Summer is finally here and with it comes school holidays, which means having to stock up on the summertime every day essentials. No matter how you look at it, summer activities, entertaining - even just having the kids at home - can get expensive. But if done right, a well-stocked home will save you time and money by avoiding unnecessary and last-minute trips to the store, hitting the drive thru on a regular basis, or ordering take-out when unplanned guests stay for dinner.
Here are some of my personal tips to consider before you put your Summer Stock-Up List together:
Now that you know what you need to look for before putting your list together, here’s a sneak peak at the list of all the things I’m planning on having on hand this summer (chances are, you may need some of these things too since they are summer essentials for everyone!).
Summer is the time to be outside as much as possible. Whether it’s pool days, beach days, or family outings to the park, it's imperative to have sunscreen and bug spray on hand. Before school lets out for summer, find the best deal you can and stock up. I leave some at my parents, some at my in-laws, some in my purse, and some in a basket in my front hall closet so that I can always goop-up and spray the kids before heading on out on our next adventure.
If your house sees a steady stream of kids throughout the summer, you need to stock up on snacks. Be the cool snack mom! For summer, I keep a supply of frozen lemonade, freezer pops and breakfast popsicles in the freezer (awesome snacks that tastes like a treat but really aren’t!), veggies can be quickly cut up into a veggie tray, nacho chips and salsa, and of course a supply of fresh local fruit and berries that are the highlight of summer snacking (and baking!). For rainy days, I have a secret stash of popcorn just in case we need to turn on a movie and a few boxes of cake mix for easy homemade cookies.
Having the kids home and all of their friends over regularly makes it feel like someone is always in the bathroom. On top of hand soap, bandages for “owies” and pain relievers for inevitable headaches, be sure to stock up on toilet paper! In our home, you’ll find Charmin Basic, not only because it’s stronger and softer than other bargain brands (don’t let the word "basic" fool you!), but also because the price point means I don’t have to wait until it’s on sale to stock up.
If you have a pool, you’ll know how quickly a couple of friends over for a quick afternoon swim turns into hosting dinner for 10. Even if you don’t own a pool, we all inevitably find ourselves saying “why don’t you just stay for dinner?” at some point this summer. Do yourself a favour and whip up a few batches of these super easy homemade hamburgers for the freezer (cheaper, easier and healthier than most that come in the box!) and keep a stash of hotdogs, potatoes, condiments and fixings for a salad. Don’t forget the buns and cheese slices! When I need an alternative to BBQ, I raid my freezer for these homemade meatballs for a quick and easy spaghetti dinner and breakfast for dinner is always an option with this easy baked pancake recipe.
Whether you’re cleaning up after an impromptu dinner party, dealing with greasy BBQ grills or camping (one of our favourite summer activities!) makes sure you have a few bottles of Ultra Dawn readily available.
Bonus: Dawn has handy tips for cutting costs and reducing water and energy consumption when hand washing your dishes.
One of my kids’ favourite get-ready-for-summer activities is heading to the dollar store to stock up on beach toys. Last year’s toys are lost or broken so to prevent a trip to a super expensive tourist town corner store to pick up a bucket and shovel, I give my kids a budget and let them fill a bag full of beach toys from the dollar store. We have a designated “beach toy bag” that often sits in the trunk throughout the summer or on a hook right beside the door to the garage.
Mom Tip: If you have younger kids, pick up a couple of packages of water wings too!
Lemonade stands are not only a great keep-the-kids-entertained activity, they’re also a good lesson in entrepreneurship. So while at the dollar store, stock up on a few lemonade stand basics. If you’re following above, you’ll already have cans of frozen lemonade in the freezer, so all you need to pick up is a few re-usable plastic cups, a juice container (or two), a Bristol board, markers and stickers for the lemonade stand sign.
Take it from me, you need a secret stash of activities for “Mom...I’m bored” situations. Way up high on a shelf in my pantry, you’ll find a basket with a deck of cards, small canvases and paint, a new journal with stickers, a bag of Lego pieces and “guys” I’ve found laying around the house, new books and other random activities I picked up at the dollar store.
To save money on drinks and snacks, when we’re out and about, I like to pack water bottles for each of the kids and snacks in a cooler bag. But somehow, by the end of the school year, all the water bottles are cracked and leaking, the mini freezer packs seem to be missing and the lunchboxes smell like it’s time for replacements. Plan on having a small cooler bag, ice packs, water bottles and a few reusable container for your summer activities.
I do a lot more laundry in the summer. First, because the kids are outside so much, their clothes are always sweaty and dirty at the end of the day and the occasional water fight outside often means they’re changing their clothes mid-way through the day. Second, full confession – I love hanging laundry outside to dry during the summer so I look for excuses to do laundry on sunny days especially pillows, bed linens, quilts, sleeping bags, etc. But extra laundry does not mean extra spending when you buy Tide Simply Clean and Fresh. With twice the baking soda power to help get out tough grass and dirt stains there’s no need to pre-treat, one dose is always enough (even on the biggest and dirtiest loads) and it smells lovely too!
When I asked my friends what they stocked-up on before school lets out for summer, without missing a beat, every single one of them said wine. Clearly, this list would not be complete without the obvious and if you’re looking for adult beverage alternatives this summer, try some of my favourite gin cocktails and these pitcher drinks the next time company comes over.
Happy Summer Stock-Up Everyone!
Some say that bannock, a traditional staple in aboriginal diets, is one of Canada’s oldest known foods. Leavened with baking soda instead of yeast, it’s traditionally fried in heavy pans and comes out flat, warm, and filling.
The warm and filling part is what makes it great for camping – especially for breakfast!
While many seasoned campers have their own version of campfire bannock, this Canned Soup Mom easy version is great for throwing together before the kids get up in the morning or easy enough that they can help if you need a few extra minutes to get the coffee going in the back country.
It also comes together quickly so your hands don’t freeze for those of us who are crazy enough to go winter camping.
I mix the dry ingredients at home in a large Ziploc bag to make for easy packing and mixing with less mess, too!
I also let my kids add chocolate chips, but you could add berries, cheese, and fresh rosemary, or even just make it plain and serve with jam. No matter how you eat it, this Campfire Bannock is warm, flaky, and did I mention filling?
Simply mix dry ingredients in a large Ziploc bag and store until you're ready to bake.
At your campsite, add lard or butter and water, seal bag and squish to combine.
Scoop onto foil and add chocolate chips if using.
Fold foil into a pouch.
Cook in the campfire.
Carefully remove from fire let rest then open to cool a bit more.
Enjoy in the summer...
... or in the winter!
3 cups flour
2 tbsp baking soda
½ tsp. salt
½ cup chocolate chips (optional)
½ cup lard or softened butter
1 ½ cups water
Non-stick cooking spray
Add flour, baking soda and salt into a large Ziploc bag, seal and shake a little to combine then store with your camping dried foods until ready to use. You can also add your chocolate chips into the dried mixture, but I prefer to let the kids add them just before baking, that way you use less chocolate chips and can also choose if you want them with or without.
When ready to bake, add lard and water to the bag, seal and squish the bag gently (very gently!) to combine. Although I don’t use lard for anything else, it’s my go-to for campfire bannock because it travels well and doesn’t need to be softened before adding to the dry mix.
Using a spoon, or your hands (they will get sticky so make sure you can wash them soon after), scoop approx. ½ to 1/3 cup portions onto squares of foil sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Wrap in foil packs, leaving a bit of room at the top for the bannock to rise, but no seams for the steam to escape from (if you need a how to fold a foil pack, here’s my step-by-step guide).
Place foil packs into fire, sitting them on the outside away from the flames but up against the warm logs and embers. Bake for approximately 15-20 minutes turning with tongs at the halfway mark. Cooking time can vary depending on how hot your fire is. I often test mine at the 15 minute mark by squishing the foil pack gently with tongs to see how firm it is. If it’s still fairly squishy it needs a few more minutes.
When ready, use tongs to remove foil packs and let rest 3 to 5 minutes. Carefully (they’re hot!) open foil packs, let steam escape and serve when cooled slightly.
Looking for kids’ favourite camping recipes? Check out my Dad’s campfire potatoes and my kids’ camping favourite homemade hamburgers.
Although originally concocted in Holland many centuries ago, gin has long been considered England’s unofficial national spirit. So it’s not surprising that my Grandfather with his British roots would often declare around 4pm in the summertime that it was “time for a beverage” and would head to the kitchen to mix himself a gin and tonic. After we entered adulthood, my grandfather would mix one for my cousins - and me too - when we were visiting.
I have many fond memories of sitting on my grandparents’ front porch, sipping gin and tonics with my grandfather while grandma drank her tea, chatting with them about weather and family and “back-in-the-day” stories when most of my friends were still at the guzzling beer and lining up shots stage. Even though my grandfather passed away seven years ago, my grandmother still keeps his favourite gin in the liquor cabinet should anyone need to mix a gin and tonic and reminisce on the front porch.
If you’ve ever had a gin and tonic and didn’t like it, there are only two reasons for that (and one of them is not that you don’t like gin because that’s just impossible!):
There are lots of different types of gin on the market and while all gin starts with juniper berries as the main ingredient, distillers often jump off from there with other natural botanicals to flavour their particular brand of gin. Some are dry, others are sweet. Some have hits of lavender and lemon and others black pepper. Clearly there’s a gin for everyone’s taste – which is why there are more cocktails made with gin than any other spirit!
When it comes to the traditional "G & T" no matter what brand of gin you prefer, the ratio of gin to tonic is crucial. My father will argue that the minimum ratio is 1.5 parts gin to 3 parts tonic – but for some this is a bit too strong. Unfortunately, many bartenders will pour 1 oz. gin over ice then top the glass with tonic – this is all kinds of wrong and is easily avoided by asking for the gin straight over ice with a separate glass of tonic so that you can mix yourself.
And speaking of mixing up a “beverage,” here are three easy to mix traditional gin cocktails to help you celebrate:
1.5 oz. gin (I use Bombay Sapphire Gin just like my grandfather taught me)
4-5 oz. tonic
Wedge of lime
Fill a short glass or a tall thin highball glass with ice, pour gin over ice, squeeze lime juice into glass and toss the wedge into the gin. Add tonic and enjoy!
Before James Bond, martinis were made with gin. Here’s how…
2 oz. gin
Tiny splash of dry vermouth (a couple of drops is all you need)
Twist of lemon rind OR 2-3 green cocktail olives
Splash vermouth into martini glass, add gin and garnish. If you’re using lemon twist, try running the rind over the rim of the glass before adding to the glass.
There are lots of variations of this traditional cocktail, but this recipe is the easiest and the yummiest too!
2 oz. gin
1 tsp. super fine sugar (it disintegrates faster)
1 ½ Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
4-5 oz. soda water
Lemon twist and/or maraschino cherry for garnish
Fill a Collins glass (yes, like the martini, this cocktail tastes better in the proper glass) ¾ full of ice. Add gin, sugar, lemon juice and soda and stir gently. Top with lemon twist and/or cherry and serve.
Happy #WorldGinDay everyone and please remember to drink responsibly!
Looking for some of other favourite beverages? Here's a great list of Top 5 Pitcher Drinks.