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Emily Ley Blog

Back-to-School Meal Ideas

August 07, 2019

Hi, friends! Dusty here, our Director of Community Development. With a running to-do list of all the things, life quickly gets busy – too busy! With four kids, I’ve seen first-hand how stressful weeknights can get with school and extra activities. It’s essential to get ahead of the craziness by incorporating Sunday Prep into your schedule each week. I’ve found that meal planning ahead of time takes one less worry out of my mind during the week, and it provides our family with delicious homemade meals, so we're not grabbing something on the go due to poor planning. Trust me, meal planning is worth every minute when it comes to living a simplified life, especially because it allows my family more time to catch up on what matters most throughout the week! In an effort to help you simplify your meal planning this fall, I’ve prepared the first back-to-school week for you – recipes and all! 

P.S. You know those great, store-bought rotisserie chickens that most grocery stores carry these days? The ones that someone else has seasoned, cooked, and placed conveniently in a to-go box for you? Grab one of them and use them for the meals below instead of cooking your own chicken each time. Thank me later. (Pro tip: It’s easiest to remove the meat from the bones and shred it while the chicken is still warm! Store it in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to use.) 

Sunday: Roast Beef - The perfect slow cooker meal for a Sunday. Be sure to save some of this for the veggie soup on Tuesday! 

Monday: White Chicken Enchiladas - This is so easy and earns a five star review from everyone in our family. So yummy! 

Tuesday: MeeMa’s Veggie Soup - A favorite in my house! This is my sweet mom’s recipe, and I love getting to share her infamous recipe. We say her soup is just so comforting and cravable. We always had it after having roast during the week, and we always looked forward to it. She would serve this with either corn bread or peanut butter and syrup with toast to dip. I see you wrinkling your nose, but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!

Wednesday: Fiesta Chicken Salad - While chopping all the things for your salad, make extra and prep those lunches too for the next day too. Just keep seperate anything that would make the lettuce soggy.

Thursday: Lemon Chicken Pasta - This is a family favorite! So much so, my kids sing a song about it! ‘Lemon chicken pasta, pa-pa-pa-pa- pasta’... repeat 10x!

Friday: Mostaccioli - You might call this baked ziti, or penne, but growing up we always called it mostaccioli. I’m guessing because of the noodles we would use. Either way, it’s delicious and a quick, easy weeknight meal. Serve with garlic toast and a BIG salad!

We also LOVE having salads for dinner! Here are our tried and true favorites:

Skinny Chicken & Avocado Caesar from Cafe Delites 

Strawberry Feta Spinach from Mama Likes to Cook 

Mexican Grilled Chicken Cobb by FatFree Vegan Kitchen 

Harvest Cobb Broccoli Salad by Oh, Sweet Basil 

Now, let’s talk lunch. Prep. is. key! You hear it all the time, and that’s for a good reason. It’s TRUE! I always, always make lunches the night before. Oh, and prep the coffee for the next morning too while you’re at it! You’re in the kitchen while you’re making dinner anyway. Do it all at once! We grocery shop on Saturday mornings, so we prep all the things (with the exception of any berries) on Sundays. 

Peppers, celery, cucumbers, and carrots are all great chop-and-store-ahead-of-time staples for us. I recommend storing them in a clear container so that you can easily see what's inside while you're packing lunches throughout the week. I also make sure to always (always!) have portion cups on hand. These are great for hummus, sauces, salad dressings or any other small add on you’d like to throw in and keep secure. They fit perfectly in a snack size baggie filled with hummus, along with carrots and celery that you chopped!

In addition to chopping your veggies and fruit, prepping some protein is always a great idea as well. I make a few hard boiled eggs to have ready to go, and if we grill out for dinner one evening, I'll cook a few extra chicken breasts to keep in the fridge for lunches. Throw them on while dinner is grilling, let them cool, then slice them however you'd like. 

Our lunch menu changes week to week because my crew just won’t eat sandwiches that often! Full disclosure: Our Monday - Thursday lunches are always a little bit more fun and put together than our Friday lunches. My girls know to expect Friday lunch to be a hodgepodge of leftovers from the week, or maybe some frozen chicken nuggets! Here are a few of my go-to lunch ideas:

- Pasta salads: I like to combine cheese tortellini, pepperoni, black olives, grape tomatoes, basil, and Italian dressing together in a bowl. Make it on Sundays and store in an airtight container in the fridge to use throughout the week! 

- Protein boxes (like the fancy kind you get at a certain coffee shop): Use one of these lunchbox containers (the best!) and put together a hard boiled egg, cheese, deli meat, almonds, berries, hummus, and carrots.

- BIG salads (any of the ones listed above are perfect!) 

- Quesadillas: Make them on a stove-top stuffed with cheddar cheese the night before. Cut into triangles, and serve with sour cream and salsa for dipping (use those portion cups I mentioned earlier). I also like to make pizza quesadillas by subbing cheddar for Mozzarella, adding pepperoni, and serving with pizza, marinara, or spaghetti sauce for dipping. 

- Sushi: If you have a Sprouts nearby, check for their $5 sushi on Wednesdays!

- Wraps: I like to use leftover proteins from dinners to make a hearty wrap for lunches or, ‘planned-overs’ using grilled chicken or portioning out enough leftover rotisserie chicken. The possibilities are really endless here. Some of my favorites are the Chicken Ranch Wraps from Gimme DeliciousBLT Chicken Caesar from My Recipe Magic, and this California Club Chicken Wrap

I hope that helps make your first week back to school a little bit easier! I'd love to hear what your favorite recipes are for busy weeknights, too! Head on over to Instagram and share them with our team in the comments. 

 

 

 

 





 

 

 



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