Back to School Meal Prep Tips
It’s back to school season already, are you prepared? Nutritionist and author of My Kids Can’t Eat That! shares her school meal prep tips
Whether your children are in primary or secondary school, it’s time to get organised. There are normally so many changes around this time with daily schedules so taking a little time to meal prep can really help keep the stress down and save you time and money.
Meal prep really means thinking through what you and the family are going to eat over the week and taking a little time to prepare meals and snacks ahead of time. This may mean preparing some grab and go breakfasts for busy mornings, packed lunches for school and office as well as evening meals that can easily be reheated.
Meal prep also means you can focus more on nutritious dishes and variety through the week as you are planning ahead. In my new book My Kids Can’t Eat That! I have included a variety of meal plans including specific ones just for packed lunches. Lunches can get repetitive so it’s good to think through a range of options including those that make use of leftovers from the night before.
So, if you want to be a savvy cook here are some tips to make meal prep simple:
Use a Shopping List
Whether you are ordering online or popping to the supermarket having a well thought out shopping list will stop those impulse buys and ensure you have everything you need for your meals.
Designate a Prep Day
I generally do this on Sunday using fresh ingredients. Once you know what you are going to eat over the week you can prep 2-3 meals and pack or freeze in portions. Think ahead too. If you know one day you are going to struggle with little time make sure you have some healthy ready to eat options in the fridge – this may include packets of cooked food or cans of mixed beans ready to reheat or toss into a salad. Have some fresh soup ready for heating. Stock the fridge with pots of hummus, olives or cottage cheese to serve with cut up vegetable sticks for easy snacking too.
Cook Once For Multiple Meals
Whether you are making a salad, soup or evening meal try and double up on ingredients to save time. For example, if you are making chilli and rice why not cook extra rice for using in a rice salad for lunch. Use the Chilli to make wraps and tacos. If you are having roasted vegetables, double up and then blitz the rest for a hearty soup. This will save you both time and money.
Pre-Cut Veggies and Prepare Salads
One thing I also make sure I have is plenty of prepared veggies in the fridge. Cut up a selection such as peppers, cucumber, carrots, celery and keep in covered containers. Again, pre-wash salad and keep in the fridge so you can grab a handful for lunches through the week. Make up a simple vinaigrette and store in a bottle in the fridge for the week.
Use the Freezer
Make the freezer work for you. When you are cooking dishes try and double the quantities so you could portion and freeze the extra. Curries, soups, chillies for example are simple freezer friendly meals for all occasions. I like to cut up ripe bananas and freeze ready for instant ice cream. If you like baking then remember that muffins, breads can all freeze for up to 3 months so it’s worth making extra.
Savvy Store cupboard
This Autumn take a little time to check what you have in the store cupboard. Often, it’s easy to forget what you have. Use up leftover packets of spices, rice and lentils before buying more. Having a selection of condiments, seasonings and sauces that your family like – these can be an easy way to jazz up meals. Buy some cans of cooked beans and pulses which can blended in soups for protein, added to salads, cooked pasta or rice or vegetables.
Children always seem to be hungry after school especially if they are particularly active. Keeping a selection of healthy options at home will reduce the temptation to grab less healthy options at the corner shop. Low sugar nut and oat bars (like Kids’ Fruity Oat Bars from Puslsin), plain popcorn, vegetable sticks with dips, homemade smoothies with protein added, nuts and seeds, apple slices with nut butter are all simple options. I also have a range of healthy low sugar and allergy free recipes in my new book.
Christine’s new book is available from book shops and online via amazon: ‘My Kids Can’t Eat That: How to Deal with Allergies & Intolerances’ in Children Nourish Books 2018