Make dinnertimes easier this school year


Written by Jessica Fisher of Good Cheap Eats and Life as Mom

Several times during a school year, the thought hits me: I just can’t do it all.

I can keep a perfectly tidy home, or I can rock an awesome homeschool, or I can make healthy, three-course meals three times a day, or I can run a great home business.

Did you see the or’s?

I simply cannot do them all, all the time. When school lessons are going great, the house is often a mess. When I am writing great content and keeping up on all aspects of my writing business, I might end up skipping science for the week. When my house is spotless, it’s probably a sign that everything else has fallen by the wayside.

There are only so many hours in a day. None of us can do it all on her own. We all have areas where we need to simplify, pull out a few tricks, and delegate.

You gotta eat, right? Thankfully, my desire for good meals has helped me identify shortcuts to meal times that mean I can do at least two things well in a given season.

Is dinner prep one of those tricky spots for you? Consider these tips for making dinner quick and easy this school year:


1. Plan your meals.

Meal planning is not difficult or time-intensive, but it can really help you make dinner without a lot of fuss. If you spend ten minutes each week jotting down meals you can make, you’ll have a better idea of how to shop, when to thaw stuff from the freezer, and you’ll know exactly what to do when you wrap up school for the day.

A meal plan also lets you delegate dinner prep to someone else in the family. (This is key to doing more things that you can accomplish alone.)

2. Prep ahead.

Sunday afternoons spent chopping and dicing for the week’s meals can save your bacon when it’s time to make dinner, but you’re too tired to make it.

By planning and prepping in advance, you set yourself up for success. All you need to do is assemble – or make one of your minions do it.

3. Shop with time-savings in mind.

Don’t be afraid to buy that slightly-more-expensive-but- easier-to-serve item. While my kids can, indeed, go through a box of cereal every morning, that two bucks is well-spent. It buys me at least 30 minutes each day to spend on other things.

Pre–washed baby spinach, pre-cooked bacon, and shredded cheese are other real food convenience items that help me save a few more minutes.

4. Make it in 30 minutes.

Think about the quick meals and focus on those for school night dinners. Pizza, while delicious, often takes a couple hours when I make the dough from scratch. But, I can buy fresh loaves of French bread or a package of pita bread and have a delicious pizza night in a lot less time.

With a few tweaks, you can put your favorite recipes into hyper-drive.

A note from Jamie: If making meals more quickly, yet still on a budget, appeals to you (uh, yes please!), I urge you to check out Jessica’s newly released cookbook, Good Cheap Eats: Dinner in 30 Minutes or Less.


In it you’ll find 200 recipes that you can cook in 30 minutes or less.

These meals are kid-friendly and easy on the budget. They’ll help you take a shortcut to dinnertime over the course of the homeschool year without sacrificing good taste or time with your family.

Do you have tips for making dinner time easier during the school year?

About Jessica

Once a public high school teacher, Jessica now homeschools five of her six children, covering 2nd through 10th grades. Her oldest is in college, so the experiment appears to have worked! Grab a copy of Jessica’s new cookbook Good Cheap Eats Dinner in 30 Minutes or Less and the accompanying monthly meal plan to help you save money, eat well, and enjoy some freer time.


  1. I’m all for saving time in the kitchen. Prepping lunch ahead is key for me. I don’t mind making dinner (usually, though having pizza crusts etc. in the freezer helps) but lunch is torture. Being GF/DF makes convenience foods VERY expensive, however.

    Having “theme days” like Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, One-Dish-Wednesday, and so on makes a huge difference for me for meal planning. Removes some of the decision fatigue.

    (P.S. I’d love love love love to know what app/site/tool you use to add text to photos! They always look so fabulous!)

  2. I completely agree that something always seems to be floundering if others are going well…and that’s usually food in our house. On the weekends we eat like king’s, because my husband is home. But during the week he is home late, so we eat A LOT of peanut butter and jelly!
    Katie Laws’s latest post: Changing Homeschooling Plans/When Life Happens: Week 3 Wrap-Up

  3. Dharmarahkonen says:

    I want to say that you are mistaken, but really can’t. I have tried and experienced very much what you did. That said, I’m always on the look out for the magic planner, shortcut, recipe or whatever. So far no luck, so then tips and short cuts help. It would be great to see the actual calendar of meals. I have one of sorts, but sometimes the scheduled meal just does not have a receptive audience and it gets voted out. I do have stand ins. still my best time saving secret is my slow cooker and vita mixer duo.
    I have a collection of 10 minutes recipes. (prep) and rotate them.
    Thanks for the tips and the blog.

  4. This is such a great post. I am all about encouraging moms to find time to plan,prep and have dinner as a family! It’s such an important time of the day for families. My friend and I believe in it so much that we started a blog called meal planning mommies. We would love for any moms out there interested to check it out as we provide you with a printable meal planner and grocery list every week. I’m a homeschooling momma too, so I try to make the meals easy! Thanks for this post! It was right on!

  5. That book looks so helpful! I have littles, so we’re not at the more structured homeschool stage yet, but that feeling of “I can’t do it all!” is definitely there.

    I started meal planning this past year and it has been the game changer everyone promised it would be. I can’t believe I resisted jumping on that bandwagon for so long! I try to keep healthy, authentic meals coming out of my kitchen, but I definitely have much less time to cook than I used to.
    Amy M’s latest post: The Children’s Shelf – 18 Months Old

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