Helpful Hacks: Meals - SLO Classical Academy
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Welcome to Down Home, San Luis Obispo Classical Academy’s blog! We are a classical school offering several options to make our education work for families with infants through high schoolers. Our signature hybrid program, which is part-time classroom and part-time home instruction, provides an engaging education for preschool through middle school (with full time options available). We also have a university model high school. This blog is meant to support and encourage on the home front because, in so many ways, the heart of what happens at SLO Classical Academy happens down home.

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Helpful Hacks: Meals

It’s not that we have little time, but more that we waste a good deal of it.


Does your schedule feel like it has gone from 0-60 in the last few months? Were you simply juggling 1-2 balls and someone threw you 20 more? For almost a year there were no plans, no places to go, etc. but now our abbreviated summer seems jammed-packed (or is that just me?). In an effort to help you use your time well, we have put together a series for this summer – Helpful Hacks. At the end of the school year, we invited our SLOCA community to share with us the tips and tricks they use to save themselves time and/or sanity. Each week we will share with you their answers for a specific topic.

This week is all about FOOD. Our bodies need fuel and preparing that fuel is an endless task. And if you have growing kids in your home, well, it may feel that’s all you do some days. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Check out what our SLOCA community does to make feeding their family easier and healthier.

What is a hack that you use to make feeding your family easier?

  • Stacey: I meal plan every week! It’s a must since we have a shallow fridge and 6 people to feed. I have a pretty and useful planner that I use every year to make it a little more fun for me to tackle each week.
  • Susan: We have sit-down dinner together every night, all with a job to support this process. In other words, it takes some action from all to make this possible.
  • Jennifer: We eat out far less when I double batch and put things in the freezer. If I am cooking something that can be frozen, I make plenty of extra to pack some in the freezer. Things like enchiladas, lasagnas, even extra cooked chicken in Ziploc baggies means even dad (or my now older children) can put things in the oven to cook on the busiest of days. When I was only teaching one track, I used my crockpot a lot. I have LOTS of “dump and run” recipes! Now that my son is older, he often starts the crockpot on his independent days.
  • Deena: Cooking 1 main dish to make at least 2 more meals. An example is roasted chicken becomes chicken pesto panini sandwiches, and or chicken garlic wraps.
  • Stephanie: I cook “double dinners.” This can be: a pasta sauce enough for two meals and then just making fresh pasta on night two; Indian curry with fresh rice for the second night; BBQ meat or chicken that turns into tacos for the second dinner; ground taco meat with fresh veggies and tortillas the second night; etc.!
  • Jenny: Hubby cooks dinner while I work on homework with the kids.
  • Cheryl: Meal planning is where it’s at! One of the finds, when the boys were younger, was the Once a Month Meal program. This was actually super helpful and was worth all the prep time! You can find them here:
  • Anna: Instant pot and frozen foods! Haha!
  • Sarah: Every Saturday I meal plan for the week ahead and write down the meals on a chalkboard in our kitchen so there’s no guessing what’s for dinner each night. I make my grocery list based around my meal plan and shop Saturday afternoon. Every Sunday I make a batch of muffins and/or granola bars for the week as well as 5 smoothies for myself (1 for each morning of the weekday). I store the smoothies in mason jars in the fridge so all I have to do each morning is grab it and shake it up a little. It’s an easy way to get a quick, healthy breakfast.
  • Janvi: We take turns but not individually but in a group. A group has two members and in one day two groups take turns. Further, we have the menu decided on every Saturday about what we’re going to eat the next week, but it is very flexible and not a strict one. On Saturday nights we invite or get invited by our neighbors. There we all prepare the meal by dividing small tasks (like chopping veggies and preparing salad).
  • Robin: Whenever possible, I will cook a meal or two ahead so that the oven or bbq is used less often. Go to recipes & cooking info that are referenced often but not memorized are taped to the inside of my cabinet. This way I don’t have to look it up. Just have to open the cabinet door. Different cabinets have different things. Cabinet directly next to the oven has cooking temp times, while the pantry cabinet has recipes. A list of extended family birthdates is taped inside another cabinet door. Nothing is seen from the outside, but wow is it handy to have that info right there. We dealt with severe picky eating. Three concepts that would help any picky eater develop a healthy outlook towards food are: 1) increase interaction with food. If a child isn’t ready to take a bite, they can touch it to their lips or touch it to their tongue or pick it up with a fork. The next interaction will likely be greater eventually leading to eating the food. ie The expectation is not that the food will be eaten on the first introduction, the goal is to increase interaction. They’ve succeeded if they increased interaction. 2) Let it be the child’s choice to eat. Your responsibility is to provide good, healthy meals but it is the child’s choice to eat them. The armchair philosopher might disagree and think these concepts are counterintuitive. Actually, it makes the child feel in control of themselves and they choose to eat rather than be forced. By choosing to do so themselves, you actually gain more ground over the long term. Use phrases like, “You can touch the cucumber to your tongue” while avoiding phrases like, “You have to or You are not getting up from the table until you…” “You can” becomes your best friend, it’s an empowering statement. 3) Food chaining- introduce foods that are similar by some characteristic to a well-loved food. Do they like chicken nuggets? Try a chicken patty or breaded zucchini. Move on to chicken fried steak once those are conquered. Do they like chips? Try different kinds of chips then make your own from a tortilla then try a plain tortilla not made into a chip. Have each food be a stepping stone to another food until they’ve reached a completely different food. Avoid looking for a magic food they will love and use what they already love to expand what they will eat. (See Ellyn Satter MS RD LCSW BCD, “Division of Responsibility” and “Food Chaining by Cheryl Fraker CCC-SLP, CLC)
  • Sarah: I did some freezer meals recently and they were very handy to have on hand. Pinch of Yum is my favorite food blog – I can go to that website and find something to make when I am lacking inspiration.
  • Catherine: Making extra, taking turns with my spouse for “cooling duty”, eating frozen pizza sometimes.
  • Tessa: I don’t pre-plan meals much, as my picky eater will never settle on something days in advance, however, I pick my most stressful day of the week and plan on either leftovers, take out, or a pizza night. I don’t have time for extra stress.
  • Sharon: When I meal plan, I plan our meals around what we already have on hand and what vegetables we will be getting in our Talley Farms Box. Then I look at what events we have coming up in the week and make sure our busiest days either have leftovers on the schedule or something super easy. Also, for school lunches, I like to make a double batch of whatever I feed the kids on our home day so that the next school morning, lunch prep is super easy. (My kids would rather eat a cold bean and cheese burrito than another pb&j).

BONUS: Healthy Hacks

Do you have any tricks or tips that help your family to eat healthier?

  • Stacey: I try to peel a giant bag of carrots every week and cut them up into quarter strips so that we have a really easy go-to snack that the whole family can munch on.
  • Deena: Purchasing Talley Farms boxes.
  • Stephanie: Fruit!
  • Jenny: We have our own garden, it is some work but it allows the kids to engage with their food. We raised our own meat and it allows the kids to see where our food comes from.
  • Cheryl: Model, model, model!! Also, limit buying/storing junk in the pantry.
  • Sarah: I try to keep processed foods to a minimum. If it’s not in the house my kids are way more likely to grab an apple or a cheese stick, etc when hunger strikes. I also like to create a simple snack platter for my kids to munch off of.
  • Janvi: There is a game, the one who eats more veggies in a week gets the preference to decide what we’re going to eat next week.
  • Robin: Prepping healthy foods, like cutting up fruit and raw veggies, makes healthy options fast options. We tend to gravitate to the foods we can reach for quickly, so prepping helps make healthy foods an option. Realizing that we as parents are the gatekeepers of what comes into our homes is key towards minimizing unhealthy options. If unhealthy options are less frequently available, they will be eaten less frequently.
  • Sarah: Picnic meals are my kids’ favorites. I bring them one plate with turkey, crackers, fruit, and veggies and it usually comes back empty.
  • Catherine: Green smoothies.
  • Tessa: Buy and prep good snacks. Lots of fruit and veggies ready to go. Less likely to grab something sad when you have grapes sitting there waiting for you.
  • Sharon: My kids know when they are hungry before dinner they can always have a fruit or a veggie. A plate of raw veggies on the table before dinner is always more likely to be consumed than that same platter of veggies at dinner. Also, I add spinach to every smoothie I make. You can’t taste it and the kids have gotten used to green (or sometimes another weird color) smoothies.

Thank you to all who shared with us their meal tips. Did you notice a reoccurring theme? There are definitely tricks that save time in regards to meals, but often, you just have to be willing to put some time into planning and prepping.

What are your meal hacks? Are you trying anything new this summer? Tells us about it in the comments below!

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