Even though the weather outside my door doesn’t reflect it, Summer is nearly over. Students of all ages are preparing for the new school year, some of them in my area have already headed back. Even though my girls are all grown up, I can still remember the flurry and excitement of this time of year, and the stress that comes along with it! While parents are likely ready for their little darlings to return to school, they are also dreading the crazy busyness that comes along with it. I’ve been chatting with some young moms about this issue, and know that they all want the same things: a less hectic, more organized school year. They want their kids to excel academically, enjoy whatever hobbies and sports interest them and also fit in some much-needed family time. She wants to prepare healthy home-cooked meals and maybe actually eat them together around the dinner table now & then. How does a busy mom manage it all, especially while working outside the home and/or pursuing her own interests? In my experience, it all came down to one word: Planning. Without a plan, a system in place, things quickly unravel and can lead to chaos. There are plenty of books out there to help the harried homemaker and I’ll add my recommendations at the end of this post, but for right now I’d like to focus on the topic near and dear to my heart: food. Specifically, healthy food. With everything else he/she has to do in the day, how can a parent also find time to put a healthy meal on the table?
This is where planning comes in. When my kids were young, I sat down with a calendar and mapped out a week or two’s worth of meals at once. Based on what I had on hand and/or what was on sale at my local grocer, I gathered recipes, made a menu plan and shopping list. I wrote each day’s dinner on the calendar and pinned it to the refrigerator so we all knew what was coming up. I didn’t often have the luxury of child care, so I took the girls along with me, letting them help with the shopping. It was a great learning experience and let them feel a part of the process. (When Kristyn got old enough to drive, she did the shopping for me. She’d clip coupons and whatever savings she earned, she kept for herself!) Once the groceries were home and unpacked, I tried to do a bit of prep work, sometimes even making a whole meal ahead of time if I had an extra hour or two. No more rushing in the door at 5 pm wondering what’s for dinner, it’s on the calendar and the ingredients are ready to go. I am also a firm believer in kids helping out in the kitchen. Even little ones can complete easy tasks such as washing veggies, tossing salads, and setting the table. When they’re involved in the process, they are invested and take pride in the meal they’ve helped create.
What about the nights when Jr has football practice and Janie dance rehearsal (or vice versa)? How can you get food into their tummies when there’s no time for a sit-down meal? While many families rely on the fast food drive through for these situations, we all know that’s not the ideal solution. One busy mom told me that she feeds her son a quick peanut butter & jelly sandwich before zipping out the door, and I think that’s brilliant! Peanut butter is full of protein that growing bodies need, and if spread on wholegrain bread, perhaps with some sliced banana or an apple on the side this is a perfectly fine meal. My suggestion to her was to also prepare a small cooler filled with other healthy snacks, have it waiting in the minivan for when practice is over. This ensures a peaceful ride home with no ravenous kids begging for junk food!
Another tip I simply can’t recommend highly enough: Dust off your Crock-Pot and use it whenever possible. This appliance is a lifesaver for the busy family and there are so many slow-cooked plant-based recipes out there to try.
So, now that we have the kids covered, what about the adults? Maybe you’re not a parent, or a student, and you think the back-to-school frenzy doesn’t really apply to you. Ah, but I disagree! Even those of us who are no longer students or don’t have little ones returning to school can’t help but feel the excitement of this time of year. Fresh start, new beginnings, it is motivating and exciting to turn the page on Summer and greet the Fall. Maybe it’s not an academic class you’d like to take but a fitness one instead. Perhaps you’d like to try yoga this year, or Zumba? Maybe you, like myself, are just looking forward to cooler temps so your daily outdoor walk is more enjoyable. Now that summer vacations are over, maybe we need to clean up our diets and focus on our weight loss efforts. Maybe we have a certain goal in mind we’d like to reach before the end of the year, a holiday outfit we’d like to fit into?
Over at our Facebook group, we’ve planned a Back-to-School Challenge. We’ll be posting our goals and how we plan to achieve them. Whether that be a number on the scale, pants size, health stats, whatever..we are here to support and inspire each other!
The challenge officially kicks off on Labor Day, giving us a couple of weeks to clean up our kitchens, decide on a new eating/exercise plan or how we’ll re-commit to one that’s been working for us. If you’d like to join us, we’d love to have you!
Enjoy the last few lazy days of summer!
PS Here are my favorite homemaking/organizational books & sites: