Every single year, I get to this point and think “I’m never going to survive.” The sports schedules, school schedules (this applies whether you homeschool or public school, I do believe!), life schedules, work schedules, dinner schedules – the schedules all hit me like a ton of bricks after summer break.

Little boys with backpacks standing on their front porch.

And each year, when this happens, I turn inward and ask myself how am I not more prepared? It’s not as if this is my first back to school rodeo.

Yet, year after year, I feel like I want to curl up in a fetal position clutching my bag of bittersweet chocolate chips and stay there until someone else makes dinner. Or runs carpool. Or cleans the bathrooms.

Since I’d rather not have my bones turn to dust in that position, I choose to power through…and swear that I’m going to implement some serious strategies next year.

This year is that year. 

Well, at least in terms of food and meal planning and dinner and how to store a month’s supply of chocolate chips (spoiler alert: keep them under your pillow).

If you’re looking for tips on housecleaning, homeschooling, or hired help, you better get your google search on. But if you need some school lunch, dinnertime and general meal planning solutions, I’ve got your back.

Today, I wanted to give you a couple strategies for dinnertime survival (some are reminders we’ve talked about before!) and also provide you with a couple, free menu plans that just might save your bacon (haha).

Four bento lunchboxes stacked on top of each other.

If you are packing school lunches every day, you know the pain and agony of trying to be creative and healthy without spending hours scouring Pinterest for a how-to on cutting your child’s sandwich to resemble a smiling panda bear.

I’ve done several posts on school lunches in the past and they continue to be a great resource even for me (thanks to all the comments that have been left in the thread of each post!). The posts include information on where I’ve bought our lunch boxes (still use them and love them after 6+ years), our go-to school lunch packing list, and some other good tips.

I’m actually in process of doing a part three to this school lunch series but it isn’t quite finished (hello, life).

 Click here —> School Lunch Solutions Part 1

 Click here —> School Lunch Solutions Part 2

I’m on a huge simplify kick. The details of this goal/challenge could take up a whole year’s worth of posts (which I won’t bore you with since I deal in food, not lifestyle stuff), but simplifying all aspects of my life lately has become very important to me.

A mother and five kids sitting on a picnic bench.

I feel like I’m failing at this most days, but after I returned from Ghana (and truthfully in the months before that), I felt a desire to reorder and reprioritize my life. And I am really trying. Really. It’s hard to put into words why I feel so strongly about this (and it’s probably too deep a subject matter for this ol’ blog), but meal planning and dinnertime is a perfect place to start in the simplifying process.

Basically, you don’t have to make a gourmet, extravagant, multi-course meal each night. Decide what’s most important to you and focus on that.

Is it eating dinner as a family?
Getting a healthy, from-scratch meal on the table?
Making it to 7:00 p.m without sticking hot pokers in your eyeballs?

Drop the guilt over whatever aspect you may not be able to meet (and forget about what your neighbors, friends, sisters, coworkers are doing) and focus on one thing that will make you feel successful.

Three children sitting on a stone lizard.

If it’s eating dinner as a family, figure out which part of that seems insurmountable and tackle it. Is it the dishes? Eat on paper plates. Is it scheduling? Try packing a portable dinner and eating it on the go (eating in the car together constitutes family meal, FYI). You get what I’m saying, right? SIMPLIFY! You don’t have to do everything every night. Make it work with the resources and time you have available.

Pep talk over. Phew! Don’t even pretend you aren’t relieved I’m not your daily life coach.

To help you out even a little more, here’s a post with some fabulous tips on what to do when:
Click here —> There’s No Time {or Desire} to Make Dinner

And another:
Click here —> FOUR free, amazing menu plans (plus shopping lists, make-ahead tips, etc)

I touched on this above already, but you guys, PLAN A MENU! It will save you so much headache and craziness, it isn’t even funny. I believe in menu planning. I love menu planning. I am menu planning.

Wait, that didn’t work. But you know what I mean.

My love for menu planning is one of the main reasons I came out with this eCookbook last week. (Which, as a sidenote, I’m so happy to hear how much you are enjoying these recipes! Thank you for emailing me and leaving comments about the recipes you have already made and loved!)alt=""

Today, in honor of coming together in support of this crazy time of year, I put together a FREE 30-day menu that includes ALL 30-minute or less meals.

It’s concise, it’s simple, it’s lifesaving. 

Use it and tailor it how you need. If you don’t want to cook every night – build in a leftover night. If you want to throw in a couple slow cooker meals or make-ahead meals, do it! This is just a starting place and a mini-guide for you to use to help simplify your life and take the guesswork out of meal planning.

It’s basically 30 days of clickable 30-minute meals all in one place and staggered so you aren’t eating pasta five nights a week (I personally wouldn’t complain about this, but I have gotten hate mail for lesser things).


I hope I’ve overdramatized things today and your life is NOT insane this time of year. Maybe you are sipping a pina colada on the beach somewhere (I might hate you a little bit), or maybe you are in a totally different phase of life where this type of strategy session isn’t necessary. That’s ok!

But if you are jumping full force into a new school year with new schedules, hopefully this post has helped a bit.

And as always, leave your comments below with any tips or tricks you have up your sleeve (and questions, too!). 

Love ya.