All. Summer. Long. That’s how long the kiddos are home. And, I’m pretty pumped about it. I’ve created our schedule of fun activities and ‘field trips’, and our standing appointments at the library all set. The *ONLY* thing that makes me a bit hesitant to fully embrace the summer is having summer dinner ideas that are fun and relaxed but still allow me to work within some sort of plan. Because, I know our home runs best when we have some sort of structure.
The truth is, as wonderfully carefree as the summer is, it’s a different type of busy. It’s a busy that’s full of relaxed days, spur of the moment decisions to go to the pool, and last minute runs to grab ice cream. This kind of un-structured day is the kind that I’m craving right now, for sure. But, it also carries the potential to wreak havoc on my pretty tried and true methods of getting dinner on the table each night. So, how do we balance the joys of summer with the need to actually feed these little people? For me, it’s having some great summer dinner ideas up my sleeve for use at a moment’s notice.
Involve the kiddos.
This time of the year should be super fun (really, the whole year should be). And, the best way to do that is to ask for input from the kids on the kinds of summer dinner ideas they have. You’d be surprised at out how eager to help they really are. From choosing the menus to prepping the food, once kiddos get to be about 2-3, you really can start to include them and have them help out. That might be DIY English Muffin pizzas, making a huge batch of muffins (freezing the leftovers), or hitting the mix button on the blender for afternoon smoothies.
A new approach that we’re using this summer is having the kids plan the week’s breakfasts, lunches and snacks. We’ve always used a weekly rotation of breakfasts, lunches, and snacks to simplify meals during the school year. During the summer, though, we pull out our dry erase weekly planner on Sundays and the kids alternate planning the meals from the choices we have. They are better vested in mealtime, so there’s far less complaining about what we’re eating AND they’re more likely to eat it because THEY picked it.
Use the grill.
Like, all the time. The prep work is minimal, the flavor is ah-mazing, clean up is almost non-existent and most everything you grill is a whole food, so these meals are usually pretty healthy. Need some inspiration recipes? Check out my recent round-up post with 12 grilling recipes, sure to help your week roll along more smoothly.
And, to simplify other meals, be sure that when you do grill, you cook more than what you’ll eat at dinner. Leftover grilled chicken, beef, pork, and veggies can all go in a salad, quesadilla or wrap to make a quick, healthy lunch. And, on those nights that you come home later than expected or are hungrier earlier than normal, having leftover cooked meats and veggies will be a life saver.
Embrace Groundhog Day.
For sure, during busy seasons, I always revert back to systems. And, since we can agree that we don’t really want to slow down to PLAN during the summer months, let’s agree that having some a system in place that basically does the planning for you is exactly what will help make this time enjoyable. In my meal planning course, What the Fork is for Dinner?, I talk a lot about how using theme nights is the key to making this weekly task simpler.
Wondering if using theme nights will provide enough variety? Check out some of these ideas to add variety to your weekly rotation.
Picnics aren’t just for lunches.
‘Tis the season. Picnics don’t have to be something you travel to get to and they don’t have to happen at high noon. Some of the best summer dinner ideas involve eating on our back deck, throwing a blanket down in our side yard or even eating on the front porch when it rains. Take the chance to mix up the scenery a bit to help take the monotony out of the summertime wash, rinse, and repeat of mealtime.
Mama ain’t too proud to use shortcuts.
Think of how long we spend in the kitchen! There’s food prep, actual cooking, and clean-up. And, if I’m being honest, the kitchen is the last place I want to spend my summer. So, use a couple of these shortcuts to start and then…go crazy coming up with your own.
- I’m a proud member of the paper plate club. Yep…my degrees are in biology and I know they are not THE most environmentally conscious choice, but the welfare of my children, I will use them and love them.
- Use your slow cooker every chance you get! Once considered as just cool weather meals, there are now plenty of summer-worthy slow cooker meals. Hop on over to my Pinterest page to see just a few of them.
- Embrace the rotisserie chicken every chance you get. Use it for enchiladas, chicken salads, burrito bowls, paninis…you name a dish that needs chicken and I will show you how to simplify it using a rotisserie chicken.
Hopefully, these simple summer dinner ideas offer you some encouragement to look forward to the lazy days of summer. So, go! Spend an unplanned day with your family and don’t worry about dinnertime…too much.
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