By Lisa Holcomb
Meal planning is so important. Not only will it help ensure that your family has healthy meals, it can also save you time and money. Many people stop meal planning during busy summer months when you might have a lot of family summer activities going on. Or, maybe your summer goes at a slower pace than the rest of the year and you just don’t want to focus on meals. Here are 6 tips for sticking to your meal planning during the summer.
- Make a menu and shopping list
You’ve heard me say it over and over, and it really is just that important. You have to meal plan. It takes just a couple of minutes to plan a few simple meals. Not only does this ensure that you have dinner on the table each evening, but this will also stop you from buying things that you don’t need. If you buy extra food, you are likely to stray off your meal plan, not to mention your grocery budget. It also ensures that you don’t let fresh produce go to waste because you didn’t use it on time. Don’t forget to do a fridge/freezer/pantry check before you hit the store, so that you know what you need to buy and what you already have plenty of. This tip is a must for meal planning all year around, not just during the summer.2. Keep meals simple and easy
Stick to simple meals that are easy to prepare. The last thing you want to do when it’s warm outside is to cook over a hot stove. It might be better to stick to some “cold” meals like salads, noodles, or sandwiches. Summer is a great time to fire up that grill. Just about anything you could cook in an oven, you can cook on a grill.3. Prep your ingredients
After making your menu, shopping, coming home, and putting away your groceries, take the time to prep your fresh ingredients. Chop or slice onions, peppers, etc., so you don’t have to do it later. It’s a real time saver when it’s time to make your meal.
4. Check your family’s schedule
Is the upcoming week free in the evenings or do you have activities planned that would make it hard to get dinner ready? Maybe you need to plan a couple of slow cooker meals on the busier days during the week.* You don’t want to plan meals that take more time to prepare if you don’t have that time. That’s when a salad that you prepared earlier in the day makes for a great meal in the evening.
5. Use up your leftovers
Dedicate at least one meal a week to using up your leftovers. If you have leftovers from more than one meal, set them all out and let your family pick what they’d like.
- Cook more than one at a time
This particular tip has been a lifesaver for me on many busy nights. When I make a casserole, I often double the ingredients and make two. I use one right away and freeze the other. I even do this when I make pancakes or waffles. I’ll double (sometimes triple) the pancake/waffle recipe and freeze the extra for a busy morning or evening. When the family is busy or I just don’t feel like cooking, I can grab something out of the freezer. This is a great way to stock up on freezer meals without having to spend the whole day cooking.
Regardless of whether your summer is just as busy as the rest of the year, or laid back and relaxing, you still need to have a plan. Plan your meals, keep it simple, and enjoy your summer.
* Editor’s tip: To avoid heating up the house, slow cookers can be used outside. Lay a kitchen towel over the lid while it’s cooking so flies don’t land on it.
Lisa Holcomb and her husband, Will, have six children (her oldest two children are married and have babies of their own) and live near Austin, Texas, with their four boys. Lisa is co-founder of Build a Menu and is known as the “Queen of Meal Time Makeovers.” She is an author, speaker, and an advocate for adoption, family nutrition, savvy grocery shopping, and family dinners. Feel free to email her at [email protected].