food

Make school lunch and snack prep as easy as possible!

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The first week of school is almost here, and in addition to getting backpacks, school supplies, and outfits put together, it’s time to start planning lunches and snacks. This year, get your children involved in putting their lunches and snacks together and make the process fun and organized with these helpful tips: 

 

Pre-make portions  

Vegetables, fruit, cheese, meat, crackers and pretzels make great additions to a school lunch or morning snack. They can also easily be put together in advance or the day of. Cut up and pre-wash a couple of varieties from each food group – before you stock up on groceries for the week, talk to your family and find out what food they want to take for their lunch or snack.  

Pre-wash and cut up the food before the school week begins. You can either store the food in large containers for your children to take from each day, or you can get your children to help you create pre-portion containers they can easily grab-and-go in the morning. The key to this tip is variety. No child wants to bring the same food every day for lunch, so make sure there are a couple of different options they can choose from. 

 

Use what you have

School lunch doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated – in this case, simple is always better. Use up the items you have around the house that are already prepared. For example, heat up leftovers and bring it to school in a thermos, or create an entirely new dish. Leftover meat can be used to make a salad, wrap or sandwich. Leftover vegetables can be added together to make a quick stir-fry or fajita filling. 

Vegetables and fruit don’t have to be cooked or prepared in a special way either – if you do want to add a fun element, get your children to pack a dip like hummus, ranch dressing or yogurt.  

 

Freeze food for busy times

It’s always a good idea to have a few back-up options, especially during busy weeks. Stock up your freezer with frozen food that can be left in the fridge over night to thaw or re-heated the morning of. For example, if you have leftover soup or chili, freeze some in individually-portioned containers. Leftover pizza can also be frozen and heated up for lunch. Muffins can be added as a snack or a lunch side, and taste just as good if frozen.  

If you have time before the start of the new school year, consider putting together some “emergency” meal options, and regularly check your deep freeze to make sure your stock is replenished.  

 

Make lunch prep a routine

The best way to make sure lunches are ready and organized is to make it part of your family’s weekly routine. One option is to set aside time before the school week (like Sunday evening) to prepare everything you and your family will need for the coming week, like cutting up fruit and vegetables, portioning meals, and determining snacks. This way, everything can stay in the fridge or an easily-accessible shelf in your pantry so everyone can take what they need each day.  

However, it can be hard to always find enough time every week to do this. If you’re having a busy week, or your schedule is too tight, another option could be to just take some time to plan out lunch options. You don’t have to necessarily put everything together, but go over what food you have available, what potential leftovers you will have from meals, and work with your family to create options for them to have during the week. This will allow everyone to have a good idea of what food they are going to need to take and on what day. Creating a plan will also ensure everyone can find a time that works to make their lunch, whether it’s after school one day or the morning before another day, depending on their schedules. 

Five ways to organize your summer meals

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Summer is a busy season for everyone – between summer camps, trips, and day-long activities, there is usually little time to prepare and cook a meal. However, with these tips, you can ensure that you will have a meal ready to eat without the stress or cost of ordering out:

Pre-purchase ready to eat protein options

When the weather is hot, the last thing people want to do is heat up their homes by turning on the oven. Instead, stock up on pre-cooked protein options, like rotisserie chicken or shredded pork from your local grocery store. Canned tuna and hard-boiled eggs can be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge for recipes like these. You could also pre-cook your meat early in the morning or at the beginning of the week, so you can avoid using the oven during the heat of the day.

Take advantage of the fresh vegetables

Summer is prime time for fresh vegetables, so why not take advantage of them? Stock up on your family’s favourites and incorporate them into easy meals, like stir-fry, salad and sandwiches. Vegetables can be washed and cut up at the beginning of the week or earlier in the day, so you don’t have to worry about doing all of your preparations right before the meal. To save time and avoid your oven, you can also use your vegetables raw instead of cooking them. Most vegetables taste even better when they are fresh during the summer, so incorporate them into your meals like this recipe for Shaved Squash Salad with Tomatoes and Ricotta.

Utilize your kitchen appliances

Instead of always using your oven, utilize your other kitchen appliances to plan your meals in advance, like a slow cooker. Your meat, vegetables and grains can all be prepared the night before and turned on in the morning so they are ready for you to eat in the evening. You can even use a rice cooker to cook up rice at the beginning of the week, so you have a side dish ready to go for multiple meals. Get creative and use your other kitchen appliances to put together stress-free and tasty meals like these over the summer.

Use your leftovers!

Don’t feel bad about having a “leftovers” meal night when you are out at the lake or park all day! Save any leftovers from your meals throughout the week, and plan on having one meal made up of all your leftovers. If you don’t quite have enough food, supplement your meal with a quick side salad or fresh fruit.

Stay simple

Most importantly, don’t feel the need to plan large, complicated meals. They take a lot of time, ingredients, and energy that could be better spent on outdoor activities or gatherings with friends and family. When the weather is hot, many people don’t feel like eating multiple courses or rich dishes, so it’s okay to stick to simple meals with simple ingredients. During the summer months, there are plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables to purchase at the store or grow in your own garden that are full of flavour. It’s easy to organize meals for the week because they are so readily available and quick to prepare.

This summer, don’t stress about making meals when you’re busy soaking up the sun, or break the bank because you’re always ordering out. Cook simple meals with ingredients that are ready to go and don’t require using your oven, so you can avoid heating up your home. By following these tips to organize your meals, you can relax and enjoy your summer without the stress at mealtime!

Simple, easy and fun: lunches ideas your children will love!

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If you’ve been struggling to get a lunch together, or have run out of ideas on what to make for your children, we’ve got some solutions for you! There are many different tips and tricks that will help you and your children have ready-to-go lunches they can grab before leaving in the morning. However, lunches aren’t easy unless you take the time to plan, prepare and organize lunches ahead of time. It’s as simple as pre-cutting vegetables or throwing items in the freezer. Take a look at the suggestions below to help you plan an easy-to-make lunch that your children will be excited to eat:

 

Freeze ahead of time

Never underestimate the power of your freezer. So many food items and beverages can be made up to a month ahead of time, and pulled out whenever you need it. To save even more time, make sure you freeze items in individual-sized portions, so you don’t have to worry about defrosting items in advance.

For example, juice boxes should be stored in your freezer, not your drawer or cupboard. This way, the juice will stay cold until lunch time, and it will double as an ice pack to keep the rest of the lunch from spoiling or getting warm. Dishes like pasta, rice, and even peanut butter and jam sandwiches can be made up weeks in advance and stored in single portions. Keep these in plastic bags or containers, and pull them out the night before to make sure they’re not frozen for lunch the next day.

 

Set up a lunch station

Instead of making all of the lunches on your own, get your children involved in the process by setting up a lunch station. At the start of each week, cut up a variety of vegetables, fruits, cheese, and meat. Place these items into reusable containers or bags in individual sized portions, and have your children pick out what they want for lunch the next day. You can even purchase individual dipping sauces like hummus or guacamole, or make your own.

To make sure your children get the food they need, make up a list or chart of what they are supposed to have in their lunch. For example, identify that they need two different fruits, one vegetable option, a starch and protein option, a beverage, and a snack or dessert. This way, you can ensure your children make a balanced lunch.

 

Use the right tools

Another way that you can make lunch easy and organized is to use pre-set containers to store food. This will make space for fruit, vegetables, sandwiches and snacks, and ensure that your children get all of the different food groups for a healthy lunch. They also make lunches look fun and visually interesting.

For hot food, use a thermos instead of plastic containers. This will save your children time at school by not having to wait in line to use a microwave. Reusable lunch bags also work well, as they are always ready to go. Utensils and non-perishable snacks can be put into the reusable lunch bag the night before so only the items in the fridge have to be put into the bag the morning of.

 

Timing is everything

Don’t leave making lunches to the last minute. Even those these suggestions will make lunch easy, it will still make the process less stressful if you make lunches the night before. Make this a part of your evening routine by putting lunches together either right after your children come home for school, or right after dinner.

You will also need to make sure that snacks, vegetables, fruit and other food items are cut and ready to go. Set aside time each week, like on Sunday night, and prepare all the items your children will need to make lunch. Food like hard-boiled eggs can also be made ahead of time and used throughout the week on their own, in a sandwich, or in a salad.