As a mom, I know that the daily routine of getting yourself and your child out the door and fed in the morning and then satisfying their hunger with dinner at night can be extremely hectic and stressful. But when it’s back to school time, things seem to get even crazier! Your hair may not be dry, and your evening errands may not get done, but no matter what you’ve got to feed yourself and the kids. Here’s a list of things to have on hand in your pantry and freezer to make life a little bit easier and make emergency trips to the supermarket few and far between.
Single-serving yogurt sticks: Stash these perfectly kid-sized snacks in the freezer for longevity, and have them on hand as a breakfast option when you’re out of cereal or milk. (My daughter thinks she’s incredibly special when she gets to eat a “popsicle” for breakfast!) Or throw one in a lunch box to enjoy later.
Granola bars: This is the ultimate grab-and-go breakfast for a family on the run. Keep your pantry stocked with a variety of flavors and no one will have an excuse not to eat breakfast, even if time is tight.
Frozen fruit: No fresh fruit in the house? Have some frozen fruit on hand to throw together a quick smoothie in the morning. In our house, one blender full of fruit can become a smoothie that feeds three of us.
Instant Oatmeal: All you need is water to make this quick and nutritiously filling breakfast option. Keep a variety of packets in your pantry; the stuff has a long shelf life.
Applesauce: Applesauce is an easy way to fruit into my daughter’s diet, and it’s the perfect self-service snack for older kids. My daughter often goes into the pantry and grabs an applesauce cup for herself first thing in the morning. (Another simple way to get fruit? A Mott’s juice drink, like Fruit Punch Rush.)
Bread (in the freezer): When you go to the grocery store, always buy two loaves of bread and throw one in the freezer immediately. You’ll never exhaust your storage, and you’ll always have some on hand for morning toast or on-the-go sandwiches. You might even think of breaking it out for French toast on a morning when you’ve got a little extra time.
Peanut butter: Slathered on toast or with jelly in a PB&J for lunch, peanut butter is a filling way to start your morning no matter how you enjoy it.
Frozen waffles: Waffles can either be a delightful treat served with syrup and eaten on a plate, or they can be transformed into a breakfast on the go when topped with peanut butter. They’re also an easy option when you’re teaching kids to make their own breakfast, since you can just stick a few in the toaster.
Cereal: A grocery store favorite, cereal is an easy breakfast that everyone can enjoy. We save time during crazy weeks and prefill the bowls the night before and leave them on the counter, so all that we need to do is add the milk.
Trail mix: If you’re not in the mood for a big breakfast, opt for some nuts and trail mix. The bags store well in your pantry, and are also easy to throw in a plastic bag and take on the go. I grab a bag to throw in the car, so that I have a snack on the way to work and on the way home before dinner.
Instant coffee: Breakfast isn’t just about the kids, it’s about you too. Keep some “just add hot water” packets of coffee in your pantry so you can grab a packet and throw it in your purse for work or add hot water and revel in the instant boost of caffeine.
Bacon: I’m not quite sure why, but bacon is a breakfast luxury that I used to think was reserved for lazy Sunday brunches. We buy it in bulk, freeze it on a cookie sheet, then pack it away in a freezer-safe bag for safe keeping. Taking a bite of the individual pieces I heat up in the microwave on the craziest of days makes me feel like a million bucks and wipes the crazy morning away!
Frozen boneless chicken breast: An easy protein-centered meal is just minutes away after you defrost the chicken. Simply add salt and pepper to it and grill it or add it to pasta.
Instant grains: You can make a hearty meal by adding instant grains as a side dish to any vegetable or protein. I keep instant couscous on hand for just that need, and in less than 10 minutes, it’s ready to serve.
Frozen lasagna (or just your favorite comfort food in family-size frozen form): Buy these in bulk during a shopping trip and always have one on hand in the freezer. When you truly have nothing in the house for dinner, you’ll be excited and comforted to pop this in the oven and smell it cooking.
Frozen herbs: My secret to keeping flavors exciting on a busy night is using frozen herbs. You can buy them in bulk and freeze yourself, or use commercial brands like I do to have herbs when you need them. I often whip up a quick tomato sauce with some frozen basil and garlic, or add frozen ginger to my stir fry.
Canned beans: Stock up on whatever beans you like. I tend to keep black beans as my pantry staple for an instant Mexican meal with just a bit of cheese added on top.
Frozen meatballs: Every kid at heart loves meatballs, and they’re a great staple to have in your freezer. You can add a few to your pasta for an added snack, or eat them on their own baked with tomato sauce. In our household, we get creative on a weekend and make our own varieties (i.e. turkey or chicken meatballs) and freeze them for upcoming weeks.
Frozen finger food (i.e. chicken nuggets, fish sticks, tater tots, etc.): Don’t turn to fast food just because you’re in a time crunch. Keep a re-sealable bag of frozen finger foods like chicken nuggets handy for all those kid cravings. As an adult, I really enjoy reliving childhood every now and then and having a night of finger food and dips with my daughter.
Pasta and pasta sauce: I don’t know any mom who doesn’t keep a pack of spaghetti and sauce in their pantry. Just give yourself time to boil the water, and you’ll be able to fill up those empty stomachs in no time. I keep a few fancy and colorful noodles stocked to spice up things as well, like radiatori or colored fussili.
Skillet sauces: Take the easy way out by packing your pantry with some premade sauces and just add your meat and maybe a few fresh vegetables to make a great meal.
Frozen pizzas: Stow some frozen pizza relief in the back of your freezer and save it for those emergency situations, and savor each non-delivery bite. We also stretch out refrigerated pizza dough and freeze it flat, so that we can make fresh pizza just by adding tomato sauce and cheese.
Soup: Soup is the perfect meal that is ready to go with just a little bit of heat. Let the family pick out their favorite varieties at the store and stow the cans or boxes in your pantry for safe keeping. In our cabinets, we always have some chicken noodle soup on hand for those sick days when my daughter, or husband, needs the perfect cold remedy.