The school year can be hectic. Between extra-curricular activities, meetings, carpools and other daily responsibilities, finding time to create a healthy and nutritious meal for the family may seem impossible. Don’t be tempted by the drive-thru. With a little planning and prep work, you can turn the school year from frenzied to flavorful. 

A Fresh Start

The struggle to get out of the door in the morning is real. It’s easy to grab a pastry or packaged protein bar. But if you’re looking to add variety and substance to your breakfast, there are some simple ways to get on the right track. Make homemade nut butter in advance of the busy week. Not only can you eliminate the extra sugar found in many packaged versions, but adding a couple of tablespoons to a banana, apple or whole-grain toast will help balance your meal and make you feel fuller. It’s easy to whip up a big batch to last all week. If school is a nut-free zone, there are easy, no-nut alternatives you can make, too. 

Need another on-the-go breakfast option? Smoothies are packed with fruits, vegetables and flavor. Put your favorite ingredients in small, portion-sized freezer bags. When you’re ready for a sippable snack, pull out a bag, put the contents into your blender with almond milk or water, add ice if desired, and presto—a nutritious, no-nonsense way to start the day. 

Midday Munchies

That nut (or no-nut) butter we talked about earlier also makes a great spread for the classic PB&J, a quick packable lunch for hungry kids. Or, send them to school with homemade hummus for a delightful dip that can be blended ahead of time and customized to your liking. Try a dash of hot sauce for some spice or add cauliflower for extra creaminess (and nutrition). These dips go great with baby carrots or sliced veggies. An all-natural applesauce makes the perfect lunchtime sweet treat. Looking for an after-school (or work) pick-me-up? Give these no-bake Vitamix Granola Bars a try. They are crunchy and packed with whole grains—no oven required.

Dinner Done Right

The freezer is your friend when it comes to quick and easy dinners on school nights. You might even want to set aside one day of the week (possibly the weekend) for prepping meals for the remainder of the week. That way, you don’t have to worry what’s for dinner when schedules fill up. Just pull out of the freezer and heat. 

It’s also a good idea to double recipes. That way, you can enjoy one half when it’s done cooking and save the rest for another, busier day. Tortellini with broccoli pesto and mac and cheese are delicious, hearty options to halve and saved for later. Plus, they can be amped up with extra (hidden) veggies like zucchini, onions, carrots or cauliflower. Shh, don’t tell the kids!

What is your favorite time-saving kitchen tip once the school year gets underway? Show others how you make meal prep as stress-free as possible by sharing your meal prep photos or recipes on Instagram with #myvitamix.