And so it begins… Back to school, back to routine, back to hungry kids and tired parents after a long day. During the summer months, most of us have a more laid back approach to the whole routine thing. We don’t mind figuring things out on the fly and eating late. Sometimes, ice cream qualifies as supper after a day at the beach. Something happens after Labour Day though. There is a collective sense of excitement about a new year starting. Kids have new pencils and binders and parents may have even purchased a thing or two from the back to school aisle for themselves. (I bought a new Sharpie and a calendar!)

We all need a break now and then but when it all comes down to it, routine is good for us. We feel motivated and excited about what is ahead. We know what to expect and what is expected of us.

Meal planning is a little like that too. While ice cream suppers seem fun at the time, it isn’t the kind of meal planning that will sustain and nourish us. It isn’t what healthy families are built on. I’m all about helping people build well nourished families. Sometimes meal planning can feel overwhelming. Here are a few simple tips that will help you get back into the swing of things.

Create a standard grocery list.

Create a standard list of the foods you run out of on a weekly basis. Scan the grocery store flyers and try to plan your meals & snacks around what is on sale. Make sure to visit your local farms whenever possible. The food is usually fresher, less expensive and your purchases are directly supporting a farmer and their family.

Start a Sunday Night Ritual.

Get your family involved in a fun way to help you prepare the meals for the week. Give everyone (kids included) an appropriate job. For example: Dad BBQ’s chicken breast, Mom prepares side dishes and kids can wash the vegetables and fruit. Put on funny aprons and a little dance music! Mid week, you can use the chicken, rice & veggies in salad, wraps or as a main dish.

Chop up vegetables and store in individual containers.

Chop up whatever vegetables you like to eat raw. Store them in a veggie keeper that has been designed to allow air circulation around the veggies. While you are at it, wash & tear up a head of lettuce. Presto! You now have everything you need for healthy snacks and a salad for dinner in less than 2 minutes!

Let the kids pick dinner!

My kids love to pick what we are having for dinner. Both of my boys each get one night per week that they get to plan. They are in charge of picking the meal – either a trusted favourite or something new from a cook book. The deal is that they help make it too. The end result? Kids that happily eat their meal and no complaining! I’d also like to think that I am helping to raise young men who will leave my nest and know a thing or two about healthy eating!