Online School and Meal Planning Making You Stressed? Read This!

There is no getting around the fact that school looks a lot different for many families this fall. With the COVID-19 health crisis sending many of the nation's school districts to an online model of learning, families everywhere are gearing up for a new kind of normal.

One of the biggest challenges of having kids learning at home is that there are no more school lunch programs to lean on to nourish your children during the day. Instead, parents need to also worry about having nutritious and easily accessible food ready for hungry kids throughout the entirety of the school day.

Here are a few things to keep in mind to help to make this element of the online learning process to go more smoothly.

Involve the Kids

Rather than taking all of the responsibility for breakfast and lunch planning on yourself, make it easier by involving the kids in the process. Not only will this make it easier for you, but it will also be a good learning experience for your children. This is the perfect example of how you can make lemonade out of lemons during this global pandemic.

Menu Plan

Part of involving the kids in the process starts with letting them help with the menu planning. They will be less likely to turn their noses up at the meals each day if they were a part of deciding what would be served. Start the process by having your kids come up with at least 20 lunchtime meal ideas that you can rotate throughout the school year. Having enough variety will keep them from getting bored with the choices.

This is also a good opportunity for them to learn useful budgeting skills. You can make this meal planning part of the education that they are now receiving at home. Involving the kids in grocery shopping will also teach them valuable life skills about nutrition.

Use the Bin Method

Many families have found great success with the bin method. Under this system, you create a series of bins that house different food groups. When lunchtime rolls around, the kids can grab and go items from each bin to create a healthy and well-balanced meal.

For example, a bin in the refrigerator could hold cut-up and washed veggies such as baby carrots, celery, and broccoli florets. Next to this should be another bin to hold orange slices, apples, grapes, and berries. A third bin can be filled with deli meat, string cheese, hardboiled eggs, yogurt, or other sources of protein. This makes it easy for the kids to grab one item from each bin to devise a full meal.

It is also a good idea to have bins in the pantry full of whole-grain crackers, granola bars, fruit leathers, applesauce pouches, popcorn bags, and other fun snacks that you know your children will enjoy. Your kids will love being empowered to make their own food choices and to mix and match different foods each day.

Prep on Sunday Night

You can save yourself a lot of headaches if you do the bulk of the food prep before the busy school week kicks off. Set aside time each Sunday to get the meals mostly ready so that you can spend time during the school day helping the kids to focus on their studies.

When you get home from the grocery store, make the effort to wash all of your fruits and vegetables and put them in stay-fresh containers. This will make it easier for you to grab what you need for fast lunch and breakfast meals.

You can take this idea one step further by making some meals ahead of time. It is easy to prepare egg bites or mini omelets to have on hand for quick breakfasts when time is tight. Muffins also freeze well and are easy for young kids to thaw and eat.

You do not have to make mealtime a struggle when your kids are learning at home. By arming yourself with a plan and a little patience, you can make this part of your day go as smoothly as possible. This will allow you to direct your attention to helping your children to be successful in this new way of learning.

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