The first day of school is just around the corner for some (here for others!), which means it's not only time to mentally prepare yourself for the change in pace, but to start making an actual game plan for your days. If you're like me and prefer to avoid the sometimes scary lunches offered in the school cafeteria by sending your kid a homemade and totally nutritious meal, but you're nervous about how much time you'll have to spend preparing either before hitting the sack or in the wee hours of the morning, I've got a some great make-ahead suggestions for you that will save you both time and money.

Read more ¿Qué más?: 5 Great ideas to keep your kids' school lunches yummy & healthy!

First though, you'll want to set yourself up for success from the beginning. So here are a few tips that will help you avoid school lunch burnout:

  • Make sure you always have all the packing supplies you need on hand. A good sectioned, reusable lunch container guarantees that you won't realize you've run out of paper bags at 10 p.m. on a Sunday night and are forced to succumb to the lunch line.
  • Remember to utilize your freezer. Lunch doesn't have to be the standard turkey and cheese sandwich--think outside the box. There are lots of yummy and practical options other than a sandwich that can be frozen and will be fully defrosted by lunch hour.
  • In addition to prepping main items on the weekend, make sure you cut up big batches of veggies like carrots, bell peppers and celery and non-oxidizing fruits like pineapple, melon and oranges, that you can just pull from each day. 
  • Be adventurous! This is a great opportunity to introduce your kids to new foods and new preparations. Have fun with it.

Now click through the slideshow for some simple and fun make-ahead lunch mains.

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Rice & Beans 1

Rice & Beans

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Make a big batch of beans, separate into individuals portions and pop in the freezer. The beans will last for months in the freezer, so you'll always have some on hand to throw together a quick lunch. Pair with some leftover rice (or make a batch on the weekend just for lunches for the whole family). Defrost the night before, heat in the morning and send in a thermos.

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Roast Chicken 2

Roast Chicken

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Season a whole chicken any way you like, roast it off and slice it or shred it. Serve sliced chicken in a salad or with cut up veggies, fruit and a cheese stick. If you shred it, send along a tortilla and taco fixings. You can get several lunches out of one chicken, so the weekend prep will really save you a lot of time or money. Tip: be sure to buy several chickens when they're on sale!

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Muffins 3

Muffins

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Muffins may seem like junk food, but homemade versions can actually pack a lot of nutritional value if made with whole grain flour, veggies and fruit. They can be made sweet or savory and can be frozen until the night or morning before. Try combinations like carrot, oat and apple or ham, cheese and spinach. 

Soups & Stews 4

Soups & Stews

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Pretty much any soup or stew can be prepared in advanced, frozen, reheated and sent to school in a thermos. And of course, you can pack them with as much protein, healthy grains and veggies as you see fit. For an even easier batch, throw it in the slow cooker on a Sunday afternoon instead of standing over the stove.

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Pancakes or Waffles 5

Pancakes or Waffles

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Make a big batch of waffles or pancakes using healthy and filling ingredients like whole wheat flour and Greek yogurt and throw them in the freezer. You can defrost them in the toaster and send with real maple syrup, fruit and perhaps some ham roll ups, or you can use them to make sandwiches with fillings like cream cheese and fruit, nut butter and honey or cheddar cheese, eggs and bacon.