Back to School is here! With this comes new morning routines, school activities, extracurricular activities, work and simply trying to navigate life to find a balance. The good news is we have the power to create balance in our busy schedules by being prepared and planning ahead. Our friend and teacher @Erin Kane has a few great tips to help make meal planning easier for an active busy family.

On the daily, my husband and I get asked “How do you guys do it”? You have 4 busy children, full-time jobs, and run from place to place with your kids. Our response is teamwork, communication, organization, and preparation ahead of time (and supportive family too of course). To save time and reduce stress, we try to pack everything from sports equipment and school clothes to lunches and dinners all the night before. That said, the key word here is “try”- we do sometimes find ourselves lacking time and energy but I couldn’t imagine what mornings would be if we just left things until the very last minute. 

Managing all of these things as a parent can become overwhelming and overstimulating. However, here are some things you can do to help stay on top of it this school year. 

Tips to Organizing Meals –

1. Plan out your meals for the week. The key is to make it simple, get your family’s input, and, if you can prep bigger batches of your protein on the weekend when you have more time. We love crockpot chicken, chicken skewers, stews, chilies, casseroles, and pasta sauce. These are all things you can cook ahead, and you can make it last for longer! One meal that everyone agrees on is the viral Tomato & Feta Baked Pasta – Pure Flavor® Cloud 9® Bite-sized Tomatoes are the perfect addition to this meal. One-pan chicken fajitas are also a great way to make a lot of food at one time. Seasoned chicken, onions, and Aurora Bites Mini Sweet Peppers baked to perfection for an easy fajita bowl or tacos!

2. Pack lunches while you’re prepping dinner. If you’re cutting veggies for dinner, cut extra for on-the-go snacks and your kiddo’s bento boxes. Anything you can do the night before saves so much time in the morning!  Household favorites are Mini Cucumbers, Aurora Bites Mini Sweet Peppers, and Sangria® Medley Tomatoes. Pair those with some fresh-cut turkey rolls, crackers, and cheese along with some mixed nuts or seeds and you have yourself a great little spread.  This can also be something that you take along with you before or after sports practice or piano lessons on a weeknight.

3. Having healthy snacks pre-cut and prepared in your fridge makes it so easy to assemble an on-the-go charcuterie board with all your favorite foods to avoid making a quick stop through the drive-through.  With 4 kids and all their activities plus our own, making sure that things can be scooped up and packed for meals in the car or while watching after-school sports ensures that healthy choices can be made. Crunchy Uno Bites™ Nano Cucumbers are perfect to dip into your favorite hummus and so easy to eat while on the move.

4. Keep a thermos handy to be able to pack hot food in is a pro tip when feeding hungry growing children. Our girls are often traveling an hour or more over the border for their sports. To avoid eating out and in order to save money pack a nutrient-rich Chili or Macaroni Vegetable Soup. Healthy homemade balanced meals are essential to ensuring everyone is fueled for their activities. Plus I find that teaching them this type of preparation now will certainly come in handy as they grow up and have to manage meals on their own.

Plan it out –

The key is finding products that they enjoy and will not fight you on. Don’t overthink it – take some time while you’re at home or even while you’re at your kids’ sporting activity and make a plan. We start by looking at what is on the go for the days ahead and listing out dinner plans for the week. From there I assess what can be served leftover in lunches and then make a grocery list so I know exactly what to buy. Anything you can pack or plan ahead do – this not only eliminates stress but gives you more time to spend together where you’re not arguing about what to eat. No matter where your family meals need to happen – around the table, in the car, or by the sidelines of soccer practice, making plans ahead of time can mean that the time together is full of happy and healthy choices. Good luck, have fun, and happy lunch packing 🙂

~ Erin