Cafeteria Duty in an Online School

How do you tackle snack time and lunch time when you’re busy for a good part of the day being learning coach and mentor to your children?

Here are several ideas to help make this daily task a bit more manageable and not quite so demanding.

Plan Ahead
It’s just as important to plan ahead for snacks and meals as it is to get organized in an online school. For some it works well to make a weekly or monthly meal plan, but that’s a bit overwhelming to me so I take it one day at a time.  I plan a weekly grocery list which includes our favorite healthy snacks and lunch items.  The common staples are always on my list and I keep a notepad on the side of the fridge so we can add to the list throughout the week.

Prep Ahead
The night before I cut up veggies and/or fruits and put them in small Tupperware containers or bowls. Snack time is an easy grab-and-go the next day.

Double the Recipe and Freeze
Meals made in advance are a great time saver. When you’re cooking dinner and it’s a family favorite that freezes well, remember to double and freeze for an easy homemade family favorite lunch that just pops in the microwave. For those recipes that just won’t double well, make the recipe twice.

Before freezing I always let foods cool down so the food will freeze uniformly. I freeze in small Tupperware containers that go straight from the freezer to the microwave. There are lots of dishes that freeze well, like casseroles, soups, and chili, so the next time you’re cooking dinner, double the recipe.

Encourage independence and making healthy choices
Start by getting your kids involved in the shopping, the chopping, and the preparing, so they learn how to cook and make good choices for snacks and lunch. You’ll be teaching a very important life skill and incorporating academics into having fun.

Function as a team
What do your kids already help with in the kitchen and what could they do that they don’t already do? Enlist your younger ones to wash the fruit, set the table and mix, stir, mash, roll, measure, beat, or grate.

Frozen meals
They come in handy on “Those” days, and we’ve all have “Those” days, so stocking up on some of your favorite frozen meals may be just the thing to get you through that day full of unexpected ‘stuff’. Our entrée favorites are Morning Star and Boca and our veggie favorite is Pictsweet Steam’ables which comes in a wide variety and veggies are ready in minutes.

Occasionally give in to the world of fast foods
Did I just say that? Okay, so occasionally we’ll pick up a pizza or treat ourselves to Qdoba for lunch.

Ideas for those easy to reach healthy grab and go snacks:

Peanut butter on whole wheat pita bread or spread it with jelly for those with peanut allergies. Put them in sandwich bags and refrigerate.

Peanut butter on celery.

Yogurt or Yoplait Go-Gurt which freezes great.

Fresh fruit is always a great choice for a healthy grab and go snack.

Get creative and skew your favorite fruits with some fun cheese shapes.

 Cheese sticks

Smoothies are always a fun family favorite, especially when they’re made into popsicles. Blend your favorite fruit, yogurt, and ice. Then pour them into Popsicle trays and freeze for a convenient afternoon snack. Here are some fun popsicle molds that you can find at Target or Wal-Mart.

Fruit snacks

Microwave popcorn

Granola bars

Rice cakes


Apple sauce

Trail Mix:
Dried fruit: raisins, dried apricots, banana chips, apple chips, dried papaya, dried cranberries, diced pineapple, and dried cherries.
Nuts and seeds: peanuts, almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds.
Cereals: Any breakfast cereals like granola, Chex, Cheerios, or Cinnamon Toast Crunch.
Other goodies: yogurt raisins, M&Ms, Wasabi peas or roasted green peas, pretzels, sesame sticks, popcorn, and roasted corn nuts.

You have committed to being a learning coach on top of all the many responsibilities you have that make up a well-run household.  And now everyone is home all day, so not only is your home continually lived-in, but you also have meals to plan for round the clock.

Get a plan into action that will work for you.

Relax your standards.

Find that balance between home-based education and day-to-day responsibilities.

Be flexible.

Have fun learning!

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  1. Tillie Elvrum says:

    Great words of wisdom for busy learning coaches and their students. I might add that the slow cooker is my best friend during the school year…works well into your plan for doubling recipes and freezing for later. I might add that my son once told a state senate education panel that his favorite part of e-schooling was lunch…it was always what he liked to eat. He was eight. 😉

    • Great minds think alike, Tillie! I was planning on doing a post tomorrow on Crock Pot cooking. Kudos to your son for sharing that lunch in an e-school is his favorite part of the day, especially when he can eat what he likes. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Great ideas and just in time for my grocery shopping trip later today! It’s getting a bit easier. I am absolutely going to start doubling recipes. I’ve not put many meals in the freezer, but I think that would be a great solution for us! Thanks for your guidance once again!


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