If you follow Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers on Facebook, you may have seen last week’s revelation in which I admitted that I frequently fight an internal battle at about 5:00 or so at least two nights out of every week – do I order pizza or stick with the meal plan that’s hanging on the fridge.
Last week, I won the battle on Monday night, but lost on Tuesday. That’s one reason I was so happy when Tiffany King, from Eat at Home, offered to guest post on the topic of simple meals for homeschoolers because, let’s face it, some days are just hard and we need some simple, go-to meals to quiet that little voice in our heads…the one that’s screaming, “Just order pizza!”
I once heard of a mom who told her husband that she was willing to school their children, but she wouldn’t be cooking or cleaning during the years that they homeschooled. Apparently, he agreed and they kept that arrangement for years. They ate out every meal and had a housecleaner too.
That’s a nice story, isn’t it? Although, I don’t think I’d ever want to eat out for every meal. And I doubt that most of us could get our husbands to buy into that scenario. Thankfully, there are other ways to keep the meals easy and still eat at home. Even when you are spending most of the day teaching kids, grading math lessons and shuffling science experiments from one end of the counter to the other.
1. Use your slow cooker.
This is by far my favorite way to make dinner. I love the feeling of having the crockpot loaded up in the morning and knowing that no matter what else happens during the day, dinner is taken care of.
2. Use breakfast time or morning break time to prep dinner.
We have a habit of taking a break from studying around 10am. This is a perfect time to load the slow cooker or thaw meat. You can also use this time to make a salad or chop veggies for a side dish. I’ve even assembled casseroles and popped them in the fridge so they’re ready for the oven later in the day.
3. Let the kids help.
Homeschooling doesn’t have to be all academics. One of the advantages of having our kids home with us is many teachable moments in the day for other things. Teach your kids to use a knife. Show them how to clean lettuce and make a salad. Many slow cooker recipes are very easy and can be assembled by kids.
4. Set a timer.
I have a bad habit of getting involved with things after we’re done with school. Sometimes, I look up and it’s already 5:30. If this describes you too, try setting a timer to remind yourself that it’s time to fix dinner. You can do the same thing to remind yourself to do prep work in the morning.
5. Keep the sides simple.
For most of our weeknight dinners, I keep side dishes simple. This has a side benefit of keeping them healthy too. Vegetables that are steamed or tossed with olive oil and roasted are good for you and just plain taste good too. They don’t require a lot of thinking or following a recipe either. It’s nice to put at least part of dinner on auto pilot.
6. Make a plan.
Having a menu plan that you follow (at least loosely) really does save your sanity. It keeps your brain free for all those other details that fill your mind when you homeschool. I’m always happier when I can check my printed out menu plan to see what we’re having for dinner versus standing at the open pantry wondering what I can pull together. It really is worth the time to make the plan.
If you want to have a plan, but skip the planning, check out my Weekly Meal Plan Service. As a subscriber to Eat at Home’s Weekly Meal Plan Service, you’ll get two meal plans emailed to you each week:
- All Slow Cooker Meal Plan
- Traditional Meal Plan
New this month you can choose either a large plan that serves 6-8 people or a smaller plan that serves 3-4 people. Each plan has 6 dinners and 1 dessert. It comes with a grocery list and printable recipes. There are also tips on cooking, freezing extras for future meals and timing things so you can fit the meals to your schedule. Choose which plan to print for the week and head to the store.
At just $4 per month, it’s a smart way to take advantage of your favorite cooking appliance and let it do the cooking for you. We might not be able to skip all the cooking and cleaning for our homeschool years, but we can make it easier on ourselves. And family dinners can be a priority without taking too much prep time.
Tiffany is a homeschool mom and blogger who has been married to her best friend for 25 years. Her oldest child is now in college, after graduating from homeschool. The second child graduates this spring, with two more kids to follow in the coming years. You can find her sharing easy recipes, cooking tips and Weekly Meal Plans at Eat at Home.
Kris Bales is a newly-retired homeschool mom and the quirky, Christ-following, painfully honest founder (and former owner) of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She has a pretty serious addiction to sweet tea and Words with Friends. Kris and her husband of over 30 years are parents to three amazing homeschool grads. They share their home with three dogs, two cats, a ball python, a bearded dragon, and seven birds.