Getting Meals on the Table While Homeschooling

There are two things that you come to realize that may be hard truths as a homeschool mom. Number one, your house is going to wear out faster than everybody else’s because you are there and using it all day. Number two, everybody wants to eat all the time and it’s your job to feed them. How do we get the meals on the table when we’re homeschooling all day?

I want to give you a few quick tips on getting meals on the table and I’ve got three for you.

Tips for Getting Meals on the Table While Homeschooling

The first one is to have a plan. I know that the tendency is to feel, “I had the energy to make a plan, I’d actually have the energy to make meals.” I get it.

The fact of the matter is it doesn’t have to be a complicated plan. Even a simple plan is going to help and here’s what we know – most people in our family do not mind eating the same things over and over again. Now they don’t necessarily want to eat tacos five nights in a row, but they’re fine with eating tacos five times in a month. The same with things like spaghetti, sheet pan chicken, burrito bowls or something like that. Any of those things can be eaten over and over again by the people in our family, as long as you spread them out a little bit.

When I say make a plan, what I really mean is list out the favorite foods that your family likes to eat. If you’ve got about 10 meals, put those 10 meals on repeat. The great thing is that you are going be able to shop when things are on sale at the grocery store, because you’re going know exactly what you’re going to make.

It’s okay to throw in a really fun meal that you’ve never tried before, like a recipe that you found on Pinterest, but make that something that you do every two weeks. Plug your meals into your calendar and then every couple of weeks, add in one new recipe. That’s going keep things kind of fresh and exciting, but for the most part, you’re making the same things over and over again. These should be meals that you can make with your eyes closed.

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Breakfast and Lunch Ideas for Homeschool Families

Go ahead and plan things out now for breakfast and lunch; there are a couple of ways that you can go about this. One thing you could do is announce that it’s cereal week. We’re going buy a couple of boxes of cereal and we’re going eat cereal all week long.

Next week it’s pancake week. I’m going make a big batch of batch of pancakes on the weekend. We’re going eat pancakes all week long or waffles, breakfast burritos or egg casserole. You just eat it for a week and then the next week switch to something different.

That’s one way to make a plan, but also have a little bit of variety.  Or you can do like my good friend, Dawn Garrett. She does a make-ahead breakfast the night before and she makes the same thing every week on the same day of the week. Every Tuesday, they have a German pancake, which means Dawn would make the German pancake up Monday night, throw it in the fridge, and on Tuesday morning she would take it out, put it in the oven and it would be ready to go. The next day they always had cinnamon rolls. Every Monday was the same meal. Every Tuesday was the same meal. Every Wednesday was the same meal and she just put it on repeat.

Another thing for breakfast is to ask what things can you find that your kids can make for themselves? One trick that we learned early on when my kids were even just seven or eight years old is we could get those little packs of instant oatmeal (or you could make those packs of instant oatmeal yourself by using a food processor, some oatmeal, maybe some dried apples, some cinnamon, a little bit of brown sugar) and your kids can make those using hot water from your Keurig.

If you have a Keurig machine, the water there is hot enough to cook those little instant oats, and they’re super yummy!  My kids also love making cheese grits in the microwave. Eventually they’re going be old enough to cook an egg and then they can do that as well. Another thing to think about is if you’ve got the five- or six-year-old who wants to get their own cereal, take some of the milk out of the large container, put it into a smaller container so that child can grab the small container and easily pour it without making a big mess. Set your kids up for success on things like making their own breakfast and even making their own lunches.

There are some homeschool moms who make lunches up ahead of time so that all they have to do is grab them out of the fridge during the school day, eat them, and it doesn’t disrupt the school day.  If lunch stops your momentum and it’s easier to make lunch at a different time of day and just grab it, do that. One of our favorite lunches is to just throw a bunch of foods on a “monkey platter” where everyone can usually find something they like.

Easy to do Meal Prep

This leads me to my next tip — prep ahead. I am not talking about huge elaborate meal prep where you’re making 40 freezer meals or you’re spending the entire weekend exhausting yourself. I’m talking about simply thinking about what is the hardest and worst time of day. If you have kids who are anywhere under the age of six, it’s probably four to five o’clock — not so affectionately known as the witching hour. For some reason, kids just kind of lose it at that time of day; they start melting down. It’s a really tough time for most moms and it’s also exactly the time we need to be cooking dinner. Actually, they’re probably melting down because we’re in the kitchen trying to cook dinner.

If that time of day is really tough for you, do everything you can to avoid having a ton of work at that time of day. Try to do your prep in the morning by putting things in the crockpot. Or I know of one mom who, after her kids go to bed at night, she spends just a little extra time in the kitchen, putting together tomorrow’s dinner and putting it into the refrigerator. If your husband’s willing to go give the kids a bath and you’re cleaning up the kitchen, you can be prepping tomorrow night’s dinner and putting it away.

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Try to think of yourself as a sous chef for your future self. Ask yourself, “What can I do as the sous chef for my future self to make my future self oh so happy?” Then it doesn’t seem quite so hard because you’re doing it for you. I know it’s a lot of work. You’re tired. You want to go to bed, but think about how happy you’re going be the next day at [4:30] when everybody’s melting down and all you have to do is take something out of the fridge, slide it into the oven, and it’s ready to go.

Another thing you can do to prep ahead is do some easy freezing. Not big productions, but can you make one to eat and make one to freeze at the same time? Tonight we had pasta bake for dinner which is an easy recipe that everybody at my house really loves. It is just so easy to make two at one time. When I make this recipe, I double it. I make two of them and throw one of them in the freezer. Then one night when I’m feeling especially tired, or I know I’ve got something going on, all I have to do is pull it out, thaw it during the day and throw it into the oven at night.

Another thing to make your life easier is prep some meal parts. We don’t want to spend all of our Saturday doing these big freezer preps necessarily, but we can go ahead and brown up hamburger meat. If you make meatballs from scratch, you could bake up all your meatballs and then flash freeze them. Go ahead and cook up some chicken ahead of time, use your blender to shred it, and then freeze it in freezer bags as well. Anything that you can prep ahead and freeze ahead.

Use Shortcuts to Make Meals Easier

Number three is use shortcuts. Any kind of shortcut you use is not a bad shortcut. Order your grocery pickup for a small fee, or you could have your groceries delivered to your house when you’re homeschooling. A lot of you are also working from home. A good way to spend your money is to buy yourself back a little bit of time.

Maybe try a meal prep service. I’m not talking about the meal kits that are delivered to your home, but instead are there places that actually cook the entire meal and for a set price for the week, you can get three or four different meals that you store in your fridge and later, put them into the oven. or throw them in a skillet or a crockpot and you are good to go.

Have a few go-to easy meals that you can throw together in just a few minutes in the crockpot in the morning. One of my favorite things is chicken, taco seasoning, and salsa. It cooks all day and you’ve got some great shredded chicken. It makes a wonderful burrito bowl or burrito wraps. Have a few of those in your back pocket as well.

Finally, remember that you can only pick two. If you are going to be homeschooling your kids and working, or homeschooling your kids and tending a new baby, or homeschooling your kids and keeping your house really clean, then you’re probably not going to be able to make gourmet meals. If you choose the gourmet meals and the homeschooling, then something else on that list has to go. You can only do so much at any one time. Be sure to give yourself some grace. I sincerely hope that some of these tips were helpful to you.

More Resources for Getting Meals on the Table

Put Your Meal Plan on AutoPilot – This is our own meal planning course written by reader Marissa Overson and based on the same planning principles in Put Your Homeschool Year on Autopilot. In the course Marissa teaches you how to use block and loop schedules and apply them to your meal plan — fun!

Momables – The meals are easy to make, kid-friendly, healthy, and I love the make-ahead tips for the weekends.

Eat Together Meal Plans – The app is new but I have enjoyed her meal choices and approach to once-a-month shopping!

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