I can’t believe I’m saying it but…it’s back-to-school season! Did anyone else feel like this summer flew by? The school supply section nearly stopped me in my tracks during my recent Target visit – ha! With all of our summer trips, organization projects, and the kids’ social schedules keeping us busy, I truly feel like the last day of school was just yesterday. I cannot believe it’s that time already, but I am excited to share some tips with you for meal planning for back-to-school. I hope these tips help you enter the new “season” with ease!
Why You Should Meal Plan
When I discuss the topic of meal planning for back-to-school (and for everyday life, really) with friends and clients who are a little resistant towards the idea, they almost always say that they see it as extra work and a waste of time. Let me say this loud and clear: meal planning actually saves you time and money in the long run! By meal planning for your week, you eliminate those wasted moments trying to figure out what to cook for dinner, running back-and-forth to the store for forgotten items, and spending money on ingredients that you can’t actually use for complete meals.
The time spent on the front end far outweighs the alternative! In turn, meal planning reduces stress when entering the work week (so long, Sunday scaries!) by helping you feel prepared. Meal planning also helps to reduce waste by keeping purchased items concise and meaningful, instead of wasteful, forgotten, or expired and in the trash.
Top Mistakes People Make While Meal Planning
First, this is not a one-man job. I encourage you to enlist your family for input and help when meal planning. Kids and spouses can assist with finding recipes, making meal suggestions, creating shopping lists, writing out a menu for the week, labeling, and even grocery shopping. As a fellow mom, I know we all too often take on this burden ourselves. Including the family is not only helpful, but creates quality time and builds useful skills for adulthood. Win-win!
Our schedules are crazy and always changing. Make sure you have some easy recipes + ingredients on hand (think spaghetti, frozen pizza, etc.) that you can whip up on the fly. You should also think about and prepare meals that are good while on-the-go. Peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, veggie sticks, and fruit slices are easy to prep and have on hand for when an extra practice gets added to the schedule or the kids are moving a little slower than usual. Having flexible meals for flexible schedules is key.
Speaking of frozen pizzas…don’t forget to utilize your frozen foods & leftovers! I see so many clients forgetting about this which leads to maxed-out space, expired goods, and unnecessary spending. Make sure you build them into your weekly plans. There’s nothing wrong with a little convenience :)
The Final Mistake
The final mistake many folks new to meal planning make is not writing it down. Sure, mental notes and lists are great, but for meal planning to work properly you must put pen-to-paper (or, ink-to-printer – ha!) I always suggest keeping lists that pertain to the family in a high-traffic area. For meal planning, the kitchen makes the most sense. I love these family menus that are magnetic and can be attached to the refrigerator for everyone to see – no more, “Mom what’s for dinner?” Acrylic menus are great (and reusable) for any larger blank spaces on a kitchen or hallway wall. For a quick & free option, check out this downloadable form on our website that you can find here!
Best Things To Do
Now that you know what not to do, let’s talk about the best things to do! Start your meal planning journey every week. I suggest choosing one day a week to dedicate to planning (and shopping if you’re the one-and-done type) and sticking to it. Weekends are great for this because you can plan your meals, knock out your shopping, and do as much prep work as possible without having to balance work and school schedules as well.
Incorporating multi-use ingredients into your weekly plans is a total pro tip. The more you can reuse, the more time you’ll save with prep work, as well as money spent at the grocery store. Not to mention the space you’ll save storing the ingredients! Easy ways to reuse ingredients is by dedicating a day to leftovers, making a few sides you can easily reheat and cycle through different meals, or by planning recipes that call for overlapping ingredients like marinara, veggies, chicken breast, etc. instead of ingredients that are unique only to one recipe.
The key to making meal planning easy is to prep as much as possible ahead of time (this includes washing and chopping, cooking grains, grilling chicken breast, etc.) so that you spend less time cooking on weeknights. I also recommend freezing as much as possible! Anything that can be stored in a freezer safe bag and reheated/cooked later will be helpful on those hectic days.
Sticking with the theme of ease, it’s also smart to plan out meals that only require one pan/pot/sheet. The less dishware needed per meal = less time spent doing dishes (and we’re all happy with that outcome, aren’t we?) There are tons of creative one-pan-meal ideas on websites like Pinterest! You can always prepare your dry ingredients by packing them in bags together, essentially creating your very own meal kit. Add a family favorite, tried-and-true recipe card to some of these high-frequented kits for easy meals on days you find yourself short on time, or just lacking inspiration.
Write Out A Grocery List
Lastly, make sure you dedicate time towards writing out a grocery list before heading to the store. Take proper inventory of what items you already have to limit unnecessary clutter and spending. If you’re tech-savvy, you can even consider using a home inventory app on your smartphone, so you always have a count of what you have in your pantry! Once at the store, sticking to your list will help eliminate impulse purchases and overspending. As I said before, the kids can be a great help with tracking down items, finding the lowest price, or crossing items off the list. Make it a little game and they’ll be all-in!
I hope these tips for meal planning for back to school season are helpful! It’s our goal here at Sorted Out to be helpful for you. I hope this article helps you breathe a little easier and enter the school year with peace of mind. If you need more tips on meal planning, check out this article or this sample weekly menu we put together. Have some good tips of your own? We’d love if you’d share them in the comments for all to see! If you need further help organizing your home, family, or life in general, we’re just an email away: email@example.com.
Looking forward to hearing from you,