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4 Ways to Cut Your Summer Meal Prep Time in Half


Summer can be a busy time of the year. And the last thing you want to do on a hot summer day is spend hours cooking and sweating in the kitchen. But your family has to eat — and eating out adds up very quickly!

Here are 4 ways to cut your summer meal prep time in half:

1. Stick With Simple Meals

Summer is not the time to be cooking six course dinners. Nor is it usually a great time to be trying recipes that require ten different prep steps.

Keep it simple by focusing on lean meats, whole grains, fresh fruits, and veggies. Many times in the summer months, our dinners will be something like marinated chicken, rice, steamed veggies, and chopped up fruit. A meal like this is filling and wholesome, but it requires very little time and thought.

2. Enlist Your Family’s Help

If your children have more time on their hands and and they are old enough to be helping out in the kitchen, encourage them to take over parts of the meal a few times per week. This keeps them productive, teaches them valuable life skills, and can help make dinner prep a little easier for you (well, provided they don’t make a massive mess in the process!).

Growing up, we sometimes would rotate who was on dinner duty — with each of us having one or two assigned nights each week to plan and cook dinner. This was a fun way to have lots of variety in our meals and to relieve my mom of having to always be cooking for us.

Simple meal options that are especially great for kids to help out with are: Homemade Pizza (they can chop some of the veggies), a salad bar (they can help with washing & tearing lettuce or dicing and slicing — if they are old enough), or Haystacks (shredding cheese, setting out the items needed, opening cans).

3. Fill Your Freezer

When you have a free day or a laid-back weekend, use some of that time to make meals and parts of meals to stick in your freezer. If you eat more snacks in the summer, things like homemade popsicles, homemade gogurts, homemade cookie dough, homemade muffins, and homemade smoothie kits are great to have on hand.

Also, think about what recipes you typically make and figure out if you can prep some of the ingredients ahead of time: making baking mixes with the dry ingredients for pancakes or waffles, putting together meat rubs or marinades for grilling out, chopping and freezing veggies to use in stirfry.

5 Crockpot Freezer Meals from Repeat Crafter Me

I also highly recommend doing some crockpot freezer cooking. Not only are crockpot freezer meals so incredibly easy, but they are also fantastic for hot summer days!

Tip: For lots of great freezer cooking recipes, check out my 4 Weeks to Fill Your Freezer series.

4. Create a Snack & Sandwich Bin

If you have a snack times every day, take a little time on the weekends to put together a snack bin. This will save you having to even think about what to serve for snack. In fact, you can just tell your kids to go pick out something from the snack bin!

You can also speed up lunch prep by stocking a sandwich bin in your fridge. This can have all the sandwich fixings available so you can whip up lunch in no time. If you want to save even more time, you can freeze peanut butter and jelly sandwiches ahead of time.

What are your favorite ways to speed up meal prep in the summer?

3 Ways to Prevent Summer Boredom

Summer is here. School is out. Schedules are often more laid back. And some days it can feel like there are a lot of hours in the day and you’re running out ideas to keep your children occupied.

If this is something you struggle with at your house, here are some ideas that we’ve implemented at our house:

1. Create & Follow a Routine

One of the things I love about a creating and following a routine is not only that it gives us order and structure in our day, but also that it keeps me from having to constantly be figuring out what everyone is going to do next. When there are set parameters for our day, we can just follow these and it nips a lot of possible boredom right in the bud.

In addition, a routine helps us to limit screen time. Our kids know movie time is from 5 p.m. until dinner time and only if you’ve done your chores, assignments, and had a good attitude during the day. Everyone knows these are the rules so people aren’t asking to turn on a movie earlier in the day since they know it’s not even an option.

Mom I’m Bored Jar (plus free printable!) from Somewhat Simple

2. Have Pre-Planned Options Available

We have a few hours of free time in the afternoons, but I don’t expect my children to automatically have ideas for filling this time. I want them to be creative, play make believe, do art projects, read, and build things. But if they are having trouble coming up with ideas on given afternoon, I always have a few suggestions and options available — books and audiobooks from the library, art projects, a game, an idea for something to play in the back yard, etc.

I don’t want my children to feel like they need to constantly be entertained, but I also have no problem with giving them a gentle nudge in a direction if they are lacking inspiration. I might say something like, “Why don’t you build a LEGO castle and listen to that new audiobook I got from the library?” Or, “Oh! I’ve got a great idea! Why don’t you pretend you have a restaurant and see what things from nature you can use for food in your restaurant kitchen in the back yard?”

Usually just a few ideas will get the wheels in their brain turning and pretty soon they are engaged in some project in their room or the back yard.

If you need some ideas and inspiration, check out my Fun & Frugal Summer Activities Pinterest Board. You can also look through my 4 Weeks of Frugal Family Fun series.

Making Homemade Flubber

3. Replace Discontentment With Gratitude

I want to raise children that understand how blessed they are. When they complain about being bored, I try to listen to their heart. Are they just communicating that I need to do a better job of investing in them or are the communicating to me that they are struggling with discontentment?

I don’t always hit the nail on the head, but I do try to ask some questions to probe a little deeper and see where their “I’m bored” statement is coming from. If your child is moping around regularly about how life is boring, it might be time to have a heart-to-heart discussion on contentment and to put forth some effort to teach and nurture them to develop more of a grateful spirit.

Maybe to have them think of three things they are thankful for every time they say they are bored… or to find a way a to bless someone else? You’re their parent so you know what’s best for your child and where their heart is, but it’s something to consider.

What are your best tips for busting summer boredom?

How to Get Your Family on Board This Summer (6 Do’s & Don’ts)

You’ve set your priorities and cleared the calendar clutter. You’ve set up a realistic summer routine.

You’re pumped, excited, and ready to have an amazing summer. There’s only one problem: your family doesn’t have a clue that you’ve got their summer all lined out for them! And if you approach them in the wrong way, it could completely ruin your plans for a summer success.

Tonight, we’re going to be talking about the Do’s and Don’ts for getting your family on board this summer. Let’s dive right in…

1. Don’t Become a Drill Sergeant

The worst thing you can do is take your summer mission statement and routine and start barking orders at everyone. I promise that’s only going to make your troops want to rebel.

Chore Charts by Stephanie from Totally Together

2. Do Be Enthusiastic

Instead, call a family meeting — or whatever it is that you do at your house when breaking big news — and enthusiastically let them know that you’ve got some great ideas for summer you want to talk to them about. You set the tone for how they are going to receive things and your excitement will invariably be contagious.

3. Don’t Forget to Listen

Share some of your ideas and then ask for their input. Listen to them and take their suggestions to heart.

Your plan is a great starting place, but it’s by no means set in stone. In fact, I encourage you to make some adjustments to it based upon the input of your family. They probably have some great ideas you wouldn’t have thought of on your own.

Chore Chart from ThermoWeb

4. Do Communicate Your Expectations

Once you’ve all signed off on your summer plan of action, make sure that everyone clearly knows how it’s going to work and what is expected of them. If a routine is something new to your kids, review and practice how it’s supposed to go. Don’t expect that they’ll know how to follow a list or complete a project if you haven’t shown them how.

And don’t be discouraged if it takes awhile for the new routine to stick — or if you end up needing to tweak it after a few days. That’s totally okay!

5. Don’t Get Hung Up on the Details

Don’t become obsessed with following your routine or plans to a tee at the expense of your relationships with your children or husband. Some days, you just need to throw the routine and to-do list out the window so you can care for a sick child or do something spontaneous. That’s real life, not something to be frustrated by!

6. Do Remember What It’s All About

Remember your summer mission statement? Don’t lose sight of that this summer.

And at the end of the day, if you made memories as a family, invested in things that matter, and haven’t completely exhausted yourself, you should be encouraged and happy. Your kids are going to remember the memories made much more than they are going to remember how well you stuck with your plan.

The plan is only there to help facilitate more intentionality. If it starts to get in the way and becomes a burden rather than a blessing, it’s probably time to tweak it or toss it altogether and go back to the drawing board!

photo credit;

5 Ways to Slow Down & Savor the Summer

Want to slow down and savor this summer? Here are five tips:

1. Stay Home More

A few weeks ago, our second car was in the shop. I was amazed at how much quieter and calmer our life was that week because we had no choice but to stay home all day for most of the week!

Some families find it helpful to get out and go somewhere every day, but don’t feel like you have to just because that’s what other people do. I love staying home and we aim to stay home all day at least 2-3 days per week. When we are running, running, running, and going, going, going, it makes us all feel tired and cranky.

Try staying home more and see if it allows you to have calmer, more organized days. You can’t say it won’t work if you haven’t tried. 🙂

2. Allow Two Hours of Margin

A lot of our feelings of busyness come from trying to pack 32 hours’ worth of projects and to-do’s into a 24-hour day. No wonder we feel so overwhelmed and worn out!

Two things that have really helped me feel less schedule overload the past year are to plan out the time blocks of my day each night before I go to bed (watch the video where I talk more about this here) and also to allow at least two hours of margin in my day. These are buffer hours where I don’t have any projects planned.

Most days, there will be interruptions and unexpected things that come up and these two hours of margin time allow you to be able to deal with the interruptions without your whole day being thrown off course. And hey, if you have a rare day without many interruptions, you can use the two hours to catch up on other projects, to do something spontaneous, or even to catch up on sleep!

3. Take One Day Off

Setting aside Sundays as our “off” day has been one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. In fact, I would say it is almost the number one key to my productivity and efficiency. I look forward to Sundays as the weekly 24-hour period to rest, refresh, and recharge.

Not only is taking one day off good for your physical health, I believe it is imperative for your mental health and well-being long-term. You’ll quickly wear out of you just charge through life and never take time to refuel. Sundays are the day when my spirit breathes and my creativity tank is refilled for the week ahead.

I dare you to try taking one day off from work, media, and your normal life and see what you think. You might find you quickly realize you can’t imagine life without it!

4. Focus on the Best Return on Investment

There are many good things in life that you can invest your life in, but you can’t come close to trying to do them all. Figure out what the best things are for YOU and wrap your life, time, and energy around those things.

For me, that’s my marriage, my kids, my health, and the blog. I say “no” to a lot of other things because they are the best things for me to invest my time in at this season of life.

5. Choose Quality Over Quantity

When considering the multitude of opportunities that constantly present themselves for activities, ministries, service projects, and more, I try to first ask myself, “Will this matter in 25 years from now?” This helps me weed through a lot of things that just aren’t the best things for me to be devoting time and energy to right now.

After paring down my list based upon that question, I then try to focus on quality versus quantity. I’d rather do a few things really well, than a hundred things pretty poorly.

What things help you to slow down and savor life? I’d love to hear your suggestions and input!

photo credit; photo credit; photo credit

How to Set Up a Successful Summer Routine


I know, I know… summer is supposed to be the time when you throw the schedule out the window. But here’s the thing: if you have no plan for your summer days, your summer days will slip by with nothing to show for them. And before you know it, summer will be gone!

In addition, without a plan for the summer, you’ll likely feel like your life is chaotic, disorganized, and out of control. That’s why you need a plan.

Summer Schedule from I Heart Organizing

You Need a Routine Not a Schedule

I’m a big fan of a routine instead of a rigid schedule — especially in the summer. A routine allows you to have a plan and some order, but it doesn’t become a straightjacket with very little wiggle room for spontaneous fun.

Your routine can be really simple and loose, with a few hours of the day completely unscheduled. But I encourage you to at least have a morning routine and an evening routine as these bookends to your day will provide enough structure and order to keep you on pretty good track. (You can print a free morning and evening routine checklist for kids here.)

Free printable and customizable Morning, Afternoon, and Evening Routine cards.

How to Develop a Realistic Routine

A routine is just that, a routine. It is not a spreadsheet with every 15 minutes of the day mapped out. And it doesn’t even need to have times if you find that works better.

If you have no routine at all right now, start out small — with just 3-5 things that you do every morning when you get up. Focus on these 3-5 things and do them every single morning for 3-4 weeks until you really feel like you are cementing the habit.

Don’t add new things to your routine until you’ve got a solid morning routine going. It’s better to start little by little and stick with it than to try to overhaul your life overnight and crash and burn!

For more step-by-step help, read my series on How to Develop a Routine That Works — And Stick With It!

Consider Having Theme Days

It’s fun to have some variety in your week and theme days are the perfect way to pull this off! Basically, this just means that each day of the week you have a different focus or project.

I’d recommend making sure you have a two or three hour time blocked off in your day for the daily theme. Don’t just try to squeeze it into your busy day somewhere — as that’s just setting yourself up for frustrating and feelings of failure!

Summer Themed Days from Somewhat Simple

Our Summer Routine

To give you an example, I thought I’d share our summer routine. We’re doing swimming lessons at the swim club all summer in the mornings instead of our usual homeschooling time. Then, we’re just having a short homeschool time when we get home. This will allow us to (hopefully) continue working on learning throughout the summer but will provide a nice change of pace.

5:00 a.m. — Mom up
8:30 a.m. — Kids up/Breakfast/Bible time/Scripture memory
9:00 a.m. — Kids get ready for swimming lessons/chores
10:15 a.m. — Swimming lessons
12:15 p.m. — Home — lunch/read aloud/clean up
1:15 p.m. — School with Kathrynne
–Kaitlynn read, Silas watch Leapfrog
1:45 p.m. — School with Kaitlynn
–Kathrynne read to Silas
2:15 p.m. — School with Silas
–Kathrynne/Kaitlynn do computer school on separate computers
3-6 p.m. — Free time
6 p.m. — Dinner/family time/reading

Do you typically have a routine during the summer months? Why or why not?

Make-Over-Your-Evenings_300x250

Want some practical help with setting up your day for success? It all starts the night before! Be sure to grab a copy of my brand-new online course, Make Over Your Evenings.

This 14-day online course includes videos, a workbook, and step-by-step projects and is designed to help you maximize your evenings in order to experience more success in your life, more order in your home, and more joy in your soul.

It’s time to stop sleep-walking through life and wake up to the amazing excitement and fulfillment that comes when you follow my simple plan to Make Over Your Evenings.

Find out more about it here.

3 Steps to Clear the Summer Calendar Clutter

If you want to set your summer up for success, you’ve got to start by saying “no”. It’s fun to dream about all these amazing things you want to accomplish during the summer months, but the reality is that overextending yourself and packing your schedule so full with “fun stuff” doesn’t make for a fun summer at all… it makes for an exhausting summer.

So, we’re going to kick off this series with a little pep talk on clearing the calendar clutter. If there is only one post you have time to read in this week-long series, let it be this one. Because it’s the most important thing if you want to be intentional this summer — and really, in all of life.

1. Determine Your Priorities

What do you want to accomplish this summer? What do you want to look back on and remember from this summer?

Only you can answer these two questions. No other person can answer them for you. So make sure that how you answer them is based upon what’s really true, not based upon what someone you admire in your mom’s group or some blogger online is doing.

2. Write Down a Summer Mission Statement

Once you’ve figured out honest answers to these two questions, come up with a succinct mission statement for your summer. This mission statement is the basis for why you’re doing everything you’re doing this summer. You’ve got to know what is important first before you can determine what is unimportant.

Your mission statement doesn’t have to be some amazingly written and detailed paragraph. In fact, in most cases, the simpler you can make it, the better.

For instance, I told you earlier today that my mission for this summer is to rest and refresh myself. That’s pretty straightforward and uncomplicated, isn’t it? 🙂

Free 2013 Summer Bucket List printable from Michelle Lea Designs

3. Set Boundaries

Once you’ve created your mission statement, it’s time to establish some boundaries to guide you as you determine what you’re going to spend your summer doing. This means you’ve got to get good at saying “no” — not because you’re hard-nosed, but because you want to be able to say “yes” to what’s most important for you this summer.

When you start saying “no” to what doesn’t matter as much right now so that you can say “yes” to what matters most, you no longer feel like you’re just running through your days barely surviving from one to the next. Instead, you’re living with purpose and intention — and this brings so much more fulfillment and peace!

Your boundaries could be things like:

  • We will only plan a maximum of two activities per day.
  • We will be home by 7 p.m. every evening.
  • We will eat dinner as a family at least five evenings each week.
  • We will stay home at least 2 whole days each week.
  • We will have media free afternoons.

Now keep in mind that these are just examples. You need to do what works best for your own family. But hopefully these ideas will get the wheels of your brain turning.

Personally, since my goal for this summer is to rest and refresh, I’m cutting back on my personal and business commitments and goals and allowing a lot more margin in my day for fun family things, reading, and just kicking back and soaking up life. I’m also taking an extended break from traveling (except for family vacations).

When you’re creating your family’s summer boundaries, make sure that you are realistic and that you make them to help you facilitate your summer statement. If boundaries like this seem too rigid for you, you could consider making a Top 10 list like reader Sarah and her family are doing this year:

Every summer we’re bombarded with fun choices: weddings, barbecues, VBS, playdates, swimming lessons, tee ball, vacation…you know how the list goes on and on. Some things are fun activities we want to do and some are volunteer commitments and family obligations.

All of these ideas are good when you think about them individually, but if we’re not careful we end up at the end of the summer without taking any time to just play in the backyard and enjoy some quiet time.

This year we decided to be more intentional. We made a list of the top things we want to do this summer. Whenever another opportunity comes along we weigh it against the list. We ask ourselves if this is something we want to do more than the other things on the list. If yes, we give up something on the list. If no, we don’t put it on our calendar.

Sometimes it’s difficult to make the choice to turn down something that sounds fun, but it really has helped keep our calendar clear just in the last two weeks!

Free printable Summer Bucket List from Uncommon Designs

Family Project: The Summer Bucket List

Our family loves to make a joint Bucket List like this for summer. We meet together at the beginning of summer and decide what our priorities are for the summer. Then, we each get to choose 2-3 things we’d really like to do that summer.

We compile this list into our master bucket list and then plan out each request on our calendar over the summer months. So long as you don’t have 15 kids, this idea works pretty well and keeps the summer simplified. Best of all, it means that everyone gets to have some input on summer activities and that there’s a little something for everyone.

If you’d like to do something similar at your house, you can print a free Summer Bucket List printable from Motherhood on a Dime.

What is your mission statement for this summer? What boundaries are you going to set?