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tips for busy back to school time

So my kids start school today. I've been avoiding looking at my calendar until today, for what lay ahead this week. OH MY WORD! I'm swamped with soccer, open house, appointments, bringing in the harvest and dealing with it, and that's not even mentioning my regular job! How do I deal with this? I plan....The best advise I can give it to make a plan. Without a plan, we all make poor choices, and life becomes a lot more stressful. I make a meal plan on Sundays. I decide what we'll need prepped ahead of time and I make sure I get any needed ingredients. I have a great app I use to keep track of what I need to get from different stores (organization is also key!). I keep staples on hand, things I try to never run out of. If I think I'm getting low, it goes on the list for the next week. Below are staples I feel are essential to have in a plant-powered kitchen:
  • Beans (all kinds), dried and canned (for last minute meals) ex. black, red & white kidney, lentils (red and brown/green), chickpeas
  • Variety of grains: brown rice, millet, quinoa (not a grain), oats, buckwheat (also not a grain), pastas
  • Tomatoes, canned, sauce, sun-dried, and paste
  • Fresh garlic, onions, ginger (store ginger in the freezer)
  • Dried herbs: thyme, rosemary, oregano, sage, curry, cumin, chipotle & other chili powders, cinnamon, ginger, garlic, nutmeg, coriander, dill, cloves, turmeric, etc.
  • Miso
  • Nuts & nut butters
  • Seeds (store in freezer)-sunflower, pumpkin, chia, flax
  • Dried fruits: dates, cherries, raisins, cranberries
  • Soy sauce & Vinegars (apple cider, balsamic, rice wine)
  • Maple syrup & honey (if not strict vegan)
  • Perishables: greens, fruits, carrots, peppers, celery, sweet potatoes, tofu, and any other veggies you love
Having an organized pantry helps in this process. I label and arrange things so that they're easier to find. This is part of my pantry:In addition have freshly cut veggies and fruits ready for grab and go snacking. My kids won't eat it unless I've cut it (I think I do too much!). Having freshly cut veggies helps me too. It helps prevent me from poor snacking choices when I get home from a busy day. When I get home, those veggies are waiting for me to munch on as I deal with the evening. It allows all of us to grab a handful before walking out the door, makes for healthier take-along snacks for school, and saves prep time for dinner. We always have a salad bar in our house. That means I also have salad-sized pieces of veggies pre-cut, and ready to be placed on a salad. We keep them in canning jars, and it's an AWESOME time saver! I prep these on Sunday too.I also batch cook. Making larger batches of dishes helps me save time on nights like this week when things are nuts! I batch cook items like beans and quinoa, as well as veggie burgers and granola bars, all of which freeze well, and defrost quickly. Soups and sauces freeze perfectly too, and can be defrosted easily. I will be making sauce and both canning and freezing it this week. We'll be so excited to have fresh summer sauce in the middle of winter. I love casseroles and larger dishes that can be taken as leftovers for work for both my husband and myself, or as another night's dinner to save time.Having staples on hand helps you can turn around a fast weeknight meal. For example; if you have canned black beans & corn tortillas, you can whip up a simple taco night using some added garlic, onions, peppers, and seasonings. Served with some brown rice and a salad-perfecto! Ready in 30 minutes! You could take left over rice and make veggie hand rolls for dinner or the next day's lunch.Take that same rice, and add tomatoes, beans, onions, garlic, and fresh herbs, and you've got a beans and rice dinner. You could make a baked sweet potato salad bar, topping baked sweet potatoes with beans, greens, and steam any other veggies you have. I try to make all of my recipes fast an easy (ready in under 40 minutes). As a mom of 2 young kids, I understand. Hey-that's one of the benefits of Veestro too! Don't forget, their prepared meals are great to have on hand as well!Here are our family's go-to weeknight meals, all links go to my website:1) Stir fry2) Taco Night or Black Bean Enchilladas3) Soup and Salad Bar4) Pasta with fresh tomato sauce or pesto, with added white beans or chickpeas5) Veggie Burgers: Sweet Potato or The Real-Deal Veggie BurgerLentils also make super fast weeknight additions of high protein & fiber bases. We love them! I have a bunch of recipes that feature lentils on my website as well, and will be posted a new one this week!Until next week...happy eating. Get that plan going and let me know how it goes!Jessica of www.gardenfreshfoodie.com

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