One of the hardest adjustments for me to make once my kids go back to school is planning meals. Summertime allows for a later dinnertime and accepting invitations to barbeques. I can throw things together on my own schedule without meal planning.
Once school starts, a more efficient system is needed to make sure activities, homework, and bedtime stay on schedule.
Honestly, the first week was a bust this year. It was impossibly hot, in the upper 90s every day. We went out to eat the first day of school, had breakfast for dinner another, and leftovers another. Friday night we ended up at a burger joint.
The plan wasn’t in place.
A few years ago, I started meal planning by going through my pantry and freezer and figuring out what I would make weekly. Whatever was missing I would grab at the store, and meals would be set for the week.
I did some planning this weekend and based on our schedule have decided what to make. Leftovers make great lunches for my husband and me and if there are some left, later in the week we will have them for dinner.
There are a few ways to make meal planning easier that I have discovered that I’d like to share.
FREEZER and CROCKPOT MEALS
Investing a few hours on a weekend can stock your family with healthy, delicious meals that can be at your fingertips after a long day. Simply package the ingredients on zipper-seal bags (gallon size) and write instructions on the bag in permanent marker. Some recipes can be prepared in casserole dishes or foil pans for freezing as well.
I also love the crockpot for meals. At least once a week during the school year, our meal will cook while we are at school and be ready when we get home. The best is when I forget I’ve done it and then smell the food as I step in the door.
Since I am gone for eight hours a day, I tend to make crockpot meals from freezer meals or using frozen meat.
Freezer meals, depending on what they are, can be cooked in the crockpot. If not, many of them are easily prepared by baking when you come home. Others are stir-fry or one-pot meals you can simply heat on a burner.
My Pinterest boards for crockpot and freezer meals are linked later in the post so that you can browse and see what works for you. Just choose a few, shop for ingredients, and spend a few hours on the weekend stocking your freezer.
Dinner doesn’t have to be complicated. We often purchase store-bought pizza dough and make homemade pizza, which we serve with a salad. Breakfast for dinner is also a favorite. Eggs, toast, bacon, and coffee are enjoyed for dinner since we don’t have time during the week for cooked breakfast.
Another family favorite is soup in the cooler months. I will cook a large pot of soup and freeze it in large plastic containers. Then we can simply heat up in a pot and serve with crusty bread for a hearty meal in under 30 minutes.
There’s no shame in sandwich night either. Egg or tuna salad sandwiches with a cup of soup are a great quick meal.
Fancy Grilled Cheese Night is also great fun. Make grilled cheese sandwiches using a variety of cheeses and add ons, like bacon, tomato, fig jam, or thinly sliced green apple.
My current favorite simple dinner is “Inside-Out Eggroll”. It goes from fridge to table in 20 minutes.
INSIDE-OUT EGG ROLL (serves 4)
1 lb. ground pork
1 bag of prepackaged coleslaw mix (cabbage/carrots)
1 inch cube ginger, minced
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 scallions, sliced
1 tablespoon sesame oil
soy sauce to taste
sesame seeds for garnish
Sautee pork, garlic, ginger and onion in sesame oil until cooked through. Add the bag of coleslaw to saute pan and cook until vegetables are tender.
Serve over microwaveable frozen brown rice and top with scallions and sesame seeds. Add soy sauce to suit your taste.
We have a whiteboard on the fridge that I list the weekly meals on, along with the evening’s obligations to the right of each menu. For example, on Cub Scouts night, we may have breakfast for dinner. On a night when we don’t have to go out, I may prepare a dinner of pork chops and vegetables since that takes longer to cook.
School-aged children can help with dinner prep by setting the table, cutting vegetables, or stirring the pot (older kids). Clearing up at the end of dinner is also a chore children can help with. Depending on their ages and if they’ve done their homework, they can even help with dishes. Giving children a sense of ownership over the process is important so they can see the effort that goes into making and cleaning up a meal.
Here are my favorite Pinterest boards for food ideas. Enjoy meal planning and prepping and make life less hectic in doing so.
You’ll save time and money and gain peace of mind when you start planning meals and getting the family involved. Happy back to school and happy dinnertime!
Hi! I’m Tracy…Christ-follower, wife, mama, writer, blogger, speaker, teacher, dreamer. I love Earl Grey Tea and quiet mornings. Here at Earl Grey and Yellow, the focus is striving to be faithful and appreciate the small things. So glad you stopped by. Please have a look around and subscribe to our newsletter and social media to stay connected.