All In The Family-Lunch and Dinner Hacks to Keep You Sane This Upcoming School Year.
First day of school is quickly approaching and if you are like most parents, you are dreading the daily lunch and dinner routine. Well, it doesn’t have to be stressful, there are a few tips I can give that will make everyone happy!
1. Plan a Weekly Menu. In our home, we have a marker board in the kitchen and we keep a week’s worth of dinner ideas written out. It’s a plan, one that needs to be somewhat flexible in case something pops up (like an after school practice time change or a late meeting at the office) that interferes, but a plan nonetheless! I get the family involved by asking them for some ideas of what they would like this week while planning. Every now and then they come up with something super creative that I had forgotten about, which is so helpful in keeping ideas fresh. If you have a large family, assign each person to choosing a day or two they are responsible for choosing/planning the meal.
2. Cook Extra For Leftovers. Once your menu is done, it’s time to make your shopping list. Plan to purchase extra to allow for leftovers. Leftovers make a great workday lunch for the next day. They can also be a perfect school lunch if you have a great insulated lunchbox or access to a microwave. If you don’t have ways to keep the leftovers hot, or ways to reheat, then plan a lunch menu for the ones who need it when planning your dinner menu. Get the family involved in this too. Let them come up with healthy ideas for meals. Teach them now, how to plan ahead and put their plan into action.
3. Save Your Ideas. Once you have planned weekly menus for a month, realistically, you can recycle that plan each month and still keep variety. Take pictures or keep a journal of your menu plan and grocery list, and keep it on your phone for quick access. When your schedule starts to get crazy, and notice I said when, not if, but when, you can quickly retrieve your old plans, and improvise as needed to keep it simple. If you have teens in the house that can run errands, send them a picture of your list and get them involved with picking up last minute items.
4. Food prep on your day off or on slower schedule days. Look ahead at your meal plan and do as much chopping/trimming/pre-cooking/assembling as you can to have it ready for the upcoming week’s meal time. Get the family involved with this too. Kids love to help and the bonus is you are teaching them how to do it so they will be prepared for later in life when they are on their own. You may have to meal prep twice a week, because, if you are working with fresh ingredients, you want to keep them from going bad. I use a 3 day rule in our home. No leftovers are eaten after 3 days, and I try to keep fresh ingredients for upcoming meals for 3 days ahead.
5. Utilize Online Grocery Shopping. There are so many services out there now that you can order groceries and pick up at the store at your scheduled time, or you can have them hand-picked and delivered to your front door. If your schedule is tight, you hate searching for food items, or if you can easily be distracted when shopping and overspend, online ordering is a great solution! Plan your menu, make your list, order online, and pickup or deliver whenever you are ready! This will save you so much time and money!! You can also usually list an alternate pickup person at most grocery stores, another way to keep it “all in the family.” Get your spouse or teens to pick groceries up on their way home too!
Keep in mind, these are habit changes that may take some time and discipline to get used to. Give yourself some grace for the times you fail, and start over the next day/week until it seems routine. The time you invest by keeping this “all in the family” is priceless. You are spending quality time together, creating a plan, putting it into action, and developing necessary life skills to keep them healthy, strong, and equipped with independence as they age.
What are some of your favorite “go to” weekly meals? What habits/methods do you use in your home that makes this process easy? I always love hearing what works for others so I can use and share with others who need it!