Summer Meal Planning Made Easy
“Putting together a weekly meal plan is one of the best habits to develop when you transition to a homemade lifestyle. Having a meal plan in place makes life less stressful and it makes mealtime healthier. Meal planning will help you to save money and time, too.” -Conquering Your Kitchen, pp. 41 & 54
Summertime is my favorite time of year for meal planning. Gardens and farms are overflowing with a rainbow of colors, and it’s easier than ever to put great food on the table.
Schedules can be erratic in the summer, though, and this can challenge the most dedicated meal planner’s resolve. Follow these tips to keep meal planning easy in the summer.
Summer Meal Planning Made Easy
Focus on Seasonal Produce
In the winter, many of us fail to get our quota of five produce servings a day. We have no good excuse in the summer, though.
Whether you shop at the farmers’ market or the grocery store, grow your own or belong to a CSA, delicious local produce can be found everywhere you turn in the summer. Plan your summertime meals around produce that’s in season. Enjoy main dish salads and be creative with meals like zucchini spaghetti.
Keep the Kitchen Cool
Nobody wants to turn on the oven in the summer, so look for grilling recipes to keep the heat out of the kitchen. Meat and vegetables can cook side by side on the grill, keeping dinner prep and dirty pans to a minimum.
The slow cooker is another great resource for summer meals. Dinner can cook on the counter while you spend the day at the beach, and it will be waiting for you when you get home.
Consult Your Calendar and Plan Accordingly
When planning meals in the summer, it’s essential to look at your calendar before deciding what’s for dinner each night. Some evenings will allow you to prepare dinner at a leisurely pace, while other evenings will present challenges. With a meal plan in place, you’ll be able to successfully address the roadblocks.
My children are on the swim team, so we find ourselves sitting at various ponds during dinnertime a couple nights a week throughout the summer. Calzone and salad in a jar are perfect for meals on the go.
Don’t Stop Meal Planning on Vacation
Summer is the season of vacations, and it’s nice to get an extended break from cooking while you’re away. But it’s still a good idea to plan what you’ll be eating when you’re on vacation.
If you’re staying somewhere with a kitchen, you can plan some easy meals and make a trip to the grocery store. If you’ll be eating out, it’s a great idea to scope out the restaurant options before you travel. Consult Eat Well Guide and Trip Advisor for restaurant suggestions at your destination, and review menus online before your trip.
I also like to visit farmers’ markets wherever we go on vacation. These tend to be a great place to pick up an affordable lunch and get a sense of the local culture at the same time. You can also purchase unique souvenirs from the local artisan producers.
What are your favorite summertime meals? Please share in the comments.
Annemarie Rossi is the author of Conquering Your Kitchen and the creator of Real Food Real Deals. Her website provides recipes and tips to help families eat real food on a budget. Annemarie's work has been featured in many places, including the Non-GMO Cookbook, Edible Boston magazine, Fox News Online, Babble, and Spry Living. She lives in the Boston area with her husband and two children.