It’s common to see tips and advice on healthy holiday eating but what about keeping the momentum going once you return to the work & school routine?

As a mum of two energetic boys, I know how difficult it can be to keep up with good lifestyle habits after you’ve had the luxury of holidays and running your own schedule.

Ensuring you are eating healthy meals and snacks can be a little trickier when there are fewer available hours in the day and when you’re working and getting kids to and from school.

So the obvious question is, ‘How do you get back on track with healthy eating if it all implodes when you return to work?’


And I think a big part of the answer is, “Plan a pre-emptive strike!”

Rather than worry about what you’ll do when healthy eating and the busy work-week collide, have instead a system that helps you avoid getting off track in the first place; a plan that helps you avoid the need for a Plan B altogether.

So let’s look at a simple 3-step process you can use to make the transition back to work and school as hassle free as possible.

The three-step process consisting of planning, preparation and practice.


1. Planning

The first step to transitioning seamlessly back into work and school life is planning.

1. Plan out what you want to eat.

For example, if your optimal day of nutrition consists of breakfast, morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack and dinner for you and your family, then start to think of some easy ways to plan for those meals and snacks. Some tactics that work well:

  • Save time consuming, detailed cooking for the weekend
  • Cook in bulk so you save time on preparation and cooking during the week
  • Shop and prepare food on the weekend so you have meals and snacks ready for the entire week (with maybe a top up of fresh produce mid-week if needed).

In order to avoid poor food choices once you’re back at work, it’s important to plan in advance which meals and snacks you’ll be creating in the coming week.


2. Use a Rotating Plan of Favourite Meals 

Once you know what the meals and snacks will be, then you might want to consider having  that are easy to prepare (on the day or in bulk on the weekend) and rotate that plan every 3 – 4 weeks so you have variety as well as a cache of favourite and easy dishes each day of the week.


3. Write Your Shopping List AFTER you’ve planned your meals for the week

and have your rotating meal plan, then Write Your Shopping List for the ingredients you need to make all your family’s meals and snacks for the week.

Once you’ve finished planning the week’s meals and doing your shopping list, you’re ready to move into the Preparation phase.


Back to work and school meal planning



2. Preparation


  1. Do your shopping on the same day each week. It will save you time during the week and ultimately save you money too.
  1. I know it’s an obvious one, but it makes a huge difference when it comes to impulse buying, so Do Your Shopping On A Full Stomach.
  1. Try to Shop Only The Periphery Of The Supermarket where the fresh produce is kept. This avoids the temptation posed by the high fat, high sugar, highly processed foods generally found in the middle aisles.

Better still, shop at the green grocer or farmer’s markets where there is only fresh produce available OR have your fresh produce delivered to your door with a service such as CERES

Here’s the next stage of preparation!


Preparation and Cooking of Meals and Snacks

As above, plan when you’ll do this and commit to doing it at the same time on the same day each week.

Make it a non-negotiable part of your routine.

Remember to keep it simple, quick and cook in bulk when possible to minimise busy time during the week.

I love cooking on Sunday afternoons and freezing the meals into individual or family sized servings.  It’s then just a simple matter of pulling the meals out of the freezer the night before so they defrost in the fridge overnight.

Here is the final stage of preparation.


Food Prep The Night Before

If there’s anything that can’t be done days in advance but can be prepped the night before, then try to get that done so dinner the following day is expedient and stress free.

For example:

  • If you have chicken thighs to cook, you can marinate them the night before
  • If you have fish on the menu for tomorrow night, defrost it the night before
  • If you have meat patties to cook, mix it up the night before.

If the preparation requires too much time and effort, better you save that meal for the weekend.

You don’t want to be spending more than a few minutes the night before on preparation for the following day’s dinner.

Cook and Bake in Bulk

It takes only a few more minutes to do two of the same meal at once.  You can then freeze it, have the meal again in a couple of days or have the leftovers for tomorrow’s lunches

Preparation in advance equals less time spent shopping, preparing and cooking meals and snacks and with a little time, it becomes an effortless habit that reaps pretty huge rewards for your time and energy levels.


3. Practice

So why practice?

Well, you might have your planning and preparation all sorted, only to find that the intended outcome didn’t go quite according to plan because there was a variable you hadn’t considered in advance.

So to get it right, you need to give the meal planning, shopping and preparation a trial run BEFORE you go back to work and the kids are back at school.

A week before you go back to work, give it all a trial run to see what tweaks you need to put in place to ensure it all runs smoothly.

That way it should all come together nicely once you’re actually back at work.

So what could go wrong that might be ironed out during the practice run?

  • You shop on Sunday afternoon, only to discover that the queue at the checkout is horrendous or that the quality of fresh produce at that time is not great. Solution: Shop Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning instead
  • You forget that hubby has a double helping at dinner so there aren’t enough leftovers for lunch the next day. Solution: Make extra food to allow for this
  • You bake and freeze a meal or snack that’s not so great when it’s thawed out. Solution: Replace this recipe with another that does freeze and thaw well
  • You cook something that takes too long to prep or cook and leaves you feeling frazzled.  Solution: Replace this meal with something easier

Planning, Preparation and Practice Tips:

  • Do your planning, shopping and food preparation/cooking at the same times and same days each week. It will become second nature and no effort for you at all once you’ve done it a few times
  • Plan your shopping trip in advance and know what you need to buy (including enough so you have leftovers for lunches)
  • Make the meal and snack choices simple and quick to prepare and cook
  • Choose short cuts such as freezing, baking in bulk, cooking extras to take for lunch the next day to save you time during the week
  • Prepare your breakfasts and snacks one time for the entire week. If you have a smoothie for breakfast, cut and freeze the fruit and vegetables in individual portion sizes so you can just take them out and blitz them in the morning.  Or make a double batch of pancake mix and keep the leftover batter in the fridge for tomorrow’s breakfast.  Make enough snacks such as bliss balls, veggie sticks or healthy muffins for the entire week and store them in the fridge or freezer.


So that’s it.  Planning, Preparation and Practice.

These simple steps will make the day-to-day healthy food choices a simple and easy choice once you’re back at work and in your busy routine.

You’ll save time & money, minimise stress and your body will love you for it.

Allocate the time for each of these steps on a regular basis so it’s a simple and effortless part of your routine.

Put it in the diary and commit to doing it so that once you’re back at work and in ‘busy’ mode, you’ll have optimised your time and healthy meals for you and the family will be sorted.


Kristine Gardener

Kristine Gardener

Health and Wellness Coach

Kristine is a qualified Naturopath and Health & Wellness Coach who helps busy professionals to manage stress and get balance in their lives.

Want some help getting your healthy eating organised in a 100% foolproof way?

Book a confidential enquiry with Kristine.

Book a confidential enquiry with Kristine