Category Archives: Back to School

College Grocery List: The Only 5 Ingredients You Need to Make Multiple Meals

Headed to college this fall? Wondering how you’re going to feed yourself with a limited budget, equipment and facilities? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with this list of five ingredients you’ll want to keep on hand, so you’ll only be 30 or so minutes away from an ultra-tasty meal. You can stretch these ingredients into a multitude of simple dishes that’ll keep you well-fed and satisfied throughout the school year (no cafeteria required).

1. Spaghetti

A staple item in most households, spaghetti is something you’ll want to always have on hand because it’s so versatile. Worried about the dishes? Did you know that with many pasta dishes you can cook the spaghetti right in the sauce? Less cleanup is always a good thing!

● Make Cacio e Pepe, a classic dish where all the ingredients are cooked together in one pot, and the sauce reduces while the pasta cooks, no draining necessary. You don’t even need to wait for the water to boil!

● You can’t go wrong with Spaghetti and Meatballs, a dependable dinner staple that’ll fill you right up. Do yourself a favour and make a big batch of Meatballs and Sauce to keep in your freezer, so you’ve got a proper meal at your fingertips any time!

● Looking for something different? This Spaghetti and Meatball Bake lets you eat spaghetti and meatballs by the slice instead of the bowl! Each slab of this easy-to-prepare casserole has tiny meatballs and pockets of cheese. Change it up by using cooked sausage slices, or add extra veggies if you have them on hand.

● Got extra cooked spaghetti? No problem – this Genius 20-Minute Spaghetti Frittata is a great way to disguise leftovers as a completely new meal!

2. Eggs

If you’re going to keep one “fresh” food on hand, it has to be eggs. They’re so versatile: you can use them in breakfast, lunch and dinner recipes for an easy, tasty protein fix. Hard or soft-boil them, fry them or use them in these recipe suggestions – the possibilities are endless!

● A classic way to use eggs and all the “bits and pieces” in your fridge is in a Veggie-Filled Frittata. Not only are they simple to make, it’s a “one and done” dish that cooks up in less than 30 minutes. It also makes for tasty leftovers.

● Looking for something a little more substantial? Whip up a Quick Quiche. If you use store-bought pie crust, this meal could not be any easier. Once again, you can customize the filling according to which ingredients you have on hand. It’s excellent to make on the weekend for meals throughout the week, and pairs perfectly with a Simple Green Salad.

● Eggs are also a staple ingredient for brunch. Dishes like Eggs Benedict that you might enjoy in a restaurant are actually fairly simple to make at home. Got eggs? Got English muffins? You’re halfway there! Even that fancy sounding Hollandaise sauce is simple to make at home.

● Lastly, all students need a reliable on-the-go meal that can stand-in for breakfast, lunch or as a healthy between-class snack hack. These Prosciutto-Wrapped Egg Cups are here for you.

3. Canned Tomatoes

Canned tomatoes should be a staple in anyone’s pantry, but particularly in a college student’s, because of how versatile they are. A simple can of tomatoes can transform into any number of dishes. Bonus? If you have an immersion blender or mini blender, you can make your own tomato juice!

● Are you a fan of breakfast for lunch or dinner? Shakshuka should be a go-to meal of yours. Stewed veggies with poached eggs makes an excellent quick, healthy meal for one, but it’s easy to batch up if you’re cooking for a crowd! Use a Quick Ratatouille as a base for even more flavour. You can also make the Ratatouille on its own for a quick and easy meal to serve over rice, or with crusty bread to soak up the sauce.

● A foolproof way to transform a can of tomatoes is to make Tomato Soup (with grilled cheese, obviously). This tasty version features mini bacon grilled cheese sandwiches, taking things up a notch to create the ultimate comfort food pairing.

● Get inspired by the flavours of Middle Eastern cuisine and whip together a Moroccan Vegetable Couscous Dish in just 30 minutes. Canned tomatoes are used as the base, together with frozen squash and a can of chickpeas.

● Why let a can of tomatoes sit untouched on your shelf, when Skillet Chicken Parmesan could be in your future? Use crushed canned tomatoes, or tomato puree for the base for a quick, comforting dinner that certainly beats the cafeteria.

4. Frozen Mixed Vegetables

Trying to eat healthy on a college student’s budget isn’t always easy, especially when you factor in the cost of fresh fruits and vegetables. One way around this is to substitute frozen veggies where possible. Flash frozen when in season, they’re the next best thing compared to fresh, and also budget friendly. If you have these in your freezer, there are so many ways you can feed yourself!

● A classic way to use frozen vegetables is in a Quick Fried Rice. Add a splash of soy sauce for flavour and you’ve got yourself a healthy meal in a flash. Incorporate chicken, beef or tofu for extra protein if desired, or simply make a Plain Omelette and chop it into the rice and veggies for a restaurant favourite that’s easy to replicate at home.

● Looking to batch cook a recipe to enjoy throughout the week? If you’ve got frozen veggies on hand, you’ve got the makings of a tasty Vegetable Soup. Add cooked leftover turkey or chicken for a complete meal in a bowl!

● Hankering for some comfort food? Ramp up your Casserole game by adding a medley of frozen veggies into the mix. This drool-worthy recipe by Alton Brown is a creative (and easier) take on chicken pot pie.

● Grill your frozen vegetables, then add them to hearty Vegetarian Burritos. Serve with rice or salad on the side for a satisfying meal in a flash!

5. English Muffins

While you might not always have fresh bread on hand,  if you have a small freezer, store English muffins, which are the perfect base for so many great recipes! The obvious way to use these is toasted with butter and a sweet or savoury topping, but there are plenty of creative ways to fancy them up and make them all the more meal-worthy.

● We’ve already seen how muffins can be used for Eggs Benedict, but how about for a proper Breakfast Sandwich or even in place of a Burger Bun? They’re arguably the most versatile bread product there is, so keep an extra frozen pack in the fridge for when you’re in a meal pinch!

● Craving French Toast, but don’t have any bread on hand? Opt for English muffins instead, served alongside fresh fruit, eggs and bacon for a hearty meal that’ll keep you full and energized through all your morning classes.

● We’re a bit obsessed with these Easy English Muffin Pizzas (read: no need to worry about wasting precious time making the dough!), which can be assembled ahead and kept in the freezer for a satisfying anytime snack or meal. They’re perfect for those late-night study sessions.

● Other creative uses for English muffins include subbing them to make a sweet Bread Pudding, using them as the base for Tuna Melts, or even chopping them and drizzling with oil to make Crispy Croutons!

For more quick cooking tips and hacks, see these 35 budget-friendly recipes with canned beans, our best affordable chicken dinners and 25 cheap dinner ideas for two that won’t break the bank.

Bento Lunch Boxes: How to Make Colourful Back-to-School Meals Your Kids Will Devour

Packing healthy school lunches that your kids won’t challenge can be just a little stressful, especially if you have a picky eater on your hands. The foods you prep need to energize, nourish and keep your child focused throughout the school day. Luckily, gone are the days of the sad brown bag and that same soggy ham and cheese sandwich. That’s partly thanks to the bento lunch box, which has changed the game, giving parents a far easier method for meal prepping, and kids a way more enjoyable way to eat. Read on for eight genius tips on packing the ultimate back-to-school lunch, plus three bento box ideas you’ll be quick to replicate.

1. Pack the Rainbow

Pack as much colour as you can into your kid’s lunch box. This means lots of vibrant fruits and veggies, so they can get the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients they need to grow healthy and strong. Everyone eats with their eyes first, so when something looks colourful and appetizing, the process of digestion begins. Kids also take eating cues from how food looks, rather than from how it tastes.

Main: Chicken salad sandwich with cucumber, carrots, spinach (or stuffed in a pita or tortilla)
Side: Roasted sweet potato cubes
Snack 1: Blueberries with strawberries sliced into hearts or stars
Snack 2: Edamame beans or green peas
Dessert: Mini chocolate chips with pumpkin seeds

2. Get Creative

Many kids like what’s familiar to them, and if they enjoy eating the same thing every day, one way to change it up is to get creative with how the food is displayed. If your youngster love strawberries, cucumbers or melons, try slicing them into stars one day, cubes the next and hearts the following week. Thread their favourite fruit through a stick to transform them into skewers. Take their sandwich ingredients and roll them into wraps, stuff them into mini pitas or thread them through to make sandwich kebabs.

3. Cover Your Macro & Micronutrients

Ensure your little ones remain fueled throughout the day by sending foods packed with fibre, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals. If you’re already filling lunch boxes with fruits, veggies, seeds, beans/legumes or animal protein and a whole grain, you’re covered. Packing a sweet treat is also a must, so think of more nutritious options like homemade granola bars, better-for-you cookies or healthier muffins. Remember to limit the refined sugar, which can impact your child’s behaviour, energy, focus and mood.

Main: Pesto pasta noodles with sliced cherry tomatoes
Side: Steamed green beans with sesame seeds on top or raw snap peas
Snack 1: Skewered mango and grapes
Snack 2: Cubes of cheese or crispy chickpeas
Dessert: Mini cookies or strawberries with chocolate chips

4. Repurpose Leftovers

Packing school lunches can be a lot of work, so if you can, repurpose dinner leftovers from the night before. If you have leftover chicken, make the lunch box Mexican themed and pack the chicken with avocado, corn and salsa. If you have extra lasagna, cut a square and pack that. You don’t need to start from scratch if you have foods to work with. Also, do your best to pack the night before, and avoid adding another stressful task to an already busy morning!

5. Be School Safe

Nut allergies are quite common these days, and most schools are now nut-free. Keep this in mind when you’re packing back-to-school lunches, and replace classics with nut-free alternatives. For example, if you were going to pack a peanut butter and jam sandwich, swap the PB for sunflower butter. For something like trail mix, ensure it’s made with seeds. If you’re buying snacks, there are loads of allergen-free options out there.

6. Get Your Kids Involved

Studies show that if kids have a hand in helping grow, prep or cook food, they’re more likely to eat it. So involve your children in the packing process. Have them decide what they want to eat – you can even ask them to come up with a meal plan schedule to paste on the fridge. If possible, ask them to help with the prep: maybe they can skewer fruit, or slice strawberries with a kid-safe knife.

Main: Protein pancakes
Side: Heirloom carrots, sliced + dollop of hummus to dip
Snack 1: Crispy chickpeas or raisins
Snack 2: Raspberries and kiwi
Dessert: Orange slices dipped in chocolate or with chocolate chips

7. Keep it Clean

Don’t pack foods that have a strong, offensive smell, or something that’s going to leak all over the rest of the meal. This will pretty much guarantee that your kid will pass on eating his or her lunch!

8. Lunch as an Afternoon Snack

There may be times when you open your child’s lunch box after school, only to discover the meal you lovingly prepared is still sitting there. When your kids come home, they’re usually starving and desperate for a snack. This is the perfect time to offer up these lunch leftovers to ensure the food you spent time making isn’t wasted.

Here, a nutritionist reveals meal prep tips to avoid a sad desk lunch (plus two 10-minute recipes) – because parents deserve inspiring lunches, too!

5 Tips to Help Your Kids Pack Their Own Lunches

If you’re tired of making lunches your kids won’t eat, getting them to build their own lunches can help streamline your morning routine and increase the odds their lunchbox comes home empty. From shopping for the right ingredients to choosing the right lunchbox, there are many strategies that can set your family up for lunchtime success.

Take Them Shopping

The first step in getting your kids to help pack their own lunch starts at the grocery store. Have your child make a list of their favourite lunch foods, and then let them navigate the grocery store with you for those items. Commit to trying one new item from the produce department each week and talk to them about what makes a balanced meal. Knowledge is power, and this is true for food and meal prepping.

Make Packing Fun

If you think packing lunches is a boring chore, chances are your little one will too. One way to shake this stereotype is to make packing lunches fun. Pick up some cute and colourful reusable containers and bags, pop on your little one’s favourite songs, and make an assembly line where you can all pitch in together packing their midday meal.

Use a Bento Box/Snack Box

One way to get your kids to pack and eat their lunch is to stop calling it lunch! For whatever reason, kids seem to balk at the concept of eating a proper meal, but fully embrace a snack situation. The snacks-as-a-meal trend is having its moment right now, with parents using everything from muffin tins to plastic craft boxes to hold a variety of tasty eats for their kiddos. Have your child fill Bento box compartments with foods they enjoy – such as crackers, dried fruit and add some cheese, a hardboiled egg, and cucumber or apple slices for a balanced meal. Don’t forget a dip or two like hummus or seed butter for even more kid-friendly fun.

Keep Items Accessible

If kids can’t reach it, they can’t pack it, so leave ample supplies of storage containers and food options where your kids can access them. Once they know where everything is, get them into the routine of putting their lunch together at the same time every day – before bed the night before or after breakfast on the day of are both good options.

Shake up Lunch with New Recipes

Another way to get kids excited about packing their own lunch is to try making a new recipe together. Research shows that children are more likely to eat food that they’ve taken a role in preparing, so let them practice their measuring and mixing skills with a kid-friendly recipe. A medley of sweet, dried strawberries, apples and yogurt-covered raisins are right at home with crunchy crackers, roasted pumpkin seeds and puffed rice cereal. Make a double batch, because this snack will be popular on the playground.

Parents’ Top Tips for Packing Lunches That Kids Will Actually Eat

There are plenty of good reasons for wanting to pack a healthy, nutritious school lunch your kids will eat. Consider this: if fueling their minds isn’t inspiration enough, it’s inevitable that one of these days, someone is going to forget to clean their lunchbox, only to discover that come Sunday evening (or worse, Monday morning), the uneaten contents have sprouted new life.

parents-tips-on-packing-school-lunches

Save yourself the trouble with these keep-it-real tips for packing school lunches with ease from real parents.

Train Your Sous-Chef Early

These are the two most-commonly cited reasons for including kids in the lunch process: they learn useful life skills and strip themselves of the right to complain.

Food blogger Sandra Hickman Simmons highlights the positive side: “Make it a fun thing you do together at least occasionally,” she says. “When the child opens the lunch they will get an immediate smile on their face remembering how they cut their sandwiches with a cookie cutter, or played a counting game with the grapes while making the lunch with mom or dad.”

Bonus: when kids choose the foods that go into their own lunch boxes, they’re more likely to actually eat them. “If they pack it, they own it,” writes Family Cook Off host and mother of three, Trish Magwood. She suggests laying out rules, such as ‘each lunch must include a fruit and a protein,’ then letting the kids choose the items within your pre-set categories. Best of all, studies show that kids who participate in home cooking are more likely to choose healthy items.

Make a List

Family life can get so hectic that sometimes we even forget our own bright ideas. By keeping a running list of favoured lunch items, you’re creating a grocery list and packing day inspiration. “When lunch making time rolls around in the bleary-eyed morning, it’s easier to look at a list and pick stuff than try for creativity before the coffee sets in,” says Toronto mom Lana Rayman.

Involve your children in the listing process so the options are parent and kid-approved; if they can read, they can use the list you’ve created together to guide their choices and do lunch on their own.

Mix It Up

“I usually pack lots of little things cut up,” says Kitchener mother Julie Barker. She says her son, Jack, is more likely to eat his lunch if it’s all “mini.”

Cut-up portions aren’t just cute — they’re practical, too. Kids have limited time to eat their lunches, and bite-size bits are easier to manage. They also create space for a greater nutritional variety.

That said, don’t get too upset if even the best packed food rainbows are occasionally returned home. “My son needs variety,” says mom Dawn Hill. “And it’s always a surprise what he’s going to eat and what he suddenly “hates.” I’ve given up worrying about it.”

Remember: It’s Elementary School, Not Top Chef Canada

 Many of the parents we spoke to recommended cutting and arranging foods in cute shapes. It can be a fun way to bond with your kids while taking care of a necessary task. But crafting panda sushi and banana penguins isn’t for everyone.

Milton mom Lisa Weaver reminds parents to test out a lunchbox before buying, as some are easier to operate than others. “They don’t get a lot of time to eat,” she says, “and little hands need to know how to open latches and lids.”

Stay On Track

Above all, try not to stress. Yes, good nutrition is important, but dietitians frequently advise taking a weekly approach, rather than daily. If your kid is getting the right balance of fruits, veggies, proteins and fibre-rich complex carbs throughout the week, an indulgence here or there is totally fine.

When your kids inevitably do return with uneaten items, instead of asking why they didn’t eat a particular item, approach them with a neutral statement, like: “I see there’s still a lot of rice in here…” If you’re lucky, it might lead to a conversation about their current food interests, or their lunchtime social lives. Besides, at the end of the day, it’s just lunch.

Still hungry for fresh lunch ideas? Try these recipes: 16 Stress-Free Lunch Ideas

DIY Packed Lunch Kits You’ll Actually Want to Eat

I blame my grade school days for my great distaste towards packed lunches. Day after day it was the same thing: The same plain sandwich with one slice of meat and no crust, and two boring snacks, which I’d usually eat at recess.

FN_RReardin_5Sep

Though I never lucked out with a pack of Dunkaroos or Gushers, my parent’s were still pretty good at pleasing a kid. I got a one-bite chocolate bar on occasion, or sometimes a few chips. My lunch aside, it was the other kids I had a problem with. There was the one who always had the stinky baloney sandwich, the smell in which would linger until afternoon recess, and the kid that would bring fettuccini alfredo and a carton of milk every Thursday. (Don’t tell me you didn’t just shiver.)

And now, we still don’t really have a choice but to bring packed lunches to work. Health-wise and money-wise, it just makes sense. And so, because none of us can eat the exact same thing every day, I’ve come up with an easy guide to help you choose healthy options guaranteed to keep you full all day long. Sure, you may think it’s a lot of food but it’s all about portions. Eating a little food all day long is a surefire way to keep you full without overdoing the calories.

Now, all you have to do is pick an item from each of the following lists, prep it, pack it, and you’re on your merry way. And yes, don’t worry, I have your sweet tooth covered too.

8 AM: For most of us, the idea of cooking a fabulous breakfast and actually sitting down to eat it is as foreign as leaving the house with wet hair. It just doesn’t happen. So, we resort to eating on the go. Choose one of these easily packable, easy to eat snacks that go perfectly well with the two cups of coffee you always have time for.

  1. Organic wheat cereal, like Kashi’s.
  2. A whole wheat English muffin, toasted, with butter or jam (with no added sugar)
  3. A homemade breakfast bar under 150 cals, like our Peanut Butter Bar version.

10 AM: Your coffee’s done, you still have a few more hours until lunch, but you’re hungry. Or, you’re looking for an excuse to take a break from work for a bit. Fair enough! I’ve got you covered with morning fruit options:

  1. An apple.
  2. A scoop of fruit salad (try our version with a savoury dressing)
  3. A small serving of fruit, granola and Greek yogurt.

1 PM: You made it! It’s lunchtime. That thing you’ve been looking forward to all morning? Ya, it’s here. And we have three lunch options all delicious, and all healthy.

  1. A salad with asparagus, radish, avocado, spring green mix, and any other veggies you’d like to add. This is the fastest option, so if you’re short on time while preparing your lunch before work, go with this.
  2. A little more extravagant, but totally filling, a turkey sandwich on a whole wheat bun is a great option.
  3. The BLTA: Just grab a whole wheat wrap, arrange bacon, lettuce, tomato and avocado in it, and you’re done.

3 PM: Right about now, that darn sweet tooth starts acting up. This is the little kick we need to get us through the day, and it’s perfectly fine to indulge in something sweet, as long as this privilege is not abused, Meaning, no, I am not advising you to eat a whole dark chocolate bar, I’m talking about just a square or two.

  1. A small piece of dark chocolate (the darker you can go, the better!).
  2. 1 small cookie, like our chewy oatmeal cookies with apricots and pumpkin seeds.
  3. A small rice crispy square (do it right, and it can only be 150 calories).

5 PM: Some of us may still have another hour of work to put in, and some of us may have a super long commute home ahead of us. So, better take a little snack to hold you over until dinner, just so you’re not tempted to pick up a doughnut… or something.

  1. Fruit and cashew trail mix.
  2. Raw natural almonds.
  3. Light hummus with carrot and celery sticks.

Quick and Easy Back-to-School Granola Bars

Granola bars never get old. If you’re back to school this week or just plain old back to work on Monday, granola bars are a great pick-me-up snack. Packed with nuts, seeds and oats these will help anyone get through their first week back to school.

GranolaBars_2

These granola bars are easily customizable—feel free to play with the fruit and nut combinations. Try chopped dried apricots or figs. Make your favourite combination of trail mix or try using almond butter instead.

GranolaBars_3

Ingredients:
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup shredded coconut
3 cups trail mix
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp  ground ginger

GranolaBars_1

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. In a large bowl combine oats, shredded coconut, and trail mix. In a small pot combine coconut oil, honey, brown sugar, lemon juice, peanut butter, cinnamon and ginger. Bring to a boil, let bubble for 4-5 minutes until slightly thickened. Pour over oat mixture and mix to coat evenly.
3. Pour mixture into a lined 9×13” baking dish. Place in oven and bake for 20 minutes. Let cool completely before slicing.