Getting Food on the Table for the Busy Homeschool Mom



I love breakfast buffets, salad bars, and hot food buffets.  Seeing all of the food before me, fully prepared, and ready to eat at my convenience greatly appeals to me.  When gazing lovingly upon such bounties of food, I have often thought how nice it would be to have a full food staff at home preparing food for my family that we could eat at our convenience throughout our busy days.

Sadly, I have no full food staff at home, not even a single person.  The bulk of the food preparation falls to me, as it does to most mothers, homeschooling or not.  Balancing the preparation of meals into an already busy homeschooling day is a huge challenge for me.

Honestly, without some active pre-planning, I feel incredibly stressed trying to get a good meal on the table during our jam-packed days.  While I am certainly no expert in this subject, nor do I claim to be, I have figured out some tips over the years that make meal preparation a little easier for me.

Throw Out Traditional and Do What Works For Your Family

All three of my children swim competitively on a USA team.  For better or worse, swim team practice and swim meets take up huge amounts of our time. Since we have swim team practice every night, I have found that it works best for our family to have our main meal of the day at lunch so that we can all eat and enjoy the meal together.  My husband is often home in the afternoon so he gets to join us, and if not, I make sure there are left-overs for him.  We enjoy the break in our school day and I feel good about preparing a “traditional” big dinner for my hungry family.  Basically, I switched our main meal of the day to lunch and serve dinner-type foods for lunch.

As each of the children get home from swim team in the evening, they enjoy lunch-style foods like sandwiches, soup, and smoothies.  This works well for my family.  If your schedule is topsy-turvy with evening activities, perhaps switching the time of the main meal of the day would work for you as well.

Older Kids Can Make Themselves Breakfast

Now that my youngest child is 10, all of my children know that they are on their own for breakfast.  I keep a wide variety of easy-to-fix breakfast foods on hand like cereal, boiled eggs, granola bars, bagels, canned soup, and lunch meat for sandwiches.  My two teenagers sometimes make eggs or homemade hash browns for themselves.

Sometimes I feel guilty about not making breakfast for my children but most of the time I think they are learning some pretty good lessons about taking care of themselves.  If mornings are particularly hectic for you and your children are all a bit older, perhaps they can be in charge of the first meal of the day.

The Crock-Pot Is Your Friend

My crock-pot is definitely my friend.  I rely HEAVILY on my crock-pot to help me make yummy, homestyle meals that are ready when we’re ready to eat.  I absolutely LOVE using my crock-pot during our school days.  Just knowing that food is cooking and will be ready for our main meal of the day gives me a lift throughout my day.  What crock-pot meals do we enjoy the most?

While I find the crock-pot the most helpful in getting meals on the table with minimum effort, there are other appliances that should not be overlooked to help the busy homeschool mom – most importantly the freezer.  Cooking ahead specifically for the freezer can be a HUGE timesaver on busy homeschool days.  A discussion of freezer cooking is beyond the scope of this post but I find the posts about freezer cooking at Life As Mom particularly helpful.  At the very least, I always try to have taco meat on hand in the freezer.  So, be sure to look around your kitchen and see what appliances are ready to help you get meals on the table in a fast and easy manner!

Meal Planning Is A Really, Really Good Idea

I love meal planning – just having a plan takes SO much of the pressure of meal-making off my shoulders!  So much of cooking is doing little things ahead of time – being sure you have all of the ingredients, taking the meat out of the freezer, chopping up vegetables, putting food in the crock-pot… – meal planning helps to be sure that all of those bits and pieces actually get done in time to have dinner on time!

For more motivation to plan meals, I recommend Kitchen Organization Tips and Secrets by Deniece Schofield.  Of course, there are also lots of helpful articles on the internet about meal planning.  Menu Plan Monday at Org. Junkie is a great place to start to get meal planning ideas.

Don’t Be Ashamed to Order Take-Out Food When You’re Overly Stressed (Or Just Want a Break!)

Sometimes at my house I just need a little help getting food on the table.  A whole week-end spent at a swim meet followed by a full day of school on Monday can find me pretty desperate right around our big lunchtime.  While take-out pizza is quick and easy (particularly at our local Little Caesar’s), there are a lot of other options for quick take-out food as well such as

  • Salad bars at grocery stores
  • Rotisserie chicken
  • Sub sandwiches.

Now that I’ve shared my tips to getting food on the table for the busy homeschool mom, what tips do you have to share?  I, for one, would love to hear them!  I need all the help I can get in the kitchen!

For the 2011-2012 school year, Samantha will be homeschooling a (gasp) first-year high school student, a 7th grader, and a 5th grader.  All three of her children swim competitively so when she’s not busy at home, she’s busy at a pool!  Samantha blogs about homeschooling and family life at To Be Busy At Home.

For more ideas for quick meal options, be sure to check out the new ebook Feast in 15 available for download or for the Kindle.

Samantha would like to thank the individual photographers who have kindly posted their photos on Free Digital Photos:  buffet photo courtesy of Free Digital Photos; cereal photo courtesy of Free Digital Photos; crock-pot photo courtesy of Free Digital Photos, and notebook and coffee photo courtesy of Free Digital Photos.

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Comments

  1. I’m in love with my crock-pot, too! Thanks for sharing some yummy recipes with us! I used to pull out my crock-pot only during the colder months, but I’ve been branching out a bit lately and I love the way it keeps my kitchen cool on these warm summer days.

    • Julianna,

      Yes, I agree – crock-pots make me think of sloppy-joes, soups, and pot roast – perfect fall and winter foods. But, as you pointed out, the crock-pot is great during the warmer months as well because it doesn’t heat upthe kitchen!

      Samantha

  2. Ditto the crock-pot love and the menu planning. Those weeks when I don’t menu plan, it all falls apart. And I menu-plan the crock-pot in for all the busy days. The feeling I get in the middle of a busy day knowing that dinner is already cookin’ is fabulous!

    • I so agree! Whenever I actually have a meal plan, I feel so good about myself. It seems my crew starts asking me what is for lunch when I wake up! I love being able to tell them without hesitation!

      Samantha

  3. If only I could remember to take stuff out of the deep-freeze to start thawing! :-) That is my biggest challenge at the moment, but I’m definitely trying to invoke the help of my crockpot more! Thanks for the great post!

    • When I meal plan, I take everything I need for the week out of the big freezer at one time. Then, I just keep it in the fridge so things can thaw out. Of course, that’s only when I actually manage to plan my meals!

      Samantha

  4. I love my crock pot, but I adore my pressure cooker. It is amazing!!!

  5. We make meal preparation, planning and shopping all part of homeschool. There are so many ways to incorporate it in what you are doing already. There’s math and nutrition, culture and language, budgeting and planning, etc. I also see my job as parent/teacher is to, well, put my self out of a job. What I mean is that by the time my children are 17 they should be able to do all the things an independent person who lives on their own can do, including making meals. This way they have time still to practice all this knowledge before they will do this on their own with out my supervision.

  6. I agree! I try and use my slow cooker, but my husband isn’t in love with those meals. So I have to limit its use. I try and make lunch our big meal, yet, I lose track of time…or it’s too hot…no air conditioner here. Lately, we’ve been eating close to 8 pm. It is late but it works for us. I am hoping to get back to the big lunch/dinner in Autumn.

    • Having the major meal of the day at lunch works well for us due to our crazy evening swim team schedule. I’m glad we do our meals this way, otherwise, I’d always feel bad about not having any “real” dinners together! I think what’s important is to find what works for your family and not worry about what it “normally” done.

  7. What a blessing to have your husband home earlier in the day! We’re a swim family too, but my husband doesn’t get home before we leave for practice, so we typically eat after 7:00. I love crock pot cooking too, but I often just cook a regular dinner and transfer it to the crock pot to keep it warm until the evening — in fact, that’s what it’s doing right now. :)