trying to talk to you about their day.
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. What matters most is you are sitting down as a family for a healthy meal, your mind is present, and stress is kept to a minimum.
5. Skip the store and order online: after the last year of craziness, shopping for groceries online has become mainstream. We now have many options for having groceries delivered. In addition to the safety benefits of shopping from home, it is also a huge time saver! Most stores now have a delivery or store pick up 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 and shop, you can do your shopping from the comfort of your home (with your organized list) 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 it is so easy to forget when we are busy and going through our check list of to do’s. Consider saying “No” more often to events or commitments that will interfere with your family dinner time. Or, pick two to three days that are firm family dinner nights and turn away any invites or activities that will create a conflict.
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. By carving out routines today that make family dinners around the table happen, you 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 in the comments.
Check out our other resources below to make back to school family meals easier: