Family Meal Planning for Back to School

colorful& healthybrunchbowls

So everyone is about to get back into the swing of things and boy is it stressful. I only have Jack but he’ll be doing a test run next week for a full weeks’ worth of daycare so that my full time work isn’t spent trying to corral a 2 year old onto the couch with videos and Pirate’s Booty. (Yes, I deserve a mom of the year award)

Part of going back to school means that routines need to be re-established after a lax summer of late night movie watching, splash pads, and vacations. I have found that it’s particularly beneficial to us as a family if  I at least prepare a weekly dinner menu. I am not the type of mom that spends an entire day making freezer meals. I tried it and it was hard as hell and frankly, when you have a 3 person family, freezer meals are kind of silly. So I’ve comprised a more laid back approach to getting back into a routine. You will have a couple of freezer meals to prepare but for the most part this post will be about making it as easy as possible for any parent to get the family fed with as few steps as possible.

Freezer Meals

I have found that preparing no more than 2 freezer meals always ends up helping either myself or The Dad during the week. Sometimes things come up and we don’t get to dinner as early as we’d like to or your running late in the morning and need something ready for the kids. If you know you won’t be making it home in time they are also a good option to have defrosting in the fridge ahead of time (but not entirely necessary).  The freezer meals I’m about to list are my favorites for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Some, I created and some I found on other blogs. Try them out for yourself, they’re pretty easy to slap together and will help immensely during the week. 🙂

Breakfast:

  • Breakfast Taquitos are almost always a life saver for us. They’re easy to adjust to your liking and I like to wrap them in individual foil wrappers to make prep even easier.
  • Grab and Go Breakfast Bagels are super easy to prep and they’re great for teens running out the door or parents needing to rush out to a meeting.

Lunch:

  • Grilled Veggie Quesadillas I was a little skeptical about this one but The Dad loved them! I prepped about 2 dozen and we dug them out of the freezer for about a month. They were surprisingly delicious. I’d pack this for The Dad as well as a piece of fruit and some crunchy snack and he was set with a healthy lunch!
  • Homemade Hot Pockets I’m going to make this one even easier on you. The recipe calls for homemade dough. Don’t do it. I bought a tube of pizza dough from Immaculate Baker which even has a gluten free version. This made it so much easier and since we don’t like sausage in our family I purchased pepperoni and slapped that in there. These are so so easy to make and easy to pack in a lunch! I also recommend making them pop tart style and using a pizza cuter or ravioli cutter to seal the edges. (I may make a blog post on this since I am just now realizing how many changes I made to this recipe)

Dinner:

  • Jack’s Enchilda Pie This one is super easy and invented by yours truly. When making this as a freezer meal make sure to prep in a disposable aluminum pan or freezer friendly casserole dish. Add an extra 15 minutes if popping into the oven frozen. (ovens vary so watch it) This is also a great “45 minutes to the table” dish.
  • Freezer Chili So this one is listed as a crock pot chili but honestly I just put everything in a gallon freezer bag and laid it flat. When it was time to quickly come up with dinner I’d run it under the tap a few minutes then pop it into a large pot and let it cook, stirring frequently, for about 20 to 25 minutes. Top with greek yogurt and cheese or over some tortilla chips and dinner is served!

 

One Pot Meals

One pot meals are my favorite because you literally dump everything into one pot and wait for it to cook. Most of these recipes take about 45 minutes max and dinner is served!

One Pot Texican Quinoa Bowl I’m lucky that Jack loves quinoa. That’s actually the first “rice” I introduced him to and that’s pretty much all we eat in our house so he’s really used to it. This is a healthier option and pretty easy to put together.

One Pot Coconut Chicken Curry This is one of my favorite meals to make and it’s so easy!

One Pot Zucchini Mushroom Pasta This meal is one of my favorites because the amount of cream and parmesan you use is so little that it kind of makes this a healthier option for dinner. We throw a can of tuna into it to add protein and a can of corn to make it a little more colorful.

Crock Pot Meals That Don’t Suck

Got 15 minutes to throw together a few ingredients? Or take the time to prep the night before if you’ve got it in you. Then dump them in the crock pot before going to work or leaving for the day. I realize that some crock pot meals only need 6 hours so this may be a challenge but cooking on low is a great way to prevent an 8 hour pile of mush. I highly recommend a programmable slow cooker/crock pot. 

crockpot
Some helpful conversions that I got from cooktopcove.com

Crock Pot Roast This one is great for making ahead and keeping in the freezer EXCEPT for the potatoes. Wait until day of to cut those and throw those in.

Lentil Sloppy Joes Don’t knock it until you try it! Jack loves loves this meal. He eats it like it’s the best thing ever. So give it a try and you can say you know how to cook vegan. 🙂

Crock Pot Chicken with Gravy My own recipe and a very good one. You can make a lot of extra meals with the leftovers like the enchiladas!

Tips For Grocery Shopping and Planning

  1. Always make a grocery list and add 3 extra spots for last minute add ins. That way you don’t feel like your too restricted and you have add little treats that The Dad or child feel are super important to add to the list.
  2. If you can, go without your husband and children. It’s quicker, you’re more efficient, and you’re more likely not to deviate from your list.
  3. If you want to avoid crows, leave the grocery shopping for Friday, Saturday, or Monday evening at about 7 when it’s likely to be empty. If evening doesn’t work for you, go early in the morning between 8:30 and 9 am.
  4. Make a quick plan for dinners you’ll be serving for the week. You don’t have to be to strict or pay too much attention to detail. Make it easy on yourself and write down a dinner option for Monday through Friday and set it aside for when you’re ready to make your shopping list.
  5. You might be exhausted but try and set an alarm for the evening where you’ll set aside 15 minutes to do anything you might for dinner the next day. Maybe pull meat out of the freezer, or a freezer meal. Or maybe you need to cut up some veggies or throw together a crock pot meal. If you don’t, that’s okay. You’ll have those easy one pot meals or freezer meals you can run under the tap as your life saver.

I wish everyone an easy return to school! These meals are also great for new moms! Have a wonderful weekend and well wishes to all those moms taking their child to kindergarten for the first time and to moms gearing up for senior year. You’re all amazing, your children are great, and it’s going to be a good year. 🙂

 

 

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