We’ve got some quick tips to make summer meal planning a breeze - and healthy.
Try theme nights.
Some families set theme nights for fun and consistency.
For example, Mondays might be grilled panini nights; Tuesdays and Thursdays, crockpot nights, Wednesdays (Hump Day!), no-cook veggie and cheese nights; Fridays and Saturdays, chill grill nights; and Sundays, dinner out or easy-peasy leftovers.
Or, try dishes from different countries: Monday’s Italian night. Tuesday’s Mexican. Wednesday is Thai.
You can also modify recipes to be healthier or fit your family’s tastes, whether vegan or gluten-free, for example.
Tip: Get the kids involved in picking theme nights and recipes, along with food buying (or picking from the garden), prepping and cooking.
Do your shopping on Saturdays.
Make it a family thing and shop for your week’s groceries on Saturdays.
To save time, sign up for a service at your local grocer so you can order online and pick your week’s wares up at the store’s front door.
Tip: Consider signing up for a healthy ingredient-and-recipe meal kit service with weekly delivery.
Indulge in raw summer veggies.
Whether you’re gathering the goods from your garden or grabbing them at the farmers market, veggies like corn, peppers, zucchini, asparagus and tomatoes taste divine in the raw.
Use them profusely tossed in salads and sliced thinly on sandwiches.
Tip: On Sunday, chop up your veggies and store them in separate containers in the fridge. When it’s time to pack lunches or prepare a quick dinner, just grab and go.
Grab a couple of rotisserie chickens.
In the summer, protein that’s already prepped can be your best friend, whether it’s rotisserie chickens - usually $5 a pop - or canned tuna or frozen fully cooked grass-fed beef or cage-free chicken. Hard-boil a few dozen eggs as well for sandwiches and salads.
Tip: You can also grill your week’s protein outside.
Don’t forget your grains.
While we’re aiming for more no-cook meals, grain bowls topped with lean proteins and raw or steamed veggies are great, satiating summer meals.
Invest in a rice cooker and brew a big batch of brown or wild rice once a week. If quinoa is your go-to-grain, get that going on the stovetop on Saturday or Sunday afternoon.
Tip: Let your grains cool before storing them in the fridge in an airtight container.
Set up your spreads.
Don’t forget your vinaigrettes and spreads like hummus, guacamole or Greek yogurt dip, whether you make or buy them.
These dressings will turn your salads and grain bowls into delicious dishes you’ll crave all week.
Tip: Make your own vinaigrette by mixing one part acid (lemon juice, lime juice or vinegar), two parts oil (try extra-virgin olive oil) and your fave chopped herbs, spices or even a little honey mustard.
Embrace no-cook meals.
Many families love no-cook, light meals in the summer: think raw veggies and hummus, sandwiches layered with cheese, avocado and veggies on 100% whole grain bread, or yummy plates of hard-boiled eggs, olives, seasonal fruit, raw veggies, bread and cheese.
The slow cooker is your new best friend.
Pretty much one step removed from actual cooking is your crockpot.
The beauty here is that you can cook any meal in your slow cooker, from breakfast veggie frittatas and granola mixes, to summer chowders chock full of sweet potatoes and squash, to Sante Fe chicken and seafood boils brimming with potatoes, corn cobs and shrimp.
Tip: You’ll find lots of super-easy, summer-inspired one-pot dishes online.
Embrace your grill.
Besides cooking a week of protein on the grill, lots of families just make their grill their summer stove and oven.
You can cook almost anything on the grill, including pizza, fish tacos and veggies.
Start a neighborhood meal club.
This is where you can really get creative. Whether you share easy meal recipes in a Google doc with other parents, or you hold a potluck once a week at a different house, meal sharing can be fun, easy and community-building in the summer months.