8 Quick Lunch Ideas for Busy MomsFebruary 14, 2024
I’m sure you’re familiar with the popular notion that homeschool moms are equivalent to super moms. We’re expected to wake up with the sun, always be smiling, singing, and laughing, never lose our tempers, and take field trips with our exceptionally well-behaved angel children daily, while still accomplishing all the things. Part of this means that all meals in our homes should be nutritious, made from scratch, and will, of course, be met with rave reviews from our grateful kids. In other words, we’re supposed to have it all together.
As lovely as this fantasy sounds, speaking for myself, there are days when I more closely resemble a cranky T-rex than Mary Poppins. It’s pretty safe to say we all may have days that leave us stumbling through the kitchen, reaching for that third cup of coffee while our kids argue in the background. There are also days when all of our running around and obligations leave us scrambling at lunchtime to put something healthy on the table…especially if you have picky eaters.
So what do we do?
- First: Cut yourself some slack. The pressure we feel to do it all is completely impractical. Serving your kids cereal and yogurt for breakfast doesn’t make you less of a mom than if you had been up before dawn gathering eggs for homemade waffles with freshly churned butter. Using store-bought ingredients does not a failure make.
- Second: Find some lunch themes that will be a hit with your kids, and set up a rotation to simplify your afternoon meals. Your kids will also know what to expect and that will help those who thrive on routine. For example:
- Monday – Sandwiches (PB&J, turkey, whatever they choose)
- Tuesday – Pasta (spaghetti cups, pasta salad, chicken and noodles, etc)
- Wednesday – Salads (Grab everything from the fridge that will work and let your kids assemble their own salad)
- Thursday – Smoothie bowls (see recipe below for variations)
- Friday – Freezer meal (either something you’ve made ahead or corn dogs, frozen pizza, etc)
- Third: Realize that there will be days when lunch consists of dino chicken nuggets and cheese puffs or something Chef Boyardee put in a can, and it will be okay.
- Fourth: Let us help you with some healthy, quick, and easy lunch ideas because having a plan makes the chances of success much higher than having no plan. We’ve previously mentioned foods that boost brain development, so let’s translate that into lunches to help kids focus that they will also love to eat.
- Fifth: Visit the Homeschool.com Marketplace for life skills classes, including Kids Cook Real Food! Having your children involved and excited in the preparation of food will add enjoyment to the meal!
8 Healthy Lunches Kids Love
Homemade Uncrustables: We’ve seen them at the store (and probably bought them a time or two) but did you know Uncrustables can easily be made at home with healthier ingredients and can be frozen for a quick lunch on the go? Using whole grain bread, peanut butter (or another nut butter), a whole fruit spread, and a sandwich cutter like one of these, you can make up a batch for an easy lunch or a snack!
Spaghetti Cups: This is an easy, fun meal that’s a change from the normal go-to lunches. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and spray with cooking spray. Cook whole-grain spaghetti noodles, drain and place in a mixing bowl. Add one egg, salt and pepper, and 1/2 cup of shredded cheese. Divide among the 12 muffin cups and push them down to fit. Add some marinara sauce, sprinkle with shredded cheese, and top with a meatball. Bake for 20 minutes. These can be served right away, cooled and refrigerated, or frozen for a quick lunch another day. Pair one with a salad full of leafy greens for a brain-boosting lunch!
Pinwheels: There are several different ways you can make pinwheels. Using a high-fiber wrap for a base, cover the tortilla with spreadable cheese, and sprinkle with your favorite source of protein: rotisserie chicken, canned chicken, tuna, lunch meat, or even tofu. Add veggies of your choice to one side, gently roll the tortilla, slice, and serve!
Smoothie Bowls: This is another meal with loads of possibilities for variety. One option could be to blend a frozen banana, a cup of frozen strawberries or blueberries, 2 tablespoons of peanut or another nut butter, 2/3 cup of unsweetened vanilla almond milk, and a handful of spinach. Blend until smooth, add to a bowl, and top with some fresh sliced strawberries or blueberries, nut butter drizzle, chia seeds, and/or nuts of choice. Another option would be to blend 1/2 cup of rolled oats, 1 and 1/2 cups of frozen peaches (or banana, mango, etc.), 1 cup of plain or vanilla Greek yogurt, 1/2 cup milk of choice, 1 tbsp of honey, and a dash of cinnamon. Blend until smooth, add to a bowl, and top with fresh peach slices, granola, raspberries, and/or chopped pistachios.
Nacho Bowls: You can use any combination of your favorite nacho or taco ingredients – black beans, refried beans, shredded chicken, taco seasoned ground beef or turkey, steamed sweet corn, salsa, cheese, avocado, etc – and serve with a side of whole-grain tortilla chips.
Turkey Sloppy Joes: Brown ground turkey, and add 1/4 cup of ketchup, 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce, 1 tbsp brown or coconut sugar, 1 tsp dry mustard, and salt to taste to the pan. Serve on warm whole-grain buns and with a healthy side of your choice.
Creamy Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese: This simple, healthy lunch is comfort food at its finest. To make the soup, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a stock pot and add half an onion. Saute for 5-6 minutes until brown, then add 3 cloves of garlic (or one tablespoon of minced garlic if you keep that in the fridge as I do) and saute for another minute until fragrant. Add 3 cans of tomatoes (14.5 oz cans), a cup and a half of chicken broth, 1 tbsp dried oregano, half a teaspoon of dried basil, 1 tbsp sugar, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, cover the pot, turn the heat down to medium-low, and simmer for 10-12 minutes. Add 1/4 cup of heavy cream and stir for one minute. Use an immersion blender to blend the soup until smooth. You can also use a regular blender, but the soup needs to cool before transferring it to the blender. Make a grilled cheese sandwich on whole-grain bread to eat with the soup, and enjoy!
Pizza Quesadillas: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Using the high-fiber wraps, spray them with cooking spray and bake for 5 minutes to crisp them up. Remove the tortillas from the oven, spread them with pizza sauce, and add whatever toppings you like – pepperoni, bell pepper, mushrooms, etc. – and sprinkle with cheese. Bake open-faced (like a pizza) for 5-7 minutes until the cheese is bubbly and melted. Remove from the oven and fold them over to make a quesadilla.
*If you are gluten-free, all of these recipes can easily be adapted by using gluten-free tortillas, bread, noodles, and oats.*
Naomi White graduated with her B.S. in Christian Elementary Education and went on to earn her Early Childhood Education certification. She has taught preschool and elementary school in both Christian and public schools. She loves to read and write, is a pastor’s wife and stay-at-home mom, and is eagerly awaiting the day her son is old enough for them to start their own homeschool journey. Originally a Georgia girl, Naomi currently lives in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina with her family.