The kids have their pens and calculators sorted, but parents – how school ready are you? Going back to school means parents need to have three meals and snacks a day shopped for and organised. Our own master meal planner, Jen, says shopping well is vital to a stress-free school start for parents.
Most skipped meals or poor food choices come from not having the ingredients at home.
If you look at your week and see which nights are busy and which nights are less so, you can cook more complicated meals when you have a little more time and keep frozen homemade meals for when you don’t get home until close to dinner time.
Take 10 minutes a week to plan out all your meals, involve your kids in the process, then do a big shop so that you have everything at hand when you need it.’
The whole family should kick start the day with a good breakfast, and the best options include cereal or muesli, toast or, if you have time, eggs.
My kids make their own bircher muesli which is fun and easy for them to do the night before, and they can add their own ingredients to suit their tastes.
Lunch is often the biggest headache of the school week. Offering a variety of food that is both nutritious and appealing can be a challenge for 40 weeks a year.
Sandwiches are always great, but work on incorporating a little variety into the lunchbox. Use leftovers for your main lunch or add something new a few times a week.
Lunch is also a great time to incorporate a few serves of vegetables into your children’s day, so choose ones that are easy to handle and not too messy such as carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes or cucumber rounds.
I also like to have a few weeks’ worth of homemade snacks frozen ready for popping into the lunchbox first thing in the morning.
Take the stress out of weeknight dinners by looking for meals that are freezable and doubling the portions to keep for busy nights in later weeks. It will only take a few nights of cooking for you to have almost another week’s meals stored in your freezer by doubling recipes.
The real trick to saving time in the kitchen is use the freezer for more than just storing frozen vegetables, ice and meat. Marinate some of your meat when you get home from shopping and then freeze it so when you need it you are defrosting already marinated meat.
On the day you want to eat it, take it out of the freezer in the morning and you can simply put it on the barbeque that night and do some salad and you have a home cooked, tasty meal in minutes.
SEVEN TIPS FOR A STRESS-FREE SCHOOL WEEK
- Plan your meals around your busy nights and less busy nights. Use a tool like PlanBuyCook’s iPhone and iPad app [appstore.com/planbuycook] to make it easy.
- Do one big shop so you have all the food you need for the week in the house.
- Get a great start to the day with a nutritious, filling breakfast.
- Incorporate a few serves of vegetables into the lunchbox.
- Bake some lunchbox fillers in bulk and freeze them. Muffins, muesli bars and savoury scrolls work well.
- Cook freezable meals and double the portions to store extra meals for busy nights down the track.
- Marinate some meat when you get home from shopping rather than freezing it uncooked straight away.
PlanBuyCook is a parent’s lifesaver. Get the app for iPhone and iPad here.
Join our Dinner Done Challenge to get your meal planning sorted. It includes a free printable meal planner and shopping list template, recipes, tips and know-how to get you from zero to meal planning hero in just 25 days.