Getting back in the back-to-school groove is almost impossible without a plan. And planning is a good idea when you have lunches to pack, backpacks to check, and kids to send off to the bus. To the parents out there who are trying to keep their kids’ health in check while still paying attention to their own: we salute you. But it’s hard. So what if you combine your meal planning with your kids?
Back-to-School Meal Prep Tips
#1: Get a Slow Cooker
These babies were made for meal prep (and for making stuff that’s delish and nutrish). Find your recipe, pop it in the slow cooker in the morning, and come home to your entire house smelling like the amazing dinner you’re about to eat. You’re welcome.
#2: Cheat a Little
This is how the pros Sunday meal prep. Find 6-8 weeks worth of recipes and simply cycle through them. It keeps things varied, but not so much that you’re scrambling through the grocery store to find something new every week. Then outline those weekly recipes on Sundays with a plan of attack for each day of the week so that you don't have to break your back to prep all in one day.
#3: Find Time for You
This is a busy time, so the simpler the recipes, the better. They'll make it so you have less time in the kitchen and more time to spend with family, decompress, and, if you’re feeling crazy, fall asleep at a normal time. You’re not Gordon Ramsay—you don’t need to cook 4-star Michelin meals every night so your kids can have a kickass lunch. Carrot sticks and a turkey sandwich make a good lunch, too.
Back-to-School Recipes (with a Work Twist)
Who says you can't multitask? Here are some kid-friendly lunch recipes that, with a little bit of creativity, can be perfect for your lunchbox, too.
Cows in a Blanket: It’s only 2 ingredients: your kid's favorite natural string cheese and prosciutto. Even easier is the recipe: lay your prosciutto flat, lay your string cheese at the end of it, and roll it so that the prosciutto is wrapped around the cheese! Bam, delicious snack done.
- Work Version: pop these in the toaster oven at work and have melty, crispy deliciousness for a midday snack.
Creamy Tomato Shells: Make this one for dinner and use it as leftovers for lunch the next day. The best part? It’s creamy, it’s easy to keep warm in a thermos, and who doesn’t love shells?
- Work Version: Saute some veggies (zucchini, peppers, onions) and throw them in the mix for a little extra fiber to keep your energy high during that after-lunch work slog.
Hummus Chicken Salad Wrap: A pick that your kids and yourself will love, this simple-but-flavorful recipe has enough healthy stuff to make you feel good serving it and tastes good enough that your kids will actually want to eat it.
- Work Version: Have a picky kid? Skip the hummus for their lunch and keep if for yourself. Toss some carrots and lettuce in your wrap for a crunch and chow down.
Slow Cooker Taco Chicken: Remember that slow cooker? It makes lunch, too. This taco chicken recipe is perfect for sandwiches, wraps, or just on its own with some tortilla chips on the side. The best part? You just set it and forget it.
- Work Version: Oh, the possibilities! Toss this on a wrap with sriracha, mozzarella and lettuce and have a spicy, healthy treat. Don't be afraid to get creative with this one!
Homemade Pizza Rolls: The frozen classic with a healthy, my-mom-made-this twist.
- Work Version: Toast them, dip them in homemade sauce, add garlic powder or bits of basil to add flavor and fancy. Or, you know, just make yourself a flatbread pizza.
One of the biggest mistakes our clients make this time of year is forgoing meal prep. In a couple of hours on a Saturday morning, you can find enough recipes to build your 6-8 week meal plan, and in less than an hour on Sundays you can buy what you need. Take some time to plan out your recipes (you already have 5 lunches and dinners!) and give your kid the lunch that everyone wants a bite of.
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