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Meal Planning Tips for Busy Parents

Written by Dana Yarn, RDLD

meal planningSchool is back in session and planning and schedules are also back in full swing.  I have found this time of year brings on similar behaviors to the New Year.  We become more efficient with our schedules, exercise routines and planning out meals around back to school year activities. 

A big "miss" for a lot of parents is grocery shopping, we tend to go to the grocery store too much wasting precious time or worse we don't plan out our meals and snacks and end up grabbing fast food or convenient foods that are not the healthiest of choices. 

I would love to share with you my weekly strategies on how to plan out meals for a busy family. First pick a day to plan out meals, write a grocery list, and wash your produce as soon as you get home.  For us this day is typically a Saturday or Sunday when my little ones (Lily 3 years old, and Austin 15 weeks are taking their naps), this way my husband can relax when I am gone and I don't have to go to the store with two babies!


Breakfast, my older son, (17 years old) is a grab and go kid, high school is really early!  He grabs a piece of fruit, homemade protein bar and he is out the door.  NEVER let them skip breakfast, they need nutrients to stay alert in class and focus, especially if they have practice right after school.  As for the rest of us, my husband grabs some fruit and a Greek yogurt, my little one has some steel cut oat meal and I make a protein shake with almond milk, frozen berries, spinach, protein and an all-natural fiber blend.

Lunch, I take pride in the fact that my teenage son very rarely eats a school lunch.  I know the schools are trying to be more health conscious, but they have limited resources and the bottom line is the options will not meet my standards when it comes to being chemically pure, fresh and balanced with proper nutrients.  I pack my senior, defensive lineman a pretty big lunch, he gets 1-2 sandwiches, 1-2 piece of fruit, another homemade protein bar, and a shaker cup with protein in it for after his weight training class, along with some nuts and more fruit before practice after school.  My husband and I have leftovers or salad with protein for our lunch.  My little one typically has some gluten free spaghetti or mac n cheese with pureed vegetables.  She is so picky, we sneak her veggies in! 

Dinner, this can be the meal that will cause a husband and wife to argue, if it is not planned out. We used to have that dreadful conversation at about 5:00pm, "So, what are we having for dinner?" After a full work day, planning dinner can be the last thing you want to do.  Plan your dinners according to your week, if you have late practice on Monday then make that day a crockpot meal day, you come home and it is cooked for you.  If you know you are going to have some tacos or spaghetti (gluten free with veggies preferably) then cook the ground turkey or beef ahead of time so all you have to do is boil the noodles, add then sauce or season the meat when you get home.  You will save money and time this way.  Follow us on Pinterest, we post recipes all of the time!  I use Pinterest all of the time to break up the boredom with weekly dinners. 

Make your list-

After you have developed a meal plan, make your grocery list according to the store section.  Yes, this may seem a little annoying at first but when you get to the store and all of your produce, dairy, etc. is in one place on your list you will get in and out quick.  Divide the store up into these sections. 

Produce- focus on grabbing different colors of produce, all fresh produce is part of a healthy diet. 

Meat/Dairy- I do not buy meat from the grocery store because I use our certified all natural meats.  If you do need some meat from the store look for certified all natural meats, wild caught fish, and organic dairy and cage free eggs. We do not have too much dairy in our house due to the inflammation that dairy causes, we use unsweet almond or coconut milk and coconut yogurt. 

Dry items should be limited, typically gluten free oats, bread, pasta, brown or wild rice, quinoa, etc.

Fats and oils are not created equal, some oils are more inflammatory then others.  Stick with the below options. 

Almond Oil

Coconut Oil

Extra Virgin Olive

Flax Seed Oil

Hemp Seed Oil

Macadamia Nut

Red Palm Oil

Sesame Oil

Sunflower Butter

Almond Butter

Cashew Butter


Brazil Nuts



Macadamia Nuts




Pumpkin Seeds

Sesame Seeds

Sunflower Seeds


Wash everything before you put it away.  If everything is clean and ready to eat you will be more likely to grab fresh produce rather than a processed quick snack from the pantry with less nutritional value.

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