You know what really sucks about this whole keeping-tiny-humans-alive thing? Feeding them.
Seems like a silly thing to complain about, right? I’m mean…there’s the crying and fighting and not sleeping and diapers. I mean, there’s poop. What can possibly be so bad about food?
It’s not so much the food or feeding that’s the problem, it’s how much food is involved. And how often it occurs.
This is a typical day in our home:
- Toddler Pipsqueak wakes up by 7 and wants to nurse, sometimes for a half hour or more.
- 4 year old Doodle comes downstairs when toddler gets up and immediately asks for breakfast.
- As soon as toddler is done nursing, he’s asking for a snack.
- I make breakfast for the boys and myself.
- Almost 9 year old Honeybun comes down by 8 and makes her breakfast.
- Doodle asks for some fruit (okay.)
- Almost 7 year old Sugarplum comes down usually after 8 and makes her breakfast.
- Doodle asks for as snack (I say no.)
- Around 9, I go to the kitchen to find my abandoned coffee and notice breakfast plates still on the table.
- Doodle is “sooooo hungwy” (I say no to a snack.)
- By 10 Pipsqueak is upset about something (and a little tired, we cut the morning nap a few weeks ago) and asks to nurse again.
- Sugarplum asks if she can have some fruit and then Doodle and Pipsqueak think they should have something, too. (I usually say okay to Sugarplum which means okay to the boys, unfortunately, as well.)
- Doodle wants another snack because he’s bored (I say no.)
- 11:00 on the dot, Doodle lets me know it’s lunch time.
Managing lunch when homeschooling has got to be the worst thing I’ve ever done in life and this is precisely when all hell breaks loose in my day. Because Doodle wants leftovers. But Honeybun hates leftovers. And Pipsqueak is just plain hangry. And Sugarplum is dancing in the corner with her unicorns.
I usually do a smorgasbord lunch and line up all the leftovers on the counter and people pick what they want. But inevitably, two people want the same thing (and there’s never enough), or someone doesn’t want anything offered, or I end up having to reheat 20 million things to get 5 plates full (and balanced). No matter what the circumstances of the day, it ends up as chaos and I usually end up eating next to nothing (then binge snack on junk at nap time.)
Here’s the thing: If I wanted to spend my entire life feeding grumpy people, I’d work as a chef at some hoity toity restaurant.
But that’s what my existence has been reduced to. It seems I am spending 90% of my time feeding people, preparing food, cleaning up food, or shopping for food. And for some reason, preparing lunch when homeschooling is the worst part of all of it.
So I did what any mommy would do, I took my frustration to a hive of like-minded mommies: other homeschoolers who also spend every.single.minute with their kids. While some people relied with an “I feel your pain!” A lot of people shared how they easily manage lunch when homeschooling. And while I’m sure their solutions are actually really great, my current distaste for anything involving meal preparation doesn’t help me too much. But maybe the suggestions are helpful to others so here they are (and my snarky responses.)
Ways to Manage Lunch when Homeschooling:
Feed them leftovers.
This has always been my go-to solution. It’s quick, easy and makes sure my kids get a balanced meal. Except there’s never enough of anything to feed everyone (we’re talking 5 people here.) So I end up with a mish-mash of stuff that has to be reheated and a lot of arguing over who gets what.
So just make enough extra food to have a whole lunch another day. Brilliant! Except, I routinely cook dinner for 8 people (my parents are over many afternoons to help watch smaller kids while I schlep bigger ones to activities) so adding 5 more lunch portions to that makes THIRTEEN portions I’d be cooking. That’s like cooking Christmas dinner every day. Nope, not going to happen!
Let them Graze.
It seems a lot of homeschoolers just let their kids eat what they want when they want, having lots of healthy options available so their kids get a balanced diet. I would love to let my kids eat when they want and what they want, it sure would be a lot easier for me! Except what would really happen is my kids would never stop eating (because if one kid is eating, everyone else want to eat) and they would constantly leave messes everywhere. Plus, I have two kids that can’t get most of their snacks themselves so it would be me spending every second getting them food and monitoring them while they eat. By doing set snacks (usually just after nap in the afternoon) and eating lunch together, my food prep and monitoring is significantly less.
The big kids should fix their own lunch.
This is very true. My girls can (and probably should) fix their own lunch and they do always do their own breakfast. Except, their current cooking repertoire is very limited to pretty much sandwiches, toast and microwave stuff and I hate sandwiches. Plus I still have two boys and myself to feed so I’d be cooking or preparing lunch anyways. (This will definitely be a good solution when all my kids are older, though!)
Use lunch as a cooking lesson.
It is really important to me that my kids learn how to cook (all of them) and we regularly work together in the kitchen. My girls have learned how to make quite a few things and learn new things all the time. Except, this usually happens at dinner time when I’m cooking a full meal. And when I have help with the boys (or they’re still napping) because finding the patience to teach children to cook when a toddler is screaming and clawing at your legs and a 4 year-old who desperately wants to help is nearly impossible.
Do a picnic style lunch.
A lot of people manage lunch when homeschooling by do a mixed plate of fresh vegetables, fruit, crackers, deli meats, eggs, nuts, etc. and their kids get to pick what they want from each category each day. They prep everything ahead of time with Sundays seem to be the best day for this. Except I get very little help time and I truly don’t want to spend that time chopping stuff up and I don’t have the space to store cute little containers of chopped fruits, veggies and meats nor do I want to stand around peeling hard-boiled eggs all Sunday afternoon. Maybe this is another one we can explore when my kids are older and able to do most of the work themselves.
How do you manage getting everyone fed lunch when homeschooling?