I can’t believe I’m writing this….. why does August come around SO fast?! I know I say it every year but this summer seemed to just FLY by! I hope your summer was as enjoyable as ours!
Technically, we started school last Friday but this is our first full week! All summer long, we’ve been trying to work on some new recipes that are perfect for those busy weeknights, school lunches or quick breakfasts. We’ve come up with a few winners for sure!
I’ll get to the recipes in a minute but wanted to share my best tip for getting meals on the table in a hurry AND helping cut the monthly grocery bill down…. meal planning! I know it can be hard but that’s the best way to stay on track (at least in our house!). I don’t have some crazy meal planning app, just a plain old Excel spreadsheet that has spots for all our meals, snacks, daily events and whether or not my kids are eating home or school lunch. Typically, I take a little time each weekend to plan for the week ahead. Ideally, I get a couple weeks done at a time and can prepare my grocery list accordingly. Another helpful tool – grocery pick-up! If your local grocery store or Wal-Mart offers free grocery pickup – USE IT! I love it because I don’t have to wrestle my 16 month old around the store and waste more time picking up the things he throws out of the cart or knocks off the shelves. Want the spreadsheet? Here it is!
I think the key to breakfast is doing whatever prep work you can ahead of time. I don’t know about you but in the mornings, I’m tired, they are tired and I’m not functioning well enough to put a glorious breakfast on the table. I like having options – especially stuff in the freezer that I can warm up or something I can make the night before and simply reheat.
- Monte Cristo Breakfast Bake – a tasty casserole that can be made ahead of time and simply warmed up! Similar to a french toast bake, this recipe uses bread cubes, ham, turkey, cheese and raspberry preserves to take the popular sandwich to a new level!
- Vanilla Matcha Latte Muffins – this might be more of a ‘mom’ recipe but my kids sure loved these tasty muffins too! you could also just skip the matcha powder if you prefer!
- Grain-Free Bacon Waffles – SO easy and a great freezer recipe! We make large batches on the weekends and freeze extras to use during the week!
- Cinnamon Doughnut Muffins – this recipe from Taste of Home is a good one! Customize your muffins by using your favorite jam. Also great to make ahead!
- Amish Breakfast Casserole – one of the most popular recipes from Taste of Home, with good reason…. it’s delicious! Lots of flavor with just a few easy ingredients!
I’ll admit that lunches are my hardest meal to plan for and the hardest to stick with. My two kids that are in school are very different. They rarely eat home lunch the same day or school lunch the same day which means I’m still packing at least one lunch a day. One kid is also much pickier than the other. They don’t have access to a microwave during lunch (and probably couldn’t figure it out anyway) SO I have to have cold lunch options on hand but in the winter, they like something warm. A quick short-cut for you: buy a Thermos Soup container; put HOT (like almost boiling) water in the empty container and put on lid; let it set for 15 minutes; pour out hot water and put in hot food; seal tightly – the food will still be warm enough by lunch!
- Chicken Salad Cucumber Bites – quick, cold, creamy and healthy! This recipe is a family favorite! Use leftover roasted chicken or even canned tuna to make a cold salad and just serve with cucumber slices – or use other veggies.
- Potluck Antipasto Pasta Salad – my all time favorite recipe from Taste of Home. It’s a perfect cold lunch option and easy to customize. My kids don’t like olives but LOVE pepperoni so I usually make some minor adjustments to this. Plus, I love it and makes my lunch easy too!
- Cheddar Corn Dog Muffins – this is my kids’ all time favorite Taste of Home recipe! Very easy to make and keep warm in that Thermos. Sometimes I’ll toss in some peas or other chopped veggies for some extra nutrition.
- Lunch Roll Ups- simply take a slice of lunch meat, spread on whatever you prefer (mayo, mustard, hummus, cream cheese, etc), add a slice of cheese, lettuce, tomato, etc and roll it up! Secure with a toothpick and toss it in a sandwich container with some other veggies. You can have these ready in about 5 minutes – which is great if you need to make a lunch really fast before leaving the house (it happens often at our house!).
- Lunch Kabobs – let the kids help make these! Take a toothpick and make a kabob with lunchmeat, cheese, veggies, bread cubes, etc. You can also do a fruit kabob with bread cubes, berries, cheese, etc. Another kid fave at our house.
I must be real here for a minute, there are SO many great lunch ideas on Pinterest – especially in those cute little Bento boxes. I love using these boxes but my cute ideas are either unwanted (read: tossed in the trash) or more work than I sometimes have time for. If that’s you, don’t worry – sandwiches are fine; leftovers are fine; a bunch of random things are fine (if they cover food group bases I guess). Some days my kids get a really nice looking lunch, some days they get a thrown together sandwich. Guess what – they still love me and they aren’t hungry. Don’t stress over it too much!
One thing that I’m a big stickler on is family dinners. It’s my favorite part of our day (as long as the middle kiddo isn’t throwing a fit about what we are having…..). I love getting to hear about each others’ day, share a meal together and laugh together. I always make it a point to have dinner ready – either cooked in the evening or made ahead -so we can have a nice meal together – even if we will be quickly running to or from baseball or gymnastics practice. BUT having a nice dinner doesn’t have to be hard or time consuming. Use the slow-cooker, the pressure cooker or a quick skillet dinner!
- Ginger Sticky Chicken – a tasty Asian inspired recipe that’s on the table in less than 30 minutes!
- Philly Cheese Steak Skillet – a family favorite here! Simple, full of flavor and perfect any time of year!
- BBQ Chicken Veggie Mac – kids love mac & cheese right? This version features veggies and some unique flavors. It’s also great to warm up for lunch.
- Lemon Garlic Chicken & Asparagus Pasta – a great warm weather dish and perfect for Spring. Light and refreshing!
- Bison Veggie Chili – ok, you don’t have to use bison if you don’t want to BUT it is very lean and is a great option to replace beef. This chili is hearty, comforting and full of veggies. Just don’t tell the kids!
- Chicken & Wild Rice Soup – our favorite cold weather meal. Rich, creamy and filling!
I’m not sure exactly why, but school makes kids ravenous at 3:00. I remember coming home from school and immediately wanting to eat something. Maybe their brains are just working SO hard – I hope so anyway! Regardless, having good snack options is important – otherwise they’ll likely eat Cheetos and PopTarts. Or maybe that was just me… Here’s some of our shortcuts: pre-cut veggies/fruits, cheese sticks, homemade trail mix, hummus, granola bars, yogurt, etc. For some special snacks or weekend treats, we like these recipes.
- Bacon Stuffed Dates – dates are our go-to sweet treat. They are nature’s candy after all! Just a couple dates hit the spot for that sweet tooth AND you don’t have to feel too guilty about it! Also, a Whole30 lifesaver.
- Citrus Oatmeal Chip Cookies – easy to make with a unique flavor!
- Maple Chocolate Chip Cookies – a classic cookie with a fun maple twist!
- Brownie Protein Bites – a few ingredients make these healthy snacks taste like dessert!
- Almond Butter Swirl Ice Cream – healthier than you think but just as delicious!
If you are ever looking for more easy recipes, my favorite place to look is Taste of Home. The recipes you’ll find there are from or created for everyday cooks. The recipes are easy, with simple ingredients. Plus there are THOUSANDS of recipes there. Also, stay tuned for more of our creations too!
Wish you ALL a great school year! It will be May again before we know it!