by Jessica Levinson, MS, RDN, CDN
Back to school season is upon us and that means we’re back to the hustle and bustle of feeding the kids. Breakfast eaten, check. Lunch packed, check. After-school snacks prepped, check. Dinner ready, check. If you’ve got a system in place, way to go super mom or dad – give yourself a pat on the back. But if you’re like most parents I know, you’re struggling to get it all done smoothly and efficiently.
Feeding kids ain’t easy – even for this mom dietitian. To help take some of the stress away, here are my top meal prep tips for back to school season and all year long. Find a routine that works for you and stick to it, then you can give yourself a pat on the back too!
- Plan ahead. My number one tip always comes back to planning. Set aside some time on the weekend or at night when the kids are asleep to put together a meal plan for the week. Be sure to include everything from breakfast through dinner, snacks included. If your kids are older, they can help with the planning process by suggesting dinner ideas they will enjoy and lunches they can make themselves. Be sure to write down the meal plan so you don’t forget what’s scheduled for the week. Use a dry-erase board to post the meal schedule or get my 52-Week Meal Planner to help you stay organized.
- Keep a stocked kitchen. One key to getting meals ready and packed in a hurry is making sure you have ingredients on hand. Take a look at what’s in your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry and fill in on must-have items that will help you get meals on the table and in backpacks quickly. Some staple items you’ll want to have are fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables; cheese and yogurt; canned fish and chicken; jarred sauces; and whole grains including rice, pasta, and quinoa. egglife® egg white wraps are another great staple to keep in the refrigerator since they can easily and quickly be enjoyed as a snack or meal. For example, quickly spread some nut butter on an original egglife wrap for a nutritious on the go snack!
- Work your knife skills. Spend 15 to 30 minutes a couple of days during the week to slice up fresh fruit and veggies that can be stored for easy grab-and-go lunchbox additions, after-school snacks, or the start of dinner prep. If you don’t have the time, purchase pre-cut produce at the supermarket. Same goes for pre-marinated chicken, meat, and fish.
- Batch cook. When you have the time for a cooking session, make extra for leftovers or to freeze for another time. Baked oatmeal, pancakes, and waffles may be typical weekend breakfasts, but if you make enough they’ll be a great start when you’re rushing to get out of the house in the morning. Soups, stews, and sauces all freeze well and are easy recipes to double or triple. Try egglife® egg white wraps for batch cooking. Use them to make lasagna or enchiladas at the beginning of the week and reheat for lunch and dinner on busy days.
- Plan theme nights. Boost the fun at dinnertime by making themes for different nights of the week. If you know Mondays are meatless and Tuesdays are taco night, it’s easier to come up with ideas for what to cook. Let the kids get in on the fun and help come up with the themes and meal ideas.
- Put kitchen gadgets to use. Have a slow cooker or Instant Pot? Don’t be shy to use it to help you get meals prepped in advance or cook up dinner quickly without too much hands-on time. Both of these gadgets are great for making pulled meat, which is a great filling for egglife® wraps. All you need is a veggie and your balanced plate is done!
- Get the kids involved. Kids as young as two years old can lend a hand in the kitchen, and the older they get the more they can do. Put the kiddos to work to help with meal prep and cooking. That includes lunchbox packing too. For years my girls watched me fill their lunchboxes and now they know what goes inside and can do it themselves (with a little oversight!).
Want a delicious, nutritious, and balanced dinner recipe you can prep ahead? Try my Beef & Scallion Wrap with Pickled Cucumbers made with egglife wraps!