Having a go-to meal plan is an absolute must when we’re homeschooling, but I need one in the summer too when life is busy in a different way and centers on things like travel, outside projects, gardening and pool days.
One thing I love about a dinner matrix is switching it up for the season. Fresh garden veggies, marinated meat for the grill, and cold quinoa salads get to be the star of the summer matrix. I think I get the most inspired to cook in the summertime because of all the variety!
What the matrix IS: a seasonal plan that saves you time and brain power when you sit down to decide what you’re going to eat. Each day of the week gets a pre-determined category, which could be anything from Mexican to pasta. The idea is to have some variety, but avoid having to re-invent the wheel every time! I especially make sure to plan the easy things too (this is a gift to my future self, always.)
What the matrix ISN’T: an overly-ambitious plan where we pick gourmet meals that require trips to fifteen different stores, hand-crushed spices and the tears of virgin milk maids. You will always see convenience food and crowd-pleasers like Chipotle, pizza and hot dogs on my matrix right along with days of more creative Pinterest-y cooking.
(I got the idea from Kendra Adachi of the Lazy Genius years ago, so don’t give me too much credit!)
For the majority of my plan, I have learned to stick to very regular foods that I know people will like. I always focus on protein and add veggies or salads for myself. I do make my kids try those foods, but they don’t eat as much of it as I do. (Obviously, since vegetables taste like sticks and leaves from outside, as Levi just informed me last week.) I improvise pretty easily with lettuce wrapped burgers, burritos made into bowls, and veggie pizza with large salads on the side!
Here’s my summer dinner matrix:
Monday: date night/Chipotle for kids
Tuesday: mom’s pick
Saturday: burgers or hot dogs
Sunday: snack tray
To see what it looks like in action, here’s this week’s menu plan:
Monday: Date night/Chipotle for kids
Tuesday: Cube steak, salad, mashed potatoes (this was David’s birthday dinner that he didn’t get to have last week due to sick kids)
Wednesday: Barbeque chicken thighs, corn on the cob, grilled veggies
Thursday: Burritos and pico de gallo (Libby help)
Friday: Homemade pizza and family movie night (add salad for mom)
Saturday: Hot dogs, sweet kale salad, sliced canteloupe
Sunday: Snack try and family tv night
By the way, this is the menu planning pad I can’t live without! It has enough room to write down all of my meals, plus a detachable grocery list. It’s minimal and pretty so I don’t mind having it on my fridge all the time.
This week we’re cooking David’s birthday dinner which we missed last week, but normally Mom’s Pick night is the night where I make something a little more creative from my Pinterest boards. (Here’s my dinner board!)
And I don’t worry about whether my family will like it and eat it. In fact, I kind of hope they won’t so that I’ll have leftovers for myself for the rest of the week! Indian food, Thai stir-frys and roasted veggies are the kind of thing you can expect midweek at my house! (This handy chopper is a staple for those nights!)
Summer is my season for grilling, and believe you me, I will grill just about anything. It’s low-prep, keeps the mess out of the kitchen and makes boring things taste sooooo much better. (Why tho?)
As you can see, I have some fixed things in here every week, while some other weeks are open categories. My family loves having set nights for Mexican food, homemade pizza and Chipotle. We’ve been doing Chipotle on Monday nights for years and it’s something we all look forward to. It takes a little bit of the dread out of the bumpy transition day that is Monday. Now that the kids are bigger, we have our regular date night every other Monday night. (Really do try this–Monday nights are the best for dates!)
In addition to my matrix, I always have a designated company dinner. This year’s happens to be the same as last year’s, but if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, you know? Company dinner is burgers, corn on the cob and quinoa salad. I’ll do ice cream and fruit crisp for dessert since I have a daughter who makes a great peach crisp these days.
By the way, if you want to take a regular old burger or hot dog and take it up to “craft burger” level, I love these kraft paper boats instead of paper plates for company! I always keep a stack in my basement–they work great as bowls or plates! One pack lasts me absolutely years.
I hope you’re feeling inspired! If you like this system and want more, you can sign up here for my monthly newsletter where I share favorite recipes, what I’m reading, and helpful tips and stories for homeschooling families. You can also go here to see my system for menu planning, grocery shopping, and re-setting my homeschool week each Sunday afternoon.