One of the challenges of staying home with your kids every single day, is that you have to keep feeding them. I love food, but even I get burned out on cooking every meal every day. And while I have no problem with throwing a good PB&J at them, I don’t want a sandwich every day. While left overs don’t always appeal, I’ve got a few tried and true tips to make keeping your kids (and yourself) fed! Check out my two-day meal plans below. Make the dinner, and then recycle it into a lunch that everyone will eat.

Pair One: Mexican Chicken

Day one is the easiest possible dinner recipe: Chicken Tacos. Put 3 pounds of chicken breasts (give or take, this is flexible) in your crock pot. Then top it with a jar of salsa. Really, any salsa you like. I usually use a cheap one for this, and if it seems really thick, I may add 1/2 cup of water. Sprinkle with salt. Cook on high for at least 4 hours. Take out the chicken and shred it with 2 forks. Use the chicken as the basis for chicken tacos, burritos or whatever Mexican food your family likes. All you need is your favorite topping and tortillas.

I love making this meal on busy days when I know I won’t care what we eat by dinner time.

Day Two: Chicken Tortilla Soup. Okay, this is one of my favorite cold weather lunches, but It is a little more complicated than the dinner. Important to know: this recipe is 100% flexible. Don’t like something on my list? Leave it out. If you like your soup more or less spicy, that is also easy to personalize. This is the most forgiving soup I’ve ever made, and honestly, I tend to tweak it every time I make it. It still ends up being soup.


  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 stalk of celery, chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, diced fine (optional)
  • 48 ounces chicken broth
  • 1 15-oz can black beans, rinsed
  • 1 cup frozen corn, or 1 15-oz can of corn drained and rinsed
  • 1 15-oz can diced tomatoes (fire roasted if you can find them!)
  • Left over shredded chicken tacos from the night before
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper
  • 2 Tablespoon Chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon Paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric (Okay, honestly I’m just throwing this in for the health benefits)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 zucchini, sliced (optional)
  • leftover rice or other things that sound good to you to add (optional)


Sauté the onion, carrot, and celery for about 5 minutes, or until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and jalapeño (if desired) and sauté 1 more minute. Pour in the chicken broth, black beans, corn and diced tomatoes. Add the shredded chicken and seasonings. At this point you can add what other veggies, rice, or other things that sound good to you.  Let it all simmer together for a while until the flavors blend. Serve with corn chips, cheese, sour cream, sli or guacamole (basically what ever taco fixings you have left over from the night before).

Again, you get to decide what is in this. Soups are a great way to use veggies and leftovers that you don’t have a plan for or are a bit past their prime but still good. No one wants to eat the kale that looks like it was in the fridge for a few days too many…but it will go great in a soup.

Pair Two: BBQ Chicken

Day 1: Barbecue Chicken. Throw in your crock pot 3 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs. Add 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce, 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, and 1/2 cup water. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and chili powder and cumin.

Cook on high for at least 4 hours. Remove meat from liquid. Shred and mix with barbecue sauce of your choice, we like Sweet Baby Ray’s. Put it on the plate, or put it on a bun for sandwiches. Serve with frozen french fries, baked beans and coleslaw. When I’m feeling sassy I make this instant pot version of baked beans, as one of my kids is allergic to pork. My coleslaw recipe is to combine a bag of shredded cabbage with some ranch dressing.

Day 2: For several years, my family lived in Memphis, TN, a place that believes in putting shredded pork barbecue on everything. In honor of that, lunch the next day with this meal is a creative use of barbecue. Serve it on nachos, baked potatoes, or top a salad with it!

Pair 3: Beef Tacos

Day 1: Make beef tacos. There are more recipes available for this than I can count, or you can even get a seasoning packet at the grocery store and make them the way my mom did in the 1980’s. Just double the beef (or triple if you have teenagers) and you have ready made leftovers. Serve tacos.

Day 2: Use the left over beef to make nachos. Just heat the meat for a minute in the microwave, put on corn chips, sprinkle with cheese and microwave another 30 seconds. Add chopped tomatoes, olives or salsa. The trick here is to make sure you are using nachos instead of taco shells or tortillas to make it feel like a different meal.

Hang in there!

There are lots of other ways to pair dinner today with lunch tomorrow. So, find one that works for you to take the stress out of your week. Feeding the family is hard. Feeding them without leaving the house is even more stressful. I hope some of these tricks work for you. What else do you like to feed your family for more than one meal? Share in the comments!

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About the Author

Laura Sowdon, OTR/L is an occupational therapist, writer, speaker, educator and creator of the Five Senses Literature Lessons homeschool curriculum. She has worked as an occupational therapist with children in public and private schools, as well as private practice. Laura has taught and managed homeschool co-ops as well as homeschooling her own three children. Laura is dedicated to the idea of educating children at a pace that aligns with brain and physical development milestones and respects neurodiversity in all its forms.

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