In the Back-to-School issue of Local Living, we sought out experts for advice on different ways to prepare for the school year. For the full list of stories, go to

Aviva Goldfarb finds this time of year to be the moment where she thinks about what didn’t go so well in the past, and what she and her family can do to get things back on track, particularly when it comes to eating well.

Goldfarb, founder of the Six O’Clock Scramble, a service that plans meals for busy folks, a cookbook author, and an occasional blogger for On Parenting, suggests that parents stop before that major food shopping trip at the beginning of the school year and make a plan. “We sit down and have a brainstorming session about all the things the kids will eat or want to eat in their lunches. Then you can kind of get your game plan,” she says.

It’s a great time to think about what will be different this year. Is this the year your kids will pack their own lunches, or even just Monday lunch, for instance? What’s reasonable and what can you do the night before to make your lives easier?

The same goes for thinking about school-year dinners, she said. Even if you work all year and the kids go to summer camp, school time is busier and more hectic, so planning is going to make the transition back to school easier for everyone.

It’s almost time to go back to school. For many families, that can mean piles of books, papers and other supplies everywhere. Professional organizer Rachel Rosenthal has a few tips on how to make those school days feel a lot less hectic. (Jorge Ribas/The Washington Post)

“This summer, each member of my family is responsible for dinner one night,” she says. “Depending on homework and activities, that might not be possible” for others during the school year. “But it’s a good time to think about what will be different. Or have a little fun sitting down and looking at Web sites and cookbooks, and find recipes” that the kids themselves will enjoy.

You should also talk to the kids about what leftovers they will actually eat in their lunches. For Goldfarb’s daughter, that’s probably sesame noodles. Her son? Chicken strips. Armed with that knowledge, you can go to the store and come back with ingredients for multiple meals — that will actually be eaten.