Back to school means back to routine including actually eating healthy lunches and dinners which means meal planning for the win. My family, for the most part, is gluten-free; yet we love flavor which can make planning seem a little daunting. Over the years I have found what works well for our family. Below are a few hints that help me save time and money while eating healthy.
First, make a meal plan. We tend to have breakfast (pancakes and sausage, egg bake, omelets) on Mondays, Tacos or other Mexican food (think fajitas, quesadillas, Mexican pizzas, enchiladas) on Tuesdays, Soup on Wednesdays, ethnic food on Thursdays (poke bowls, egg roll in a bowl, & honey garlic meatballs are the current favorites), Pizza or Pasta on Fridays. I actually write my meals on a small magnetic whiteboard on my refrigerator. There are also lots of templates available online and on Canva. No sense in wasting time trying to remember what was planned. 😊
Once planned, it is time to prep. I look to see what ingredients I have and what I need to make the week’s meals. I try to use what’s in season and what’s in my refrigerator first then the freezer. If frozen, I only thaw meat a couple of days ahead of time as I prefer to batch-cook meat when purchased on sale and then freeze or refrigerate it in glass jars or bowls. Rotisserie chickens are your friend! They’re very versatile; we eat them in soups, quesadillas, or even plain (chicken legs are the boys’ fave)! Our favorite rotisserie chicken is from Costco as it’s the largest amount of meat for the price. For veggies, I cut what’s needed ahead of time and refrigerate in glass bowls (think peppers, onions, and celery). Bagged greens (spinach, cabbage) are great time-savers too. When I need groceries, I typically use Instacart for my weekly groceries from Aldi. It saves me time and money, and I rarely have issues even with my produce. When I had issues, they were quick to reimburse me. Usually in an hour or 2 on a weekend, I can have everything prepped and ready for quick meals for the busy week to come. All the above help dinner be a no-brainer on busy evenings after work and school and before Scouts, youth group, or sports.
Lastly, I use back to school meal planning to help with lunches. We pack lunches and refrigerate them the night before school as the mornings are too chaotic. My boys use Planet Box lunch boxes which have a sale now through 9/8/23. The boys have “Rover” and “Launch” which are compartmented stainless steel lunch boxes. We actually received the Rover from my niece a few years ago, and it’s lasted so long that I purchased my other son Launch as the other stainless-steel lunchbox purchased last year only lasted a year before it broke. I don’t mind investing in something that lasts. Each boy packs his own which must include a protein, vegetable, and fruit. Often the protein is leftovers from dinner or sardines (yes, you read that right lol). Their favorite vegetables to pack are baby carrots, mini cucumbers, and pickles. Fruit is often berries or fresh clementine oranges. Of course, there are treats at times too including homemade gluten-free muffins. Even the teachers recognize my kids’ lunches are healthy and truly appreciate it as children tend to behave better when eating real food.
More meal-planning tips can be found on Green Bay Area Mom’s What’s for dinner, meal planning tips.