Kick-starting a school year is a bit like being shot from a cannon. Every class list and freshly sharpened pencil amps up the anticipation, nervous energy and excitement for what’s ahead.
And then, BOOM! We are off and running once again. Now begins the nine-month race to manage multiple school schedules, homework habits, extracurricular activities and the coordination of some hearty family meals. It’s a lot.
Weeknight Supper Success Every September, I plan meals around the reality of our scattered schedules and establish the expectation that everyone at the table needs to pitch in to make them happen.
Here are my favorite recipes for coasting into the craziness of back-to-school—all of which you can get to the table in 30 minutes or less—with my best tips on how to get everyone involved in bringing them to life.
I plan meals around the reality of our scattered schedules
To Be Savored After a Monday in full-sprint mode, savory soup is my best strategy for gathering us all together in slooow mode. I put out the call to meet in the kitchen, and I put everyone to work. While I crisp the bacon and soften the onion, my oldest measures the herbs and spices, and the rest of the crew sets the table.
It takes less than 30 minutes to prepare the soup. By the time it’s ready, everyone already has started to switch gears. When we get to sit down, we curl around each hearty serving and melt into retellings of everyone’s days. In the amount of time it takes for the soup to cool, we have already reconnected.
To Stick to the Ribs School, piano, homework, supper, soccer. Repeat. Every day of our frenzied back-to-school routine looks like some version of this, making simple, speedy, wholesome meals imperative. To recharge the family battery and fuel us for what’s ahead, I rely on recipes like this one-pot dish. It’s layered with flavor and packed with protein. Plus, it’s a great way to use up leftover bits and pieces of ingredients like corn and rotisserie chicken in our fridge. Bonus: One pot makes for easy cleanup.
To Eat on the Run By Thursday of each week, I’ve usually had to serve at least one meal from the driver’s seat. There’s no time for a proper dinner-table setup, and the center console of our family car has to suffice. This situation can be challenging for sure, but it does not mean we have to miss out on a home-cooked supper. Wrapped up ahead of time (tightly to minimize mess), and warmed in the microwave on the way out the door, burritos make for the ultimate main course. Napkins in the glove box and water bottles in the cup holders complete the door-to-door family “dining” experience.
To Make It Easy on Mom By Friday, we’re all beat. Exhausted by the running around, I save the meal that’s simplest for everyone involved. Tacos are a win for my kiddos and—true confession—a gift for me. All I do is warm the fillings; everyone else at the table assembles his or her own supper from there. When they are the ones stuffing their tortillas, they get excited about the veggie fillers, and I get to sit back, guilt-free, and just enjoy the time together.
My family takes on back-to-school season with bellies full of colorful, protein-rich, delicious dinners, and hearts and souls filled by family- supper connection. A little organization makes it happen. Now, if I could just find a way to get on top of all that homework.
* Tip: Need even more back-to-school inspiration? Try these four great recipes with fewer than eight ingredients, and check out these after-school snacks your kids will love.