My favorite thing about back-to-school month is getting back to a routine. Schedules and bedtimes for the win, am I right? As we look ahead to a new school year, we’re all working to find our way back to schedules and routines this fall. These are some of my favorite meal planning tips for making this transition and weekday breakfast or lunch as easy as 1, 2, 3.

  1. Help your kids create a list of favorite foods from each food group (fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, and protein).
    •  Use that list as your shopping guide. Keep it on the refrigerator for quick reference or use a dry erase board to quickly add ideas. 
  2. Using that list, create a grab-and-go section in your refrigerator and pantry.
    • Spend a few minutes at the beginning of the week washing and cutting fruits and vegetables and portioning out other foods. Then, create a “grab-and-go” section for your refrigerator and pantry for quick access to favorite breakfast, lunch, and snack foods. 
  3. Build balanced meals throughout the week by choosing favorite foods from each food group.
    • Recruit help from spouses, partners, and kids to pack breakfast or lunches the night before. Encourage everyone to pick at least one item from every food group to help build balanced meals throughout the week. This makes one less thing to do on busy mornings, can help add responsibility to your little one’s chores, and is an interactive way to teach kids the importance of the basic food groups!

Most importantly, create a system that will work for your family with foods you enjoy! And remember, a little bit of planning ahead goes a long way.

Get more tips on nutritious snack options and creative ways to maximize leftovers here.

Sr. Food Scientist, Nutrition Team at

Monica Stewart, MS, RD, LD, is a registered dietitian employed by Tyson Foods, Inc. She is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, a member of the Springdale Coordinated School Health Committee, a member of the Kids Eat Right campaign and was awarded a mini-grant from the Kids Eat Right program to help raise awareness around hunger in her community.

Monica completed both her bachelor’s and master’s degree from the University of Arkansas. Her master’s research focused on food insecure children in Haiti and she has worked closely with, an organization that helps provide animal protein to impoverished children around the world.