We have about a month left of school....that means summer is here. Summertime is great, a little less structure, more hang time with the kids, but it also means less time for you to get as much done as you usually do while they are reading and writing and arthimaticing (okay, yes, I just made that word up). I'm already thinking about various new recipes to break out as I really don't want to be cooped up in a hot kitchen, let alone trying to scramble for an idea for what to cook of dinner after running around the city all day with the kiddo during Camp Mama.
I've got three words for us all: summer menu planning. Grabbing that calendar and plotting out what the dinner will be for a month or two. It saves so much time -- not only on the day of, but while shopping too. The great thing about summer meals is you have that outdoor grill to work into the mix. Here are a few other ways to make your summer cooking easy and fun as hanging out by the pool.
-- Incorporate fresh foods. They start popping up everyhwere: the farmers market, a cheaper place to shop and a great way to support local economy. Make a point of finding a few recipes that use what's in season, like corn, berries, watermelon, and whatever you see.
-- Break down each day by themes. A simple way to plan out weeks and keep it fun is have themes. Think Salad day, Italian day, Mexican day, Grill Night, Easy Recipe day...you get the idea.
-- Have stuff on hand and prepped. Stock up on pitas and tortillas for easy days. Spend 15 minutes after you come home from the store washing and prepping veggies so they are all ready for adding to pasta or tossing on the grill. When grilling out, slap on a few extra chicken breasts or hamburger patties to use later in salads or pastas or to fill burritos.
-- Don't underestimate the salad. On hot days, a big heavy meat-and-potatoes meal won't please anyone. Pasta salads, hearty Cobb salads, salads with beans, seafood salads...all of them can be quite filling. Have a side of fresh bread and veggies.
-- Keep it to one pot (or grill). In the summer months (or whenever you have less time), stick to recipes that only call for one pot or grill. Grill veggies along with that shrimp kabob. Find some great crockpot recipes so you can set it, head to the pool for the day, and then come home to a dinner that's ready to go.
-- Get the kids cooking. There's no better time to get the kids cooking than when they are around for the prep work. Incorporate in your menu plan for one day a week when they help cook the whole meal.
Do you do menu planning? How does your cooking shift in the warmer months?