Does summer have you off your dinnertime game a bit? With kids out of school, getting used to new schedules and taking advantage of being outside later, it’s likely your normal dinner routine may not be as ‘routine’ as it was during the fall and spring. Couple that with the higher temps that make us even more unlikely to cook at home, and you have a recipe for too much take-out!
I love summer as much as the next person, but the heat makes me cranky. (We don’t have air conditioning, as many of you can relate, I’m sure.) The last thing I want to do on a hot day is turn on my oven, and I find I’m often busier in the summer than the winter, so my weekly food-prep habit often falls by the wayside. We end up eating out or ordering pizza (gasp!) WAY more than we should, simply because we don’t have pre-prepped food to eat after a busy day working in the yard.
Here are a couple ways you can make sure you have quick, healthy options stocked away any time of day, whether it’s your kids (and their friends!) at lunch, or trying to get dinner on the table for whole family after afternoon at the pool. Don’t miss out on the best of summer’s produce just because you’re busy!
Be Strategic about Meal Prep
Summer weekends tend to be busy, and afternoons are hot—your usual Sunday afternoon meal-prep session probably isn’t realistic right now. Instead, do any cooking first-thing in the morning or in the evening, when temps are cooler. I have definitely had to point a fan directly into the kitchen while cooking before! I often hard-boil eggs in the morning because that’s when I think about eggs. Also, do a little at a time so you don’t work up a sweat. Cook eggs in the morning, slice extra veggies while prepping salads for lunch and mix up your overnight oats before you go to bed. It’s not uncommon for me to check the weather while planning my weekly meals! If we have an unseasonably cool day and your schedule allows, consider making a big batch of rice or roasting veggies for later.
Do yourself a favor and keep foods that require little prep and can be eaten without cooking during these busy, hot months. I know I don’t have the energy to do much in the kitchen after a hectic day, or hours spent outside in the sun. Meals like chicken or tuna salads, overnight oats, smoothies and ‘snack’ dinners (plates of small items, like veggies and hummus, cheese cubes, deli meat) are way easier than trying to cook something from scratch.
Pantry: canned beans for salads, oats, canned chicken or tuna
Fridge: fresh fruits and veggies, yogurt, deli meat, hummus, cheese, salsa
Freezer: bagged fruits and veggies, pre-made smoothies, pre-cooked rice, microwavable steamer bags of veggies
Use the Grill
While I don’t like to grill (it’s one of my irrational fears), I love it when my husband does! Grilling creates fewer dishes and keeps the house cooler. Bratwurst and Italian sausages are his favorites, and we should start buying hot dogs and hamburgers in bulk with all the hosting we’ve been doing now that our patio is finished. However, you can grill more than just meat! Wrap ears of corn in foil with a little butter—delicious! I also like to use foil to make ‘packets’ for veggie mixes; try cut-up sweet potatoes with fresh thyme and green onions dressed in olive oil. You can also grill romaine hearts (cut them in half lengthwise first), and stone fruits like peaches do very well on the grill. You can even use the grill in your meal prep—have your hubby grill the chicken for your weekday lunches while he’s cooking dinner!
On a hot day, the thought of simply pulling something out of a cold fridge and digging in sounds glorious.
-Overnight oats: mix oats, yogurt and milk (nut or dairy) in a 1:1:1 ratio (i.e. 1/3 cup each) with ½ mashed banana and place in the fridge for at least 5 hours. In the morning, add additional liquid if necessary and mix-ins, like fresh fruit or granola.
-Hard-boiled eggs with fruit
-Salad! (Why not?!)
-Homemade ‘Bento’ boxes with assorted fruits and veggies, deli meat or cooked chicken and nuts or cheese
-Turkey Roll-Ups: sliced peppers rolled up in turkey slices with guacamole
-Chicken or tuna salad on greens or sliced apple and whole-grain crackers
-Cold soups, like gazpacho
-Roasted chicken (purchased at a local grocery store), paired with salad or steamed veggies
It’s ironic that I often feel flabbier during the summer when I’m baring more skin, likely because we get ice cream too often! Or maybe we’re all just a bit too critical of ourselves. Either way, making sure you eat fresh, healthy meals most of the time lets you enjoy a meal on the deck at Rick’s or walking to the Caboose for ice cream that much more enjoyable.