Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Back-to-School Week Day 2

So it's the second day of back-to-school week over here, and even though Stenni doesn't have school today (she's only going on Monday and Wednesday, so far), it's still on my mind. So here's my you've -heard-it-before, painfully practical tip for day 2. 

Day 2 Tip: Plan meals in advance, at least for the first few weeks. Plan what you'll have for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (at least have a rough idea). Because your new school schedule will take some adjusting to, don't assume that you'll have oodles of time to plan and prep dinner while the kiddos are not home. You probably won't. Keep it simple with minimal prep. When I know I'll be pressed for time, I like to stick with quick and easy things like pastas (I'm a huge fan of the whole wheat pastas and I always have a bag of homemade frozen vegetable sauce in the basement freezer; it doesn't even get easier than that) and basic rice dishes such as jambalaya. Also if you have a crockpot, use it. It helps. 
Start thinking about what you want to eat for the week, and shop accordingly. Keep easy meals and snacks, like granola, fruit bars, cut fruit, yogurt, hot and cold cereals, steamable frozen veggies, and even frozen waffles around the house. I've seen too many meal plans start out with good intentions and then end up turning people into martyrs when they can't allow for changes in their situations. It makes it easier to go with the flow when you have a back-up plan that you don't feel guilty about because it's still marginally healthy and low-effort.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: keep it simple, but don't neglect nutrition. We really like Van's whole grain waffles at our house because they're easy and quick, and I don't always feel like dragging out a waffle iron. Waffles with peanut butter and raisins is an old standby at our house. I'm not always a big fan of "convenience foods" but don't totally rule out using mixes on occasion. If you can find a good complete pancake/waffle mix (again, whole grains are nice, but take what you can get!), make pancakes with fruit or veggies added in. Adding quick oats, apple juice, apple sauce and cinnamon to complete pancake mix equals apple crumble pancakes, which are a huge hit around here (berry pancakes are well-loved too)! And it doesn't hurt to make a few extras in advance to freeze and use when you need them. But seriously, never underestimate the add-ins: things like ground flaxseed, fruits, oats, juices, fruit pulps and that sort of thing can really up the nutritional value of a simple meal, and add some flavor without too much extra effort.
Meals for kiddos shouldn't be a struggle, even if you don't have a ton of time. A little advance planning goes a long way.

So here is our get-out-the-door-on-time breakfast menu for this week: 
Monday: Jack-o-lantern pumpkin chocolate chip pancakes (add apple juice and pumpkin puree to complete pancake mix, throw in a few chocolate chips, shape like a pumpkin and make a face out of the rest of the chocolate chips)
Tuesday: Peanut butter cheerios with milk and a banana
Wednesday: Whole grain waffle (yes, the frozen kind) with peanut butter or hazlenut spread and raisins, apple sauce
Thursday: Egg over easy in a pepper "flower" (just cut the pepper so that it still retains the ring shape, then cook the egg inside), pepper slices and wheat toast
Friday: Pumpkin Apple Streusel Muffins (hopefully Stenni and I will have the time to make them together on Thursday afternoon!)

If you need some great recipes, check out  http://www.parents.com/recipes/ or Allrecipes' Back-to-School page.

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