Happy Almost Back-to-School!
Teachers return NEXT MONDAY (August 1st), but the school is open this week for new teacher orientation and classroom set-up.
As excited as I am to work with my new students and see my colleagues, I'm still fine-tuning a few “systems” (a.k.a. “hacks”) to make sure the school year runs as smoothly as possible.
One big teacher hack I just finished was Healthy Meal Planning!
How do you keep on track during the busy Back to School season?
Although I'm going to share my healthy meal planning habits, I'm still always looking for new ideas.
Here's the healthy teacher hacks that work well for me based on my top three priorities:
HEALTHY MEAL PLANNING: TIME
Time is number one! Taste and cost can't even factor into meal planning, if there's no time to execute it.
I'm a HUGE believer in cooking in batches. I cook in large amounts about four times a year…it usually involves one afternoon and I try to make it as enjoyable as possible with enormous amounts of coffee and binge-watching Netflix. I can't actually say it's “fun,” but you'll be so happy afterwards! We do have a small chest freezer in our basement and I also use the crockpot to make this task easier.
HEALTHY MEAL PLANNING: TASTE
This does actually come second, because when I'm hungry I'll pretty much eat anything! Over the years, we have fine-tuned what's worth cooking in batches and what we swore “never again.” One key factor is how many different ways the same food can be eaten without getting way too sick of it!
HEALTHY MEAL PLANNING: COST
Since “time” is a higher priority, I'm sure there are many more ways we can be cutting down on costs. Still, with a freezer full of prepared food, our weekly grocery bill stays quite low. Our average shopping list includes only the basic fresh ingredients: spinach, carrots, milk, eggs…
So what does this plan actually look like?
Here's some pictures from last weekend:
I cook up a total of six large packages of ground turkey with taco/chili seasoning. My crockpot fits three packages at a time, so this turns into an all-afternoon event.
I use a measuring cup to scoop out 3/4 cup of cooked and seasoned turkey. I used to weigh using a food scale, but it takes much longer. I would love to switch to glass containers for health reasons, but right now I just can't afford it. Six packages of ground turkey make about 62 single-serving portions.
Next, I put the lids on and place the small containers in a jumbo freezer bag (or two). I usually can fit one bag in the kitchen freezer and one in our chest freezer.
Boom! A few months of taco salad 🙂
For a little variety, we also purchase frozen shrimp to top a fresh salad or stirfry:
More Healthy Eating Tips:
Sunday evening is designated as “grill” night. We try to keep Sundays low-key and healthy with 4:00 pm as our “shut down” time. I'm very lucky that my husband doesn't mind grilling and we wind down with a nice meal and watch a movie or catch up on a favorite show.
Every Sunday, he grills steak, salmon, and an entire package of chicken breast, so we enjoy a “surf and turf” dinner and save the rest for weekly meals.
With all of this healthy food preparation, our weekly proteins are pretty varied: steak, salmon, shrimp, ground turkey, and chicken.
So what do we DO with all this food, lol?
Our meals stay healthy with a few planned routines:
One of the blue tubs is always filled with fresh spinach for salads. If one of us empties it, we immediately fill it up. That's the house rule! The other tub is all the grilled chicken from Sunday's grill-fest.
I also always keep my water infuser bottle ready and I have to admit the KIPP water bottle actually holds iced coffee at all times. Not healthy, but really good!
So we always have everything on hand to make a fresh salad, or get creative and make a stirfry or soup/chili. All of these items also can be packed for a quick healthy lunch, although I usually depend heavily on hard-boiled eggs, cheese sticks, and veggies for quick snacks.
How do you stay healthy throughout the school year? I'd love to hear your tips!