5 Tips for Stress-Free Lunch Prep when Homeschooling

The children are home indefinitely so use these 5 tips for stress-free lunch prep. You’re sure to feel less like a short order cook and more like a homeschooling guru.

Stress-Free Lunch Prep Tips

 

Schools are closed, kids are home and Mom/Dad have taken on the role of teacher, cafeteria worker, custodian, nurse, principle, before and after school care worker, counselor, librarian, and coach. Wearing all these hats means that time to spend planning and preparing meals is cut short – way short! Yet, your students are ALWAYS hungry. What are you to do?

Let me tell you, I hear you and I am right here with you. I’ve had to take a step back to think through our meal and snack strategy so that I am not in the kitchen day in and day out. Thankfully, with a little planning, I am slowly starting to feel less like a short order cook so that I can embrace the time I have with the girls home to do other fun things like hike, play games and share a Virtual Snack Date with you every day at 2pm CT on my Facebook page. (Pssst…be sure to tune in!)

Homeschooling Strategies at Lunchtime

I am proud to partner with Produce for Kids to help promote their Mission for Nutrition campaign.

In order to help maintain some sanity during this crazy time, I’m sharing my best stress-free lunch prep tips to help you get through lunchtime without extra stress.

 

stress-free lunch prep

5 Tips for a Stress-Free Lunch Prep

1. Plan and prep lunches ahead.

The easiest way to do reduce lunchtime stress is to plan lunches ahead. If you’re a regular school lunchbox packer then keeping with this strategy will work well for you. I encourage you to keep up with exactly what you were doing before (ie. packing lunches the night before or the morning of). If you rely on school lunch, then you may feel a bit of a learning curve as you adjust to a new normal. See the stress-free lunch prep tips below for how to work through this adjustment as well as involve your children in the process…

 

2. Determine a Set Lunchtime

We’ve all seen the daily school schedules floating around social media. Whether you choose to follow one or not, do aim to set a specific time for lunch. Because the girls ate lunch at 10:30am and 11am during the regular school year, I’m trying to serve lunch between 11:30am and noon to not get too far off their usual schedule. Now, if you have a child that will sleep until that time then you may have to adjust. But for my early birds, we’re eating breakfast slightly later than on a school day (7:45ish vs 6:45ish) and bumping lunch back just a hint.

 

3. Involve Your Children in Lunch Packing.

Whether you’re an old school lunchbox packing pro or jumping in for the first time, I highly suggest involving your children. As you plan daily schedules, add lunchbox packing in the morning so it is done when you’re ready to eat or late in the day (even after dinner) so it will be ready the following day. This way when lunchtime rolls around, you won’t find yourself scrounging around the kitchen trying to throw together a meal. Plus, this is an incredible opportunity to make learning in the kitchen fun. Have a picky eater? No problem! I’ve got you covered with these lunchbox ideas for picky eaters.

stress-free lunch prep

4. Pass the Lunch Packing Task to Older Children

If your children are old enough, it is time to pass them the task of lunchbox packing. With some gentle guidance, you can help them learn how to create a simple and balanced meal that they will enjoy. Add “make lunch” or “kitchen prep” as part of their daily schedule so that when lunchtime rolls around, their meal is made and they can take it outside to enjoy. You can also assign them to make lunches for or with your younger children.

My friend and fellow dietitian, Carolyn Williams, shared some of her favorite tips for how to teach a child to pack their own lunch with Cooking Light. She included this simple formula:

  • 1 protein food + 1 starchy food  + 2 other food choices + water
  • The “other” food options are a fruit, a vegetable, a dairy product, or a healthy fat or dip (but at least one “other” must be produce).

5. Rely on Helpful Resources

There’s no need to recreate the wheel. There are hundreds of resources available to guide you in making healthy lunch recipes. Be sure to check out my Healthy Lunchbox Headquarters page for more info. Here are 3 helpful lunchbox resources to get you started:

  1. 125 Healthy Lunchbox Recipes for Kids – my FREE download
    Never run out of lunchbox ideas or inspiration with over 125 healthy 
  2. Age Appropriate Cooking Skills – free download from Jodi at Create Kids Club
    If you’re wondering which kitchen tasks you should pass to your child, my friend Jodi at Create Kids Club is offering a free guide to age appropriate cooking skills. 
  3. Produce for Kids Podcast – Lunchbox Meal Prep Tips
    Want prep tips for packing healthy lunchboxes including make-ahead ideas and ways to get the kids involved? Be sure to listen to the Produce for Kids podcast with Brenda Thompson. She’s is a busy mom and wife, foodie, self-taught meal planner and freelance writer with blog, Meal Planning Magic.

Note: I am proud to partner with Produce for Kids to help promote their Mission for Nutrition campaign. I’m also proud to support their brand partners. You definitely will find their products scattered throughout our lunchboxes as they are ones that I consistently rely on!

  • Crispy Green® Crispy Fruit
  • Eat Smart® Sweet Kale Salad
  • Litehouse® Homestyle Ranch Dressing
  • Mission Avocado
  • NatureFresh™ Farms
  • TOMz Cherry Tomatoes
  • Pero Family Farms®
  • Mini Sweet Peppers
  • RealSweet® Sweet Onions