Mom-to-Mom Support/Meal Prep Tips for Your Homeschool

Meal Prep Tips for Your Homeschool

Providing our families with three square meals every day is never an easy task. No matter how good last night’s dinner was, the children (and husband) expect dinner tonight too—and they might even want breakfast and lunch.

The good news is that you are not alone! Countless other homeschooling mothers have faced the challenge of meal preparation, and they’ve come up with some great tips and tricks. They all boil down to two basic ideas: plan ahead, and get the kids to help.

Plan ahead

Meal planning saves time and money

Meal planning takes more time upfront, but in the long run it saves time, worry, and money. With planned meals, you won’t have to scramble at the last minute to figure out what’s for dinner, wander the grocery aisles aimlessly, or make extra trips to the store for the ingredient you don’t have.

If planning meals for the whole week sounds daunting, try just planning a few days a week or just dinners. That can get you comfortable with the process and allow you to refine your method.

Alternatively, consider planning for a lengthier period—maybe two or three weeks of meals—and rotate through those meals for six months or even the entire year. This cuts down on planning in a big way.

You can also consider theme nights—Taco Tuesday, Pasta Wednesdays, Fish Fridays, Soup Saturdays, and so on. This can make meals fun and also easier to plan. It’s essentially a weekly rotation with room for some variation on the theme, since chicken, pasta, tacos, and other themed foods can be prepared in different ways.

Likewise, leftovers can be a great way to reduce planning and prep work. Double any recipes that can be frozen and eaten on another night. You can even link menus by making extra on purpose to reuse for lunch or dinner the next day. Extra chicken from one night’s supper can go in the next day’s soup; roasted sweet potatoes can be a side one night and go in a salad or veggie bowl the next night; and leftover pot roast can be used for sandwiches, carnitas, and casseroles.

Lastly, be sure and make your grocery list ahead of time. This can save a lot of money because you’re not as tempted to impulse buy. Some people like keeping their grocery list in a note on their phone or in a shopping app. You might find it helpful to use an app that combines recipe collection, menu planning, and grocery lists, so you don’t have to add up how much you’ll need of each ingredient.

Make meals ahead of time

Crock pot meals are a lifesaver for many homeschool families. You get the meal started at the beginning of the day, and it’s all ready for you by suppertime. Even if the day doesn’t go according to plan, you can be sure of having supper on the table.

Many homeschoolers like to make freezer meals that they can take out during the week. For instance, cooking a double batch of meatloaf isn’t much more work than making one batch. Then you can freeze the extra meatloaf and take it out for dinner in two weeks. Soups are also excellent frozen and defrosted.

If you are really ambitious, try dedicating one day a month to cooking a full month’s worth of freezer meals. There’s even a website dedicated to this concept, called Once a Month Meals. If you sign up for a subscription (even for just one month), you can get access to grocery shopping lists and step-by-step “cooking day” instructions for your month’s worth of recipes.

If you don’t have enough room in the freezer to store up entire meals, you can still freeze key ingredients ahead of time. One of the most useful ingredients is ground beef—cook and season five pounds in one batch, and then freeze it until needed.

Get kids involved in meal prep

Kids can be assistants

Having an assistant to wash, peel, and chop vegetables can be a big time saver for you. Setting the table and making a salad are other doable tasks. He can also measure ingredients, stir dry ingredients, open cans, and chop veggies. These are great teaching moments, too. Should flour be pressed down into the measuring cup? What does a “rolling boil” look like?

Your children can also be involved at the grocery store. Allow them to help choose the best produce at the grocery store so they can learn how to choose each item and how to handle food carefully. Try going to the store in the morning or on a weekday to avoid the rush.

Kids can cook

A five-year-old can make sandwiches, and a seven-year-old can scramble eggs or put ingredients in the crockpot for a simple soup. Plus, your child is more likely to eat and enjoy food that he helped make himself.

That said, you’ll have to set time aside to show your kids how to do some things at the beginning—and you may have to suffer through some lumpy porridge and over-baked chicken as your children learn. Eventually, it will save a lot more time and teach the kids an important life skill and self-sufficiency.

Two cookbooks that might come in handy are The Complete Cookbook for Young Chefs and The Complete Baking Book for Young Chefs. The cookbooks begin with directions for how to use different kitchen utensils and give explanations of common cooking terms, such as whisk, mince, and fold. The recipes themselves are careful to mention steps that kids might forget, such as using oven mitts to remove hot pans.

As you introduce your children to helping with meal prep, try letting the child choose a favorite meal to make in rotation. You may need to place some restrictions on ingredients and make sure the child picks something he can make (with a sibling helper or two, perhaps). Not quite ready to whip up dinner? Begin with lunch prep—making sandwiches, preparing salads, and heating soup are all easy to do.

Final thoughts

While it will take your time in the beginning to train your children, it will save time in the long run. And getting your children involved in cooking will help instill in them a strong sense of responsibility, self-confidence, and teamwork. Meanwhile, planning meals ahead of time and using the crock pot and the freezer as much as possible will make your job easier.

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