Summertime is here, and while this means relaxed schedules for everyone, we still have to eat ... which means I still have to plan meals.
As many of you already know, I am a big believer in planning meals; in fact, I've written on this very subject here, here, and here.
But what I've never shared is how I do menu planning during the summer months. In some ways summertime menu planning is easier because without school, sports, or carpooling I'm not limited to pockets of time. I can pick when I want to go to the grocery store and cook meals at leisure. During the summer days are longer, meals are spaced out, and the availability of fresh produce means lighter meals which can be prepared much more quickly (see Beating the Heat in an Italian Kitchen).
But menu planning also becomes more complicated because of all that free time; in other words, the boys are home. All day. And they like to eat. A lot.
So I need to be organized.
While the basic idea of my summertime menu planning stays the same ( i.e. PLAN THE MEALS), the how, when, and what changes slightly. For example, when planning during the school year I start with the family calendar and plan meals according to what is on our schedule for a particular day. During the summer, however, I make a list of meals I plan to cook that week, grocery shop to make sure I have everything on hand, but keep it as an informal list. Each morning I look at the list and, depending on my mood, pick a meal.
What also changes is that I include lunch ideas on my weekly list. This is not to say I plan meals for lunches, too, (what? you think I'm crazy?), but I do list some ideas that differ from the standard packed lunches the boys get the rest of the year. For example, on this week's list I have grilled cheese sandwiches, English muffin pizzas, and cauliflower soup (always a favorite).
Listing lunch ideas also helps me clear the freezer and pantry. Go look in both; I just bet you have half packages of this and partial boxes of that. Using them for lunches is a perfect solution! This week I found three fish fillets in the freezer which were left over from a larger box, and while three fillets are not enough for a family dinner, they are perfect for three quick and delicious fish fillet sandwiches for three hungry guys.
Bottom line is this: menu planning (any time of the year!) makes life easier, helps you work with a budget, and encourages healthier eating.
All benefits, to be sure.
|Summertime menu planning: |
Chinese chicken & rice (Eat Clean Cookbook, p. 162)