I know how it is; I really do. Summer can be packed with activities; maybe the kids are at camp while you're frantically trying to get your work done in time to pick them up, maybe you spent the day at the splash pad with a preschooler and a toddler and now feel like you're on the verge of collapse, maybe you took the tweens to the amusement park and you feel like you lost your mind in the process. It's hot, you're sweaty, and the last thing you feel like doing is making dinner.
I know how tempting it is to pick up the phone and call for pizza, or capitulate entirely and plunk down boxes of cereal on the table. But before you do that for the rest of the summer, follow these tips to summertime dinner bliss.
I admit, I'm very much a Type A meal planner; I decide the week's meals, write them down on the calendar, and I do not deviate. This works well for a few reasons: I grocery shop based on what I need for each meal, the kids know what to expect and therefore don't pester me with "what's for dinner" questions, and I can integrate seasonal ingredients easily. The biggest argument I hear against meal planning is "I don't know what I'm going to want to eat that day." Why not plan a week's worth of meals that you love, and so every day you will look forward to the dinner du jour! In the summer, I look at the weather forecast and our week's activities, and plan my meals accordingly: if it's going to be very hot, I will plan for a lighter, no-oven-required meal. Cooler, rainy days call for homemade pizza or oven-roasted vegetables. Days spent at the pool or zoo call for something very simple and quick to prepare.
No one wants to spend time fussing around in the kitchen when it's beautiful outside. A simple pasta dish is always a good idea. I love "make your own" tortilla wraps: I simply chop up some vegetables, shred some cheese, and add sauteed chicken for the meat eaters, and everyone can choose what they like. This also works well for mini-pizzas on those cool days that you can turn on the oven without fear that your house will feel like an inferno; use pitas or naan bread as shells, and set out sauce and toppings for everyone. This is a favourite at my house, and oh-so-easy. Too hot for the oven? Put those pizzas on the grill!
Can't handle the heat? Get out of the kitchen and fire up the grill! I like to keep a stack of burgers - veggie and non-veggie - in the freezer; all you need are some sliced veggies and dip or a salad to make it a complete meal. Finish it off with this banana-based "ice cream" and you've got a healthy, fruit-and-veggie filled meal in less time than it takes to get a pizza delivered.
If you have a busy day ahead of you, take 20 minutes in the morning to prep the evening's meal. Cook up some pasta, quinoa, noodles, or rice; while it's cooking, chop up some veggies and rinse a can of beans. Put it all in the fridge and when it's time for dinner, toss them all together with a salad dressing - either store-bought or homemade - and voila! Dinner is served. Need ideas? Try my Amazing Avocado Pasta Salad, Dill-icious Pasta Salad, Fiesta Quinoa Salad, Nutty Noodle Salad, Nirvana Noodle Salad, or my always-crowd-pleasing Sundried Tomato Pasta Salad.
What can I say, I was a Girl Guide, and so I'm always prepared. Keep cans of black beans and lentils, along with crunchy shells, in the cupboard for a quick taco night. Pitas can be kept in the freezer for mini-pizzas, or fill them with hummus and veggies for a quick and easy meal. Be ready for those days when all the plans go out the window - those days happen to all of us, even those of us who are pathological meal planners!
Summer is short, so be sure to get out there and enjoy it! Healthy and quick dinners will give you energy to play on those lazy summer days, and these tips will help you make the most of the season.