One of the biggest practical challenges of homeschool life is feeding everybody all the time. And lunch — right smack in the middle of your day — can be the biggest challenge of all. These four strategies won’t make lunchtime hassle-free, but they will free up your brain enough to worry about what you're going to do for dinner instead.
Solution 1: Lunchboxes
- Pros: lunch is ready to go whenever you are
- Cons: requires night-time prep; not always the most budget-friendly option
Take a cue from the school set, and simplify lunchtime by packing it up the night before. Stick with the classics — we like hummus, quinoa, cucumber, and grated carrots on a spinach tortilla or peanut butter, honey, and banana on oatmeal bread for easy sandwiches, with little containers of yogurt, fruit, veggie chips, and a cookie for dessert. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can steal some cute bento box ideas, but kids who don’t pack a lunch every day are likely to be just as excited about a plain sandwich and apple combo. (I get all my best sandwich ideas from the Saltie cookbook.) Make a lunchbox or brown bag for each kid, stash it in the fridge, and lunch is ready to go even before you start your morning coffee.
Solution 2: Freezer Meals
- Pros: easy on the budget
- Cons: gets boring; does require some advance planning
Once-a-month freezer stocking ensures that you’ll always have a hot lunch at the ready. Our freezer faves include macaroni-and-cheese bowls; black bean and butternut squash burritos; soups and chili; and chicken potpies. There are lots of freezer meal cookbooks out there, but I’ve splattered and dog-eared Not Your Mother’s Make Ahead and Freeze Cookbook enough to recommend it. Freeze meals in individual portions (so you don’t have to listen to a 10-minute argument about whether you should heat up spinach lasagna or kale, sweet potato, and lentil hand pies), pop them in the fridge at bedtime, and they should be ready to heat up for the lunchtime rush.
Solution 3: Snack Plates
- Pros: great for picky eaters, no cooking needed
- Cons: assembly required; can be expensive
The beauty of this cheese plates-inspired lunch is that you can assemble it with all the random bits and pieces in your fridge and cupboards. Presentation is what makes a snack plate like this feel like lunch, so take the time to arrange small wedges of cheese, little stacks of chopped vegetables or fruits, cured or smoked meats, leftover tuna salad, and other hearty nibbles. Add crackers or vegetable chips — homemade or store-bought — and spoonfuls of mustard, jam, chutney, and purees to the plate. Set it out, and the kids can assemble their own lunches from the ingredients. It’s nice to give each kid her own plate, but you can also set up a fancy spread on a serving plate or cutting board for everyone to share.
Solution 4: Emergency Pizza
- Pros: versatile; easy to customize for picky eaters
- Cons: requires last-minute stove time
Until a genius friend introduced me to tortilla pizzas, I always thought pizza was too much hassle for lunchtime. But using a tortilla for a base makes a quick pizza as easy as a grilled cheese sandwich. The usual tomato-mozzarella-mushroom combo is great, but you can get adventurous with pesto topped with leftover grilled chicken, veggies, and fontina cheese; butternut squash puree topped with goat cheese and bacon; or even hummus with crispy chickpeas, avocados, and roasted garlic. Lay your tortilla flat in a cast-iron skillet, layer on toppings and cheese, and let it bake in a 375-degree oven for about 13 to 14 minutes, until the edges are lightly browned and crispy.
This article is reprinted from the fall 2014 issue of home/school/life.
AMY SHARONY is the founder and editor-in-chief of home | school | life magazine. She's a pretty nice person until someone starts pluralizing things with apostrophes, but then all bets are off.
Happiness comes more from our actions than our circumstances: about 40 percent of the average person’s happiness comes from things they do. So to get out of a rut, do something different. It’s almost too easy.
One of the most effective ways to feel happier and more productive? Working with your hands. Winter is the perfect time to start a new project.
You don’t have to do huge renovations to make your learning spaces feel brand new. Here are a few simple ideas that will breath new life into your school space this winter.
Sometimes when you feel stuck, setting a series of goals can help you break out of the blah.
In this five-part series, we’re helping you get through the midwinter slump in your homeschool. First up: Give your routine the boot, and try something new.
There’s value in repeating experiments, but don’t forget to make time for your own science questions, too.
Want to raise critical thinkers? Showing them — out loud — how you think critically is a good place to start.
Maggie has some great ideas for giving your student’s writing a boost with a combination of project-based learning and community service.
Shelli shares the resources she’s been using in her own homeschool this year.
You can always start with the collected works of Plato, but these movies help introduce big philosophical ideas that may feel more accessible on the screen than on the page.
Truly, the biggest hurdle to cobbling my own history curriculum together has been organizing the resources in such a way that I know where they are, I remember all of the ideas that I had, and I don’t leave anything out.
Thinking beyond a single learning style can open up the possibilities in your homeschool. Maggie explains how it works for her.
Don’t dread higher math! Get inspired with these resources that will give you confidence and ideas for middle and high school math in your homeschool.
By the time our official planning starts, we already have a good idea of what we want from our homeschool in the coming year.
As many as one in every five people may have some kind of dyslexia — here’s what you need to know to be an ally and advocate for dyslexic homeschoolers in your circles.
As kids get older, the structure and scope of your homeschool changes with them. On the whole, that’s pretty wonderful.
Amy wrote a homeschool planner, and here’s what you’ll find inside.
The secret to transitioning to high school isn't so secret: Just keep doing what you've been doing, and trust that you've gotten to know your kid's academic abilities.
The hero’s journey is so prevalent in film and books that it makes a great jumping off point for a comparative literature study, and these texts are a great place to begin.
Understanding the rules of grammar is great, but knowing how to put them to use is what is really important.