If your kids are not IN school (in a location other than your house), you have learned that YOU are now the Lunch Lady! As a homeschool parent, I accepted this role early on. And my secret was always:
1. LEFTOVERS! Embrace them. My husband took them to work and my kids ate them for lunch. Simply reheat and serve. I usually made enough for 1.5-2 meals, whenever possible.
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2. Accept that simple is OK. REALLY simple is OK. Toast and cheese. Parmesan pasta. If you don’t have leftovers, PB&J will do. Don’t get your kids used to expecting you to serve them a three course meal each day. In fact, I would say, THEY can make their own simple lunches. If you think your kids aren’t up to it, raise your expectations and look into the Kids Cook Real Food courses.
3. Your go-to “cheater” meals. These are the meals you typically resort to when life goes haywire. Make them lunch standards. Check out #7 on this post for more ideas on cheater meals.
4. Meal Schedule. It’s fine to serve the same thing every other day, if that’s suits your kids well enough. Or even if it doesn’t! You could have the same thing every Monday, Tuesday….etc. This helps the kids know what to expect, helps THEM prepare the meals since they will know that every Monday is Mac and Cheese, and helps offload the mental load of PLANNING from your brain.
5. Lunch bins and Snack bins. Create bins of what is OK to eat so the kids aren’t rifling through the pantry. Create one in the fridge of the ingredients for your typical lunches. Then the kids can grab the entire bin, put together their dish, and put it back easily. Pantry Packs work for snack, too!
6. Cans, mixes, boxes. Resort to EASY mixes and boxes. There are healthy options out there, like Epicure. For inexperienced cooks, a “boil water and add mix in” option is a great introduction to cooking, offering immediate success and a boost in confidence. Consider canned soup, mac and cheese, canned pasta sauce or cornbread mix. They are fast and a good stepping stone to more sophisticated cooking in the near future.
7. Take turns. Maybe you don’t mind prepping a nice lunch every day. Or maybe you can manage it one day. Have the kids rotate turns. Doing this really helped my kids appreciate what goes into it and reduced complaining. Even a simple sandwich or can of soup increases your kid’s kitchen skills and helps you. Be sure to include time and expectations for clean up!
8. Take it further. The kids can help make menus and shopping lists each week. Or you could work in some Life Skills units to your schooling at home. These skills generalize to other ares of life. Self-Advocacy, resilience and authentic responsibility go beyond snacks in the kitchen to CAREERS and adults we all want to be around.
And THAT is a REAL education!