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Book Review: The School Year Survival Cookbook

Jan Scott August 23, 2017
The School Year Survival Cookbook - Full Size

Eighteen years ago, I was pregnant with my first baby, and while most expectant moms at the time were reading What to Expect When You’re Expecting, I was reading the far less familiar Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense. I wasn’t remotely concerned about writing a birth plan or worried about developing placenta previa (so naïve), but I was obsessed with how and what I was going to feed my baby so he could grow into a healthy, thriving toddler.

Nearly two decades later, the topic of a well-fed family is still top of mind, only now my concerns are a little different. As a professional food writer, I’m confident my current toddler is doing well from a nutritional standpoint and my other two boys have passed the picky eating phase, but I do still have to get dinner on the table each night, school lunches to pack most days, and a family of five to dish up breakfast to each morning. I’m sure you aren’t all that different, and probably agree that we need all the help we can get when it comes to feeding our families.

Fortunately, we now have The School Year Survival Cookbook: Healthy Recipes and Sanity-Saving Strategies for Every Meal and Every Family by Laure Keogh and Ceri Marsh to assist us in this mission.

Designed to guide parents in all aspects of feeding their family through the school year—the craziest ten months on the calendar—this book speaks to those with school-aged kids who need both the how and the what when it comes to food and keeping their littles well fed. It’s a handbook of hardworking recipes, smart strategies and tested organizational tidbits to help prepare all of us for battle, and if we start using the ideas now we’ll be ready for school when it starts in just two short weeks (I know, I’m sorry).

Pantry Basics: How to Set Your Kitchen Up for Success

The book begins with some pantry basics that can, and will, set you up for success in the kitchen. Laura’s suggestions for how to begin organizing this area of your home is practical and helps create a system that’s guaranteed to work. The thoughtful list of what to keep on hand in the cupboard, fridge and freezer almost acts as a grocery list of sorts and if you have those items readily available each week meal making should be a breeze.

My favourite part of this section are the recipes for the “mixes:” wholegrain pancake and waffle mix, multigrain muffin mix and buttery biscuit mix. Each is a springboard for your favourite breakfast staples and snacks and will keep in the pantry for months. You really must make these immediately; your September self will definitely thank you.

Ceri walks readers through her best tips for meal planning, an often thankless task that saves time, money and mental energy each week. The guidelines set forth in the book are smart and doable. With tips on how to make the weekend work for you (hint: grocery shop on Saturday and batch cook on Sunday) and a full five-day meal plan using the recipes in the book, this chapter is not to be missed.

Recipes for Breakfasts, Lunches, Dinners & Snacks

The remainder of the book breaks down the recipes into breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks and treats. There are also suggestions for:

  • Make-ahead meals.
  • Tips on how to become a lunch-making ninja.
  • How to turn your leftovers into another meal altogether.
  • Strategies for smart, healthy snacking.
  • Fabulous “get ahead” tips peppered throughout many of the recipes. These little gems let you know how you can start a dish or meal ahead of time, a savvy time-saving bonus for parents of all cooking skills.

Added to all of that are glorious photographs (super cute kid alert!), sweet words of wisdom from the authors’ kids, and an abundance of mealtime cheerleading to help make this upcoming school year the most delicious one yet.

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