Homeschooling moms need a 30 hour day–don’t you agree? Since that’s never going to happen, we have to find ways to use the 24 hours we already have. One better way to use the time we are allotted is with homeschool lunchboxes.
“But Sherry, packing a lunch seems silly when you’re already parked right next to a kitchen, or even in the kitchen itself.”
I hear you. Traditionally, packing lunches means early morning scrambles to get on a bus to end up in an institution to be rushed through a lunch period to be carried back home and on and on and on. In that sort of setting it makes sense to go to all that trouble.
However, just think about what an interruption lunch is to your homeschool day:
- You have to figure out what you will eat (you are usually making this decision while helping with spelling and algebra–how is that efficient?).
- You have to fix the lunch (or assign someone to fix it, which means potential attitude, directing, conflict).
- You have to get the table set, which means clearing away everything that you are currently working on.
- You have to clean up after (more attitude, directing, correcting, and on and on).
When this exercise in futility is finally completed, you will have LOST at least an hour, maybe more.
I was up against this recently. Besides homeschooling, I have the privilege of being transportation for grown children with jobs. While this has an added benefit of helping me connect with the “olders,” it also takes another bite of time out of my day. Too often I have to take off right in the middle of the morning. Adding in a complicated lunch ritual was just too much!
Then I remembered that we had done lunchboxes in the past and decided it was time to try them again. The results were AMAZING!
Here are some of the benefits:
- I no longer have to scramble to decide what to fix.
- No more clearing and setting the table–each person can grab a water bottle or sippy cup and be on their way. Since it is warm we can even eat outside.
- No big clean up because there is no prep and each person is responsible to wash out her own box (littles can be assigned an older “helper” sibling).
- If someone wants to eat earlier or later (within reason) it is perfectly fine!
“Wait a minute, Sherry, these meals don’t fix themselves!”
Of course not! They are assembled the night before, just during or after dinner, meaning:
- There is only one prep mess to clean up after, instead of two.
- You can easily incorporate leftovers to save on waste and help lessen the grocery bill.
- You can pack lunches for work at the same time.
And, when you rotate the responsibility (don’t forget to include yourself in the roster), no one feels burnt out or runs out of creative ideas.
“How do I get started?”
Well, first of all, you need some containers.
- If you are just starting out and don’t want to go to any huge expense, consider brown-bagging it for a little while to see if it works for you.
- Or, you could gather all those little plastic containers you have stuffed in your bottom cupboard and put them to good use.
- Or, you could get real “official” and buy some new, compartmented containers just for this purpose.
Of course, you’ll need some smaller containers for sauces or little bits that you don’t want mixed in. Silicone cupcake cups are great.
And, if you are concerned about BPA you can find lunch boxes that are free of it for a very nice price (if you really, really don’t like plastic, you can always find boxes that are stainless steel, or wood even!).
Second of all, you need some ingredients.
There are about a kazillion ideas out there on the Net. Some are outrageous! I mean, there are cutters that turn sliced cheese into Mickey Mouse, and on and on. Since you don’t have to worry about impressing other children, or parents, or teachers, you can relax and concentrate on what is nutritious, delicious, and frugal.
Here is my Pinterest board where I have been collecting some ideas:
Prepackaged foods are certainly the most time-saving, but they are also the most expensive and sometimes contain dubious ingredients. On the other hand, preparing everything from scratch defeats the purpose of the exercise: to save time.
I like to travel down the middle of the road. Some things will be more convenient, such as string cheese. Others will be more of the scratch or self-assemble variety, such as fruit that is doled out from a #10 can or cookies baked in my very own oven.
The typical suggestions for lunchbox foods include all cold items, since most children do not have access to a kitchen during lunchtime. We have a clear advantage at home, however, in that we can include items that need to be heated up. This is actually a great way to use up the bits and pieces of leftovers in the fridge instead of letting them turn into science experiments.
Here are some illustrations to explain further:
Hot dog dinner: assemble a hot dog (pre-boiled or grilled from a previous dinner time and frozen) in a bun on a napkin and place in lunch box. Add in a few sides. When it’s lunch time the child can heat the hot dog up, squirt on a condiment or two, and you’re in business!
Hot soup and goodies: For those days when it’s chilly and you need something to warm up your insides, you can put some canned soup on the stove and have lunchboxes filled with things such as garlic bread, some salad, fruit, etc. as sides.
Nachos: You can bulk-buy cheese sauce from Sam’s Club and have it in a separate container that can be heated up and drizzled on corn chips in the lunch box. You can add sides such as salsa, meat, and veggies in the other compartments to create a complete meal.
As an added bonus…
If you struggle with special diet needs, such as gluten sensitivity and food allergies, this could help you in so many ways! It is so easy to personalize these meals by stockpiling the special ingredients and creating a “station” for putting them together. You can also color-code the different lunchboxes so there is no cross-contamination.
It’s so strange to me now. I sit and delve deeply into Genesis, algebra, the life of D.L. Moody, or Archimedes and simple machines and get lost in the fun of learning until I catch myself thinking we should get lunch going…
…but wait! Lunch is already fixed and ready to be eaten. Such a great blessing out of one simple idea.
I hope this gives you more time and less stress!
And if you would like to be blessed even more, make sure and look for the resources included in this week’s email!