Going back to school this year looks vastly different than any other year. Many of us are working from home, while also teaching our kids at home. We are not sending our kids off on the bus and our back to school traditions may have changed.
At least this time around we are not feeling the last-minute scramble of a complete shutdown, we are starting day one at home. Thankfully, we learned what worked and did not work and we can use that to plan this year.
The one big thing I learned during our shutdown in the spring, is that I am over standing in my kitchen all day making meals on demand. Scrambling to prepare food in between Zoom classes did not work well for me. I spent a lot of time making fresh meals three times a day for picky eaters and it was exhausting. So, to free up that time this year I am ramping up my meal prepping.
Since becoming a mom meal prepping is my go-to sanity saver and number one-time management technique. It does require a one to two-hour time commitment in the kitchen, but the amount of time it saves me from clean up and standing in front of the stove the rest of the week is worth it.
Here are my quick tips for planning and prepping for each meal of the week. Maybe it will help you save some time/sanity around remote learning this Fall.
I use the weekends to prep ahead a few different breakfast options that my family can grab and go or warm up for themselves. I wake up an hour before the family on Sunday morning to have the kitchen to myself. You can check out my Pinterest board for ideas, but some of our favorites are breakfast burritos, protein pancakes, breakfast sandwiches, hidden veggie muffins and smoothie blender cups. I make two options for my family to choose from and then I make the blender cups for myself. I have them preloaded and stacked in the freezer to make my mornings easier. My family can reheat their breakfast sandwiches and pancakes on their own or grab a muffin from the fridge.
Each night after dinner, I have the kids pack a lunch just like they did when going to school. And my husband and I pack up our own lunches. This saves me the headache of making two different sandwiches or rummaging around for leftovers to reheat every day. Preparing all of our lunches each night saves enough time for all of us to take our lunch break together, and it encourages my kids to be self sufficient.
Before I even go grocery shopping, I make a dinner menu for the week. My meal plan for the week includes a DIY pizza night (or take out) and a leftovers night to give me a night off from cooking. On my grocery shopping day, I like to wash all the produce before putting it away and I prepare as many meals ahead of time that I can. I am especially fond of freezer meals that I can toss together in a freezer bag and dump into the crock pot later. This is a huge time saver and way less mess to clean up during the busy week. I am also a fan of one sheet pan meals to make in the oven. And on really busy nights, I’ll make a charcuterie board that fits everyone’s picky favorites. You can find some of my favorite go to meal pins here.
I discovered my kids will eat through a bag of chips like its an Olympic sport. So, I stopped buying bags of chips that literally disappears within minutes and leaves my kids crabby. I set up bins in the fridge with grab and go options like cheese sticks, baby bell cheeses, yogurt tubes, mini oranges, hummus cups and bags of veggies. Don’t get me wrong, chips are delicious, and I do not judge anyone buying them for their kids. I just know my kids stay fuller longer (and stay less moody) when they eat protein and fruits.
It took me a little while to make these prepping hacks a routine. So, don’t think you have to do all of the above to be efficient. Pick the toughest meal of the day and prep it in advance to help make that time of day run a bit smoother for you.
What’s the toughest meal for you to prepare each day? Mine is breakfast, so I will always prepare breakfast in advance. I like sleep more than I like to cook.
If you have any great meal prep hacks or recipes, feel free to share in comments below or send them to [email protected]
Roxanne Ferber is a twin mom, fur mom, wife and freelance writer just trying to eek out as much sanity as she can from each day.