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?
Janell Poulette says
I love crock pot freezer cooking! Here’s 25 recipes you can prep and freeze – http://www.savingyoudinero.com/2013/04/26/25-crock-pot-freezer-meals/
Clare C. says
With 3 hungry teenagers, 1 elementary age child who eats more than the teenagers, and a hubby who’s off work for the next few weeks, it often feels like I never leave the kitchen during the summer! My family wants healthy but hearty food 3 times a day, 7 days a week. Right now, I’m working on streamlining meal prep, making large batches of breakfast foods and snacks, and making sure I’ve got plenty of inexpensive but good-for-you foods on hand at all times.
P.S. Crystal, I love the photo of 2 big sisters, keeping their eyes on little brother. 🙂
I really love the snack and sandwich bin ideas. My son knows where to find fruit and crunchy snacks like nuts and popcorn but he’s still constantly asking me what there is to eat. I love the idea of telling him to choose something from the bin. This will be a must try for me.
Just curious. Are you back on coffee, gluten/wheat and sugar? I don’t know if you have posted your health result or what not yet.
I posted a little update after the 30-Day Experiment here: https://moneysavingmom.com/2013/06/this-weeks-menu-57.html
This is very timely! I love to have a lot of prepped meat in the fridge–I just prepped a bunch of chicken so that I can defrost and grill or quickly bake. You can read about it here: http://www.navigatingdomesticity.blogspot.com/2013/06/freezer-meal-prep-sessions-24-lbs-of.html
Tomorrow night we are having the molasses glazed chicken thighs. Yum!
I went to a girls night out at church and watched a lady demonstrated that if we can cook all the meats for the week at once, most of your prep work is done. So you can marinate and bake/grill a roast, some chicken breasts, and a pork roast or some pork chops together one night. And all you have to plan each night is making sides to go with the meat. You can reheat the meat quickly with some saute onions and voila. A little planning goes a long way, like Crystal’s freezer crock-pot meals.
We have a snack drawer that I put all out snacks in and the kids can get in it. It’s a bottom drawer so easy for the little one
I’m obviously off today: I read this as if it said you take the snacks out and put your kids in the drawer! Although you wouldn’t have to hear them begging for snacks then… 😉
The snack bin is a brilliant idea!! Why didn’t I think of that? I’ll definitely be doing that this summer!
I love to have meats already in the marinate in the freezer so the night before I just grab one out of the freezer and let it thaw in the refrigerator. Then just grill and serve. Since we have a garden I can grab some lettuce out of the garden and slice the meat on top with a few extra veggies and maybe some olives and we have a great main dish salad in no time and I don’t even have to heat up the kitchen. You can even toast some french bread on the grill for a side to go with the salad.
I also like the idea of a snack and sandwich bin. This year when I grab veggies out of the garden, I am trying to wash and prep them right away. (since we only get enough for a day or two at a time anyway) Then when we need a side dish at a meal I just grab the pre-washed veggie and it’s ready to go.
we have snack bins in the refrig and pantry. kids know they can take 1 item without permission between 9-10am, 2-3pm and 6-7pm. each kis also has a water bottle in the refrig they can take anytime and are responsible for filling. it’s cut down on whining for snacks and refusing choices I provided – even tho they’re same one as in the bins and saved my sanity.
I love how organized you are!
Kate M says
Love the idea of having set times to be able to grab a snack without asking. Simple idea, but brilliant. )