In this back to school blog post I’m going to focus on the importance of meal prep. This has come in especially handy for me in the mornings. I don’t know about your house but I know mornings are mayhem in our house. My daughter moves at her own pace and some mornings I probably resemble a football coach clapping my hands yelling “Go, Go, Go” like a winning touch down is riding on her moving just a wee bit quicker. My girls could live happily off of cereal but I find when it takes 3 bowls for them to be full and within a few minutes they’re asking for another snack. For school mornings it’s especially important to me to ensure that my daughter is going to school having ate something that’s going to hold her over until snack time. I try to do this by giving her a nutrition packed smoothie and making sure she has something hot to eat. With two kiddos who don’t usually sleep through the night there’s just no way I can commit to making a fresh batch of anything in the morning if it means I am going to have to get up earlier than I absolutely have to. Enter meal prep.
I like to sit down at the beginning of the month and make out a plan of things I have in my home already, things I can make with these and then a few ideas of things that we enjoy and the list of things we need to make these. Eating the same thing every single day for an entire month gets boring so I try to make sure I have a rotation of ideas. Some of these ideas I can batch cook at the beginning of the month and freeze, others I can prep at the beginning of a week and have on hand. Taking the time to think about and plan this out monthly means I’m only having to really think about it once. I can get all the supplies I need or have a list of the things I need to grab and it only takes me minutes when the weekend rolls around and I’m trying to get ready for the next week. I’ve seen some great organizational tips for this on pinterest which include having four bins in your pantry labelled with the week and then you know you have everything organized and laid out. We don’t have the space for something like this but it’s a good idea with a designated pantry.
I know when some of think of meal prep we think of preparing meals for busy evenings to cover supper or pre chopping fruits and veggies to have them ready to go to make after work hurry less chaotic. For me meal prep really focuses on breakfast and lunch. So many great heart and filling breakfast foods are also simple to make in batches, freeze and pull out and reheat. Some of our favorites are pancakes, French toast, and homemade waffles. I’ll make a big batch of each, freeze on a sheet pan and then when frozen individually I’ll place in a freezer container. This makes mornings really easy because my oldest can grab these out and pop them in the toaster to reheat for her breakfast. Some other things that are great to make in batches and have that take a bit more time in the morning include breakfast burritos; made with sausage or bacon, scrambled eggs, cheese and peppers wrapped in a wrap and frozen individually easily reheated in the microwave or oven. Oatmeal cups you can build these based on your families personally preferences but we like to freeze these with raisins, blueberries, apples and cinnamon. There’s lots of great recipes on pinterest for these as well. We mix them up with oats,milk and egg and fruit. We reheat these in the microwave and serve with a sprinkling of brown sugar or maple syrup. My girls also love yogurt parfaits and it’s easy to make a big batch of homemade granola at the beginning of the week and top yogurt with in the morning. I like to stock up on fruit when it’s in season and freeze, the fruit can easily be pulled out and thawed in the fridge overnight. Fresh fruit can get expensive through the fall and winter, stocking up when it’s in season can save on your grocery bill as the year goes on. The girls love building their own parfaits. Getting children involved also ensures they’re more likely to eat them because they got to do on their own.
Another thing I work at stocking up in my freezer is school friendly snacks, I try to do a variety of three or four baked goods a month and then my daughter can choose which she feels like having that week. Once you get in the hang of planning and prepping snacks you’ll see they can be just as easy and convenient as purchasing prepackaged snacks from the grocery store. Making your own allows you to be in control of the ingredients your child is consuming and also lessens the amount of waste you have to get rid of because you won’t have a bunch of prepacked things you’ll be transferring to containers. Some things that freeze really well are cookies, muffins, cinnamon buns, smoothies, squares, homemade granola bars and tea biscuits. East Coast mommy has a fail proof amazing and delicious freezer tea biscuit recipe on her blog you should check out. In my freezer I also like to have some smoothie packs on hand with all the ingredients we’re going to need for our smoothies in the morning. These make it easy for both of my older girls to pick out and dump in to the blender in the morning while we go about our routine.
Does baking a big batch of things sound a bit daunting and overwhelming to you? Why not host a cookie exchange or baked good exchange with friends? Laura Churchill Duke from Valley Family Fun gets together with a group of friends each year at the start of the school year and exchanges cookies that are easily frozen and easy to keep on hand for lunches. You could easily do this with muffins or other school snacks that can be made in big batches and exchange with a few friends to get a variety and not have as much work. Search for this at Valley Family Fun blog Laura has some great tips and recipes there.
Of course when it comes to meal prep I plan monthly and then I break it down in to weekly tasks. This gives me a chance to set up snack bins, chop and get fruits and veggies ready for the week. Having these things prepared ahead of time makes it more likely that my daughter will eat them and then also that I too will get a chance to eat healthy nutritious snacks because I can just grab and eat as I’m doing other things.
A bit of extra work can make mornings go a bit smoother which is really helpful during those first few weeks when things are still getting back in to routine.