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Eat Well, Spend Less: Back-to-School Meal Planning

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This month’s Eat Well, Spend Less topic is back-to-school! I shared my tips for preparing for a busy week ahead of time earlier this week, and everybody in the group is sharing their best tips as well.

From dealing with allergies — in your child and in the classroom — when packing a school lunch to freezer meals and make-ahead breakfasts, we’ve got back-to-school meal planning covered!

Here’s a peek at some of the other posts in this series:

Managing From Scratch Cooking While Homeschooling

From Tammy @ Tammy’s Recipes:

cooking from scratch while homeschooling
source: Tammy's Recipes

Back to school. Already?! As homeschoolers, we chose not to take the summer off from academics and worked in some reading and math each weekday. The work was minimal, but I mentally patted myself on the back.

I thought I was ready to start the new school year this month, but boy was I wrong! Having a child in second grade, kindergarten, and pre-K, along with a toddler (18 months) has really thrown me a curve. Someone is always needing help with something. Someone ends up being grumpy, someone ends up goofing off a little too much, or someone is bugging someone else. I’m reliving the “joys” of a struggling almost-reader. Our kitchen table is getting a workout as it functions as our dinner table, school desk for 3, and my computer area — not all at the same time, of course.

How in the world am I supposed to get “everything else” done during a rigorous school schedule?! (Thankfully, we don’t have extra-curricular activities to run to!)

Quite simply, I don’t get everything else done as I’d like to. And cooking from scratch during busy seasons of life — or is all of life a “busy season” for you? — ISN’T EASY. But, I’ve been making it a priority. And I think… it’s working. So far. Here are my tips!

Read all of Tammy’s tips (I know I’m going to be incorporating some of these into my routine!)…

Back to School with Food Allergies

From Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship:

source: Kitchen Stewardship

It takes me half an hour to pack food any time we have to eat away from home.

Half an hour.


Lunch for one adult and two small children, I’m sure, should not take that long.

And starting in just two short weeks, I’ll be packing a lunch every day for my new first grader. Gluten-free, possibly. Eco-friendly, definitely.

Be still, my beating heart!

I’m petrified!

Clearly, I need to figure out some streamlining processes for the everyday lunch packing dance. And I will, I’m sure, but for now, I’ll just shake in my boots for a while, because I do not have half an hour every night to devote to lunch.

Read Katie’s brilliant ideas for allergen-free lunches that don’t take 30 minutes at Kitchen Stewardship…

Quick Suppers for Busy Days

From Amy @ Kingdom First Mom:

Our family tends to be busier in the summer than during the school year because of our ministry schedule, but I know that isn’t the case for most people.

No matter how busy we are, we still have to eat supper, right? Some way, some how there has to be a meal.

But, who has time to prepare a gourmet (or more than just pb&j sandwiches!) meal after working all. day. long? And how do you find time to actually eat a meal when you have to balance homework, soccer practice, baths, and family time in that short span between getting home and bedtime?

The key for me is meal planning. I know each week what I want to cook on which days, and I make sure I have the needed ingredients on hand so I can actually prepare the meal without a trip to the store. This allows me to (most nights!) serve a nice, healthy meal in the evenings, without spending hours in the kitchen at the end of the day.

Get all of Amy’s quick supper ideas at Kingdom First Mom…

The Art of Back-to-School Lunches

From Shaina @ Food for My Family:

source: Food for My Family

In exactly 13 days, I will be getting ready to pack the first school lunches of the year. This year, Lene is joining the ranks of school-bound kids, which leaves me with three lunches that need packing five times a week. While this can be a bit overwhelming, I instead look at it as an exciting challenge, a chance to prove I can provide for those children I birthed, a stepping stone towards…Let’s get real.

Packing lunches is not one of my favored activities. In fact, I kind of dread the whole process. There’s a lot to consider, especially when you’re trying to pack healthy lunches that will be consumed by three wholly different and unique children.

What’s more, there is lunch bag envy. Lunch bag envy is what happens when your child glances at their neighbor’s lunch that includes cookies and juice and all the things that make it seem cooler than their sad sack of carrots and cheese cubes. To a 6-year-old, even the pile of gray chicken nuggets can be more attractive than whatever it is mom put in the Star Wars lunch bag.

And so it is. Three children, three different sets of likes and dislikes, one mom on a mission to provide a healthy lunch that each will eat and enjoy all while spending a minimal amount with the least amount of waste.

Get Shaina’s tips for school lunches that your children actually enjoy…

Tips for Packing Affordable School Lunches

From Jessica @ Life as Mom:

source: Life as Mom

The blogosphere has practically exploded with cute and utterly adorable lunch ideas. Who knew that sandwiches could be cut into so many interesting and fascinating shapes?

Cute as these lunches may be, they aren’t the best thing since sliced bread if your kid won’t eat them — or worse, they break the bank. I’m all about making meals appealing to the eye, but pretty is as pretty does. Lunchtime needs to fit the bill!

How can we make lunchtime, nutritious, fun, and affordable?

There are a number of ways where you can curb costs when it comes to packing lunches for school or work. Techniques as varied as savvy coupon shopping and baking your own granola bars can definitely play a part in keeping costs down while maintaining the fun factor.

Read Jessica’s fabulous tips for packing nutritious lunches on a budget…

Back to School Breakfast Ideas

From Aimee at Simple Bites:

source: Simple Bites

My lazy summer mornings are about to come to an end. Oh, how I have enjoyed not having to hustle my kindergartner out the door with a lunch and a school bag during these summer months.

I’ve been pregnant for the entire summer and mornings have not been my forte. The kids come and jump on me and we snuggle and read in bed until their tummies start rumbling. Yes, summer has been sweet.

However, as I slowly move out of the first trimester (can I get a high five?!) I feel my strength returning, just in time for fall, school, and those action-packed school-day mornings.

Energetic or not, pregnant or not, I need to have a morning plan. In this post I’ll show you my strategy for providing nourishing breakfasts this fall and throughout the winter. It’s simple, organized, and cost effective, perfect for the next installment of our Eat Well, Spend Less series.

Get Aimee’s breakfast ideas, including a delicious baked oatmeal recipe…

Quick Snack Ideas for a Busy School Year

From Carrie @ Denver Bargains:

Though we’ve been easing into it for months, today is our first official day of homeschooling.  I may be crazy to admit this, but the thing that is stressing me out the most right now is not how to teach 1+1=2 and how to teach a child to read: my biggest challenge right now is food!

With beginning to homeschool, being three months pregnant with baby number five, and grocery prices rising, I’m having a hard time keeping my family well-fed.  I’ve put myself under pressure to be the most frugal shopper ever, and so when I feel like I’ve spent “too much” at the store, I refuse to shop anymore.

That’s been an OK strategy for me in the past, when the grocery budget was super tight and I had the energy to be creative with “nothing to eat in the house”, but right now my budget isn’t super tight and I don’t have a lot of energy to be creative with a less-than-stellar pantry – so why am I causing myself so much stress?!

All that to say that meals and snacks are a huge struggle for me right now.  My family eats a lot, and is not impressed when I throw a few apple slices at them for a snack.

Here’s some of what I’m doing for quick, relatively inexpensive snacks right now.  These are basic ideas – probably nothing you’ve never thought of before – but if you’re like me, I figure you probably don’t need new recipes, you just need a kick in the pants to do the simple things that you already know!

Spice up your snack rotation with some of Carrie’s great snack ideas…

Easy Recipes from Homemade Snacks

From Katie @ goodLife {eats}:

after-school snacks
source: goodLife {eats}

I remember as a child, the first thing out of my mouth upon arriving home from school was usually “I’m hungry!” And it’s no surprise that I’m hearing my own children say the exact same thing.

I try my best to make sure they eat a decent breakfast before school and I always pack them a balanced lunch, but a day at school is full of hard work: mentally in the classroom and physically on the playground.

It’s important to have the house stocked with the ingredients you’ll need for homemade back to school snacks. Snacks will give kids the energy they need to complete homework and other after school tasks (plus a full tummy in our house always seems to lead to a more positive attitude!).

I like to focus on fruits and vegetables for after school snacks. It gives my kids a little something to sustain them until dinner, but not enough to fill them up and spoil their appetites.

See all of Katie’s homemade after-school snack ideas…

What is your biggest meal-planning challenge as kids head back to school?