June is a sign that the end of the school year is fast approaching, and if you have kids in school, you may be starting to panic about how much time you will need to start spending in your kitchen, preparing snacks, or meals, or more snacks, or desserts, for impromptu play dates and, oh, did I mention preparing snacks??
Summer is a hard time of year when it comes to meal planning. I mean, who wants to slow roast something in the oven for hours? Or have their crock pot on all day? Even releasing all the steam from the instant pot? These kitchen gadgets are great, but when it’s hot, the last thing I want to do is add more heat to the house. I love using the BBQ as often as I can, or even cooking over an open fire!
Enjoy these easy meal ideas!
For easy to cook meals in the summer, I love freezing meals that I can cook on a sheet pan. That way I can do it in the oven (on the cooler days), the BBQ or an open fire. The concept is to pick a meat, veg, and starch that are cut down so that everything cooks at roughly the same time. It’s fun to get creative with a variety of different seasonings and pairings. Almost any meat will work with this style of meal. My favourites are chicken, steak, sausage, shrimp, and fish. Then choose a bunch of different veggies like corn on the cob chunks, peppers, red onion, cherry tomatoes, broccoli, brussel sprouts, carrots, squash, like really…endless possibilities!! Then pick your starch. You can simply add potatoes to the pan or you can serve it with rice or pasta. You can either freeze the meat only (I recommend dicing it up so that it’s quicker and less prep time the day you plan on cooking it), or you can freeze the meat in a bag and put that bag in the cut up veg bag so that it’s all in one package in your freezer. Not all veggies freeze well, but I have been surprised how delicious and simple these types of meals are. If you are more of a recipe follower, a quick search of “sheet pan meals” is all it takes to get a ton of inspiration!!
The other way I like to feed the freezer with summer meals (similar to the sheet pan meal) is by making kabobs. You can either just make and prep a bunch of meat kabobs or you can do some veggie ones and some meat ones. I tend to make them one or the other rather than having a mix of meat and veg on one kabob. The only difference really between the kabobs and the sheet pan meals is about how you cut up your ingredients. I tend to do strips or chunks for the sheet pan and try to make squares for the kabobs.
The thing that makes summer time cooking and food prep fun is in the experimentation with the marinades and seasonings. Get fancy and try new seasonings or sauces. Try spices you haven’t had before, you can always scrape off the outside of the meat if it’s a flop of flavour. Another option is to try just salt and pepper and making some dips or sauces. Summer isn’t just about burgers and hot dogs!
The other meal prep I always do, no matter what time of year, is making precooked taco meat, precooked pulled pork, and some precooked pulled chicken. It is so easy because you don’t need to cook anything else to go with that meal. Just thaw and heat up the meat and cut up the sides or other toppings, or even just thaw it and toss it on a salad!
The other thing I love to precook and freeze for the summer is rice and quinoa. They reheat like you just cooked them, and that way you can cook a bunch and portion it out for the meals. It’s easy to toss in some veg and some cheese or vinaigrette, warm it up or even eat it cold for a tasty side dish!
Try making some snacks!
When it comes to snacks, I think nothing is more satisfying than a filling, soft, and chewy granola bar. There are some great recipes out there for making your own. Don’t be intimidated by the process! They are actually easier to make than you think. It’s all about a blender or food processor. Then you simply mix together your ingredients and press them in a pan. Cut them once they are chilled then pack them for a picnic, hike, or even keep them in your freezer for the times when the kids ask for their 90th snack of the day! If you want to find a way for the kids to get involved in making the granola bars, an easy way is to have the kids shape the “bars” into bite sized balls instead. That way they can all get their hands dirty, and have fun sampling them as they make them!
If you love smoothies, you could always spend an afternoon measuring all of your ingredients out and dumping them into different freezer bags for the week. That way there’s no thinking when it comes time to make your smoothie, simply add your frozen stuff and your liquids then enjoy. You may want to let it thaw a bit to get the right texture, or you could eat it as “ice cream”. The other option is to double up your smoothie recipe, drink one and freeze one. That way all you need to do is thaw and enjoy!
I also like to ensure my freezer is stocked with single serving sizes of hummus and guacamole. It’s a great snack to pack for a hike. Bring some crackers or bread and you can have a delicious snack while enjoying nature. Or running from soccer, to baseball, to dance, to swimming….etc…
Even prep some desserts!
One of my favourite summer time desserts is a classic fudgsicle! I love the pure chocolatey taste. What if I told you there is an easy way of making your own, AND it’s SUPER easy!!! I actually like them better than store-bought ones. Ready for it? Here it is… mix equal parts of Nutella (or other hazelnut spread) and chocolate milk! That’s it!!! Mix it together and then dump it into some popsicle molds if you have them, otherwise reuse yogurt cups and stick a popsicle stick in the middle. These are honestly, one of my favourite “feed the freezer” tips ever! You could even make them freezie style by getting some reusable freezie molds.
Try making some edible cookie dough. (Wait, what? look it up, it’s actually a thing! How amazing is that??) Just form it into small bits then you can add it to ice cream, or brownies, or just eat them…yum!
The other great way to feed the freezer when it comes to sweets is to get a head start on your Christmas baking! CHRISTMAS???? Hear me out! There are tons of easy no-bake Christmas treats. Why not take advantage of the no-bake (as long as it doesn’t use the stove instead) to test out some of the recipes! Who knows, you may find a new family favourite for the Christmas platter!
Stay cool, and keep summer cooking simple.