It may still be summer, but August brings with it the reminder that the school year is soon to begin, and following that, Fall. There are some very sweet Fall moments… apple picking, the feel of pulling on a cozy sweater on a brisk day, the crunch of leaves under the blue sky. With it, though, comes busy evenings, shorter days, less sunshine and energy. I begin to plan for how I can make my life easier… bulk shopping and cooking, stockpiling the freezer with foods  I’ve made and frozen, and meal planning. I’ll share some ideas that help make the transition to that busy time of year easier for our family.

#1 The prep. Meal planning. What energizes your family? For us, it’s crockpot dishes, soups, savory meals, and easy-to-grab items like muffins, granola, turkey bacon. I keep a notebook of meals I’ve made, with notes on the source of the recipe, whether or not we liked it, what went well with it. When I get a free moment, I jot down ideas of what will work for the upcoming month, and often look back to remember what was helpful during certain times of year. This helps me compile a shopping list– I make sure I have ground turkey or chicken breasts in the freezer, any produce I’ll need for certain dishes, and replenish pantry staples. Looking over the sale circular before shopping is a great way to incorporate sale items into meal planning.

#2 Strategy. Take advantage of end-of-season produce. I shred and freeze extra zucchini so I can make quick bread all year long. Bag up blueberries, diced berries and peaches, even hunks of banana, to have ready to throw into muffins, oatmeal, and smoothies on busy mornings.

#3 Action. Once you begin turning on the oven again, start making extras. Double the meatloaf recipe and freeze one. Make three pounds of meatballs, eat one, and freeze two. Make extra taco filling, chili, soups. Once you’re measuring and mixing, messing up the kitchen, it’s very little extra work to set aside extras for another night. Same goes for breakfast foods. Waffles, pancakes, muffins, and granola can all be frozen and defrosted first thing in the morning as needed. Whenever I make turkey bacon, I bake extra trays of it, and freeze it in a Ziploc bag. My kids know it’s there and grab it when they need protein.

Once you develop a system that works for your family, you’ll be surprised to find out how easy it is to keep it going, and that you can always return to it after a lull. I recently stocked up on gluten-free flour, beans, and zucchini in anticipation of fall cooking. What tricks and tips have you found work for your family?

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