Monday, January 15, 2018

What's For Lunch?

A new year means a fresh chance to get organized.

And no area pays back better, in my opinion, than meal organization. Whether it is planning grocery shopping or making menu plans before 5:00 - any time I spend streamlining food prep is time well spent.

In recent months I have gotten some bad habits. Far too often I ran to the store for one or two items that I forgot the day before or scratched my head in late afternoon trying to figure out what to eat with minimal time to prepare.

So it won't be hard to make an improvement at my house.

To start I made a list of ideas for breakfast and lunch. We tend to cycle through the same meals. A simple card on the fridge is helping me be more efficient in planning ahead so we don't fall into the rut. Just a little forethought this morning meant that I had tortillas and cheese out of the freezer so we could make breakfast burritos this morning.

Several months ago I wrote an article for a homeschool magazine on lunch. I'm sharing it here and hoping to put more of the ideas to practice myself.

What's For Lunch? Tips for the Homeschool Mom

The clock strikes noon. The children push aside their math books and dash for the kitchen. I open the fridge and wish for lunch to appear. Even half-dried leftovers will be accepted with gratitude. But I've learned that wishing doesn't fill plates or stomachs. I hear that lunchtime is a challenge for many of us homeschool moms. This is a list compiled from my own experience and the suggestions of other moms to help meet those hungry groans with a smile instead of panic.

Leftovers. Make extra food the night before and serve the leftovers for lunch. As my family has grown, this has become a challenge, but I often make a huge pot of soup or chili in the winter. Cook extra rice and make fried rice. Bake extra potatoes and make hash browns. Grill extra chicken to serve on a salad.

Shop. Plan for lunch when shopping. If I plan on having taco salad Tuesday, I can have the ingredients purchased and the meat thawed.

Rotate. Write a weekly plan. If I know that we will have macaroni and cheese every Thursday, the work feels half done.

Slow Cooker. If I think ahead, I can use my slow cooker. I like to cook dried pinto beans with garlic and onions and serve them in tortillas with cheese for bean burritos. Baked potatoes in the slow cooker can be served with leftover chili or taco meat.

Freeze. Spend a day making lunches to freeze. Options include hot pockets, calzones, and burritos. Freeze par-baked pizza crusts. They thaw quickly and can be topped and baked in minutes.

Pack. Even if you are eating at home, pretend you pack lunches. Make sandwiches in the morning, stock your fridge with baby carrots and your pantry with granola bars, cookies, or a salty snack. On nice days, my children love to pack a lunch and eat outside.

Breakfast. Waffles, baked oatmeal, eggs and toast, french toast, or one of the many make-ahead breakfast casseroles are great options for lunch as well as breakfast.

Emergencies. Sometimes I didn't plan for lunch and find the refrigerator bare. I like to stock at least one emergency lunch in the pantry that doesn't need thawed and can be prepared in less than fifteen minutes. Favorites at my house are canned tomato soup or salmon cakes from a can of salmon. Another winner is quesadillas which can be made with tortillas, refried beans, and shredded cheese.

Delegate lunch to a child who could use some kitchen experience. The year I graduated, my mom assigned me the job of making lunch each day for the family. She could focus on homeschooling while I gained valuable homemaking skills.

Take a poll to find your children's lunchtime favorites. Tape the list to the fridge. Stock your pantry with a few basics. Prep your lunch at breakfast (that's the tough one). Then you can smile when you hear “What's for lunch?”

What are your ideas to streamline meal planning?


  1. Lunch is a struggle here. Thanks for your ideas and I look forward to what others comment. Christine

  2. I am a busy homeschool mom and I tend to make lunches simple around here. Here are some ideas: turkey and cheese sandwiches, homemade baked breaded chicken tenders, chicken and rice burritos, chicken sandwiches from roasted chicken (great way to use up leftovers), tacos, pizza on French bread, middle eastern stews with jasmine rice, and sometimes when I am really busy I make a huge platter of French bread, sliced cheddar cheese, cold meat cuts, cut up apples and carrots. They just disappear quickly!

  3. Anneliese from Mennonite Girls Can Cook has a great post on school lunches. This might give you some helpful ideas.

  4. Our son (only child) is rather set in his ways about food, so we stick to waffles (for all meals, he'll eat them anytime), sandwiches of turkey or ham and cheese, cinnamon pancakes (all meals), salmon patties, boiled eggs and veggies, or those frozen pretzels w/some fruit. I don't usually cook for lunch, so this keeps it simple.

  5. As a homeschooler of little(r) kids, I have found packing lunches after breakfast into our divided Tupperware (the kind with three squares of different sizes in one container) to be life saving. Everyone has their own color top, and they enjoy the variety.

    Also, did you know you can freeze peanut butter and jelly sandwiches? If you flash freeze them on a flat surface open faced before sticking them together, I have found the jelly doesn’t sleep too much into the bread during the thaw. Good for field trip days, especially!

  6. Oh, I wish mine were still young enough to all go for a picnic together outside. I still have a 20, 18, and 16 year old at home. The 16 year old would still delight in doing so, but, well that's history for us.
    Enjoy them while they're young, it all changes so quickly.
    Be blessed,
    Laura of Harvest Lane Cottage
    P.S. My radiation begins today. Prayers appreciated.

  7. This is a beautiful post. :) Thank you.

  8. My lunch plans sound a lot like yours. Thanks for the bean ideas. I have so many jars of beans downstairs that I forget about!!


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