Here We Go, Back To School … Again! 5 Innovative Ways To Make School Meal Planning Easier For Families

In a year unlike any other, many of us find ourselves in the unusual position of  preparing for the big return to school again!   Whilst we have all become familiar with the ‘new normal’ of school life in a covid-world, it still brings with it some extra work for parents.  One of these is in preparing lunches.

Many schools are asking students to bring packed lunches as they struggle to find space to feed pupils en-mass while maintaining COVID safety protocols. And for their parents, this will bring with it the added burden of planning a week’s worth of interesting and healthy lunch and snacks. On top of  getting everyone back into routine with bed and wake up times… makes us feel exhausted just thinking about it.

There are innovative tools that could take a lot of the pain out of the process and give a strong boost to our kitchen management skills at the same time.  Such a tool is CozZo – a new kitchen management helper that integrates fridge and pantry inventory, collaborative shopping assistance, smart recipes, and precise food expiry tracking in one handy app.

1. Organize Your Pantry (the smarter way)

well-organized pantryFirst things first…a well-organized kitchen is the key to making all meal planning easier and quicker.  It begins with a thoughtfully stocked fridge, freezer, and cupboards. This starts with some initial tidying up and going through your kitchen staples and basic food supplies.

If you haven’t gone through your pantry in a while (or since the start of lock-down 1.0 when many of us had the impulse to do such chores!) it is likely that you have only a vague idea what’s still in there. So before your next trip to the supermarket why not do a full inventory of what you already have.

This may sound like a bore, but with the smart CozZo app, it is actually quite easy and fun. The moment you have your food supplies sorted out, it will be you controlling your pantry and not vice versa. Check the pasta, the rice, the lentils, the number of canned tomatoes and tuna. The cupboard with the olive and other vegetable oils, the cereal boxes. Open your fridge and check the condiments and jars. Dare to look inside the freezer to check up on the frozen veggies and berries. You will need to list what you already own and make a list of what you need to buy.

In no time, you will end up with a comprehensive pantry inventory and a full list for your next grocery shopping and stocking. Food planning can actually be fun!

2. Get Your Meal Plan Game On (waste-free style)

meal planning boardLike we all tell our kids planning is the key to succeeding at anything in life, and so we all need some kind of a plan for the family and school meals. Despite the abundance of advice on how to do this there is no one right way to go about it.

The best way is the one that works for you, keeps your family well-fed, your kids happy and the food that ends up wasted to a minimum.

For some of us, day by day planning works best. Others prefer to plan for the week ahead. The waste-free approach in all scenarios is to come up with dishes that match some or all ingredients, you already have stocked at home.

Before ploughing ahead with devising meal options take 5 mins to match your stocked ingredients with CozZo Recipe Finder or import recipes from your favorite cooking websites. To make the most of your provisions, CozZo will match all recipes to your inventories and suggest using the ingredients that are nearing the end of their shelf life first.

3. Shop With Intention (especially online)

shopping cart in a supermarketDuring the school year, there is never enough time for all the things we need to do, including grocery shopping. Yet we need to maintain a constant supply of food at home to feed our hungry brood.  So grocery trips and online buys need to be planned wisely.

Intention is the opposite of impulse. Impulse buying is what you do when you don’t have a clear idea about your meal plans for the days ahead. You go to the shops(or open a website) with only a vague idea of what you have left at home and what you need, so you put in your basket the usual stuff, plus anything that sounds like a good deal …. and end up with a fridge full of stuff, yet nothing that adds up to a specific meal.

Before you hit the shops, go through your digital inventory and favorite recipes in CozZo to see what is about to expire and can be used for dinner tonight. Add the missing ingredients to your shopping list and stick to it. Keep in mind that online shopping makes it even easier to overstock on products that eventually end up in the bin.

See if you are missing any essentials, and you are ready to shop for what you actually need. CozZo shopping list will guard you against the supermarket traps that tempt us to buy surplus food you don’t need right now.

Remember, food waste starts with overbuying.

4. Stay on Top of the “best-whatever” Dates

Despite our best intentions, we still end up with more food than we can eat. Especially, during the school year. When the fridge is fully loaded, we quickly lose track of what we have and when we bought it.

We are particularly cautious when it comes to feeding our children and tend to be overly trusting of the expiry dates. We’re even scared of letting them eat items that are a day or 2 out of date.

To help you keep track of the food expiry dates CozZo checks your home inventory several times a day. Notifications for products that expire today or in a number of days, selected by you, are sent to the home screen of your device. CozZo widget displays an overview of your entire digital kitchen, including counts of items that expire today or will expire soon.

With CozZo reminders no food will slip under the radar to be found(a week too late) at the back of the fridge.

5. Avoid Throwing Food Away, Save Money (and the environment)

throwing leftovers into the binIn her essay on Generation X’s Parenting Problems, Anjali Enjeti writes with a lot of self-irony how, “as parents, we slave for hours in the kitchen perfecting our kids’ gluten-free, local, organic, artisanal, hand-crafted, hormone-free, ethical meals, and as long as our children taste everything — even if it means brushing it along the tips of their tongues — they’re free to dump the rest into the compost bin.”

We all hate to throw food and with that money in the bin; however, it’s estimated that families throw away 1 in every 5 bags of food shopping – shocking, isn’t it? Food waste is often the side effect of lack of time and inefficient food planning, but it is also partly the result of our changed attitude to food over the generations.

Our parents approached food with an ‘eat it all up’ attitude. We do not want to apply that approach, so we do need to rethink the amount we prepare and keep in order to avoid food waste. As well as hurting our wallets food waste is one of the biggest contributors to climate change – something that should be an imperative for all families to help towards reversing.

As we settle into a back to school mode, the influx of food into our home suddenly increases. But so does our inability to track and manage that food in time. What CozZo is really good at is tracking the amount and type of food that enters our homes and alerting you when you are overstocking and if something needs to be eaten up soon.

Let’s start with building that pantry inventory – it’s a fun and tech-savvy task, so the kids are bound to want to help. What’s the fun part you may ask. Well, CozZo offers a “swipe to left/right” pictorial wizard to suggest products for your inventory that you are likely to have in your kitchen.

Import recipes to “My Cookbook” page and see what can be cooked.

When it comes to meal planning, CozZo provides one of a kind cooking planner. You can search for recipes with time, cuisine, diet, and intolerances criteria or import them from your favorite cooking website. Once they are in your recipe book, our AI will match them to your inventory so that you know at all times what can be cooked and what needs to be purchased to complete a recipe.

All of this will help your family to reduce its food waste and save money – you can even track how much you are cutting your waste with the app’s Journal page – who doesn’t like to see the result of all their hard work?

Back to school time is the best opportunity to set your family on a steady food planning routine and put you back in control of your kitchen. Check out a few smart lunch box hacks in the video below.

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