I started planning for the summer in February and actually felt like kids activities were planned: fieldstrips, kits, books, devicesscooters, travel planscheck! What else do I need to sustain this precarious summer dynamic where two elementary school kids need lots of fun, sun and rest while I need to work from home and just generally TCB?
Oh, I have to feed them.
This isn’t going to be a list of new recipes to try with your kids this summer or a suggestion that they sign up for a fun box and teach them how to cook. This tip is all about feeding your kids all day, every day, so you can spend less time worrying and get back to work (or a nap, a book, or whatever you’re doing to make summer dreams come true for You mashed potato.)
I’ve come up with ideas to make kids’ mealtimes and snacks easier so they don’t become bumps all summer long. Potential food slowdowns: Being interrupted by requests for snacks 37 times a day, staring at the fridge at noon with no plan on what to feed the kids, or asking what they want and trying to satisfy everyone’s wildest fantasies at once. Here’s how to avoid themand bumps.
Create a lunch menu in the cafeteria
School cafeteria programs are something of a genius at providing both choice and predictability. I started by asking my kids what their favorite things to eat in the school cafeteria were and I turned them into a weekly menu. Where their favorites overlap, we’ve got a main option for the day. When they differ, I associate two simple options and give them the choice.
Our summer home canteen menu looks like this:
- Monday: chicken nuggets or a Nutella sandwich
- Tuesday: tacos (of course)
- Wednesday: mac and cheese
- Thursday: spaghetti
- Friday: pizza or ramen
Every day they get a side dish (anything convenient) and a choice of fruit/vegetables, just like in school. Depending on the day’s activities and my bandwidth, I can choose to pick up something prepackaged or make it at home.
Prepare self-service breakfast
At age 6 and 9, my kids are finally sleeping late (sort of). This means that I can actually sleep late (sort of)! Or if I wake up before them, I can start work. Grab-and-go breakfast makes this morning flexibility easier for all of us. Good options to grab: cereal, oatmeal cups, yogurt, frozen muffins, waffles and pancakes, pre-she made breakfast sandwiches (for the microwave-savvy kid) and prepped fruit.
I confess, so far this summer I’ve been making breakfast for the kids when they wake up as it’s a good time to check in and plan our day together. But I still like knowing I could yell from another room at, take your breakfast, and they’d be fine.
Giving in to snacks instead of meals?
Controversial opinion, but snacks are food just like meals are food. Children eat a lot or a little, often or little, depending on the day. I’ve done a lot of personal work to deprogram myself from diet culture and food moralization so my children can eat according to what their bodies tell them. That means if my daughter spends her morning eating Cheez-it, pecans, and pickles so she won’t be hungry for lunch, that’s fine. I’m not stressing snacks this summer or stress my kids about when they may be hungry.
Eliminate the backlog with a snack tray
That said, kids who are constantly snacking tend to leave half-empty, improperly sealed packets of food haphazardly shoved into the pantry (if you’re lucky enough to get them to put things away). And then them open a new package of something rather than looking for the one that is almost empty.
We all have a collection of fun compartmentalized trays, and this is their time to shine. Once or twice a week, treat the kids and yourself to a well-curated snack tray that clears out the junk in the pantry and refrigerator. The last three strawberries, a random stick of cheese, a handful of pretzels and crackers, a tin of raisins, and the last two Oguilty? What a thoughtful little snack to keep kids entertained as they play Mario all afternoon! Whatever’s left, you can safely trash.
Declare it a popsicle summer
I’m talking about those colorful plastic tubes you buy in a pack of 100 or anything on a stick. Always keep a box on hand. How does this make your life easier?
- Tell the kids they can have one if they go out.
- You look like a goddamn hero with your free popsicle policy.
Packed lunch for the camp
You have been lucky enough to book a few day camps this summer so your children are occupied from 8am.m. at 3 p.m.m.? Well done! However, you’ll probably need to send them with a packed lunch. My advice is to focus on what your kids will actually eat in the middle of a scorching day at camp instead of how other adults in the vicinity might judge the aesthetics of your lunchbox.
I decided what items my kids should have each day to keep them energized and hydrated: a bottle of water, another drink, protein, savory snack, sweet snack, fruit/veggie option. Whenever possible, I choose convenient prepackaged options and nothing that needs to be cooked or kept warm. For us, a camp lunch bag might look like: almonds, popcorn, chocolate chip cookies, carrot sticks, juice bag, and a small freezer pack.
Here’s how to tell if your summer meal plan is going well: AAt the end of the day, the babies are fed and go to bed. Then the next morning, you AND kids get up with the motivation to do it all over again.
#summer #meal #plan #parent