Summer Shortcut: Stop Cooking

This post is part of our Summer Shortcuts series. Sarah and I are taking turns all summer long sharing little “cheats” and ways we give ourselves a break during the summer months. Enjoy! -Meagan

easy dinner ideas

If you’ve read this blog long, you know I’m an advocate of the regular sit-down family dinner, and have been on a mission to help parents find the pleasure and fun in preparing nightly meals.  

But I have a confession to make: during the summer, I don’t cook.

Now of course, that’s not entirely true. Grilling still technically counts as cooking, and we do a lot of that, though my husband is usually the one at the helm. And every once in a while, on a rainy, gloomy Sunday, I still get the itch to turn out a big, sit-down family meal.

But summertime offers endless possibilities to eat well without spending a lot of time in the kitchen, and truth be told, I like having a bit of a break from my usual dinner-making routine…at least for a few months.

Here are some of the ways I make my summer a little simpler while still feeding my family well:

Just Slice: This might sound really silly, but I used to feel that, say, slicing up a cucumber and serving it on a dinner plate didn’t “count”- like if I didn’t season, prepare, and cook every item on the plate, I couldn’t really call it a dinner. But so many of the veggies that are abundant in our area over the summer  – cukes, broccoli, green beans, carrots, summer squash – taste great raw (and uncertain kids can usually be convinced with a little ranch dressing.) When you’re talking about fresh-fresh-fresh local produce, why not enjoy it as close to its natural state as possible?

summer short cuts

Stand-And-Serve: September through May, our dining-room table sees a lot of use. Come June, and we do a lot more casual eating around the kitchen island or outdoor table. (Proof: I haven’t had to swap out my dining-room tablecloth in at least three weeks!) This time of year, we tend to eat the sort of meal everyone can self-serve, standing up at the island: black-bean tacos with a variety of topping options; rice-chicken pieces-peas (mix together or eat separately), a make-your-own-sandwich tray laden with turkey, cheese and sides. It’s a lot less formal than our school-year dinners: there’s no exact starting and stopping time, and people can come and go as they please. I like shaking it up and find that it makes our fall and winter sit-down dinners feel that much more special.

Relax The Rules: I used to feel a little weird about handing my kids a hot dog and calling it “dinner,” but I then realized that in the summer we eat a lot more fruits and veggies than we do the rest of the year. It’s just that we tend to graze: a handful of strawberries from the pint we just picked up at the farm stand, a fresh Caprese salad for lunch, a cantaloupe devoured so quickly I sometimes forget I ever sliced it. Over the course of the day it adds up to a lot of fresh produce, so I’m not going to worry too much if we abandon our school-year “three square meals a day” rule in favor of a more relaxed, “grab something when you’re hungry” approach.

Do you take a break from regular cooking during the summer, too? What are some ways you make life easier on yourself June through August?

Don’t miss any of the Summer Shortcuts posts! Here they are:

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