The new school year is upon us! Consider these meal planning strategies for back to school to make breakfast, lunch, and dinner good, easy, AND cheap.
The clock is ticking on summer vacation. In some parts, the kids have already gone back to school; in others they’re counting down the days until summer ends. Perhaps you’re hearing the faint ding of the school bell in the distance?
Switching from the lazy days of summer into the regular routine of the school year can be a shock to the system as well as to the pocket book. There are school supplies and new clothes to purchase as well as quick, easy, and packable meals to prepare.
No longer can you just warm up a plate of leftovers at lunchtime and call it good.
However, those “convenience” items they hawk at the supermarket cost a pretty penny and have a fairly scandalous ingredients list to boot.
Meal Planning Strategies for Back to School
Consider these meal planning strategies for back to school to help you not only eat well, but also to save money as the school year gets under way.
1. Go big.
If you know you’re going to be packing lunches, buy items in bulk packaging and then reportion them for school or work lunches.
You can easily scoop yogurt from a large container — we love the ginormous container of Fage from Costco — into small plastic containers or half-pint canning jars. Add fruit, nuts, granola, and/or a drizzle of maple or honey and you’ve got a delicious yogurt without all the added sugar, preservatives — and high prices.
Likewise, you can make your own “lunchables” by dividing a larger package of crackers, cheese, and meats into smaller, meal-size portions. The same goes for big bags of chips, crackers, pretzels, and popcorn.
Make or buy a bulk batch of something and divide it into smaller containers. You can easily do this on Sunday night and set yourself up for the whole week.
2. Chill out.
Make freezer meals your friend. If you don’t have it already, buy my book Not Your Mother’s Make-Ahead and Freeze Cookbook. It contains over 200 recipes that freeze well and covers every meal of the day, including lunch, snacks, and desserts.
Do a big freezer cooking session and freeze soups, casseroles, and meats as well as baked goods in single-serving portions. This will make for lots of quick breakfasts and lunches throughout the coming months.
Freezer cooking is a great way to combine the healthier aspects of homecooking with the convenience we so desperately need during the school year.
- Back to School Freezer Meals to Make Life Easier
- Freezer Smoothies Make for Quick Breakfasts and Snacks
- Freezer Cooking Basics: What you need to fill the freezer
3. Create a meal rotation.
Bring peace to your meal planning with theme nights. It’s a great way to simplify your meal planning, automate your pantry needs, and help picky eaters know what to expect.
You don’t have to commit to the same thing each week, just give it a general theme. For instance, tacos on Tuesday. You can make a different kind of taco filling and pair it with a different kind of shell for weeks on end. And your grocery list for at least one meal of the week will be virtually the same each week, at least when it comes to basics.
Set yourself up for easy meal prep by creating a meal rotation for certain days or certain meals so that you don’t really have to think about it. You just prep and eat.
- Make a Weekly Routine with Meal Plan Theme Nights
- Plan a Regular Rotation for Lunches
- Plan a Regular Rotation for Breakfasts
These strategies will serve you well during the school year to save time and money.