Back to school season is upon us and to make sure the first few days are smooth and glitch free, start getting ready now. The days will be long and chaotic as you get settled into a new routine. It will be easy to slip into bad habits and eat processed foods, but studies say that eating healthy will help a child feel and learn better in the classroom. A little bit of planning and preparation before the big day (and week!) comes will help you and your children get started on the right foot.
Create a menu
Put together a menu that encompasses all meals and snacks for a week. See where you can use similar ingredients in different meals so that you can purchase them in bulk. Keep in mind what produce is in season as well so you can incorporate these into your meal plan. You can incorporate your children into this activity as well by asking them what they would like to eat out of the main food groups.
Have on hand all the basics of a pantry from oils to flour to various spices to help you in your cooking. Stock up on canned products like beans and lentils. Beyond that, have healthy snacks for your children to grab if they need something to eat. Great items are nuts, cheeses, fresh fruits and vegetables, and whole grain crackers.
Organize your kitchen
Create an area in your kitchen and fridge specifically for your lunches to be stored before they’re packed for school. A basket in the fridge with all of your cut up vegetables, dips, cheeses and other perishable items, will make it easy to grab and go. The same with crackers and surprise treats. Keep napkins easily accessible as well.
Leftovers can be boring, but done correctly they can be used as a base for a delicious follow up meal. Try tweaking previous meals and turn them into a completely different meal. A roast chicken can be used to make chicken noodle soup, or leftover plain rice into fried rice. Or you can keep the dish the same and serve it as a part of your meal with different sides later in the week.
When you’re cooking a meal, make more than you need for one meal. You can use the leftovers later on in the week, eat them for lunch the next day or freeze them for later on. One way to do this is to take one day a week (or if you’re really ambitious, once a month) and cook and prep for all your meals. Wash and slice vegetables for your meals. Mix your salad dressings. Make your pasta sauces for the week. You’ll be thankful that you’ve already done the groundwork for a healthy weekday meal when you’re pressed for time and need a healthy dinner on the table.
Utilize your freezer
If you have a large freezer, use it to your advantage. When you’re making meals like lasagnas, soups, hamburgers, and enchiladas, make double the portion size and freeze half once it’s cooled. Throw different cuts of meats into ziplock bags with a marinade and freeze. They’ll take in all that flavor as they defrost. You can also freeze in season fruits and vegetables to be enjoyed in the middle of winter. Who wouldn’t want to have fresh corn on the cob in January?
Ensure you have on hand a variety of containers for your children to take food to school in. A lot of kids don’t like their food touching one another, so boxes that have dividers in them are great. Having a number of smaller serving sized containers is also handy. A thermos is useful to keep hot food hot and cold food cold.
Supplement with healthy store bought options
If you’re really pressed for time, you can supplement your meals with a store bought side dish. Stock up on your favourite healthy foods to help your meal come together. Pick up Sum-m! products and add them to your meals. Make a curry and serve it with a side of our Samosas, or perhaps stir fry noodles and serve with gyozas. Using a few healthy store bought helpers to complement your meal is both easier on the pocket than buying your whole meal out right and also a good way to add some variety to your meal. A good rule of thumb is to buy the sides and then focus your attention on the main course of the meal. If you have already marinated your meat in the freezer, you are already halfway done! Pick up a side or two and you have a meal!
What are your organisational tips to help get ready for back to school?