When it comes to homeschooling and being with kids all day long, I have to do what I can to limit the amount of extra thinking in my day. Second grade math is about my limit, is that normal? (Don’t answer.) Since I can’t skip over place value notation, skipping over standing in front of the fridge and deciding what’s for lunch is the next best thing I have.
Lately, my lunch planning was taken to a new level with the idea of a lunch matrix. I stole this from the Lazy Genius (have you heard of her?), who introduced me to the concept of a dinner matrix. (This is where you assign one type of food to each day of the week. For example, pasta on Mondays.)
For our lunch matrix we rotate the same exact meals every day of the week plus a raw veggie and fruit. That’s it! Half of winning the meal planning battle is sometimes just giving yourself permission to make the food everyone likes over and over, you know? And honestly, when I look at Pinterest, most lunch ideas usually are the same things over and over!
Here is how it works. The main entree is something I know everyone will like because lunch is not the time I am trying to win foodie awards or Nutritional Mom of the Year. We don’t have any kind of special diet, but I do try to buy as much organic food as I have access to.
As much as I would love to serve tomato soup and crab salad sandwiches with a cup of custard and a tiny vase of violets, I am unfortunately unable to live up to Mother in Bread and Jam for Frances. (The woman makes us all look like barbarians.) My goal is to keep us out of the drive through line while providing some reasonable nutrition!
So to sum it up: Main entree + fruit + raw veggie. Ranch may be utilized should the need arise.
It’s easy and it works. One great thing about homeschooling is that we are not limited to cold lunches, which opens up our options a little bit. I have learned to avail myself of organic macaroni and cheese too, by the way. It’s a weekly treat my kids look forward to.
I should also note that my lunch matrix is kids-only. I eat leftovers or something I prepped for myself that week. (I love Greek bowls for lunch!) I have also been known to help myself to a teeny trough of mac and cheese from time to time. (One hundred percent of the time I burn my mouth on at least one big bite while it’s still on the stove because that’s when it’s best and that’s a universal fact.)
Here is ours weekly lunch matrix:
Monday: Macaroni and Cheese
Tuesday: Peanut Butter and Jelly or (Cream Cheese and Jelly) Sandwiches
Wednesday: Bean and Cheese Quesadillas
Thursday: Smoothies and Popcorn
Friday: Cheese and Crackers or Grilled Cheese (kids choice)
Saturday: Leftovers/Raid the Kitchen
Sunday: Family Brunch
I always let the kids pick the fruits and veggies when we do our weekly grocery shopping. Kiwi, grapes and carrots are all favorites. Oh, and if you have a big pile of salsa with your quesadilla, it counts as a veggie! I sometimes add spinach to the smoothies, but my kids still prefer to keep them strictly fruit and pick a separate veggie because they like to know what they’re getting into and I relate to that.
This matrix of course is always subject to whatever happens in our week. I move these around whenever needed. You might notice there is no lunch meat on here because my kids for some reason are averse to it and I’m not about to be wasting my money on organic turkey for the trauma of seeing it wither to room temperature.
Snack boards of course are always a fall-back. I could do those every day but I really try to save them for our Sunday evening family movie. Makes closing the weekend out super easy and there’s just a festive element to a big tray of snacks, you know?
When we are low on groceries or need something different sometime’s I’ll sub in muffins and yogurt or bean and cheese nachos.
One thing I think I would like to introduce to our lunch matrix is hard-boiled eggs. I never liked them, so I never think to make them, but with a dill pickle and a tiny cardboard container of salt and pepper? Frances really inspires me to give it a try.
At first I worried the repetition would never fly, but my kids absolutely love knowing what we are eating for lunch and look forward it every day. We are people of redundancy around here and we like it.
Another unforeseen blessing is that it simplifies my grocery shopping. Instead of grabbing random things “to have around for lunches,” I just get what’s on my matrix and don’t waste money or pantry space!
I hope you feel inspired by our lunch matrix! And read Bread and Jam for Frances! It’s so good. Here’s a couple pretty pins for your boards, so you can save these ideas for a rainy day.