Have I ever told you how much I dislike lunch? Figuring out what to feed the kids when they are home for lunch drives me crazy! However I’ve been feeding kids for 25+ years and have some some pretty simple homeschool lunch ideas that will work for your family too!
I’ve decided that lunch is the homeschool mom’s nemesis, the required interruption in an otherwise orderly and organized day. 😉 I’ve often said I wish we could skip lunch, but I have a few children who would object.
When you child is learning from home, lunch is not the end of their homeschool day. Lunch is the midpoint, if I fill them up with carbs and sugar they aren’t able to learn from 1-3pm. It also makes things like “quiet time” a bit of a struggle.
Since I usually make a hot breakfast and dinner I don’t really want or have time to make a hot lunch, even though I know it would probably be the cheapest option for my family.
And if I’m being honest, after spending all morning with the kids helping them with school (and then a good portion of the afternoon) I crave a tiny bit of peace and quiet at lunch.
The reality is, I’m not going to get it because #kids, but I definitely don’t want to be cleaning up one more major mess at lunchtime.
I do remember one friend who would help her kids make lunch and then take her own lunch up to her bedroom to eat in peace. This was probably one of the best parenting hacks I’ve heard in my life.
Homeschool Lunch Ideas for the Busy Mom
I’m always looking for healthy, quick, and simple homeschool lunch ideas that don’t cause too much of an interruption in our homeschool day.
Here are a few lunch ideas for the homeschool families, virtual school families, or anyone who is learning from home right now.
The Lunch List
Last summer I started using the lunch list. This is a list of available lunch options for my children. This list can be posted on or close to the fridge or pantry. This list allows the kids to pick what they want for lunch within limits.
The list removes all questions about whether a piece of cheesecake or cookie is a lunch option.
My sister-in-law had a white board attached to her pantry that listed everything that was available for lunch. She could wipe off foods that weren’t available and add new ones after she went to the store.
The lunch list is my favorite way to make lunch at home easy. The kids know what they can choose for lunch and it takes away a lot of the arguing.
The lunch list works best for younger kids.
You know those clear plastic shoe bins you can purchase at the dollar store? The cheap bins are amazing to hold snacks for your kids. (This tip works for kids who have to pack their lunch for school too)
I purchased 12 of these many years ago. I kept them in the pantry with different foods/ snacks. One would contain granola bars, another gummy packs, and another goldfish already packaged in small baggies.
I also kept them in the fridge with pre-made containers of cut up fruit and veggies. This makes the lunch list even easier because I would tell the kids they could pick one snack from certain bins, but more from the bins with healthier options.
This takes some time to set up initially, but it makes lunch so easy for the kids to get themselves.
Make Ahead Ingredients
Another quick and inexpensive homeschool lunch idea is to keep precooked food in the fridge that can be reheated or made into a meal in a few minutes. A few of our staples are:
- Taco Salad
Crock pot shredded beef
- Steak Salad
- Serve over baked potatoes
Whole cooked chicken
- Chicken pasta
- Chicken salad
- Chicken and rice
- Chicken tacos
- Beans and rice
- Bean burritos
- Beans and cheese
- Black bean soup
- Open tacos
Along with keeping ready to go meat in the fridge, cutting up fruit and vegetables on the weekend can make for a quick and healthy addition to lunches.
This is critical for making lunch at home simple. If you’ve already done all the prep work, you’ll have very little to do throughout the week.
Fruits and vegetables, cooked pasta, rice, and the foods I mentioned above can help you bring lunches together in under ten minutes.
Depending on how many kids you have, you may have to prep twice a week. For me, prepped food didn’t last past Wednesday so I needed to do this on Sunday and Wednesdays.
Spending an hour on the weekend prepping for lunches will save time and you’ll have less dishes!
Double Your Dinner
This is similar to freezer cooking except instead of freezing the meal you keep it in the fridge for the next day. It doesn’t take too much work to make a double meal, so if you are making something inexpensive just double the recipe and serve it for lunch.
If you don’t like eating the same thing two days in a row just wait a day or two before serving it.
Crock Pot Lunches
Many crock pot recipes take only 4-6 hours to cook. If you are an early riser you can start lunch in the crock pot before you start your school day. By the time lunch rolls around you’ll have a delicious meal that is ready to eat.
I don’t recommend leaving anything in the crock pot overnight without cooking it. However you can cook food overnight and then reheat it at lunchtime.
You can also use this technique with an Instant Pot if you have one.
Soups are inexpensive and can be prepared in advance and stored in the fridge. I have a few children who prefer to eat soup every day.
You can even freeze soup in individual portions using quart sized freezer bags.
Our favorite soup recipes are:
The best part about soup is that most recipes freeze really well. Make a giant batch on the weekend for lunch or dinner and freeze the rest for lunches during the homeschool week.
You don’t have to get fancy with lunches, especially when your children are younger and don’t eat as much as teenage boys.
When I was growing up I had a peanut butter sandwich and an apple every single day. It was easy and it didn’t take any time to prepare.
In today’s world with everything on social media I see exceptionally creative and time consuming homeschool lunch ideas.
That doesn’t have to be you, if it’s not you. (If it is, let’s be friends and you can come help me make my kids lunches).
Some of our favorite simple lunches are:
- Homemade whole wheat bread (made in the bread machine) and smoothies
- Homemade hummus, pitas, carrot sticks, fresh fruit
- Pita Pizzas
- Cheese, crackers, and fruit
- Apples with peanut butter, crackers, smoothies
Want a free printable lunch list?
Enter your email below to download the handy lunch list. Laminate it and use with a wet erase marker or just print out a new one every week!
There’s a section for each food type and it makes it easy for your kids to know what is available without standing with the fridge door open for 15 minutes trying to decide!
When you combine the lunch list with the plastic shoeboxes filled with food choices your kids will be making their own lunches in no time!
Jennifer Maassen says
What a great post! My kids have been in charge of their own breakfast and lunches since they were little, and that has worked out fine for us, but admittedly, there are only three of them. If there were more, we might have to make a more coordinated effort. These are terrific ideas and recipes. Thank you!
I love your idea about this! Our upcoming daily schedule calls for the “schooling” to be done around noon. Usually, we wonder what to get for lunch. We created a 4 week meal plan that is primarily just for supper time. I’ve never even thought of making a lunch options list or planning lunches before. I love this and will most likely start doing this for our home. I also love that our whole family can benefit from this because we work from home as well and we live with my husband’s parents. So, THANK YOU!!! This is exactly why I love this blog. So many great ideas that inspire me to be the best homemaker I was called to be. God bless all that you do and keep up the great work!
Janell Poulette says
We just started homeschooloing this week and I hate the what’s for lunch question! Thanks for sharing!
One of our simple lunches that we make quite a bit. In fact I made it today!
Is a pan fried corn tortilla topped with a fried egg and some grated cheese.
We have chickens so eggs are plentiful! Add some salsa and fruit on the side and it is an excellent easy lunch.
I often used to make my homeschooled children a packed lunch the night before and we would eat that and carry on schooling. Most of the time (packed lunch or not) I would read to them while they were eating. To be honest, with 3 hyperactive boys, it was often the only time they were sitting stil!
Sounds like a cooking class is in order. You can include math ( measuring, counting things out, sizes doubling a recipe or 1/2 ing a recipe), reading ( the recipes) writing ( if the children like the recipe they copy it into there own personal recipe book * special keepsake and precious reminder of their writing improvement over the years) (mom make sure to see that the recipe is written correctly) science ( how the food grows or is made, the chemical reaction of the different ingredients social studies ( what part of the country or world the food comes from how is is transported). Enjoy and have fun!
Ugh! I so agree about lunch being my nemesis. It seems like most days just when I get on a roll and everyone is diligently working on their lessons I start hearing, “I’m hungry! What’s for lunch?” Thanks for the great ideas!
Ben the Crock Pot King says
Great article, and beautiful pics of the kids!!! But have you ever looked into Once a Month Cooking, My time is like gold, and I can only imagine with kids it’s tough. And by looking at Janell Poulette comment, I know I’m correct. Stop by crockpotking, and go to the home page I have something there that I know wil help you, Janell, Jennifer & Tanya out as well.
But know getting back to the article. BRAVO!!! Keep it coming, lI remember when my mother used to struggle with us. And it’s not easy, But whatever content you happen to throw out there, I know would help. Even if it’s one person, it’s well worth it!
I’ve already bookmarked your post.
I really admire you for doing a hot breakfast. I have four little kids 5 and under and I just cant get myself organized to do a hot breakfast and dinner half the time.. I was wondering in you could offer any suggestions. I’m starting homeschooling this year..so I’m stressed with that and I know I will have even less time. Also, I like to cook, but I hate the mess and I don’t have hours to clean up, can you offer any timesaving tips. Thanks so much,
P.S. You should do a Dear Happy section on your blog..that would be awesome!
How to Make Buttermilk says
This is such a great post. I hate lunches! Breakfast is easy and dinner is prepared in my mind ahead of time, but when it comes to lunches I just don’t get it! I love the idea (which is very obvious) of doubling up the dinner to have left-overs. Why didn’t I ever think of this?! Thank you for posting. I am glad I found your site and really appreciate these time-saving tips for us busy moms.
monique bradford says
These are some great ideas! Thanks for sharing!!
Gidget @ Homeschooling Unscripted says
What a great list – I am going to see how we can integrate some of these into our plans 🙂 We usually eat sandwiches or leftovers from earlier in the week because I agree – stopping to cook in the middle of an otherwise productive day seems to halt all progress. We fix something quick and then listen to an audiobook together or watch and educational show. 🙂
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Just found this page through Pinterest when searching for easy lunches. As a home schooler, I can totally relate to your lunch woes. But, thanks to you, I now feel empowered to tackle it head on starting tomorrow!! 🙂 I’ll definitely be re-pinning.
Melissa Ringstaff says
I have to agree, that as a homeschool mom, I hate lunchtime, too. Really. That’s why I’m here – to get ideas! Thanks!
Thank you! I am officially starting homeschooling our soon-to-be 5 year old in September (though we’ve already been doing pre-school homeschool). I have a 9 month old and 2 year old as well. I need lunch ideas like this already! I’m hoping to get them involved in making lunch with me…we’ll see. They did enjoy making chocolate covered strawberries with me though! Not exactly a lunch item, but it was really fun!