In honor of it being the first day of school where I just recently moved to (don’t even talk to me about how the summer sped by in a warped fashion leaving me wondering where on earth time went, don’t even), I want to talk about three very important things as my family and I catapult toward school schedules and structure and sanity (the keeping of):

fast dinners easy lunches breakfasts

I touch on these things all year long: a whole section dedicated to 30-minute meals, waxing poetic about our love for hearty, warm breakfasts and posting once or twice in the past about school lunches.

But today, I’m doing something a bit different and I’m combining the whole kit and caboodle into FOUR very free handy dandy menu plans.

each menu plan list

I don’t know about you, but having it all laid out in front of me like this actually makes it seem manageable and totally doable. As in, I might succeed at keeping my sanity for at least the first four weeks of the school year.

Keep in mind that if you don’t want to use the entire menu plan, just pick and choose those meals that fit your schedule and style. And I promise, I won’t even bat an eye if you sub in cold cereal for a morning or four. If there’s anything I understand, it’s real life. So do what you have to do to make these menu plans work for you, your family and your schedule.

You can download the menu plan as a PDF for a simple ready-to-print-and-use option or as a Word document if you want to change it up and edit it a bit.

Here’s to a great, new, stress-free, perfect school year! (Please don’t burst my bubble…a girl can hope and think positive, right?)

menu 1 pdf
menu 1 word

menu 2 pdf
menu 2 word

menu 3 pdf
menu 3 word

menu 4 pdf
menu 4 word

featured image final

88 Responses to Back to School: Let’s Talk Fast Dinners, Easy Lunches and Wholesome Breakfasts

  1. Andrea says:

    Mel, this. is. AWESOME!! I really appreciate all the work and organization you put into the weekly plans, and the cook once, eat it twice concept is SO useful! :)

  2. Blayre says:

    Wow, the time warp sounds terrifying but this makes it seem easy to manage!

  3. Hilary says:

    This is unbelievable!!!!!! Thank you SO MUCH for all of the hard work you put into these meal plans/tips/ grocery lists!!!!! You are THE BEST!!!!!!

  4. Megan Lang says:

    Very handy and easy to read. Thanks for putting this together. I am new to the school lunch thing, so this is helpful. Do your kids eat leftovers cold for lunch, or do they have access to a microwave to heat things? Are they happy to eat cold foods that are typically heated? I love the idea of doing that if kiddos will go for it!

    • Mel says:

      Hi Megan – that’s a good question! No, they don’t have access to a microwave but my kids are really good at eating {some} things as leftovers without warming up (pizza, sandwich-type things like a little sloppy joe, and a few others). Not all kids may like that so I guess if not, the lunch items would need to be slightly adjusted. I didn’t include leftovers for lunch that would be downright nasty (in my opinion) not warmed up. :)

      • Megan Lang says:

        I’m not sure what my kids would think. I guess I should try and see what they say. I also saw your post from a while ago about lunches, which also really helps. Is it silly that I’m excited about packing a school lunch for them??? Thanks so much!

  5. Rachel Taylor says:

    This is amazing! Thank you!!

  6. Emily says:

    I can’t believe this is real. You are so organized, generous, and all-around amazing! Thank you for this! I am so excited to try it out. Only question is which one do I start with first? Haha. Thank you for sharing your talents with the likes of me. You’ve helped me feel more confident in the kitchen and also more conscious of what is really going in to the mouths of my dear family. You are wonderful!

  7. ShaNae says:

    Thank you for taking the time of putting this together. My son started 4th grade today. He’s my only so I am having a little bit of a hard time with that, but I like the idea of fast dinners and the cook once eat twice idea. Have a great day and I hope your kids had a good start at their new school(s)!

  8. Tracie says:

    You are a “kitchen genius”!

  9. Heather says:

    School starts here in one week! Hockey practice officially started last week and dance starts next week. I am printing these out now and getting things organized!!! You are awesome Mel! Best wishes for a smooth start to new schools for your kids!

  10. Becky says:

    You rockstar you! This speaks to my heart!

    Thanks for all your hard work!

  11. Rebecca B says:

    Your planning is incredible and your recipes are SO delicious! If only you were a generation older! I could have really used a resource like this when my children were growing up and I was a working (well – ALL moms WORK! I also worked in an office) single mom of four. Sigh. My grown children and 13 grand kiddos love your recipes.

  12. How awesome are you?!! These menu plans are full of great ideas! (And don’t talk to me about how the summer sped by either! It’s just plain crazy.)

  13. Karen E says:

    Excellent. Although we homeschool year round this year I am feeling the pressure since I’m still not into any sort of a routine in our new home. This will be very beneficial. Thank you.

    • Mel says:

      Karen – yes! I meant to make mention of homeschooling parents in the post, too, since I know your lives are just as crazy (if not crazier) than us public schoolers.

  14. Ashlee T says:

    Mel! This is awesome! Thank you for putting this together! Hope your first day if school goes well!

  15. Janna says:

    Thank you so much!!! Happy first day of school! :)

  16. k says:

    Wait, are you still in Wisconsin?

  17. Cheryl Gardner says:

    For some reason I can’t pull up the shopping list and prep. What am I doing wrong? ; ) I can pull up the menu.

  18. Sue says:

    This is truly awesome! Thank you. You have put together a plan that I have been thinking about but have not attempted because of the magnitude of the task. With hesitation, I had just pulled up my own menu-planning forms to start planning when your post popped into my Inbox. Literally. What an amazing thing you have done! Thank you.

  19. Melanie says:

    Thank you so so much!

  20. Camille says:

    Have I told you lately how much I love you?

  21. Katherine says:

    Thank you so much for providing the menu plans in a Word file for editing!!! There are only a couple of things that I need to adjust for our tastes but it makes it easier to follow without having to think about the changes I need to remember to make. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR ALL OF YOUR HARD WORK!!!

  22. Caroline says:

    Mel, thank you so much! It must have been an incredible amount of work, and I am so impressed since you are dealing with a recent move on top of it all! The school lunch ideas are fantastic. Thinking of something other than the same old sandwiches has been a challenge. I am going to follow in your footsteps and write up a list of options to tape inside a kitchen cabinet door so I can streamline this process. With four kids who all have their own likes and dislikes, it will make it so much easier! Thanks for the great ideas and tips! All the best to your kiddos for a great school year!

  23. Jessica says:

    Bless you

  24. Barb Heersink says:

    Thank you Mel. This is so very helpful!

  25. Lani says:

    Thank you so much, Mel! You are positively AMAZING!

  26. Mandy says:

    You’ve done it again! I feel inspired and hopeful about our meals (I’ve been in a HUGE food slump). I can tackle this plan and know my family will be well fed and happy. Thank you so much!

  27. How awesome is this!!! This must have taken a lot of time, but it is so fabulous! Pinning!

  28. Kim T says:

    Thank you!

  29. Teresa says:

    Wow, this is amazing! I am so grateful to you for putting all of this together. I was just thinking about organizing for school, and you totally did it for me! I have had this open all morning, can’t believe how thorough it is!

  30. Heather bell says:

    Ok you get mom of the year you great cooker, you! Seriously thanks for all the ideas. I have one very picky daughter who would just eat apples all day (not a bad thing) but I like your ideas! I also have a great slow cooker chicken madera recipe yo send over. Yumo

  31. Sheila says:

    What a talented, hard worker! You are the best! These menus are so easy to access and navigate. Thanks bunches and bunches.

  32. Val says:

    Wow! This is truly amazing!! Great job! :D

  33. Jenny says:

    You just saved me from planning my meals for the month of September. You just hit rock star status in my world! Thank you, Mel!!

  34. Meghan says:

    You are so awesome! Seriously, this is the best ever.

  35. Kim in MD says:

    Mel- do you ever sleep? Seriously…you are one hard working, busy Mom! I can’t believe your little guys are back to school all ready. This is an awesome post. Thanks for taking the time to make our lives so much easier!

  36. Long time follower of your blog! Thanks for putting this together. It is awesome, and I’m sure it took quite a bit of work to assemble. Hope you have a great back-to-school season!

  37. Emma says:

    You are amazing. I can’t get over that you have done all this work in the midst of packing up and moving your family! Our family just recently made a big move too (with 6 kids) so I can relate to how much work that is. I can barely keep my head above water! Thanks so much this is going to come in very handy!!

  38. Melissa says:

    This couldn’t have come at a better time! We are about to take in our first foster child and having no clue what life will be like with 3 kiddos, this is a HUGE help! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!

  39. Kristyn says:

    I can’t thank you enough for this! My kids start school tomorrow, I already have one job, and in two weeks I am also starting a Preschool! I didn’t know how I was going to keep up with meals for my family. I can do this!
    Meal planning seemed so overwhelming to do on my own. You did all of the hard work for me, I just have to shop and cook. Your website is the best. I use it SO much and know that everything you make is tested, delicious, and perfected. And now perfect menus too! You’re an angel.

  40. Kristyn says:

    I just noticed one thing. The grocery list for week #4 says week #2 at the top. In case you want to fix that to avoid confusion. Thanks again!

    • Mel says:

      Kristyn – Ah! Thanks! Just fixed and uploaded a corrected one (the grocery list was correct for ingredients so the only thing that was confusing was the # on it).

  41. Christine W. says:

    you are seriously amazing. your blog has been my favorite for years – i have both the regular and chocolate versions of your granola bites in my fridge and freezer right now, and i literally JUST emailed the recipes for both to a friend – but your awesomeness factor just skyrocketed with these menus. my oldest just started kindergarten, and life has felt so chaotic as we adjust to the new school-induced chaos. these menus will be great!! thank you!!!

  42. Julie says:

    Once again, I love you! Anyone mom who has multiple boys, like myself, and can put together amazing meals is a rock star in my book. Good luck with unpacking.

  43. Mel says:

    Hey everyone – just popping in to say thanks for being so positive and excited about these menus. It might seem a simple thing but your comments back to me saying thank you and letting me know how you’ll use these menus completely makes my day (and all the effort of putting them together worth it). Now I’m off to clean the toilets that were neglected during the making of the menus.

    • Helen says:

      you make me laugh and I love that you totally keep it real!!!! I had already kind of done a much less involved version of this from your recipes and lunch and breakfast ideas… because we started school last week and I have kids attending 4 different schools, (College, High School, Middle School, and Elementary.) Plus I have a 2 year old at home and babysit an 8 month old and a 4 year old 4 days a week… you have inspired me since I started reading this blog 2 years ago.. and all your 30 min meals, great breakfast & lunch ideas have become a major part of my life!! I love that you have put it all in one place.. it’s the perfect addition to what I had just started doing last week… the best part is that most of these recipes had already been printed off, and put in a binder, lists put up in my cupboards and shopping lists compiled your inspiration has been flowing thru me for a while now!! … thanks for all your work. I guess I should go scrub some toilets too… As soon as I make baked ziti :-)

  44. Brittany C says:

    This is incredible! Thank you , Mel! I can’t wait to try them all out. And I know my daughter will appreciate having something other than a sandwich for lunch :) I don’t know how you moved, got kids ready for school and put all this together. You’re amazing!

  45. Zara says:

    Thank you so much. This is super thoughtful and awesome.

  46. Edna Allphin says:

    Amazing!! You are soooo sweet to share your talents with us!! I love you!! (In a non-stalking, crazy way!! Lol) you totally make me excited and looking forward to cooking and packing yummy lunches for 4 kids!! We just had baby number 6 (he’s 12 weeks) and the sad thing is I can count in one hand how many times I’ve cooked a homemade meal. :( thank you for this!., AND ITS FREE!! You ROCK!

  47. Lindsey says:

    You are a doll, Mel!! We love your recipes! We homeschool and are starting back up next week so this is perfect!

  48. Sophie says:

    These are great. On a side note, we live in Boise and are more than happy to volunteer as taste testers anytime you need :) Welcome to the area!

  49. Stephanie says:

    Oh Mel. You just saved me! Thank you, thank you. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it a million times more, YOU ROCK GIRL! And I think we’d be great friends. You are, after all, now only 3 hours away from where I live! ;)
    These Menus are amazing!

  50. Amanda c says:

    I don’t even have kids in school (just one toddler) but I think we will love this. Thank you!!

  51. Angela says:

    These are just wonderful Mel! I hate menu planning but I am going to use yours to help me do it better. Thanks!

  52. Julie says:

    You outdid yourself with these menu plan extravaganzas, Mel! I preach the wonders of your blog to anyone who mentions dinner dilemmas.

  53. Jen says:

    You are soooo amazing. Taking time out of your busy life to help us. Thank you sooooo much. This is so helpful. I think I have a womance ;)

  54. Rachael White says:

    I don’t know how you do it, but you are amazing!!!!! Thank you so much for sharing these menus/list. Very very very helpful! I also love knowing how you plan ahead for the next day and what you do in the morning/evening. I think these tips the most helpful thing for staying organized and on top of life. :)

  55. Jen T says:

    Mel you really are a rock star. Thanks so much!!!

  56. Holly says:

    I can’t believe how thorough and fabulous these menus and shopping lists are! The dinner leftovers for packed lunches is brilliant. I don’t even remember what we ate before I found your site a few years ago. Love your guts!

  57. LESLIE says:

    Oh my gosh! You just saved my life and the little bit of sanity that I have left. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I have been trying to compile some plans like this for a while, and it gets so overwhelming to me that I never get anything completed. You are amazing…wish you still lived across the street in Utah!

  58. Esther says:

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

  59. Mary says:

    Bless you!

  60. Barbi says:

    These menu plans are awesome! Thank you! Do you prefer to make the lunches after school / before dinner or after dinner is cleaned up? I want to get in the habit of making lunches the night before but I seem so tired (&full) from dinner i get lazy & never make them. I am curious what you have found works for you. Thanks!

    • Mel says:

      Barbi – I almost always make the school lunches right after dinner while the child who is in charge of dinner cleanup is (hopefully) cleaning up dinner. If I wait until bedtime, I usually am too lazy. :)

  61. Aubrey says:

    I love you. The end. :)

  62. Melanie says:

    Grocery list #3 also says #2 on it. :)

  63. JaNae says:

    Wow and Wow! YOU are totally awesome. Such an answer to my prayers of how I am going to handle simplifying my life. I love every single thing you make that I’ve tried. Thank you!

  64. Stacie D. says:

    Oh my, these are fabulous! Is this how you live your life? I need to do this all the time, and with four weeks done for me, maybe I can get in the habit. We are so doing this! Thanks a million!!

  65. Becky says:

    Melanie!!!
    You are SUCH a rock star!!! When on earth did you find time to make these awesome menus?? You are a finisher! Your blog is so super cool it’s not even funny! And YOU are hilarious!! I love love reading everything you write. Make sure to try the Raspberry chicken nut salad at the Kneaders there in Boise and the rasp. bread pudding. To die for! Hope you guys can stay put for a long time! So happy for you guys!

  66. You are seriously the best!!! I can’t wait to give these a try. Maybe, just maybe I can really cook every night or every other night. I always seem to busy! Thanks Mel!!! You are truly an awesome lady!!!!! :)

  67. Beth says:

    I have been using your blog for many years now and I have never commented. But I just have to say how much I APPRECIATE YOU!!!! This meal plan is fantastic!

  68. Leigh says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! Seriously an answer to prayer. I’ve been struggling getting excited about menu planning or making dinner. THANK YOU!!

  69. Laura says:

    These menus are so helpful! Thank you! I started menu 1 tonight. Lunches and breakfast are all set for tomorrow! I have loved all of your other menus that we’ve tried. It is great to get me out of the cooking rut that I can get into sometimes. Thanks again!

  70. Andrea says:

    This? Just changed my life. I didn’t know it was possible to love you any more but really…I love your guts.

  71. Shara says:

    These are amazing! You are a rock star to do this for all of us. Just an FYI – the grocery list for menu #3 says it’s for#2. I printed them all out and they got mixed up and I got really confused putting them together. Easy fix:), and thank you so much!!

  72. Amber says:

    Mel, thank you ever so much for all the work you put into making these menus. I can’t tell you how much I needed something like this put in front of me because I was just not able to pull it together on my own. My kids started school last Wednesday, we moved into a new home on Saturday and then my 5 year old started Kindergarten on Monday. The house is being painted and recarpeted around all my boxes, and let me tell you, it doesn’t help that this is our third move in 10 months. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for putting this together. My family thanks you too. One more dinner of scrambled eggs or frozen pizza or cheese quesadillas and I would had a major mutiny on my hands.

  73. Ann says:

    You are BEAUTIFUL, Mel! Truly. I already love so many of your recipes, my neighbor and I share them regularly. When she mentioned the menus my heart did a flip. You have given a splendid present to your fellow mothers-in-trench. Thank you!

  74. Jaime says:

    I just want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. You’ve blessed a slightly stressed working mother today!

  75. Alisa says:

    Do you ever have trouble finding lunchboxes that fit the Goodbyn Bynto Boxes?

  76. Mel w/a Brian too says:

    Thanks for putting this all together Mel! I swooned when I saw the attached grocery lists. I use your other meal plans, but this is totally spoiling me. Hope you have a great weekend.

  77. Katrina says:

    These menu plans are amazing. We loved week one and are now onto week two. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  78. Alissa McKnight says:

    Thank you thank you thank you! This is AWESOME!

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