Ideas to stay organized and on-track with nutrition over the busy summer months… and all year round, really!
School’s out and the usual routines that work year-round might be out too. That doesn’t mean that meal planning and healthy eating have to take a hike for the summer though. Meal planning is a personal process and will look different from family to family.
But, here are a few fundamental tools that will make meal planning and preparation easier for everyone all year round:
Mindset – understanding the importance of setting aside time to meal plan. This means less stress during the week, more time with your family, healthier food choices, creating sustainable habit, and stress-free vacations
Build it into your schedule – make a plan; pick a day or two each week that work for recipe searching, going shopping, and prepping ingredients for the week.
Start a calendar – weekly or monthly to plan dinners, breakfasts, lunches, and/or snacks. Do this on-line, on a white board, sticky notes, whatever works best for you.
Look ahead & be realistic with your time – look ahead at events for the week to know how many meals you will be home for & how much time you have for cooking. Busy weeks call for easy recipes such as crockpot or one-pot meals. A camping trip or week at the cabin mayRecipe building – Create a list of staple go-to recipes to easily add into your meal rotation. Find 1 or 2 new recipes to try each week. Find a place to store recipes (computer, recipe book, folder)
Family time – involve the whole family in choosing meals and helping with prep and cooking. Make it something to look forward to for the family.
Theme nights – Try weekly theme nights to keep it simple and organized (soup night, taco night, meatless-Monday, breakfast for dinner, new recipe night, etc.)
Keep fridge notes – Attach a notepad on the fridge to jot down meal ideas & ingredient needs.
Keep a meal journal – make notes about recipes (i.e. double recipe next time, needed more spice, added extra veggies, kids loved this, etc.)
Overlap ingredients – plan meals with similar ingredients to avoid buying a ton of different items.
Cook in bulk – the freezer and leftovers are your friends! Freeze large batch items like soups, stews, sauces to use on busy weeknights. Save the grocery store trips for fresh produce as needed.
Food prep as soon as you get back from the store – Wash fruits and veggies, marinate meat, chop veggies and store in containers for easy-grab options for salads & stir-fry, pre-roast veggies, cook grains in big batches, etc.
Cook components of a meal – Cook a large batch of chicken to use for various meals throughout the week, roast or blanch a large batch of mixed veggies to use for salads/stir-fry/scrambles/snacks, make sauces or dressings to use for the week
Keep your fridge organized – a stuffed-to-the-brim fridge is overwhelming; know what you have on-hand to reduce waste & make it a user-friendly part of your kitchen.
Keep a well-stocked pantry – Always have things such as olive oil, herbs and spices, garlic, canned beans and tomatoes, whole grains, oats, frozen mixed veggies, fresh citrus for flavor, etc. to throw together a quick meal if needed.
Utilize local, seasonal foods– Hit up your local Farmers Market for fresh ingredients and look up fun recipes to make with them.
Meal-share with friends– whether staying home or going on a camping trip, share the cooking responsibilities with some friends or family. If you’re going to be cooking anyway, you might as well triple the batch and share the meal with two other families and let them do the same for you another night! This can be a fun way to share your cooking with others and lighten the load for each other.
Which of these tips helped you the most? Let us know in the comment below.