It’s back to school time of year for many of us. When I was a kid I always loved getting new clothes for school. I miss that. I think that we should grab our girlfriends and go shopping for our back to school clothes. But I digress. That is not what this post is about.
This is about planning and preparations so my life is easier and more manageable. This week I went grocery shopping and I must have had half a dozen people stop me and ask why I had so much meat and a cart full of cherries and kale. I told them school was starting and I was getting ready.
You see we strictly limit any lunch meats unless we can buy the ingredients at the grocery store. Actually that is our rule of thumb for just about anything we eat. The cleaner we keep it the better we all feel and there is nothing that tastes as good as feeling good feels.
I’m not sure what goes on in other homes but I know the beginning of the school year also brings high school soccer. That means long days for my son and different hours of operation at our house.
Here’s the schedule:
6:20am I’m making breakfast
6:35am breakfast on the table
6:50am out the door to drive to the bus stop
Then I am off onto my day and he’s riding an hour to get to school. There he’ll have classes, lunch, soccer practice after school and another hour long bus ride home. This means a good lunch and an after soccer snack that is good and won’t negate the need for a complete meal at the table with the family.
6:50pm pick up at the bus stop
7:20pm home and it’s dinner time
So you see if I don’t have dinner either in the crockpot, in the oven, something that can be heated or cooked fast we’re not having dinner until really late. We usually eat dinner around 7:30 or 7:45pm.
On the nights when there is a soccer game I am at the game and we ride home together. We’re still getting home around the same time but this means I’m not home at all to get a meal started.
So planning and preparation is key.
1. clear out and organize every food storage area- pantry, refrigerators and freezers (love the garage for extras)
2. update the inventory to see what I have on hand for current meals and for the next month
3. make sure we have all the “equipment” for packing school lunches and toss and update where needed
4. make a list of all the possible foods that can be packed for lunches & snacks and post it
5. add all practices, games and meeting to the calendar
6. plan a menu for the dinners for the month based on the schedule
7. plan when that pre-cooking or batch cooking will take place
8. pre-cook and batch cooking a whole list of foods that are labeled and stored in the freezer to be used for lunches, dinners and snacks
9. pack the car with supplies- soccer bag with blanket and cow bell, folding chairs, cooler bag, large umbrellas, non-perishable snacks, extra water bottles, tissues, magazines, wipes
10. schedule a massage for me within the first couple of weeks of school- Intentional Touch LLC Herndon, VA
Download this The W.H.O.L.E. Gang Weekly Menu 2011
Some of the foods I’m baking in batches and cooking to freeze.
Grain Free Tortilla Wraps– The Spunky Coconut
Power Bars– Gluten Free For Good
Apple Cinnamon Muffins – Simply…Gluten Free Dessert Cookbook
Pumpkin Bread, Zucchini Bread, Carrot Muffins- The Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen
Crackers– Elana’s Pantry
Cherries and anything else in abundance at the market
Chocolate Chip Scones – Elana’s Pantry
beef brisket and chuck roast to be shredded and beef round to be slides for lunchmeat.
meatballs– I stuff these with lots of hidden good foods
Bacon- cut into pieces and frozen to use for breakfast omelets and salads
Here is a quick show of what I do with these large inexpensive cuts of organic meats.
Press your seasonings into the meat, often just salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder. Sear both sides and cook in crockpot with 1/2 cup water on low for at least 8-14 hours. The time varies according to when I can get back to it.
Work on the meat while it’s still hot. I take it out of the crockpot and put it onto the cookie sheet. At this point it’s easy to remove the large sections of fat. I use two forks to work my way through the meat and fat. You can see all of the fat and the bone that came from these two pork shoulders.
Once I have the meat separated onto the cookie sheet I cover it and put it into the freezer so when I put it into a large ziplock bag I don’t want it to be on big clump.
Next I strain the wonderful stock that was created and then put it into jars, label it and freeze it to use for soups and sauces.
I’d love to hear your tips!
There are a lot of great resources out there for getting ready for school and all have a unique perspective. Here are some of my favorites.
And Love It Too! -has a whole series, here is one from guest author Shirley from gluten free easily.
Adventures of a Gluten Free Mom – Read this for everything you want to know and a downloadable letter.
Alisa Cooks- has a downloadable book full of Smart School Time Recipes
Celiacs in the House- Shares great info for College kids.
Cook It Allergy Free- Great printable list of 50+ ideas for lunch boxes
Lexie’s Kitchen- Preserving the Harvest Party is a great idea of school prep with friends.
Stephanie O’Dea your ultimate resource for Crockpot Recipes. Her latest Back To School.
If you have a great recipe to share for back to school please link it up here.
Hey Diane–I can't get enough of these posts this time of year and will refer back to this one later, too. You know when I'm brain dead and can't think of anything new? 😉 Those years with soccer were definitely the most challenging for meals. I know one family with five kids, all in soccer. They'd often bring their grill to the field and have dinner beforehand. It was surprsing, but it worked for them!
I've linked up several recipes in different categories. Most are good eaten cold or room temp, but the soup or even the black bean burgers would work well in the thermos (just make the black bean burgers smaller or more meatball like … I like them room temp or cold, too). Thanks, Diane!
Shirley I love that family! Great idea to bring the grill. I bet they could have paid for their season if they were selling food.
Wow, you are one organized lady! I wish I could have seen that grocery cart of yours. =) I'm no longer hanging out at soccer fields, lacrosse fields, tennis courts, cross country courses, etc., but your post inspires me to be more prepared for snacks and meals in general. I'll definitely pass along this link to my "soccer mom" friends. You've done a lot of work here to help out busy moms. Shirley's comment about the family bringing their grill to the soccer field made me smile. That's a new one! Must have smelled good. If anyone wants to start a burrito wagon business, a soccer complex would be the place to target. =)
Great post, Diane! And, thanks for the link love. I appreciate it!
Thank you Melissa. I am a planning nut. I just don't want the "I'm too tired to cook after soccer" to be the reason my family is not getting the good fuel they need. I'm with you on the new business idea. I wonder how long it would take before they shut me down? 🙂
Great post, Diane! I know it is only a couple of years before I really need all of these. 😉
Hi Diane, I stopped by to link a couple of things from my lunchbox archives (less kid-oriented, since the lunchboxes are for me, but might be useful). I cannot find the linky so am just leaving this link instead if anyone wants to refer: http://www.thewholegang.org/2011/08/how-a-mom-get…
Hope that's ok.