It’s coming…. September is just around the corner and for many people that means Back-to-School. But those three words don’t just strike fear into the hearts of kids (and teachers!) – there are a fair number of parents who are probably not looking forward to all that entails either, namely: making school lunches and getting the family back on track with an eating routine. Even for someone without kids, meal planning is something that takes, well, some planning and I’m already feeling a little stressed at the thought that I soon won’t be able to just eat or shop when I feel like it and that meals eaten at 9pm will no longer be acceptable. Yikes!
In a recent survey of 1,000 Greater Toronto Area parents, Longo’s looked at the topic of getting back into the school year routine and discovered a few interesting facts:
- Only 15 percent of parents do NOT look forward to making their kids’ lunches every day, the majority don’t mind the weekday routine.
- Forty-six percent of dads take ownership of school lunches and enjoy the job (81 percent of men enjoy packing lunch vs 76 percent of women).
- One quarter of respondents say they lose their meal-making mojo by the second week of school. That number increases to half by Thanksgiving.
Interesting huh? Sounds like a lot of us start out the year all gung-ho but that enthusiasm wanes pretty quickly. Luckily, Longo’s recipe developer and chef Emily Richards has some sound advice for keeping us all inspired, eating well and motivated about meals, well beyond Thanksgiving.
Tips for keeping motivated about meal-planning for Back to School and beyond!
1. Share the meal-planning responsibility with the whole family!
Even though more men enjoy packing lunches than women, women (67%) make more school lunches than men (46%) on a daily basis. However, more men (81%) than women (75%) say they enjoy making school lunches so how about alternating this daily duty so it’s not on one person every day. Get your kids involved too ! Younger children get excited about this because they can take a little ownership and share the choices they make with friends. Spending time in the kitchen with mum and dad is also important for kids and this is a great way to introduce that as a regular activity. Get kids involved from the beginning by bringing them to the grocery store or the market. It’s an opportunity to talk to them about healthy choices and get encourage them to get excited about their daily meals.
2. Offer choice.
Sixty-six percent of the respondents in the Longo’s survey pack different meals for each family member!!! Emily suggests deconstructing lunches so that kids can assemble the final product themselves. Make it a fun activity by offering items like Offer sliced chicken, cheese, cucumber and tomato slices or other prepared vegetables and a pita or some type of bread and let the kids choose the components – they can eat them together or separately.
3. Choose your meals wisely – make ‘planned-overs’!
Back to school signals the return to mealtime routines but don’t let that become a signal for falling into a meal-making rut. If you’re making a meal the whole family loves, make enough to pack for lunches (for everyone!) the next day. This will help ensure lunches will be eaten because they incorporates food your family already loves. For example, add leftover chicken breast and broccoli to pesto and pasta to turn a hit dinner into a cold pasta salad for lunch the next day.
4. Plan ahead!
Make lunches the night before to save yourself from a mad dash in the morning. Sixty seven percent of respondents in the Longo’s survey said they make lunches in the morning, which could be contributing to lunch box drama. It’s also not the calmest way to start your day – from planning what goes in the lunches to potentially having arguments with your kids about what they’re getting, it’s a surefire way to add a little (unnecessary) stress to the morning routine. Pack lunches while you’re clearing dinner each night so you can pop leftovers right into lunch boxes.
5. Find some “go to” recipes.
According to the Longo’s survey, only 24 percent of parents have a go-to lunch recipe. Having around 10 “go to” lunch recipes that you can rotate throughout the month will make a big difference in your routine.
Need a little inspiration? Check out:
The Longo’s Experience magazine (there’s also an iPad app!) or
the Make Ahead Weekly Menu.
6. Buy local, in season and save money
Fifty percent of parents answering the Longo’s survey prefer to pack locally sourced foods for lunch. In-season and local produce is generally sold at the best price and can save money. Plan a trip to the farmers’ market as a family. Make a list before leaving home so you know what everyone likes and what you will include in your meals and lunches. Stick to your list to save time and money. When included in the decision making process, children will feel proud to include these fresh and local staples in their meals.
…. and if you are really pressed for time, there is always Grocery Gateway. Order high-quality fresh foods, grocery and household items online for delivery to your door. Serving the GTA for 15+ years, our household has been a customer since 2000… We do buy most of our produce and meats locally but for other household items we rely on Grocery Gateway to keep us sane!
And because breakfast is the most important meal of the day, I figure we could all use a little inspiration this Back to School season so here you go: Chunky Breakfast Cookies – breakfast, a treat and a snack all rolled into one. And a perfect one to get your kids to help you make!
- 2 cups Longo’s Chunky Berry Patch Granola Cereal
- 3/4 cup chopped Longo’s Pecans
- 1/2 cup shredded carrot
- 1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
- 1/2 cup Longo’s Dried Cranberries
- 1/2 cup diced dried apples
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tbsp Longo’s Chia Seeds
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- Pinch salt
- 1/2 cup Longo’s Unsalted Butter, melted and cooled
- 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla
- Pre-heat oven to 350˚F.
- Mix granola, pecans, carrot, coconut, cranberries, apples, flour, chia seeds, soda and salt together in large bowl.
- Whisk together melted butter and brown sugar.
- Whisk in eggs and vanilla.
- Pour egg mixture over granola mixture, stirring until thoroughly moistened. Let stand for 15 minutes.
- Drop batter by heaping tablespoonfuls onto parchment-paper-lined baking sheets.
- Bake in preheated 350°F oven for 10 minutes.
- Cool on pan on rack for 3 minutes.
- Repeat with remaining dough.
Win a $100 Longo’s gift card!
That’s right – thanks to Longo’s I’m giving away a $100 Longo’s grocery gift card – perfect to help you shop for all the back to school essentials! Details here!
Disclosure: I received compensation in exchange for promoting Emily Richards’ Back-to-School tips from Longo’s. All opinions 100% my own (although, full disclosure – Emily is a friend who has worked with my Petits Chefs a few times, so I knew her tips are golden!).