The mad scramble to get kids ready for a new school year can leave any mom frazzled. Family members hustle to get out the door in the mornings, and afternoons and evenings become a jumble of homework and activities. Lean on some helpful techniques that take the pinch out of staying organized, especially when planning meals. Turn the breakfast and dinner hours into calmer moments with some quick and easy meals for the start of school.
A hearty breakfast doesn’t have to mean messy griddles and mixing bowls. Simplify the routine and still get your kids off to school on time, especially on opening day when everyone is a bundle of nerves. Offer a fruit cup along with a hard-boiled egg or a whole-grain freezer waffle with peanut butter. Give your blender a workout with some berries, a banana, milk and ice, or spoon some applesauce over hot oatmeal. Keep plenty of whole-grain cereals and diced fruit on hand.
Pack lunches and refrigerate the night before to save time in the morning. Give your kids some of their favorite standbys like peanut butter on a whole-wheat bagel or lunch meats and cream cheese or creamy dressing rolled into a tortilla pinwheel. Buy prepackaged single servings of fruit chunks, carrots and creamy dips and applesauce. Purchase resealable containers so you can cut your own fresh fruits and vegetables. Don't forget to include healthy carbohydrates like whole-grain crackers and muffins.
Double your quantities of food so that today’s leftovers become tomorrow’s shortcut. An uneaten helping of vegetables enhances your marinara sauce later in the week. Or convert leftover vegetables into pizza toppings for a quick meatless dinner. Refrigerate some extra cooked whole-wheat spaghetti for cold pasta salad for your kids’ lunches. Unused roasted chicken can be set aside and then turned into an ingredient for a garden salad to serve with a creamy dressing.
Expect craziness when your youngsters go back to school, and build that hectic pace into your dinner preparations. At the beginning of every week, write down each day’s dinner entree and post it where you can see it. This listing tells you which main dish to prepare each evening. Keep plenty of frozen and fresh vegetables, rice and canned and fresh fruits on hand so you can easily pull side dishes together that complement your main item. Also, keep whole-grain pizza dough and sauce on hand for emergencies.
Serve a tossed salad with creamy dressing alongside most of your dinners for a quick and healthy side dish. Stock your refrigerator with leafy greens and your family’s favorite vegetables like carrots, cucumber and radishes. This ensures your kids consume daily nutrients including fiber. But find new ways to instill some zing into your dinner salad so that this healthy item doesn’t become ordinary and dull. Scatter some new morsels like dried fruits, corn, red onions or water chestnuts. Experiment with walnuts, chunks of hard-boiled eggs, cheeses and mandarin oranges.
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- Food and Nutrition Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture: Why Breakfast?
- Healthy Child; Making Lunch? Make It Nutritious! Make It Waste-Free!; Amy Hemmert and Tammy Pelstring
- Meals Matter: Family Meals: More Than Just Eating at Home
- Eat Right (American Dietetic Association): Color Your Plate With Salad
- Zedcor Wholly Owned/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images