Meal Planning for Breakfast and Lunch
There is a lot of information available for helping people to do meal planning for dinner. What about for those of us who make breakfast and lunch (and snacks and dessert) for every day of the week too? Don't worry, I have you covered. I have been meal planning and cooking food from scratch for many years.
Along the way, I have found a few tricks that help me plan out all the breakfast and lunches for the week. Of course my strategy changes between summer and the school year, but the tips I'm sharing today will help you with breakfast and lunch meal planning and preparing year round.
Breakfast Meal Planning Tips
Make A Plan At The Start of the Week
Just like when you are making a meal plan for dinner, the first step is thinking about and writing down a plan for breakfast. I like to make a list of potential breakfast foods that we will eat for the entire week. That way when the kids ask me what they can eat, I have a list of healthy options for them to choose from. It also makes it easier for me to see what I need to buy each week for our breakfasts.
I also look at the calendar and see what is happening for the week. That way I know if I need to plan for make ahead meals and things that my oldest kids can get for themselves. I think planning ahead is the number one tip that helps the most when it comes to meal planning and preparing healthy food for my family.
Stock Up The Freezer and Pantry
Once I have the list made, I make sure to buy and make all the items we need for the week. Often I will make a batch of muffins, waffles or pancakes and stick them in the freezer for an easy to prep breakfast. There are times when I don't get the chance to do that, so I make sure to buy a box of frozen waffles to keep on hand. That is one food my kids will always eat and it works in a pinch when we need to get out the door quickly in the morning.
We all like variety at our house so I try to keep different kinds of muffins, frozen berries and breads stocked in our freezer. I also always have several kinds of cereal and oatmeal on hand for quick morning meals to give us plenty of choices throughout the week.
Smoothies Every Morning
Most mornings I make my kids and I a smoothie (usually with kefir). Then we eat something else along with the smoothie. Smoothies are the constant year round. It makes me feel good knowing that I have given them a little boost of goodness (and their first serving of veggies) right from the get go.
I keep the ingredients we use on hand so that we can whip them up with very little effort and thought. The real work is in the planning and preparation beforehand so that on those busy mornings its just a matter of throwing a few ingredients into the blender and pouring it into cups to drink as we move around getting everyone ready. (Am I the only one who feels rushed no matter how early I wake up?)
Prep Dinner Ingredients That Can Be Used as Savory Breakfasts
A few things that I will prep at dinnertime are sausage sandwiches, breakfast burritos or omelettes. If I am using sausage or eggs or peppers in a meal I will cook/cut up extra to use in morning meals. Having those items prepped really helps to throw together a quick breakfast during the morning rush.
Special Breakfast on the Weekend
Since most of the week I don't make them breakfast on the spot, I make sure to have at least one really special breakfast on the weekend. Every kid gets a turn to choose what they would like to eat for breakfast. I like to get my kids involved in the kitchen as much as they are willing to. These skills will help them every day of their lives. Everybody has to eat, right? We also make fancy breakfasts for birthdays and other special holidays and the kids get to help pick what we will eat for those occasions.
Summer or Vacation Prep
For the mornings when we don't have to be somewhere early I make a lot more breakfasts on the spot. It's easy to do when I keep my pantry, fridge and freezer well stocked with all the baking items I will need. We try to keep seasonal produce around to enjoy in our breakfast and we take a much more casual approach to planning.
I always have a plan but as long as my pantry and fridge are well stocked I don't feel like I HAVE to follow the plan really strictly if I don't feel like it. I DO keep a running list of all our favorite breakfast ideas and recipes in one place (thanks Pinterest) so that I can look through them when I need a little extra inspiration.
Why It's Important to do Lunch Meal Planning
I'm just going to say this right up front. Lunch is my least favorite meal of the day. I cook and bake and make a lot of fresh foods every day of the week. For some reason I never feel very inspired or motivated to do that in the middle of the day.
I also really don't like eating a lot of processed foods because they don't taste very good and I'm not overly enthusiastic about their nutrition value. Oh, and I am really over peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
So, what's a girl to do? I'm going to share with you a few of the tips that it has taken me years and years and years and ok, you get the point, years to figure out.
When I was first married and worked full time it was extra challenging to come up with meals to pack every day. When I became a stay at home mom and had to chase around a baby all day I barely had time to think let alone sit down for a meal. I relied heavily on frozen burritos and string cheese to carry me through the day.
Now, I'm a little wiser and I have learned a trick or two. Hopefully these tips help you to have something more than peanut butter crackers and a string cheese for your midday meal (or is that just me?).
I have mentioned before that my family doesn't like leftovers. So, I try to make just the right amount of food with minimal amounts of leftovers usually going to lunches for the kids. Therefore, leftovers are not something that I rely on for lunch prep.
Finding a Healthy Solution
In college (forgive me for going on a little tangent again. Just wait, it's relevant) I was super busy and literally did not have time to sit down and eat lunch. I would head out the door early in the morning and not go home until dinner time. I never packed an actual lunch, but I would bring lots of snacks with me. By dinner time I was dragging around and ready for more fuel.
During this time my mom introduced me to chopped salads. She showed me how to make the yummiest salads by taking so many different vegetables and chopping them up into the smallest pieces. Those salads would fuel me up and gave me boundless energy.
Fast forward to a few years later and I remembered how good I felt when I was eating all those salads. As a mother with lots of young children I really needed that kind of energy. And there is the moment when my love of lunch salads was born.
Meal Planning at the Beginning of the Week
Lunch salads are SO great and SO easy to prep. If I am making a meal with chopped vegetables I will just set aside a few of the veggies to store in the fridge for my salads. I also like to keep beans, chicken, bacon, and shredded cheese on hand. Any day that I want a salad for lunch I just whip out the spinach leaves, add protein, and any other chopped vegetables I have on hand. It tastes good and, more importantly, gives me energy to make it through the afternoon.
Make a big batch of something to freeze
Sometimes I will make a homemade version of frozen burritos. I freeze them in a big ziploc gallon sized bag. Make sure that you buy the kind that are specifically meant to go in the freezer! Then I can grab one or two and just reheat them in the microwave. They are less expensive than the store brands. They are also tasty and more nutritious!
I also like to make big batches of soup and then freeze them into smaller portions. I really love soup but not everyone else in my family does. There is something so comforting about eating a warm bowl of soup on a cold or rainy day.
Keep Some Easy Foods on Hand for Busy Days
On the weeks when your freezer isn't stocked or you don't really have time for meal planning, just buy some foods that are already made or very quick to prepare. Sometimes I will buy black bean dip and eat that with multigrain crackers and a piece of fruit.
Other days I will buy the single serve containers of soup from the deli. When I am feeling like I really need some indulgence I will pick up a pack of sushi at my local deli. As I run around doing chores and errands I can find time to pop one or two in my mouth as I go.
The point is to find things that you enjoy, that are easy, and will give you the nutrition that you need. I hope these ideas will give you that bit of creative juice that you need to inspire you as you meal plan in the future.
If you make your plan at the beginning of the week and stock up on all the ingredients you need, you are well on your way to having your breakfast and lunch meal planning figured out!
Please share your favorite lunch ideas when you eat at home or pack a lunch for on the go. Even after all these years I am looking for inspiration from others about how they do meal planning too. I'd love to see your pictures on Instagram #peachtreedr of your favorite quick breakfast or lunch ideas.