How to Make Easy Back to School Meals [10 Simple Tips]

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Sharpen the pencils and make sure everyone’s shoes still fit — it’s back to school time! As you read through the teacher’s list, try to find a long-lasting backpack and pick out the perfect lunchbox, think back to last year’s meal habits. Is your kitchen as ready for back to school as your kids are?

With the inevitable return to early mornings, tight schedules and back-to-back practices, mealtime can take a real hit. The best way to stay away from takeout and keep your family eating healthy is to create a plan of action. We’ve put together 10 tips to help you keep your meal schedule organized and your family eating delicious, home-cooked meals all year long.


Meal Plan
The best way to keep your kitchen organized is to plan your meals ahead. Take some time to write down your meal schedule and make a shopping list. Enlist help from your spouse or kids, if possible. Remember, meal planning is a teachable skill, so having your kids help not only encourages them to enjoy food, it also prepares them for a healthy relationship with eating later on in life. Pro tip: Do your shopping on Saturday to avoid the Sunday rush at the grocery store. Doing your shopping and prepping on separate days also lets you enjoy your weekend more by arranging tedious tasks into smaller, more manageable chunks.

Plan for Leftovers
While you’re planning, plan for extra! Leftovers can make a great next-day lunch or be reinvented to create another meal at the end of the week (think leftovers round up). Combining dishes from different meals can create new, interesting and exciting flavors. Have a family full of adventurous eaters? Challenge them to create the most delicious leftovers burrito! Heat up your dishes, hand them a plate with a tortilla, and let them create their own customized dinner.

Freezer Meals Are Your Friend
Although it’s still summer, you can start stocking your freezer now. Create your favorite make-ahead meals so school-night dinners are one less thing to worry about. This will come in handy during the initial transition period from summer to back to school, since schedules will still be changing. Lasagna, pot pies and enchiladas are all easy to make beforehand and are delicious, affordable and easy alternatives to ordering pizza.

Simplify Dishes
Great-tasting food doesn’t have to come with a pageful of ingredients. Find recipes with 5 or less ingredients and you’ll suddenly find time in the evening to spend with your family, exercise or restart that long-forgotten hobby.

Tame the Morning Rush
While breakfast is the most important meal of the day, it also tends to be the most rushed. Make your meal the night before and wake up to a nutritious breakfast, ready for the whole family to enjoy. Use your slow cooker to make our Overnight Cranberry Apple Oatmeal. On a smoothie kick? Make baggies of your favorite ingredients on Sunday night and pop them in the freezer. When you’re in the mood for a smoothie, just add your liquid base and blend to your heart’s content. Preparation is the name of the game when it comes to making mornings manageable.

Snack Central
Prepare for snack needs by making a “snacking command center” with grab-and-go bites perfect for school or work lunches, after-school snacks, pre-workout snacks, sports snacks and more. You can buy in bulk and then separate snacks into individual baggies. Try reserving a drawer in your refrigerator for chilled snacks, or get a basket and set it out in a high-traffic area to make sure snacks are handy to grab and go. Avoid playing the snack keeper by letting the whole family know where they can be found.

Create a Running Grocery List
Ever get home from the store to realize you forgot a key ingredient to one of your recipes or the paper towels you’ve been out of for a couple of days? Avoid that problem by relying on a running grocery list. Pick up a magnetic pad of paper and stick it on the fridge. Add items to your list throughout the week as you use up your kitchen supplies. When it’s time to go shopping, simply tear the top sheet off and bring it with you. There are also a wide variety of apps for your phone to keep you organized — you can even share grocery lists with everyone in the household so they can add what they need, too!

Use Your Grill for Protein & Your Rice Cooker for Sides
This is a great tip for last-minute, mid-week meals because it drastically cuts down on cleaning time. Grab your chicken breasts, steak or pork chops and throw them on the indoor or outdoor grill. While those cook, use your rice cooker to make white or brown rice, quinoa or barley. After you finish your mid-cook stir of the grains, add in the steamer basket filled with your favorite vegetables. This trick works great for broccoli, carrots, snap peas, cauliflower — anything you would normally steam. If you time it right, you’ll have a full meal of meat, vegetables and carbohydrates done at the same time with very few dishes.

One-Dish Wonders
Want to cut down on the cleaning time even more? Try cooking your whole meal all in one dish. Casseroles, soups and other amazing meals can be made in a single container which saves you from having to clean up a whole kitchen. And that brings us to our last tip ...

Slow Cooker Meals Save the Day
For preparing delicious, low-maintenance meals, nothing beats a slow cooker when the kids are heading back to school! Add ingredients to your slow cooker before you start your day, and it cooks while you're away (or busy). Everything from breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and desserts can be prepared in a slow cooker, and every dish will be ready just when you want it. With a slow cooker in your kitchen to take the heat off your hectic life, you’re a giant step further in making healthy meals the whole family will love.

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