Meal Planning for the School Daze

I don’t know about you, but the back to school season is just a whirlwind for me. I realized that there are not enough hours in my day to do all that I want to or think I should do. As a result, I am so thankful for having established theme meals for our next few weeks of dinner.

In fact, this past week sandwich night was a HUGE hit. It helped that I took FishBoy6 grocery shopping with me that afternoon. While we were out, he saw a Subway and of course asked if we could have Subway for dinner. No, but we can make our own at home.

Mother of the Year award, totally. I even sliced pickles since that is one of the few “vegetables” my kids put on their sandwiches. This week I remembered to pick up black olives, so we are in business to mimic the $5 Footlong!

Curious about freezer cooking? Consider purchasing my cookbook, Not Your Mother’s Make-Ahead and Freeze Cookbook from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or your local bookstore. It’s chock full with over 200 freezer-friendly recipes, planning pages, shopping lists, cooking plans, and basic and advanced how-to’s to making freezer cooking work for any home, family, and lifestyle.

Planning easy weeknight suppers will help you this school year!

I promise. Consider some of the following easy fixes for dinner:

Cook it slow!

Get that slow cooker going in the morning and come home to supper all ready to go. Crockpot Red Sauce is one of my “go to” recipes for an easy dinner. I cooked up a big batch of this over the weekend. It’s amazing what a crockpot can do these days. Make friends with it and you’ll be so glad you did.

Since Mondays are Pasta Night around here, we’ll enjoy the sauce atop noodles, with spaghetti and meatballs, and in Lasagna.

Belly up to the bar!

Lay out all the ingredients for DIY burritos, loaded potatoes, or tacos. Let everyone assemble his own plate. The kids will love to get creative and may be more likely to eat what they create. Include lots of veggies to choose from. For us, it’s Taco Tuesday. I’m amazed how many tacos my kids can eat!

Make it a Sandwich night!

This is our new Wednesday night supper. Not only is it really easy to pull together, it can be made as gourmet — or not — as you would like. This past week, I bought Ciabatta and sub rolls, but realized that I need to just bake a few batches of focaccia for really easy sandwich bases. Filling choices are endless. This week we’re doing turkey. But, I foresee chicken, tuna salad, and BBQ beef in our future. Thanks to a local billboard, the kids also want to try tortas.

Try a guilt-free non-supper.

Aimee rounded up a bunch of great ideas that diverge from the standard dinner fare. They’re easy, healthy, and pack lots of flavor. These meals are perfect for those days when things haven’t gone according to plan, and you just need to nourish hungry bellies.

Our favorite is the “snacky lunch or dinner” that includes cheese, crackers or baguette, and fruit and veg dippers. Easy peasy. I stocked up at Costco last week to have this on standby.

Dinner on Ice!

Spend a few hours and stock your freezer with meals to eat later in the month. (You knew I was going to say that, right?) Freezer meals are a “must have” during the school year, especially as the busy holiday season approaches. I’ve been so thankful to have a regular stash of meals to draw from.

This week Enchiladas are playing a starring role. I’ll serve beans and rice on the side for my picky eaters.

Pizza Night

Fridays is our Pizza Night around here. If I don’t make it myself, we pick up one or two from Costco. Love it for the relaxing atmosphere and the celebratory spirit it brings to our kitchen. A great way to usher in the weekend.

For me, meal planning needs to be a simple affair during the school year. There are just too many other things going on, that I gotta get outta the kitchen.

What are YOU doing to make meal planning easier this school year?

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Comments

  1. Stephenie says:

    Think I’m gonna try your theme night ideas. It stresses me out to think of a new meal plan each week. Thanks!

  2. we love our slow cooker as well – it’s the only way I manage to cook a Roast without making it incredibly tough.

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      @Michelle Burgess, one thing I learned was that some roasts are meant for dry roasting. That is to say, they shouldn’t be in the crockpot, but in a dry oven, uncovered. That was revolutionary to me as I had cooked some very tough roasts in the crockpot. Wild.

  3. Lovely ideas. We do pizza night, sandwich night, pasta and soup nights. But I also do quite a bit of meal planning every week since here in India, the meal system is a little different. We need cereal, lentil/chicken, vegetables and yogurt at lunch and dinner. So, yeah, some amount of planning does make it easy. But I can try freezing things. Should be fun:-)

  4. Fridays are our pizza night, too! We’ve been doing a burgers on the grill night, but I think a “big sandwich” night would be a hit around here.

    Breakfast for dinner is our Monday night tradition, as Mondays are usually our most rushed day. Nice way to ease into the week w/o out always having to rely on Sunday dinner leftovers (esp. now that our kids are getting to the point where they eat enough there aren’t always leftovers LOL)

    I have been thinking that we may have to tinker w/ the meal plan a bit now that school is back in session – thanks for the ideas!

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      @Kara @SimpleKids, my kids looooooove breakfast for dinner, esp if it’s that six course breakfast (potatoes, eggs, ham, bacon, pancakes, fruit). May have to add that to the list. Thanks for the inspiration!

  5. This is such a great post. We practice many of your suggestions in our house. Planning ahead is essential, especially at this back to school time of year.

  6. I put together a 2 week menu this weekend and then did the shopping. For me, this is a must during the school year. I just can’t get it together any other way.

  7. I always cook thematically, so I love your suggestions!

    I think I’ll retweet this! good stuff!

  8. I do the same thing – Monday is Slow Cooker Day, Tuesday is Soup (Fall/Winter) or Pasta/Pasta Salad (SUmmer), Wednesday is Breakfast, Thursday is Sandwich and Friday is usually my “Big Dinner” night when I make a “normal” meal. It makes meal planning easy!

  9. Well our pizza night was a bust last night because I forgot to put the paddles in the bread machine to mix the dough – didn’t realize it until it should have been done! I love your site and have used so many of your great ideas. One series I would love to see – at home lunches during the school year. We homeschool as well, and it seems as though lunch is a huge disruption during the day. My kids aren’t big sandwich eaters – so I’m looking for ideas of things I can freeze. Mac & cheese frozen in muffin cups worked well for us – any other ideas?

  10. I am going to use all of those tips starting next week along with school!!

  11. My daughter loves Subway.. and since there are 5 of us… even at 5 dollars a piece that can get expensive.. so we make our own at home… and she loves this cause she can do it herself. Plus they are more apt to try new things… We LOVE sandwich night!

  12. One of my goals for September is to eat out of our two humonguous (s0?) freezers and the pantry. I’ve been putting away lots of veggies from the garden plus stocking up on items from the local grocery outlet. To keep myself on track and to be prepared for the two nights of soccer that we’ll have in September, I made up a two-page weekly menu plan (http://mydailyround.blogspot.com/2010/08/two-page-weekly-menu-planner.html) which I’m using starting this week. I made sure to have plenty of room for notes about prepping items and sneaking veggies into dishes.

    We do stick to simple themes, though I may try sandwich night on Fridays for awhile in lieu of our pizza/calzone night. Sandwiches require less time and I can have the kids help put the platters together for the table.

  13. These are great ideas. This week, we’re putting our leftovers to work. Pork one night, rice the other night, then pork fried rice the next night!

  14. I bookmark a lot of stuff (yes, I’m ancient and still bookmark..I know). But, I am putting an extra special tag on this one. I’m going to use all of your tips, Jessica – THANK YOU!

  15. love your ideas especially the guilt free night we do something like that from time to time and during football season we eat at the games on friday nights

  16. I love this post! I am definitely going to try to do better at meal planning now that the summer is almost over.

    For our “sub” sandwiches, we always broil them a minute or two ( as Quiznos does) which makes them even better! For some reason, my teenage son and friends think this is an extra special treat. Thought yours might like it, too.

  17. Thanks so much for including me in your round-up. This is SUCH a helpful article. With the cooler weather already on it’s way here, I’m thinking about freezer meals.

  18. Tortas are a favorite meal around here- so much so that we did them for our oldest’s 18th Birthday party and his Graduation party.

    I make mine with french rolls- sliced, spread w/ mayo and grilled. We grill steak and slice it thin. I have tomato, onions, cilantro, jalapeno, and avocado available. The youngest just puts BBQ sauce on hers and one eats the bread and meat separately. My husband puts sour cream on his and my dad and one son put extra heat on theirs with Tapatio.

  19. Jessica H. says:

    Thank you so much!! I really needed this! My husband works nights, and I work days, so we have just a half hour to get a meal together and to eat it before he goes to work. That does not leave enough time most nights! But with these tips we can have meals as a family with little trouble! Thank you!

  20. Great ideas! I might try the theme night idea eventually. And thanks for mentioning beans and rice… I always forget that’s a great addition to a Mexican meal.

  21. I made the Garlic Focaccia this afternoon. It is amazing! I LOVE bread and I just got a bread machine for my b-day this month so I have been trying every recipe I can. I even borrowed the Bread Machine book from the library you recommendand have not loved anything like the Garlic Focaccia. It was so easy! What is the best way to store this and do you recommend freezing it??

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      @Kelley, freeze it after it’s baked. The dough does not freeze well. Also, I’ve made it in cake pans, so the loaves fit a freezer bag really well.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Meal Planning for the School Daze [...]

  2. [...] Meal Planning becomes all the more important with school-aged children. I can’t afford to be unprepared at dinner-time. Even if we’re talking about hamburgers, hotdogs and tacos, simple meals are better than no meals. Your host, FishMama, is a professional at meal-planning and you can learn a lot from her. Freezer cooking is also a wonderful idea to keep you on top of things. [...]

  3. [...] Meal Planning for the School Daze :: Life As Mom [...]

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