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.
We’ve found that a loose breakfast menu, as opposed to a full-fledged meal plan works best for us. But feel free to employ an official day-by-day meal plan if you (or the kids) need the structure.
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.
The point for normal meals is to keep them simple, fast and easy so you can focus your attention on other things, like talking to them about school or packing healthy school lunches.
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.
You can make single servings of oatmeal in the slow cooker before bed and wake up to breakfast already made! Other slow cooker breakfast ideas include eggs, french toast and breakfast casserole.
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!
Lisa @ This Pilgrim Life
These are such helpful tips! I’m definitely going to share them this week.
Since getting into our new school routine, I have started planning out meals for the whole week, breakfast included, on Sundays. It helps me to vary things up between our go-to breakfasts– eggs and smoothies, steel cut oats, and yogurt and granola. Like you, I’ve decided to save our special breakfast for Saturdays. Also, I really like the idea of pulling out clothes but waiting until after breakfast to get dressed. This is key for us on Sunday mornings for my daughter (20months). If we dress her before breakfast, she always ends up needing a new outfit and it can be frustrating when we are already trying to hurry!
And yes to avoiding sugar. I try to limit sugar in all our foods, but if we are having some at breakfast, we also always have some sort of protein to balance the meal out!
Thank you Lisa! You shared a great way to balance the sugar too – adding extra protein is a great option!!
I like these ideas, I will have to try some of them. The one thing that I have done if I plan to make pancakes, waffles, or muffins in the morning is to mix up the dry ingredients the night before and keep them in a plastic Ziploc type bag, and in the morning I just have to pour it in the bowl and add the wet ingredients, (I usually set any of these items out on the counter, if possible the night before too) mix and cook or bake it. Plus, there is less cleanup in the morning this way too, if you did that part the night before, anyway =D (several batches of dry ingredients can be made ahead of time and packaged separately so you are prepared for a month at a time if you’d like)
Great ideas Mindie – did you know you can mix up the wet too? Just keep it in the fridge and you’ll save a few minutes there too!
I didn’t realize that, thanks! =D
Love that I am not the only one who wants kids dressed AFTER they eat! most of the mom’s by me think I am crazy! Thanks for the reset button – I just might make slow cooker oatmeal right now!
You’re certainly not crazy Dona! 🙂
I have 4 daughters and 1 son. We picked out all their clothes and put them on hangers on FRIDAY night for church on Sunday. That gave us time to find shoes, socks, belts, whatever was needed. They either ate breakfast and then got dressed or they came to the table dressed with a bathroom on to protect their clothing. Diaper bag was packed on Friday night as well. This worked for us.
I am a middle school teacher, so my kids and I all leave the house by 6:45 each morning. We’ve learned to be efficient! I can say that, without a doubt, the most helpful tip is to be up before your kids. My kids aren’t allowed to get out of bed until 6:00. I get up between 5:30 and 5:45 in order to pray, write, and get myself in the right frame of mind. It makes all the difference in the world!
I am boiling eggs from the evening.
Put on the table the yogurt ( homemade) from the fridge and the jam from the evening.
Freeze 5 pancakes for critical mornings – and use it once in the next 1 -2 weeks; or keep a bag with dried fruits/nuts etc. for this.
And keep always: dress after breakfast :))
The chocolate oat bars really caught my eye. Went to your site to find the recipe- but wasn’t able to. Do you have a recipe for this? Thanks.
I’m late to the game Carla, but those chocolate oat bars were an experiment one morning. I haven’t made them since, and I require a 3-times minimum before sharing a recipe. You’ve inspired me to revisit this recipe!
My son recently went to school as well after years of homeschooling. I admit it was different and hard at first, but we wanted to let him try experience interacting with other kids. (not that he doesn’t have any friends) Anyway, this post is really helpful, I’ve been looking for healthy breakfast I could give him besides cereals, I’m going to try making this and hope he likes it 🙂