The ceaseless appetite of my kids is hard to keep up with year-round, but it grows exponentially over the summer when they are spending hours each day swimming and playing in the hot Houston sun. To make matters worse, my desire to spend time in the kitchen shrinks exponentially over the summer when I have less time to grocery shop in peace and zero desire to stand over a hot stove.
To make life easier on all of us these next few months, I’ve compiled a list of 10 things that will help us all to get summer ready and prepared for hungry kids, easy dinners, visitors, and impromptu guests. Hopefully these tips will save you some sanity and allow you to dedicate your free time to having fun in the sun.
10 Summer Food Ideas
1) Buy in bulk and prep meats for the grill.
Our grill is going to get a serious workout this summer. I love the taste of grilled food, and I also love any opportunity to keep the kitchen clean by moving the cooking outdoors.
If you like to grill, get prepared (and save money) by buying your favorite grilling meats and seafoods in bulk. Spend an hour trimming, cutting, dividing and freezing the meat so that you’ll have a nice stockpile to choose from whenever you want to grill.
Cube some chicken breasts and steak for kabobs; pound some chicken breasts thin and freeze in a freezer bag between sheets of parchment paper; portion out and freeze pork tenderloins; and form ground beef and turkey into patties, freezing them individually in nonstick foil.
Also, freeze some packages of chicken legs, an assortment of sausages, and hotdogs for easy dinners or last-minute BBQs.
Don’t forget to store some buns in the freezer as well, so you always have them on hand.
2) Stock up on condiments, marinades, and spice rubs.
Even though I love them, grilled chicken breasts can get boring after a while. Therefore, I like to experiment with different marinades and rubs over the summer. Mesquite, lemon-pepper, cajun, honey mustard, chipotle, BBQ…the options are endless. Sometimes I buy them and sometimes I make my own.
I also make sure to load up on ketchup, mustard, relish, pickles, mayonnaise, BBQ sauce, hot sauces, and any other interesting condiments I come across. Nothing’s sadder than being handed a freshly grilled hotdog and realizing that all the mustard’s gone.
3) Load up the freezer with kid treats.
I like to make my own popsicles when I have the time and the ingredients, but I also stock the freezer with store-bought fruit pops, ice cream sandwiches, and other inexpensive frozen treats for playdates or impromptu neighborhood gatherings.
4) Prep fruits & veggies for easy snacking.
It’s taken me forever to start doing this, but it’s truly the BEST. As soon as you get home from a trip to the store, wash, dry, and cut up your fruits and snackable veggies and put them in tupperware in the fridge. I know experts say that leaving fruit unwashed until you’re ready to eat it helps it to last longer, but fruit doesn’t last long in our house anyway! I’d rather have strawberries washed and trimmed, grapes picked and washed, and cantaloupe cut up and stored in a container than have to continually pick/rinse/slice things whenever somebody wants fruit.
5) Freeze grapes and blueberries.
These are delicious and refreshing eaten straight out of the freezer. Plus, you know they won’t go bad, so you can buy a lot at once when they’re on sale.
6) Pre-bag a few days’ worth of snacks at a time.
To save money on pre-packaged snacks, spend a few minutes at the beginning of each week putting pretzels, goldfish, animal crackers, etc. into baggies in your pantry so that they can be quickly thrown into your pool bag, purse or diaper bag on your way out the door.
7) Freeze water bottles.
There’s nothing grosser or more depressing than a swig of hot water on a scorching hot day. Store some filled water bottles in the freezer so that they stay cold a lot longer when you’re running errands in the car or doing things outdoors.
8) Bake and freeze muffins, banana bread or other breakfast-friendly baked goods.
This will not only make breakfast easy on regular mornings, but frozen baked goods are great to take on vacation if you’re road-tripping somewhere. Dedicate one morning or afternoon to knocking out several loaves of bread or several dozen muffins, and you’ll reap the rewards for weeks to come.
9) Load up on ice and ice packs.
We always seem to run out of ice at the most inopportune times. If you have the space or an extra freezer, buy a few bags of ice to keep on hand in case you need to pack a cooler to take to the pool or park, or keep lots of drinks cool at a party. Also, make sure you have plenty of reusable ice packs on hand for lunches or snacks that you need to keep refrigerated for kids’ camps or other activities.
10) Plant some herbs.
I use a ton of fresh herbs during the summer, whether in marinades, salads, pesto, potato salad, or pasta salad. You will save a lot of money (and trips to the store) if you maintain your own little herb garden, and it doesn’t need to be anything fancy. Most herbs will thrive in pots on a sunny area of a porch or even indoors on a windowsill. My favorite summer herbs to plant are mint, basil, italian parsley, thyme, dill, cilantro and chives.
Do you have any summer food tips to share? I’d love to hear them in the comments!