Meal Planning for Homeschoolers {Eat Well, Spend Less}

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Our family homeschools, and while our back-to-school transition looks different from yours, we all have one thing in common: we gotta eat. And if you are anything like me, just because you are at home during the day does not make planning meals easy. It is definitely something I have to stay on top of, or it will quickly get away from me, and before I know it our supper is oatmeal. Again.

New for us this year is we have joined Classical Conversations, which means we are gone from 8:30 until about 2 every Tuesday. This also means that supper had better be thawing, in the crockpot or… I’m throwing something together at the last minute. Oh, and I have to pack a lunch for all four of us before we leave too! (I’ve totally realized I am not cut out for the early-morning school rush!)

Many of you homeschoolers are just getting started on your new year, or you will be after Labor Day. While we homeschool year-round, we are getting back in the swing of things after a 6-week break in July and part of August. So if you (like me!) have become lax on the meal planning and prepping after a summer break, let’s begin this school year on the right foot. And if you (unlike me!) have faithfully continued your meal planning throughout the summer, hopefully this will give you some fresh ideas… or at least a pat on the back to know you’ve got it all down much better than I have! {grin}

Meal Plan, Meal Plan, Meal Plan.

I cannot stress enough how having a written menu plan for the week is so important. And right now, I’m preaching to the choir, because yours truly has not had a meal plan in over six weeks. (Yes, that takes us back to the sugar challenge… the last time I had a real meal plan in place.) One of my favorite menu-planning resources is Mandi’s Weekly Menu Plan Printable.

Gather your favorite recipes and work out a strategy for getting them all in. Make sure you have your calendar handy, so you can plan around soccer practice or take into consideration your being gone all day, like on our CC Tuesday. Ask your children for input on their favorites and incorporate those into your menu as well. Be sure to include a few new meals here and there. Who knows? A new meal just may become a family favorite!

Remember to utilize your pantry items, and don’t forget to plan your sides. A steak just isn’t a steak without a baked potato as a side.

Involve the kiddos.

I have talked about how important it is to involve your children when cooking, and as homeschoolers, we have an amazing opportunity to involve them a lot. My girls are home every time I step foot in the kitchen, and are usually at my heels, asking to help. Children learn by seeing and by doing, and the more I let them help, the quicker they learn. (Plus, teaching them while they are young may spark a great interest in cooking and come in handy for YOU in the future… wouldn’t it be nice for the kids to be able to do some of the cooking?! Woo-hoo!)

This is also a time to experiment with new recipes. Involving your children in creating new meals makes them much more likely to try said meal. Even if the meal is a bomb, if you’ve included your kiddos, you might get three or four bites out of them instead of the one or two required bites.

Have Go-To Meals.

Having a list of go-to meals that please everyone has been a key factor for me these last few weeks. As I approach my due date, I’m simply getting bigger and slower, and I don’t have as much energy in the afternoons and evenings as I do in the mornings. Knowing I have several quick supper options at my disposal helps me feel okay when it is 4 pm and I’m wondering why I didn’t plan something sooner!

Learn to Love Leftovers.

I know, I know. Leftovers aren’t always a big hit, but some things do taste better the second time around. My husband didn’t eat leftovers until he married me, or so he says! Leftovers came in handy tonight, when I didn’t have a plan (because I, um, woke up late this morning and didn’t get supper thrown in the crockpot), and we needed to eat. We heated up my mother-in-law’s amazing pasta. Everyone left the table with a full belly, and I didn’t feel like a total heel for not having supper ready for my kiddos.

Leftovers are also great for a quick lunch. And speaking of lunch…

Don’t Forget About Lunch

Lunch for me, whether it is at home or away, must be easy. Period. Our mornings are spent mostly in school, and we still have to do our CC memory work and piano practices in the afternoon. Unless our school involves cooking, lunch cannot take long too prepare or cleanup, because we don’t have the time. I am currently drawing lunch inspiration from these easy, healthy lunch ideas (especially for the “away” times) and quick, back-to-school lunch options. Having these yummy and fun ideas on hand helps to keep the boring pb&j and chicken nuggets to a minimum.

And having an easy lunch is well, easy if you’ve had a good breakfast.

Plan Your Breakfasts.

Breakfast is the quote-unquote most important meal of the day, but it is one I tend to forget to plan. Rather than just pouring a bowl of cereal every morning, plan to have a good, healthy breakfast. We love oatmeal, fried eggs, smoothies, a huge plate of fruit and yogurt, or pancakes. But, we still have the occasional bowl of Frosted Mini Wheats rounding out the breakfast faves. You can also see some of our other breakfast favorites and recipes we want to try on my Breakfast Bonanza board on Pinterest.

Just Wing It.

Yep. I said, “Just wing it.” I’ve been doing a lot of “winging it” lately, and it has been fine. My need for having things happen right on time has been overridden by my need for rest in the afternoons. I have about 4 weeks before this little guy is due, and my body has been shutting down at about noon every day, and I’ve had to lay down for awhile, which means that we aren’t finishing school until about 3 pm. I’ve had to give myself a lot of grace (and you should give yourself grace, too!) where meals are concerned. There have been quite a few times that I’ve had to boil frozen chicken for tacos or enchiladas, or thaw hamburger meat in a bowl of cold water in the fridge. And that’s okay.

Homeschoolers, chime in! What are your meal-planning tips?

It’s back-to-school this month in our Eat Well, Spend Less series. Check out fabulous tips, tricks, recipes, and more from these amazing bloggers:

Written by: Amy Norton
Amy is a youth pastor’s wife and homeschooling mom to three girls, ages 8, 6, and 3, and has a baby boy on the way. When she’s not writing at Kingdom First Mom, you can find her cooking, getting crunchier by the day, and trying to stay on top of the laundry. She enjoys writing about her homelife adventures at Amy Loves It.


  1. Mary Beth Elderton says

    I’m always surprised by people who “don’t eat left overs.” Really? Many of these same people will throw a pre-packaged/frozen meal in the microwave. I actually plan on lunch when I cook dinner. Some dinners are just not right for the lunch box–things that require a steak knife or some complicated sauces or dressings, for example. On the day after those meals a sandwich is great. But almost everything else is great for lunch! Planning this way gives you two meals–dinner and lunch–in one.

    • says

      @Mary Beth Elderton, I totally agree, Mary Beth! I would *much* rather reheat something I’VE cooked than a prepackaged meal! It’s just as easy, and I know what is in the food I’m about to eat ;) Thanks so much for chiming it!

      – Amy

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