As a mom of 4, I totally get the back-to-school hustle. Between carpools, homework, and extracurriculars, it is easy to get overwhelmed.
We homeschooled for years, and one of the hardest parts of transitioning to send my kids to school outside the home was dealing with the morning routine. Getting those kids out of bed, halfway decent looking for school, packing lunches, eating breakfasts, and finding shoes….man! That morning routine can REALLY be a challenge.
I am not going to pretend that I have this morning routine mastered (at all), but I will say that I have figured out a few tricks to make the breakfast portion easier.
So, I figured I would take a moment to share with you…
5 steps I take to having stress-free back to school breakfasts.
- Talk to the kids
- Make a simple plan
- Create a Routine
- Keep a super simple option on hand
1. Talk to the Kids
First things first…talk to your kids. Find out what they want to eat for breakfast. Of course, this doesn’t work for all kids. Only you know your child and their capabilities and personality. But mine all like to give me input so I enjoy sitting down with them to find out what they want to eat for meals. Ultimately, it makes my job easier!
Even from a young-ish age, they will tell me what they want to eat for breakfast. If they’re young, indecisive, or only coming up with impractical options (like donuts every day), I will give them a handful of practical options to choose from.
2. Make a simple plan
Next, take some time to make a plan! Take your kids wish list and use that as inspiration for your basic breakfast plan. During the planning stage, I like to come up with 3-4 solid breakfast options. While you are creating your options, it’s important to factor in what’s most important to you in a breakfast. Maybe your #1 goal is simplicity. Or maybe it’s frugality or serving a breakfast that’s high in protein or produce rich. Decide what is most important to you in a before school breakfast.
Once you decide what’s most important to you in a mid-week breakfast, jot out 3-4 options that meet those criteria. For me, our before school breakfasts need to be simple, allergy-free and – for the most part – use whole food ingredients. These are the things that are most important to me. So, all my before school breakfast options strive to meet those values.
Our 3 main before school breakfast options are:
- Instant Pot Steel Cut Oatmeal
- Trader Joes Hash Brown Patties + Sunny Side up eggs
- Trader Joes Hash Brown Patties + Trader Joe’s Chicken Apple Sausage
All these options meet my most important criteria for a before school breakfast. Occasionally (and I do mean occasionally), I will mix it up with some of the following:
- Pancakes pre-made on the weekend and heated up – served with TJ Sausage
- Hard Boiled Eggs served with a piece of fruit or a TJ Sausage
- Smoothie + TJ Sausage
3. Create a Routine
Take some time, right now, to think about those options that you have jotted down and create a simple routine for how you’re going prep those breakfasts.
As an example, on the mornings that I serve hash browns, I put the hash browns in the toaster oven and then I jump in the shower. By the time that I have showered and gotten dressed, the hash browns are almost done. They finish cooking while I cook the eggs or the sausage.
Alternatively, on the days that I am serving steel cut oats in the Instant Pot, I take 5 minute to put everything in the pot and then I jump in the shower and get ready. By the time I get out of the shower, the steel cut oats are ready.
See how I have chosen hot meals that only require approximately 5-7 minutes of hands-on cooking? That’s what I am talking about!
Decide how much time you are willing to spend preparing breakfast on the school mornings. After you have decided how much time you’re willing to spend, then figure out – specifically – how you are going to make that work. Then, jot it down!
In our home, kids start learning to cook around 8 years old. We teach them how to put hash browns in the toaster oven and how to cook eggs. We teach them how to do very simple things like make instant oatmeal. So, if we are in a pinch, anyone above 8 can pitch in and help get breakfast on the table. Obviously, this training can’t happen on school mornings. It needs to happen in the summers or on the weekends.
Take a moment now to ask yourself….do I have any breakfast tasks that I could train my children to do that will help on school mornings? If you do, start training them now to help with 1 or 2 steps of your breakfast morning routine.
Now, you may have a night owl that’s super sleepy in the morning and just getting them out the door is an extreme challenge (I have one of these). If that’s the case, DON’T have them help with breakfast!! This will only make things worse. But, if you have an early riser or someone who moves through their morning routine easily, train them to pitch in! It really makes a difference if you can consistently delegate even 1 or 2 steps in the morning. To hear more about getting your kids to help in the kitchen, check out this blog.
5. Keep Super Simple Options on Hand
Last but not least, we keep super simple options on hand for those mornings where we are running late, or everything is going wrong. This helps reduce my stress to know that, no matter what, we have a breakfast option at home.
These options typically don’t hit all my food values, but they ensure that everyone eats enough calories before I send them out the door.
Examples of breakfast foods we keep on hand for the days we are in a pinch:
- Good quality cereals
- Allergy-free frozen waffles
- Instant oatmeal
By taking about an hour of time now, before school starts, to come up with a simple, realistic plan, you can really reduce the stress of the morning routine. I am not suggesting that it will always go to plan, but by making a plan, it gives you a much better shot at having a smooth morning and sending your kiddos away with a full tummy of good food. If you didn’t catch the Back To School Lunches blog, be sure to check that out here!!
We will be talking about time saving food routines for the next several weeks here at Dinner for a Dollar. So, if you are looking for more whole food, produce rich time saving strategies, stay tuned!!! Next month, I will be launching my Dinner in 15 Minutes 4-week menu program where I show you how I put fresh, whole food dinners on the table in about 15 minutes, Monday-Friday. If learning how to put dinner on the table in 15 minutes sounds good to you….keep a lookout!
I know this year presents a unique set of challenges for all families of school-aged kids. I wish you the best of luck navigating these challenges. With a little help from me, hopefully we can ease the burden of our food routines this Back to School season.