HomeJason Koppel

As the start of September rolls around, the new school year is upon us. While some of us may be craving the routine and order the school day brings, for many it’s an exhausting few weeks as we adjust to the early starts and long days. For many though, the start of the new term is an opportunity to get organised and implement new routines to make the relentless life admin (cooking, cleaning, ironing, morning routines, homework!) more efficient and to make more time for fun and relaxation. Read on for tips and routines to help your busy school days run smoothly. 

Meal Planning

Meal planning is simply creating a calendar of evening meals you’re going to have each week, in advance. Plan one, two or even three weeks in advance if you have the time and the headspace. Doing this now for the first couple of weeks back will help you to get ahead for the start of the new school year and give yourself a smooth transition back into the weekday routine. It’s a good idea to keep this calendar visible for the whole family so they can read for themselves what’s for dinner (rather than asking you!), and so a small whiteboard or chalkboard hung up in the kitchen would be a great idea. 

The next part of meal planning is to write a shopping list. Online shopping is often the easiest way to do this, as you can save your favourite items such as eggs, milk, bread etc, that you will need each week without having to search for them all again. 

Put a reminder in your calendar for when you need to meal plan again, and try to stick to it. It’s a good idea to keep a list of meals that go down well, so when you’re stuck for inspiration, you can refer to the list for family favourites. 

Automate what you can

As with the online food shopping, it’s a very good idea to automate as much life admin as possible. Spending a little time ensuring that things like home insurance payments and any school payments etc, are on direct debit, will save you precious time and energy later down the line. 

Meal prepping/batch cooking routine

At the start of the new school year, do you have a morning/afternoon/whole day available where you could batch cook a load of meals that you can have ready in the freezer which just need sticking in the oven whilst you do the school run? Curry, dhal, stew, slow cooked meats or beans, ragu, chilli, lasagne, lentil dishes and soups are fantastic dishes to make ahead and freeze. You can even prepare breakfasts ahead of time. Waffles, pancakes, frozen smoothie mixes, breakfast muffins and frozen raw pastries all work well.

If that’s too much, even ingredients prepping when you have a spare ten minutes can help your mealtimes run smoother. 

For speedier batch cooking, try these handy kitchen gadgets.

Tower Soup Maker,  £39.99 

Make a fresh batch of soup on a sunday ready for packing in soup flasks for school lunches, or ready to serve for a speedy dinner.

Digital Pressure Cooker £49.99

Make delicious stews and casseroles in half the time with a digital pressure cooker.

Slow Cooker £24.99 

A slow cooker is perfect for busy families who love to come home to a hearty meal, ready and waiting for them. 

Health Grill £19.99

Grill chicken, meat and fish in a fraction of the time on a health grill. Perfect for toasting sandwiches too for easy dinners.

Waffle Iron £24.99 

Batch cook waffles, make ahead of the new school year, freeze and reheat in the toaster for quick breakfasts. Healthy variations with spinach, beetroot, bananas or courgette make a tasty breakfast and a great way to get in a portion of vegetables first thing. Top with fresh berries and nut butter for a sweet and filling breaky.

The Morning Song Hack

For parents who are sick of saying “put your shoes and coat on” twenty times each morning, try this little hack. Choose a song your family likes, and play it every morning when you need everybody to get their shoes and coats on and get out of the door, pronto. When the kids hear it, they’ll know to stop dawdling and to quickly get ready to go. The song signals the 3 minute countdown to leaving. This works perfectly for families who enjoy a little friendly competition; you could even make it so that whoever is ready first gets to choose next week’s song. 

Early Nights, Early Starts

As the school holidays come to an end, it’s a good idea to ease children back into their school night bedtime routine. Getting their body clocks to adjust back into being tired by their bedtime and used to waking up early again may take a week or so. It’s not absolutely necessary, but if their routine has gone completely out of the window during the summer holidays, it is recommended so that the school day isn’t a total shock for them!

After School Snacks

Kids of all ages (and adults too) are prone to a mid-afternoon energy slump. If you have the time and are able to, either packing them an extra after-school snack, or having something ready for them at home is a sure way to avoid reaching the hangry stage! A small portion of fruit or hummus and veggies is perfect and won’t spoil their appetite for dinner.

What tips do you have for getting off to a flying start this September? Please share them below for us and other readers who may find them useful.