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Get back to school with ease, P. II: Save time with meals


Christina is back with a home run solution post for streamlining your back-to-school routine. This time: meal ideas. Shoot, these help the non-parents, too! I’m all for simpler ways of making sure I’m getting my necessary food in.. not just the really spectacular dinners  for which we save up calories. Even if your kids are already back in the swing of things, it’s not too late to try out or implement new tips into your flow. The ebb and flow of life will call for modifications anyway. Hope you enjoy these posts

By Christina Arpante



I understand how unbelievably hectic mornings can be, especially if you, yourself, are not a morning person.  However, it is really important that all members of the family fill  their bellies with quality fuel to get their day started. Indulge me a moment while I bring in my English teacher persona and offer an analogy.  Breakfast: Body :: Gasoline: Automobile.  While there are occasions when we all fill our car will  with the “cheap” gas, it is not something we want to do on a regular basis. So, why would be take short cuts with our body?

That being said, I am going to get this out of the way. *Warning: This may not go over well with some. Kids do not need the fancy coffee houses, its caffeine, or the sugar that it offers in the morning.  There, I said it. If your children want to appear sassy by carrying the logo cup, buy the reusable cup and fill it with something healthy and appropriate. Collect the money saved and do something fun with the family.

  • Got some love for smoothies? Gather and prepare the ingredients that need to be chopped, sliced, and peeled on your prep day. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and freeze the fruit in a single layer, so that the pieces aren’t clumped in groups. Once frozen, package the fruit and vegetables in single serving baggies, like the snack baggies, label and freeze. This preparation strategy is great (1) for advanced planning and (2) if you’re a wholesale shopper and have the room in the freezer. If sealed well, the packs can keep up to 3-6 months in the freezer.

When ready to use, take the bag out of the freezer when you wake up, and place it on the counter. Get ready like a normal day, then prep the smoothie when your all beautified.  Taking out the fruit first allows it time to thaw. Because the fruit was frozen individually before being placed in the bags, defrosting occurs faster than if the fruit was clumped. When it is time blend, add to the leafy greens, and/or milk, silken tofu, or yogurt in the blender, top with the cover, and press the button.


Cut Fresh Fruit

  • Eggs are egg-cellent for you, but can be challenging to cook on a busy weekday. A dozen hard boiled will keep for several days. Boil them on a Sunday, let cool and peel (if you are so inclined), and place in a well-sealed bowl. Grab two each morning am you’re good to go!Hard Boiled Eggs
  • Make ahead oatmeal. Prepare the oatmeal (the old-fashioned oats, not instant) according to the directions, flavor with cinnamon, raisins, or however you prefer. Allow the oatmeal to cool, transfer into individual air tight containers, and store in the fridge and a few days. When you’re ready to eat, add a tablespoon or so of milk, reheat and go about your way. Bren has a really good oatmeal recommendation


I am going to save lunch for the next post and jump right to dinner but I invite you to check out Bren’s friend Laura over at MOMables for some ideas that work for her and her family.


Please avoid the drive through at all costs. Dinner doesn’t have be 5-star Michelin. All you need to make sure is that you have a protein, a vegetable, and a whole grain. There are plenty of 20-30 minute meals that are achievable, even for the non-cook.

  • Precut and freeze. Remember the smoothie prep? That process works for dinner, as well. And, cut and section the protein. If you purchase 3 pounds of chicken, but know you won’t use it all in one sitting, split it up. Then, the meat will not have to experience multiple freeze and refreezes, which is actually not healthy.
  • Afraid to cook meat? Invest in a meat thermometer and you’ll be a rock star in your own kitchen. Really. I promise. Many are inexpensive. My first thermometer was a $6 instant read dial pocket thermometer that worked just as good as the digital one I have now. Not sure of the temperatures for the different meats? Most thermometers have the temps on them, or in the package. If not, Food Network has a really accessible chart. And, there’s always this picadillo recipe, doable in beef for turkey!
  • Not convinced about thermometers? Rotisserie chicken is a great item it pick up at the store and can be turned in to countless recipes!
  • Did you go out to eat and bring home left-overs? Repurpose the leftover to make a whole new dish? For instance, add salt, pepper, and a little citrus to pinto or black beans in a blender and it becomes a hummus. Dice left over steak, reheat it over a skillet it, and add beef gravy (like   home-style beef gravy. Serve over rice and add Parmigiano-Reggiano. Simple as 1, 2, 3.
  • Lastly, three words: Breakfast for dinner. This never fails.

Saving time doesn’t have to be stressful. It just takes some thought about what we know best– ourselves. But, we actually have to take time for ourselves. In this very fast paced life, time is a luxury we deserve.  Let’s all take the first step this week. Who’s with me?

Christina Arpante, EdD is the Secondary English Language Art & Literacy Coordinator for the Santa Clara County Office of Education in San Jose where she develops customized professional development opportunities for county educators.  Prior to moving to California, Christina was a dedicated teacher, administrator, and Principal in the southeast. When Christina is not working to authentically integrate literacy across all subject areas, she’s most likely in the kitchen baking up sweet treats for friends. 

*rotisserie chicken courtesy of Humanisteq. All others c/o Bren Herrera.

Eat well, love unapologetically, pray with true intention, and take care of yourself.

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