One of the things I love most about summer is the fact my children can eat outside more (even if they don’t want to), so I have less time crawling under the kitchen table, muttering to myself as I pick up peas. What I’m not so keen on is the endless requests for treats and lack of routine.
My time spent living in California, where children are off school for 3 months in the summer. Yep imagine that. Gave me plenty of time to gather tricks and recipes for surviving the lack of routine with small people. So here are a few ways we survive the summer (in addition to always having rosé in the fridge). You’ll find more of my recipes and tips on my Facebook and Instagram throughout the summer.
School holiday breakfasts
We go a bit feral when we can during the holidays. Breakfast can slip to 9am and I try and involve my boys in making it, mainly as something to occupy them when they’ve been up since 6am. Thank you sunshine.
We don’t buy boxed cereal as I just don’t find it keeps anyone full. You’re probably gathering from reading my recipes that I’m not a fan of processed food in boxes. Cereal also costs a fortune compared to the big bags of oats we buy for our morning porridge. Porridge, made with water and oats in the microwave, with plain yoghurt, fruit and a little maple syrup is our usual school morning breakfast.
I usually keep some frozen chocolate croissants in the freezer too – not the healthiest breakfast but the all butter frozen croissants are way less expensive than going out and buying them at a coffee shop and still feel like a treat.
These are our favourite breakfasts…
Grain-packed American pancakes with natural yoghurt, berries, grated apple, chopped bananas or nectarines and maple syrup. Make a jug of the batter and it will keep in the fridge for 3 days. My 7 year old can make the batter on his own now, so train up any small people in your house to do the same and you can sit back.
Make a big jar for the week and sprinkle it on fruit and natural yoghurt. A jar of this is a great thing to take on holiday if you’re self catering too.
I love Vogel’s seeded bread topped with cream cheese or almond butter with banana or berries. Or have it with scrambled or soft boiled eggs with avocado or baby tomatoes.
Smoothies with oats, almond butter or plain yoghurt and fruit – frozen berries, bananas, nectarines or fresh berries. A few greens usually find their way in too – some frozen or fresh spinach is usually not detected once there are some berries involved. Leftover smoothies can be frozen into lollies.
Buying lunch out costs a fortune and is a sure fire way to max out the sugar and salt. But making individual packed lunches for a crowd isn’t much fun either. So I pack one feast that we can all tuck into on arrival at our picnic spot. Be it a wasp-filled park or a picturesque field.
Think beyond ham and cheese
Throw sausages or falafels in the oven in the morning. Then wrap them in foil to take with you.
I keep bread in the freezer so I just grab frozen slices to make sarnies. The sandwich will be defrosted by the time you eat, so the bread will be fresher and the fillings keep cool.
Pack a packet of wholemeal wraps, a tub of houmus, guacamole or cream cheese, chopped veggies and whatever leftovers, meat or cheese you have lurking in the fridge. Take a couple of spoons and plates and let everyone make their own wraps on site.
Make a giant sandwich
Slice a baguette in half lengthways and fill it as one big sandwich. Then cut it into chunks and wrap it in foil.
Be a bit posh
For more special picnics, I’ll make spanakopita – a spinach and feta tart. It is easy to make with children and makes a great alternative to sandwiches.
Savoury muffins instead of sandwiches
These courgette and cheese muffins are easy to make and freeze brilliantly. Grab one out in the morning and it will be defrosted by lunch.
I usually toss a few apples in, or some strawberries or cherries. And we’ll treat ourselves to an ice cream when we’re out. I make a big tray of flapjacks or muffins every couple of weeks and keep them in the freezer too. Again they can be grabbed in the morning on the way out somewhere and will be defrosted by lunch.
Read more about healthy snacking here.
Put them to work
I learned to cook because my mum wanted to keep me entertained so she gave me jobs to do in the kitchen from being tiny. Use the summer when you may have more time, to get into the habit of sharing the work with your children. It may be messy at first but so was potty training right? Children are much more inclined to eat what they make themselves, so pour a glass of wine, ignore the mess and let them help.
Small fingers are also brilliant at rolling meatballs, hulling strawberries and chopping fruit. I made homemade tortilla chips and guacamole with a class full of 6 year olds recently and they loved it. Some of them tried tomatoes and avocados for the first time.
If you’d like to get my newsletter every couple of weeks, packed with recipes like this and my meal plans, please sign up here.