6 Foolproof Back-to-School Meal Planning Tips

The lazy days of summer are coming to an end, and you’re probably thinking about the back-to-school items you need to check off your list! Schools will be reconvening in full force very soon, and preparation for the busiest time of year will be essential.

kids lunch

You may have been a little lax with meal planning this summer due to vacations and activities, but don’t wait until the last minute to get back on track! Planning ahead now will not only help you prepare healthy choices, but prevent ordering emergency meals from DoorDash the first week of school. Get ahead of the game with these 6 Foolproof Back-to-School Meal Planning Tips!

1. Know how to build a healthy meal. If you have a framework in mind when planning meals, it’s easier to choose what to put on your menu. Use this quick reference to make sure your meals are healthy and wholesome:

¼ plate protein (~4 oz) + ½ plate veggies (~1-2 cups) + ¼ plate whole grains (~½ c.)

Take out your family favorites and see if they meet the criteria. If they’re missing a component, add in what’s missing! For example, if your family loves spaghetti with meatballs for dinner, add a side salad or easy steamed broccoli to complete the meal.

2. Become a master meal prepper. Pick a day where you have 20-30 minutes available for weekly meal prep. Simple tasks include:
  • Pre-chop veggies & fruit for recipes
  • Batch cook whole grains or lean protein
  • Make recipes & add to storage containers
  • Make overnight oatmeal for weekly breakfasts
  • Make grab-n-go veggie & fruit snack bags

This can save you a ton of time and effort during the week. The more you do it, the easier it gets! Just 20 minutes (or less) once a week will do the trick.

3. Add “themes” to each day of your meal plan. If you’re at a loss for what to plan, add some fun themes! For example, try a Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, Wacky Wednesday, whatever you can come up. Once you have your theme, you can search for specific recipes or ideas that fit the theme. This also helps to add variety to your menus and prevent boredom!

4. Don’t overdo it on new recipes. We’ve all been there. We’re so excited to try a new meal plan, purchase a ton of food, and get halfway through the week feeling burnt out on all the work it takes making new recipes. If you’re new to meal planning, stick to 1-2 new recipes every week and work on making existing family favorites complete meals.

5. Create a list of “emergency” meals. Sometimes life doesn’t go as planned, and that’s okay! Plan ahead and create a list of “emergency 10-minute meals” that will have dinner on the table quickly. Options like Black Bean Quesadillas, No-Cook Avocado Chicken Salad, or Tuna Melts are good options. Stock up on pantry items to support these emergency meals.

6. Display your menu. If your family constantly asks what's for dinner, display your menu on a fun whiteboard or chalkboard. It also gives your meal planning more incentive, giving you more motivation to follow the posted plan!

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