Imagine if you spent just 2 hours today building an easy summer meal plan that led you to 90 full days of meals on the calendar …
A meal plan that prioritized flavor, excitement & simplicity all-in-one. One that easily fit within your busy weekly schedule?
Don’t believe it can be done (for free, no less)?
Hear me out. Before we created our own quarterly meal plan in the fall of 2019, I had no idea this method even existed. We were so stuck in the “weekly meal plan” mentality that it simply didn’t occur to us to go wider.
The problems that led us to start quarterly meal planning included:
- Unintentional Surplus of Food: We tried to grocery shop efficiently, but were always left with surplus and weird food options that didn’t make any sense. It’s never ideal to toss away food before it gets eaten, and this happened more often than I’d like to admit.
- Sunday-All-Day-Meal Planning & Shopping: We’d spend our entire Sunday (it seemed) planning the week ahead, grocery shopping for the ingredients, and inevitably feeling like all we ever did was plan meals and shop for food. It was exhausting not to have a true “day of rest” after a long work week. Not to mention repeated stops after work for all the things we didn’t get at the grocery store over the weekend.
- Meal Boredom: After only short amounts of time, we’d get bored with our meals. We’d create a weekly meal plan that basically repeated the prior week’s plan and the same meals would appear much more frequently than we actually wanted. The meal would only get switched out when we were beyond the point of boredom. Usually, we’d just get takeout instead of making the meal, which didn’t help our budget.
I knew that meal planning didn’t have to be so frustrating and time consuming. Many families meal plan very successfully week-to-week, but I’ve got higher priorities than constantly reinventing the wheel on my weekly meal plan.
Now that we’re approaching the summer season, where burgers & watermelon with a side of Dreamsicles exist, we’re more than ready to hammer out our June, July AND August meal plan!
Today, I’m sharing the steps we take to build our easy summer meal plan. Be sure to also head to this Pinterest board where I’ve started to curate flavors and some delicious options to consider.
Before we get started, grab the Home Management Balance Guide so you can increase communication as you go through this process, too. There’s space to record the weekly meal plan, which will be SUPER easy once you’ve done the 90 day plan!
With less frequent grocery shopping happening organically right now, it’s the perfect time to try this process out. Will you be joining us with this simple framework?!
Before You Start An Easy Summer Meal Plan
Since one of the big problems that led us to this quarterly meal plan is surplus of food, it’s possible you’ll be experiencing the same.
So first, before you dive in, take stock of what you already have on hand.
Determine what you can serve with existing food. Get creative! It doesn’t have to be gourmet style meals to make use of the food you have already.
Once you’ve made a list of meals you can serve along with the quantities of each meal, you have two options.
- Standby to put all of these meals on the summer meal plan.
- Donate the meals.
The key here is to avoid trashing any food.
Envision Your Summer Meal Ideas
The most exciting feature of a seasonal meal plan is shifting to flavorful options that bring us squarely into the present season.
The second step in the process is to decide what flavors are your “must eat” summer flavors.
Go a step further to decide how you want to prepare most summer foods. I think it goes without saying, but the grill is a must for summer! What else do you like to incorporate for summer? Outdoor pizza oven?!
Recipe books and Pinterest are full of inspiration! You might find some flavors and foods you’d forgotten about since last summer as you work through this phase.
Select Your Top Dinner Recipes
When you’re ready to select specific meals for dinner, choose 10-20, depending on how much variety you want throughout the 90 days.
Of course, 10 meals will have a frequency of 9 (or approximately 3x per month). 20 meals will repeat an average of 1.5x per month. It’s completely up to you how many unique meal types you’d like to incorporate.
These meals will be your “core” recipes. You’ll add additional variety into the plan overall through preparation and side dishes, but your core recipes will remain the same.
For our family, we like 12-16 meals. We like to repeat some meals weekly, others bi-weekly, and others monthly.
Be sure to incorporate your healthy lifestyle choices into the meal choices. If you want all the carbs, make it happen! If you’re aiming for Paleo all summer, you got this!
Select Default Breakfasts & Lunches
When deciding how to plan for breakfasts & lunches, I lean towards keeping them as simple as possible. The actual variety is, of course, up to you.
The easiest way for me to plan these meals is to think of my plan like a coffee shop menu. They might sell food, but they don’t offer too many options.
Since we’re rotating the plan every 3 months anyway, it’s unlikely you’ll get sick of a small number of options before the 90 days are up.
You can add variety to these meals with preparation and sides, too. As an example, if you’re choosing a yogurt with your lunch, add variety with the flavor – blueberry, strawberry, etc.
Limited choices will allow for less time making a decision and less variety of food to keep on hand.
Select Your Sides & Snack Options
If you haven’t already figured out my approach here, it’s to keep the meal plans simple! You don’t need 20 different snacks and sides to choose from each week.
Rotate however you see fit, but pull variety and excitement through mixing the choices and preparing the meals in different ways.
I can assure you that 90 days will fly and you’ll be onward to the next set of new flavors before you have a chance to be bored of the first set!
What’s the ONE big summer snack you’ll have on hand *at all times?*
For us, it’s ice cream sandwiches & dreamsicles for life! I know, that’s two, but they go hand-in-hand for us (and they’re definitely part of a healthy lifestyle for my summer mental health!)
Write Your Easy Summer Meal Plan on the Monthly Calendar
Shhh … it’s a secret, but there’s a current year Monthly Calendar printable attached to the Productivity Quick Wins PDF freebie here! Download that, print the summer months and get ready to fill out your meal plan.
I use the monthly calendar view to record dinners/sides only. I list the breakfasts & lunches off to the side in the “coffee shop meal style.”
Color-coding is NOT optional! Ha.
In the following order, here’s how I quickly document our meals:
- Special Events (birthdays, events, etc.)
- Take-Out Nights
- Quick Win Meal Days (breakfast for dinner, frozen meal, etc.)
- 10-20 Core Dinners + Associated Leftover Days
A good productivity hack is to to repeat the order of meals over different weeks. Week 1 might match Week 5, for example. This way, you’re writing up a grocery list for Week 1, then grabbing the same list again for Week 5!
A Note on the Kid’s Menu
Kids meals will be a little different, depending on your family, but the concepts are exactly the same.
We stick with about 5-7 different dinner options that we rotate throughout the week, but we always try to give the kids a little something from our own plates.
They’re young still, but eventually we’ll phase them into eating the same thing as we do each evening.
Snacks are similar, in that we limit the choices, so decision fatigue (and an inevitable tantrum) doesn’t appear!
Your Easy Summer Meal Plan is DONE!
You did it!
You built your summer meal plan in record time.
Not only are you ready for summer, but you’ll also be ready to repeat this process for Fall, Winter AND Spring!
…and there’s a BONUS!
Next Summer, dig up this exact same plan again and you’ll be able to update in a fraction of the time. It’s a freakin’ miracle!
You’re Invited, Mama!
If this method rocked your socks off, hop into the Productive Home Blueprint wait list to receive a VIP offer when the course is open for enrollment.
It’s the ONLY place I’m digging into the systematic meal planning, shopping and prepping process from A to Z and teaching you how to integrate it within your entire home management process!
I can’t wait to see you in there!