School is long done and summer stretches before you. By now you’ve likely gotten past the joy of not having to pack school lunches for a while and are facing at least a bit of dread over what to serve now that the kids are home all day. Besides providing the opportunity for different activities and holidays, the changing seasons are a great opportunity to change up family meal ideas and recipes and to embrace what the season has to offer.
Here are some simple tips and ideas that can help you and your family take advantage of the bounty of summer and early fall. These are our favorite summer family meal ideas.
Think salad bar
The best part of a salad bar are all the options and in summer, the options for fresh fruits and vegetables are endless. Line up a counter with some chopped lettuce, spinach, or whatever green your family will eat, add some sliced meat and a variety of chopped vegetables and let your family create their own masterpiece family meal ideas. You can even take the opportunity to throw in a few things you know your kids generally won’t eat and may be surprised to find they get caught up in the spirit of the activity and try a few things you didn’t expect.
Take self-serve outside the box
That same self-serve, multi-topping option can work equally well for homemade pizza night, will turn hot dog night into gourmet dog night, and is guaranteed to make simple hamburgers into a build the best burger competition that creates some new family favorites.
Find a new take on pasta
If your kids are like most, pasta is a year round favorite. Summer though is a chance to step away from the heavier sauces and casserole dishes of winter and to try something lighter and more seasonal. Hot pasta dishes loaded with a variety of colorful al-dente vegetables and a balsamic vinaigrette or light cream sauce are beautiful, healthy and familiar enough that your kids will dig in, yet unique enough that you won’t feel you’re serving the same old thing. Take it a step further and make it a cold pasta salad for something even more suited to summer.
Grill, grill and grill again
Every parent’s most welcome tool in the heat of the summer is the backyard grill. Besides getting the family outside for a little fresh air and sunshine, it means stepping away from a hot stove. Be creative with your grilling and you’ll have a different family meal idea for every night of the summer. Look for different sauces to spice up your regular dishes, or think grilled meats as part of something different like a soft taco night. Grill vegetables, bread or fruits for tasty side dishes or desserts. There are lots of great campfire recipes that translate well to the grill and can make for a fun theme night as well. Apps like Picniic can provide a great resource for recipe searches for all of these.
Pass the buck
One of the worst chores involved with family meal ideas planning is deciding what to have. Pass off some of that responsibility during the summer by assigning one night to each of the kids. Whether they just decide on what, or actually make the meal themselves, it gives you one night off and them a chance to have a little control. Picniic can come in handy here again because it allows you to plan and share meals ahead of time so kids can plug in their requests and you have a chance to shop for needed ingredients.
Summer is a time to embrace opportunity, and all the freshness and variety of the season. Take advantage and you have a delicious summer ahead.
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