top 5 ways this mom dietitian gets her kitchen organized for back to school
I love organization and I LOVE back-to-school season! In fact, September is my favourite month because of it. The weather is getting cooler, the lunch kits are out at all the stores, and I am seriously ready for my kids to head back to school. But before September starts there are a few things I need to do in order to get my kitchen, and my kids, back in order.
Clean up the lunch kits
It’s time to dust off the cobwebs kids--you’ll be needing your lunch bag! If you packed away your kids’ lunch bags clean, then a simple wipe down will suffice. However, if there are any lingering food bits in the lunch bag it’s time for a thorough wash. If you’re purchasing a new lunch bag this year, look for one that is insulated and large enough to hold snacks AND lunch! The other kitchen item that needs organization is your snack containers. It’s time to find the lids and put everything back together. I’m a fan of bento-style lunchboxes with at least four compartments. This means when I pack a lunch with multiple items, crackers won’t get crushed or soggy. Because who wants to eat a crushed soggy cracker!? My kids also love having everything separate and having lots of variety.
Organize your snack-zone
Over time, the kitchen pantry can get a little disorganized. Bags and boxes get mixed up, and all of a sudden, you’ve got granola bars mixed with dried pasta and lentils. Ideally, I like to organize a section of my pantry that is dedicated for snacks, and with the school season starting soon I’m making organization a priority. It’s important to have snacks clearly visible – especially if you’re getting your kids to pack their own lunches! Purchasing clear plastic containers allows for categories of snacks to easily be put together. For instance, one container for granola bars, one container for fruit and veggie pouches, and another for homemade trail mix. This makes grab-and-go as easy as, well – grab and go!
Establish rules and expectations for lunch packing (and unpacking)
This is an ambitious, but necessary tip. Kids thrive on mealtime rules and boundaries. And one way you can get picky eaters to actually eat their lunch is to enlist their help in packing it. This year I’m getting my kids to start packing their own lunches (cue angels singing).
To help ensure balance, I tell them to pack five items from the “four lunchbox essentials”. These are fruit, veggie, protein (x2), and whole grain. It’s important to allow your kids a little freedom when it comes to choosing their lunch items. And I’m talking a little freedom. For example – allow your kid to pick any fruit from the fruit bowl and ignore the wildcard request for watermelon in the middle of winter. And if leftovers are the planned and prepared lunch item, then go for it. Your child may or may not eat their lunch, and that’s okay. It’s not your job to make your child eat! Your job is to provide the food – mission accomplished. Here’s a free and very handy printable to give you and your kids some ideas for their lunches.
In addition to getting your kids involved in packing school lunches, also get them to assist in unpacking them! This means, taking out lunch bags and containers and putting them in the kitchen to be cleaned so they’re ready to be repacked.
Stick it to the fridge!
The fridge is a great spot to put lists, reminders and notes to your kids. This is where I put my family mealtime rules which includes what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour at the dinner table, a snack list full of yummy ideas, and (ideally) the menu plan for the week so that the kids (and I) are prepared! Hopefully this will help keep my kitchen running smoothly as the school year kicks off.
Batch bake on-the-go nutritious snacks:
There’s no doubt—kids love snacks and so do moms! Especially snacks they can feel good about. My favourite on-the-go snacks for my littles are things like energy bites, granola bars, and mini muffins. These are all items you can make ahead and freeze to put into school lunches or throw into the diaper bag. Here are some of my top picks – these are toddler-friendly and school-safe too!