It’s that time of year again…time for early rises, quick breakfasts, homework, and enforced bedtimes. Next to the beginning of the year, embarking on a new school year is a favorite time for people to make a fresh start. This is a great time also take a look at your eating and cooking habits for the family. If you’re stuck and fresh out of ideas, here are a few that can get your hungry for the change.
Tips to tackle the new school year
- Take some time to plan. Although it sounds like one more thing to add to your to-do list, a few minutes of thinking about the week as a whole can allow for the daily meal planning to go much smoother. The most likely time to plan meals is before you head to the grocery store. Check out what you have in your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer to find out what you already have and plan a meal around your staples.
- Keep a stash of your “tried and true” favorite meals and all of the ingredients needed to prepare them in one designated area. I keep a binder (even in the digital age) with the recipes and ingredient lists of my favorite meals and all ingredients needed to near my kitchen. When I’m drawing a blank on what to cook I can always go my envelope and quickly find what I need to add to my grocery list.
- Consider preparing the core of a meal in bulk. One of my favorite things to do is buy ground beef in large amounts and break it down into smaller portions. I will make mini-meatloafs and freeze in disposable containers, or roll out some meatballs and flash freeze to use for spaghetti, meatball stew, or meatball sandwiches. I also like to buy chicken and cut into pieces and freeze individually. I will even make my own chicken nuggets when I get ambitious. In doing this I will spend a couple of hours in the kitchen when preparing them, but I know I will buy quality meat and add the ingredients I want, instead of the manipulated pre-packaged food products sold in the grocery stores.
- Use the weekends to prepare for the week. Our breakfast options on the weekend are usually a little better than during the week. While there’s no time to prepare French toast, egg casserole, or my favorite banana eggs during the week, I can make a larger portion to be stored in the fridge to use during the week. Then I can just pop them in the toaster oven or microwave for a quick, but nutritious breakfast during the week.
- Remember the slow cooker. It’s the most wonderful feeling to get home from a full day of work and walk into supper already prepared! You can keep it simple, such as dried beans (if you soak them the night before you can pop them in the slow cooker with some meat, onions, bell peppers, garlic, bay leaf, and your seasonings of choice to cook all day), spaghetti, or pot roast-but the options are truely limitless. Throw in some veggies when you get home to prevent them from over cooking.
- Be creative. If you hear of an ingredient that you’ve never used, get ambitious and try a new recipe. It may be exactly what you or your family needs when the week starts to get monotonous.
As a wife and mom, I feel an unwritten responsibility to have quality meals available to nourish my family to prepare them for day-to-day life. While I take this seriously I try to make this an adventure rather than a chore. Sometimes it’s easier than others.