When you need to get your family out the door in a hurry in the morning, these 15 breakfast hacks will come in handy!
By Tiffany, Contributing Writer
My kids have been in school for about a month now, and it has been as much of an education for me as it has been for them.
When we homeschooled, our schedules were somewhat flexible. It wasn’t a big deal if breakfast was later than normal or if someone slept in a few extra minutes. With the kids now in school, our mornings need to be more structured if we’re going to fill their bellies AND make it to school on time!
These hacks for a school day breakfast are tips from the trenches, learned hands-on from a crash course in sending the kids to school!
15 Breakfast Hacks for Busy School Mornings
1. Wake up earlier.
You don’t have to wake up at the crack of dawn – we’re talking maybe 5 to 10 minutes. It’s enough time for you to pour a frugal cup of coffee before the hungry bellies come roaring in and get yourself in the right frame of mind. Plus those few extra minutes help to eliminate the rush of the morning, setting a positive and calm tone for the rest of the day (for both you and the kids).
2. Offer a breakfast menu to the kids.
It’s like a meal plan, but for breakfast, and it eliminates you being a short order cook.
The easiest and most frugal way to do this is to go through the kitchen and come up with 1 to 2 “special” meals (tip #3) and 1 to 2 “normal” meals (tip #4) that you can make with what you already have. Write them down and stick it on the fridge where the kids can see it, then let them decide what’s for breakfast at the start of the week.
3. Offer to make one “special” meal each week.
This could be pancakes, muffins, English muffins… whatever they want (within the constraints of the pantry, of course). Special meals are a simple way to make the kids feel special and fill their bellies with healthy food before school, but can take time. There’s two keys to making this work well:
- Limiting special meals to once per week. Any more often than this will bog down your morning and eliminate the peace and calm that you gained with waking up 5 minutes earlier.
- Making special meals on a day that is best for YOU. Do it on a day where someone else is taking the kids or you’re feeling exceptionally well rested. Don’t do it on a day that you woke up late and you need to shower/dress for an appointment as soon as you drop off the kids.
Also, don’t feel confined to making this special meal at breakfast! If the kids picked muffins and you don’t have time for them in the morning, make them at night or on the weekends! The kids won’t mind and breakfast will be special just the same. This is especially helpful for parents working outside the home, or who work abnormal office hours.
4. Make every other meal “normal.”
A typical “normal” breakfast for us is homemade instant oatmeal packets and I always have a container full in the pantry (see tip #12). Your normal meal could be muesli (a real food option to cereal), scrambled eggs or yogurt parfaits with homemade strawberry and chocolate granola.
By making one special meal a week and keeping the others normal, you strike a balance between fun and practical at breakfast time, without sacrificing quality good food!
5. Make extras whenever possible.
Anytime you’re cooking breakfast, make extras. Even if it’s just one or two. No sense in cooking the same thing twice if you don’t have to, right? Besides, I’ve never met a child who complained about having leftover pancakes (or the muffins from yesterday) for breakfast! (See tips 6 and 10.)
6. Always have something in the freezer.
You never know what crazy wrench will get thrown into the morning, so it helps to have something ready (or nearly ready) in the freezer.
Muffins and quick bread freeze beautifully baked, or you can freeze the raw batter and bake in the morning. Pancakes and waffles freeze great too and reheat easily too. (I have strawberry pancakes and zucchini muffins in my freezer!)
Did you make extras as I suggested in tip #5? Freeze them!!
7. Learn to freeze the right way.
Because freezing the wrong way leads to one massive block of pancakes and no pans to bake with!
- How to Flash Freeze – for pancakes and waffles
- How to Freeze Muffin Batter – includes tips for storage
- Ultimate Guide to Freezing Bread – step-by-step for baked or unbaked muffins and quick bread
- All About Freezer Burn – 10 tips to avoid ruining your food
8. Set the table the night before.
You don’t have to set individual place settings and you don’t even have to pull out every utensil. Even if you only get forks and napkins into a pile on the table, it’ll make the morning run smoother. If you have time though, go ahead and pull out forks/spoons, plates/bowls, napkins and cups for water/milk.
Tip: This is something you can delegate to the kids to do after dinner! Pull down the items from cabinets if they can’t reach, but let them take it all to the table.
9. Avoid sugar if at all possible.
Keeping breakfast wholesome and sugar-free sets the tone for learning and attentiveness. A couple tablespoons of pure maple syrup is fine on pancakes and fresh fruit is always welcome, but keeping processed sugar out of breakfast is the healthiest option.
10. Be strategic.
When you’re creating the meal plan for breakfast, be strategic so that what you cook carries over into other meals. Consider these ideas and use the leftovers, or make extras, for future breakfasts (or lunches!):
- English muffin target=”_blank” breakfast sandwiches –> English muffin pizzas or lunch sandwiches cinnamon vanilla nut butter and homemade fruit butter target=”_blank”
- Cripsy roasted potato wedges at dinner + homemade tortillas and shredded cheese from taco night –> potato & egg breakfast burritos
- Noodles from minestrone soup + extra pizza sauce –> homemade spaghetti o’s
11. Make lunchable-style breakfasts.
Homemade lunchables are perfect for using up a little bit of this and a little bit of that, so employ the same tactic with breakfast. When there’s just one pancake, one muffin or a handful of berries, cut them in half and place everything on the table. Supplement with fresh fruit and call it done!
12. Breakfast first, then dress.
It’s efficient to have the kids dress while you prepare breakfast… until they spill syrup on their uniform or smear jelly on their pants. Instead of getting dressed, have the kids gather their backpacks and socks and shoes and place them in a central location (on the sofa or by the front door) while you make breakfast.
When breakfast is over, they dress and brush their teeth and no one will have to search for anything because it should be in the same spot, ready go to!
13. Batch cook, if you can.
If your schedule allows, set aside an hour and make as many breakfasts as you can. It could be a quadruple batch of pancakes, freezer smoothie packets, homemade instant oatmeal packets, homemade protein bars or breakfast cookies – whatever it may be, make as much as you can so it’s nearly ready for busy mornings.
14. Use the slow cooker.
15. Take it to go.
My daughter is the world’s slowest eater, so sometimes we have to take part of our breakfast to go. We’ll eat the messy stuff (think pancakes and muffins) at the table and then eat the clean stuff (like apple slices or grapes) in the car on the way to school. Some of these fast and healthy breakfast ideas are great for eating on the go.
These tips for breakfast are great, but I know school lunch can be tricky too. Check out these 18 Hacks for Packing a School Lunch for more practical ideas and inspiration!
How do you keep school breakfast fast and healthy? What tips can you share with the rest of us?