Ashley McMakin gives 3 tips on making the back-to-school transition a breeze. Plus, how to win dinner for 4 from Ashley Mac’s in Birmingham!


Meet the McMakins: From L-R: Jackson, Mally, Ashley, Andy and Ryder. Photo by Hannah Chambley for Bham Now

The start of a new school year is right around the corner—and if you’re a parent, that probably means thoughts of school nights, binders and packed lunches are increasingly taking up more of your brain space. So, start out the school year on the right foot with a little help from Ashley Mac herself.

I talked to Ashley McMakin (The “Ashley” in Ashley Mac’s and mother of three kiddos) to get her best back-to-school tips. Including, how her family dinners just got so much easier + how you can win one for yourself!

Ashley Mac’s is a Must-Try

Ashley Mac’s is a local Birmingham restaurant chain that serves delicious homestyle and healthy food at four locations around Birmingham. On their menu, you’ll find everything from fresh and light salads and sandwiches, to comfort food like poppyseed chicken and homemade strawberry cake. Ashley McMakin, owner and founder of Ashley Mac’s and mother of three is here to give her top 3 tips on how to balance work and family life during the transition from summer to the school year.

Rounding up the whole family for dinner might seem like a fantastic feat, but I have a feeling once Ashley Mac’s is involved, things might be a bit easier. (Also, cupcakes.) Photo by Hannah Chambley for Bham Now

Tips From Ashley Mac Herself

1—Plan Outfits and Pack Lunches the Night Before.

Tired of getting this advice? I’m not even a parent yet, and I’ve heard it my whole life. It was always something I (a serial clothes-changer) rolled my eyes at. But when I did get around to finally trying it, I realized how practical and simple it is, and how much time it saved me in the AM. I can’t imagine the time it probably saves when you’re dressing multiple people. 

Another option is to cook double portions so leftovers become lunches, and you can pack it the night before. Win-win. Photo by Hannah Chambley for Bham Now

They say it takes roughly 21 days to form a new habit if it’s simple enough. (And by they, I mean the internet.) So try working these rituals into your pre-existing routine—And get the kids in on it too! Present it to them like a game or challenge. But don’t be too hard on yourself if you start strong, and it doesn’t stick. It happens to the best of us—and there’s always time to try again.

Ashley McMakin: “I’m really GREAT at this in September but haven’t mastered it for a full semester yet- ha! I’m hoping to make it a habit this year as I know how smooth it makes our mornings!

2—Find a Balance of Work/Family Life Early On

This, of course, looks different for every family, but the goal is the same. Be present in as many moments as you can. Maybe you turn off devices at a certain time or plan a family night once a week. Whatever it is, starting early can help create that habit, and eventually it would just become part of the normal routine. For Ashley, it’s been a team effort with her husband.

 Teamwork makes the dream work. Recruit your partner, or best friend to help hold you accountable when it comes to creating new habits and routines! Photo by Hannah Chambley for Bham Now

AM: “It might have taken a few years, but my husband and I have learned how to turn work off at home. We know the fun and exciting things about our business that we can have conversations about at night—and the topics to avoid that bring stress into the home and are better saved for the office.

3—Meal Prep… In Whatever Form You Prefer

The idea of meal prepping can be daunting. I know. It’s just one more thing to add to your list of to-dos that already look like a CVS receipt. But “Meal Prepping” doesn’t have to mean cooking lunch/dinners for an entire family, for an entire week. It could be as easy as just writing it down, or planning an alternative to-go option. So that when it actually comes time to decide what you and your kids are eating, you’re one step ahead. 

The Lemon Rosemary Chicken and Potatoes from Ashley Mac’s Family Dinner Menu look AMAZING. Photo by Hannah Chambley for Bham Now

AM: “Meal plan…HAHAHA…maybe in my next life! For me, meal planning consists of making an effort to try one new recipe a week (or an ingredient I haven’t cooked with before) and then planning what nights I’m going to call in an Ashley Mac’s family dinner on the way home from the ball fields.

Pick-Up Dinner From Ashley Mac’s 

Ashley Mac’s offers two options for takeout: Their Gourmet-To-Go menu and their Family Dinner menu. The difference between the two is that the items from the Gourmet-To-Go menu are mostly frozen, and the Family Dinner meals are ready to serve. 

Always add Ashley Mac’s cupcakes to the to-go order. Photo by Hannah Chambley for Bham Now

If you’re planning meals for the rest of the week, swing by any Ashley Mac’s to pick up completely prepped frozen meals. All 4 locations have a freezer section of frozen entrees, sides, soups, breads and appetizers ready to take home—all you have to do is bake them!

AM: “From our Gourmet-To-Go freezer, I’m partial to the Baked Ziti—our chef developed this recipe. I think I love it most because it’s not my own! Oh, and I keep our soups stocked in my freezer…perfect for a quick dinner any night of the week!

If you’re ordering more last minute, the Family Dinners are a great option. All you need to do is call with an hour notice, pick up between 2-8PM, and it’s ready to serve! Ashley and her family love each option—all biases aside. 

A colorful plate from Ashley Mac’s = the perfect dinner. Photo by Hannah Chambley for Bham Now

“As for our three Family Dinner options, we consistently rotate them all. The steak and potatoes hits the spot with a glass of wine when we’re wanting something “fancy”. The lemon rosemary chicken over rice and the garden salad for a light dinner—goes great with Rosé! And the Poppyseed Chicken when it’s a comfort food kind of night!

Win a Family Dinner + a Dozen Cupcakes From Ashley Mac’s

Keep an eye on our Instagram for a chance to win a FREE Family Dinner of your choice, plus a dozen cupcakes from Ashley Mac’s. And make sure to follow Ashley Mac’s on Facebook & Instagram for specials and deals year-round! 

When the kiddos are happy, everyone’s happy. Photo by Hannah Chambley for Bham Now

You can find them at one of their four locations around Birmingham:

  1. Homewood | 1831 28th Ave South
  2. Riverchase | 4730 Chace Circle
  3. Inverness | 5299 Valleydale Road
  4. Cahaba Heights | 3147 Green Valley Road

Have tips of your own for an easy transition into the school year? Send them to us on social @BhamNow! 

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  • Most likely Instagrammin’ the Birmingham skyline, behind the camera shooting photos or writing stories (with too many puns) for Bham Now.