When it comes to food and meal planning, our summers are way too unpredictable; even when I try to make them predictable!
Too many days that we are in and out, too much time camping, cottaging or visiting the trailer, too many unexpected guests at meal time! All of these reasons make it tricky to plan out each meal and which day to have what meal. I find it too chaotic and overwhelming to plan. If I take the time to plan meals for the whole week, then get part way into the week to find that we will be spending the weekend at the trailer or the cottage then I end up with not enough food for the extra people or food that will go bad before we get home! It makes me shy away from meal planning to keep the summer flexible.
BUT, if I don’t plan, then I get to a meal time and I have no ideas, so then the default might be something less healthy, or ordering in! Neither of which, I really want!
The key to summer meal planning, is meat in the freezer, staples in the pantry, and lots of fresh fruit and veg!
When it comes to having meat in the freezer, I like variety!
- Ground meat – I love cooking up 3-5 lbs of ground meat mixed with taco seasoning and storing it in 1 lb bags in the freezer. I use it for tacos, taco salads, or quesadillas; they are such easy meals to whip up during the summer!! Especially on those hot days when you just don’t want to do much cooking!! I also use some ground meat sometimes for good ol’ sloppy joes; it’s another crowd pleaser that freezes well! Ground meat is also great for making your own fresh burgers, or meat ball skewers!
- Steak – I prefer to buy it and use it while it’s still fresh rather than freezing it, but having some nice steaks in the freezer are another easy way to make a great meal with little cooking effort (as long as you remember to thaw them out first). Slice it up after cooking for some steak fajitas, or just cut it into individual sized chunks and dig in.
- Chicken (raw and cooked) – I love having some raw chicken on hand to make some chicken skewers or stir fry meals, but I also love having some already cooked and shredded chicken in the freezer! The precooked chicken is great to toss onto a salad, or mix it with some fajita seasoning. It’s also great for a chicken sandwich, or mixing it into some pasta for a cold pasta salad or a hot chicken alfredo. I also try to have things like chicken nuggets and chicken burgers on hand for some extra variety.
- Sausages – Ok, I just have to say that sausages freeze very well!! Stock up on some when they go on sale! Sausages are easy to add to a stir fry by slicing them up, or just cook them and eat them like a hot dog. You can even make your own sausage rolls by letting them thaw then taking them out of their ‘skin’ and cutting them into chunks. Then use some puff pastry and wrap each sausage “ball” and cook them according to the puff pastry instructions or the recipe! They are so easy and delish!
I use a few staples in my pantry to ensure a bit of carbs for the meals. I usually stock my pantry with things like rice, cous cous, quinoa, and pasta. I also try to have things like tuna and crackers on hand to make an easy snack or round out some lunches. Other staples I keep stocked are things like chips, crackers, and trail mix. We try to space out the chips as much as we can, but they are a great filler to a lunch of sandwiches and cut up veg!
The last thing I like to stock up on each week is fruits and veg. If you buy a lot of fresh produce but then find that you are going away for the weekend and some of your produce will go bad, why not prep it before you go and pack it as a travel snack, or create some freezer friendly smoothie kits out of it to enjoy upon your return home. The summer is a great time to stock up on some fresh produce by hitting up your local fresh food market, or seeking out some whole sale produce stores – that way you can save some money while you’re at it!
I don’t usually plan a day by day meal plan for the summer, but I do try to maintain a running list of the meat in the freezer, and the fresh food I have between the fridge and the counters – that way, I can always pull out something for dinner, or something to bring to a friend’s house or something to cook if we suddenly find our normal head count has doubled or tripled.
I hope some of these tips help keep you eating healthy but staying flexible through your summer meal planning! Do you have any good tips for meal planning over the summer?