Now is the time to start thinking about your summer menu. What are you going to make once the weather warms up? Meal planning for the Summer is different from the winter because you have more variety with fruits and vegetables. Meal planning can free you up to play with your family. You will be less stressed and therefore more present in the moment. So, try lightening it up a bit and enjoy some seasonal freshness. As well as the fact that a few of us might have put on some extra pounds during quarantine.
On a side note, with the quarantine, we need to be careful about fresh produce but you can still use it. There are some differing thoughts about how to wash it or decontaminate it. When we lived in Turkey, we always washed our fruits and vegetables in vinegar water and left them in the sink for about 5 minutes. Then we rinsed them 2 times to get the vinegar taste off of them.
So, with all the being said, here are a few tips to start a menu for the summer months.
# 1 Get the Family involved in meal planning
First, a great place to start meal planning for the summer is by asking your family what are some of their favorites for the warmer months? Even your 2 year old can tell you a thing or two about what they want to eat. Ask about breakfast, dinner, entrees and sides, lunches and desserts. Do not forget snacks, children need a good variety of nutritious, hydrating snacks when they play outside in the heat. The more you have planned, the easier your summer will be. If they mention something that may be slightly out of budget, consider making that recipe on a special day, make it fancy, play it up. Have a party around it. Here are some ideas to start you thinking: grilled foods, salads, sandwiches or wraps. Vegetable sticks including jicama and snap peas. What about drinks? Ice tea, juice, no sugar Gatorade and water.
#2 Planning involves list making
After you get some of their favorites, written down, make a list. Divide the list into Breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Next, look at your recipes, past menus, and cook books for more ideas. Another suggestion is to go to blogs, magazines or pinterest. These venues are especially helpful if your family mentions a food they like and you are not sure how to prepare it or would like to prepare it in a new way. When I lived in Turkey, pinterest was my best friend. It was my go to for new foods and how to fix them. Even to make the local cuisine. So, if you are adventurous with food and like to try food from another country, internet is very useful.
After compiling the recipes, make a shopping list with all of the ingredients. If you do a lot of cooking you should not need many of the staples like flour. But if this is new to you, make a separate list of staples such as flour, sugar, baking powder and spices.
Finally, getting all of your menu items together on one list, get out a calendar. Make sure your schedule is on that calendar. You do not want to end up with one of your meals that takes more prep time on a day when you are out most of the day. Once you have added your schedule, you can decide when each menu item fits best. On each calandar day write one item for breakfast, lunch dinner and even a snack.
If you are more of a person that goes by feeling or a week at a time, and cannot even fathom following a menu everyday for a week, then here is what you can do. Use a calander that has a week glance and along the side, a rather large note space. List 7 breakfast, 7 lunches and 7 dinners. Then list the snacks that you will be making available for the week. This is a little more my style. With four kids, homeschooling and working, everyday did not go as planned, imagine that! Consequently, a 7 day plan was much better for me. If we stayed at the zoo longer than was originally planned, I had a few easy meals on the list. Or if I failed to thaw out the chicken that morning, we could eat the salad night menu item.
#3 Summer meal planning means more fruits and vegetables
Go to the Farmer’s market to see what is in season. This is definitely a must if you are meal planning for the summer. If you are up to it, take your children along. they will love the experience. Certainly your children will enjoy walking through the vendor booths, seeing all of the bright colors and smelling the herbs. Maybe you could point out new fruits and vegetables and even bring a few new items home with you to try. As a result of taking the time to go to the Farmer’s market, your food will have much more flavor and you will find yourself using less salt. Nothing is as good as a tomato or a peach that has had time to fully ripen in the sun. Just talking about it is making my mouth water!
Then head to the grocery store with your list to complete your shopping. Or you can order online, which is so much easier.
Since now it is not possible to go to the Farmer’s Market or even take your children to the grocery store her is anther option. Sit and scroll through the grocery store shopping lists as you order on line, let your children look at the produce and scroll through. If they see something that they do not recognize, stop and tell them what it is. maybe try to explain what it tastes like. Then, if it is in budget, tell them we can order one and try it. They are so much more likely to try it when they have chosen it. We always had fun choosing new produce when the seasons changed. We may not have liked everything, but my children tried a large variety of food growing up and with little coaxing.
#4 Summer meal planning means cooking less often
As well as list making and shopping, think of dishes you can cook at the same time. Such as the chicken for chicken spaghetti and “pulled chicken” sandwiches. You can boil or cook a whole chicken in the morning, let it cool then pull it apart or shred it with a fork. Use half the day you cook it and freeze the other half. You can do the same thing with spaghetti sauce and taco meat. Buy larger quantities of meat and separate them into meal size portions before freezing.
When you are meal planning for the summer, you will use more fresh fruits and vegetables therefore, do the same thing with vegetable preparation. Cut up a bag of carrots for soups and freeze them. Cut multiple onions at a time, dice and slice. Do the same thing with bell peppers or soups and even fajitas. Bell peppers really drop in price in the middle of the summer so this could save some money.
#5 Summer time is play time
Finally, since summer is a great time to be outside and play with the kids, think about having an “easy button” day. So maybe Monday is pizza night for the summer. Everyone knows that Monday is pizza night and they begin to look forward to it. Maybe you could do a Friday night is pasta night. Do you how many ways you can make pasta? There were a few years that I had a “Friday Pasta” category on my Pinterest board. Oh my goodness, you could never run out of recipes. Not as easy as ordering pizza but you know that every Friday you are going to make some type of pasta. There is pasta salad, spaghetti, lasagnia, or homemade mac and cheese. Yum! Pasta is even an easy dish the kids could help with or do depending on their age.
Meal planning for the summer is absolutely worth the time it takes. It will give you a plan on those long family days out and free you up to play with your family and not worry. You can set it out in the morning and forget it. Or plan a day that the kids spend time in the kitchen with you and/or dad cooking. Either way, when there is a plan, you have less stress. and with less stress, there is more peace.