Summer can be a busy time of the year. And the last thing you want to do on a hot summer day is spend hours cooking and sweating in the kitchen. But your family has to eat — and eating out adds up very quickly!
Here are 4 ways to cut your summer meal prep time in half:
1. Stick With Simple Meals
Summer is not the time to be cooking six course dinners. Nor is it usually a great time to be trying recipes that require ten different prep steps.
Keep it simple by focusing on lean meats, whole grains, fresh fruits, and veggies. Many times in the summer months, our dinners will be something like marinated chicken, rice, steamed veggies, and chopped up fruit. A meal like this is filling and wholesome, but it requires very little time and thought.
2. Enlist Your Family’s Help
If your children have more time on their hands and and they are old enough to be helping out in the kitchen, encourage them to take over parts of the meal a few times per week. This keeps them productive, teaches them valuable life skills, and can help make dinner prep a little easier for you (well, provided they don’t make a massive mess in the process!).
Growing up, we sometimes would rotate who was on dinner duty — with each of us having one or two assigned nights each week to plan and cook dinner. This was a fun way to have lots of variety in our meals and to relieve my mom of having to always be cooking for us.
Simple meal options that are especially great for kids to help out with are: Homemade Pizza (they can chop some of the veggies), a salad bar (they can help with washing & tearing lettuce or dicing and slicing — if they are old enough), or Haystacks (shredding cheese, setting out the items needed, opening cans).
3. Fill Your Freezer
When you have a free day or a laid-back weekend, use some of that time to make meals and parts of meals to stick in your freezer. If you eat more snacks in the summer, things like homemade popsicles, homemade gogurts, homemade cookie dough, homemade muffins, and homemade smoothie kits are great to have on hand.
Also, think about what recipes you typically make and figure out if you can prep some of the ingredients ahead of time: making baking mixes with the dry ingredients for pancakes or waffles, putting together meat rubs or marinades for grilling out, chopping and freezing veggies to use in stirfry.
5 Crockpot Freezer Meals from Repeat Crafter Me
I also highly recommend doing some crockpot freezer cooking. Not only are crockpot freezer meals so incredibly easy, but they are also fantastic for hot summer days!
Tip: For lots of great freezer cooking recipes, check out my 4 Weeks to Fill Your Freezer series.
4. Create a Snack & Sandwich Bin
If you have a snack times every day, take a little time on the weekends to put together a snack bin. This will save you having to even think about what to serve for snack. In fact, you can just tell your kids to go pick out something from the snack bin!
You can also speed up lunch prep by stocking a sandwich bin in your fridge. This can have all the sandwich fixings available so you can whip up lunch in no time. If you want to save even more time, you can freeze peanut butter and jelly sandwiches ahead of time.
What are your favorite ways to speed up meal prep in the summer?