Eat Well, Spend Less: Balancing Meals and the Summer Schedule

Welcome to the June edition of the Eat Well, Spend Less series. This month we’re focusing on meal and snack time during the summer, whether it’s during air travel, on a road trip, camping, in the heat or just while juggling the craziness of the summer schedule. Here on Food for My Family, I’ll be sharing some tips for healthy and frugal meals and snacking when you’re out doing fun summer activities like the zoo, the ballpark or sitting watching the kids on the soccer field.

Summer is swinging. Today, in fact, marks the first official day of summer, which is timely considering we dropped the eldest off for overnight camp all week and both the 6-year-old and the 4-year-old started summer sports last night, broken arms and all.

Still, though, summer was already going strong last week with warm evening walks and trips to Target Field to cheer our Minnesota Twins to a win. The zoo is an obvious next stop, and there will be state parks aplenty in the coming weeks, not to mention parades, fireworks displays and trips to the waterpark.

With all these activities, it’s easy to see how the summer schedule goes from lazy warm afternoons to jumbled hectic living in no time, and with everyone out running around, finding time to sit down to a family meal can be near impossible.

As a challenge to myself, I decided to sign both Lene and Kjell up for soccer and baseball on the same nights, one right after the other, both right during dinnertime. Add that along with summer basketball league in the afternoons and a desire to get out of the house this summer, and it’s obvious I’m going to need to plan out a few ways to handle the feeding of my family on the go.

Tips to Plan Frugal Snacks When Planning Daily Outings

  • Bring your own. Check park or museum policy and bring easy-to-pack snacks like nuts, dried fruit and crackers for the kids to munch on to avoid the hunger crazed look in their eyes halfway through the day.
  • Eat before you leave. While not always possible, try grabbing either the major meal or a hearty snack before you head out for the day. This will keep you going longer, and it will help curb cravings for ice cream stand treats and overpriced popcorn carts. Check out 5 Ways to Save at the Ballpark on Lifetime Moms.
  • Pack a lunch. My mom was always that parent with the cooler full of sandwiches and apple slices, and I have followed in her footsteps (though I tend to prefer berries and cherries this time of the year.) If there’s nowhere to eat at the museum or the zoo, head out to a grassy park area before, during or after and find a picnic table to eat at.
  • Plan around meals. Set out to get an early start, right after breakfast, and then be back for lunch. You’ll probably miss a lot of the afternoon rush, plus you’ll be home in time for afternoon naps or with time to swing at the park after lunch.

Managing Mealtime Madness on the Sports Field

  • Pack a picnic. Become an expert at packing picnics because if you want to keep mealtime in tact, you’re going to need to be. Rather than looking at sports activities as a reason to split the family up, bring them all and sit down to a picnic dinner in the park. See my 7 Tips for a Successful Picnic on Food Your Way.
  • Make more than you need. One of our go-to methods of stockpiling is just to prep and freeze extra servings. On a night you’re home, just plan on making two of the same meal instead of one. Freeze one meal’s worth at an appropriate time (whether before or after cooking) for a quick mealtime solution on those busy nights. Pancakes freeze well, as do lasagnas and other pasta dishes and breakfast foods.
  • Heat it up, wrap it and bring it with you. Adding on to the picnic suggestion, just bring dinner to go. We are that family that enjoyed homemade mini burgers on the sidelines of a soccer game earlier this week and are planning to dine on grilled burritos wrapped in foil on the baseball bleachers tomorrow. Make sure the child playing eats either after their game with a snack to take them through or vice versa.

These are the ways we plan on managing the summer schedules while still managing our budget. I’m sure as summer wears on there will be days where things don’t go as planned, some meals will work while others fail, but it is always good to plan ahead be prepared. How do you get through summer without relying on cotton candy stands and drive-thrus?

As always, you can check out what others are writing this week in the Eat Well, Spend Less series and how they are saving money and eating well this summer:

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  1. Shaina, I’m taking notes from you. Perhaps I’ll survive this summer after all. Great tips! Those sliders look good. 😉

  2. These are great tips and again I must say you have the cutest kids!

  3. Great tips! Picnics are a summetime favorite for us.

  4. What great tips, I will make sure to bookmark this for future snacks for ourselves as well!

  5. Great tips as usual Shaina! And LOVE those photos from the ballpark!!!!!

  6. Where can I find the burrito recipe? The picture look so good!

  7. Thanks for these great tips. We start dinner time soccer this week and are planning picnics at the park before/during my son’s activities. I was envisioning bags of deli sandwiches, but burritos or burgers in foil sound soooo much better.

    We actually take the opposite approach to daily outings. I prefer to pack a picnic lunch, so we can stay where we are and NOT have to race home for lunch. Granted, we usually race home after to make nap time, but eating away from home SAVES THE MESS IN MY KITCHEN! =)

  8. Those are great ideas!!!! The grilled burritos look great!

  9. i would like to know the recipe for the burritos as well! they look so yummy. and i love this blog. i share it with people all the time. thanks so much!

  10. These are great tips! I have to echo the request for the burrito recipe. Sounds and looks delicious!

  11. Heat it, wrap it, and bring it with you sounds like a great idea. Makes me hungry just looking at the picture.

  12. My little guy is too young to have any summer activities of his own, but we’ve been heading out to my husband’s softball games when they get done before bedtime. It’s been a little tricky, because we have time to eat beforehand, but my husband doesn’t like to play on a full stomach.

    So I’ve been preparing dinner on Thursdays for just myself and my son, while whipping up a hearty salad (sans tomatoes and dressing) for my husband post-game. That way when we get home, we can put the baby right to bed and dinner is ready without any extra time in the kitchen.

    Your tips are super helpful, though. I may have to try taking burritos or sliders with us next time!

  13. Yep, we’ve been living on wraps and cold vegs as we bop around looking at houses to buy a few times a week at dinner time! Great suggestions! 🙂 Katie

  14. With four working teens and me the only licensed driver, summertime = insanity at our house. I am once-a-week cooking this summer so even the 11-year-old can get a meal on the table in my absence. We also have a standing rule: leftovers (set aside on a certain fridge shelf) can be eaten by anyone, anytime. We still treasure our sit-down family meals, but they happen with much less frequency during the summer.

  15. These are great tips! My family love going on a picnic and this would really be a helpful tips! Anyway Great photos! You have beautiful kids! 🙂

  16. My wife and I are taking the girls to Boston this weekend. Thanks for the ideas.We are planning to picnic in the park before the aquarium visit.


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