There are a few reasons why the summer season is uniquely challenging for the home cook. For one, kids are enjoying a blissful break from their school schedule, waking when they want and embracing an unscheduled life. Then there is the working parent, trying to squeeze as much fun as possible in while still going to work. Keeping up with the summer schedule while still providing nutritious family meals can be a little tough, but with a some thought, it’s a summer breeze.
When you go to work, your kids stay home.
When your kids are old enough to stay home, but not old enough to drive anywhere then it presents a unique challenge….one that may be best illustrated by the bowls and plates on your counter (assuming they are at least in the kitchen). If you notice that last night’s leftovers are still around but the chip bag is empty, remind your kids what their packed school lunch used to provide them. Consider how to ensure that your kids eat balanced meals when you’re not around to plate them. Is it best to leave food in containers ready to go? Instructions on the counter? Keep in mind too that bored kids are more likely to eat. If your kids seem to be overeating, then suggest to them that they use a clock to remind them how to space out their meals and snacks.
Enjoy long summer days outside the kitchen.
The common scenario in my home is that I get home from work around 4 and my kids are ready to go the pool, park, or somewhere fun…and so am I! But then comes the challenge when we return hungry for dinner but haven’t been home to cook it. However, if you prepped some sides and marinated something to grill that morning, you would be ready to go. Use the time that had been spent getting your kids out the door to school on time to prepare dinner and your evening can feel more like summer and less like a weeknight.
Speaking of dinner…
Rule #1 for summer cooking: put as many things on the grill as possible. After all, who wants to be in the kitchen washing pots and pans. Enjoy grilled meats, fish, tofu, vegetables, fruit, breads and more. Take advantage of reusable, dishwasher safe grill mats that make cooking a variety of foods easier. Keep in mind that when it comes to grilling meats, limit sugar rich marinades (like barbecue sauce) to reduce charring, and add when meat is nearly done grilling.
Keep it simple: summer salads.
Summer salads are the go-to side that pairs perfectly with your grilled main dish. The best part? They can be made in the morning to make the evening easier. Use fresh seasonal veggies, an assortment of grains, or leftover grilled veggies and fruit to make interesting salads that can be enjoyed for dinner and then packed for lunch or camp too.
Take advantage of better-for-you convenience.
Visit the supermarket for unique sauces, marinades and grain mixes that effortlessly bring summer dishes together and seek salad kits with unique mix-ins for additional convenience. Look for options with limited sodium and low in saturated fat. Lastly, embrace the versatility of dips like hummus and guacamole, which can be used for way more than just dipping.
For more on summer eating check out my post: The Formula for Summer Snacking