Now that school is right around the corner, it’s time to shift our focus away from the slow(er) days of summer and return to our busy schedules. For some of you that may mean preparing your child for a successful school year. Although packed lunches may be the last thing on your mind when it comes to school, preparing a carefully thought out, healthy meal is one of the best things you can do for your child. A substantial, whole lunch will provide the nourishment and energy your child needs to approach the school day with confidence.
Here are some tips to help get you started:
Plan ahead. Successful meal prepping is all about planning. Take a look at your calendar and notice what you have going on in the coming week. On busier days make a note to opt for quick recipes that are easy to prepare. Your Crock-Pot will come in handy here! Next, you’ll want to create a list of meals you’ve made in the past that you know your kids enjoy. Don’t be afraid to add in recipes that you’ve never tried before. This is a great way of exploring new ingredients. Remember to save your list for later, and you’ll want to have a reference for the next time you’re planning meals.
Schedule a prep day. Once you’ve purchased all of your ingredients, the fun begins. Meal prep is great because you get to prepare ingredients for multiple meals at once. Depending on the recipe, it may only take you a couple of hours over the weekend but save you a ton of time during the school week. Prep meats by dividing them into portions based on your meal. You can marinate, cook, then freeze them to thaw and use over the next few days. Rinse, then chop your veggies and fruits. Are you planning on serving baked goods? No problem. Muffin batter can last up to three months when kept in the freezer.
Prep throughout the week. Now that you’ve got the bulk of your meal prep done, take advantage of the extra time you have throughout the week by prepping side dishes such as rice and extra meat. You can even prep any sauces or marinades you want to use later on. Bonus tip: If you anticipate a busy week, prep a bowl of sauce that’s large enough to satisfy your needs for days ahead. Divide the sauce into portions using an ice cube tray. During the week, simply toss the frozen cube into a hot pan along with your meat.
Don’t forget the leftovers. Take a look at the lunches you’ve chosen. Can any of them be used for leftovers the following day? You can always repurpose leftovers into an entirely new meal. Be sure to balance out any protein or carb-heavy lunches with whole fruits and veggies.
Get your kids involved. Cooking with your children can help strengthen your bond and reinforce the importance of healthy meals. Kids are more likely to eat what they make, and preparing their own lunches can impart a sense of responsibility. Plus, having your child in the kitchen with you is a sure way to get an expert’s opinion on whether your next meal will go over well.