The Meals I Have on Repeat This Summer

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Want to reduce decision fatigue and enjoy mealtimes a little more this summer? Create a template for your weekly meal planning. Here are the loose meal plans I have on repeat this summer:

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I asked google how many recipes there are in the world and it gave me this post, written before the food blog explosion, that claims there are more recipes in the world than atoms. I believe it.

Take that idea and you will more than understand why we moms wonder what to make for dinner. There are too many darn choices!

Decision fatigue is real, my friend.

And yet, we want to let our people know we care, we want to try new things, we want to do right in the kitchen. Here is my proposal that will instill some extra sanity in your noggin and save you some time and money to boot:

Instead of having the whole wide world of recipes to choose from, narrow it down to seven types of meals that you will serve on a weekly basis.

Do fewer than 7 if you have a regular night out on the town, at church, or at friends, but choose a template to build from. I do meal plan theme nights throughout the year, and will testify before the senate that it is a viable strategy.

With a meal plan template, I can exercise as much creativity as possible without driving myself crazy thinking up something new every time I want to feed my family dinner.

Bonus: you’ll save time because your grocery list will be similar from week to week and you’ll save money by buying in bulk.

I’ve been walking my Summertime Meal Plan Theme Nights through their paces lately and here’s what’s working this season:

close up of a Cobb salad chick-fil-a copycat.
This Copycat Chick-fil-A Cobb Salad Recipe is spot on!

Salad Sundays

I started this last summer, but really it’s a throw back to 1990s Santa Barbara when our church regularly held Salad’s On Potlucks. A meal of salads? I can totally get behind that.

It’s basically a dinner of 3 or more cold salads or one ginormous salad bar that everyone can mix and match as they like. If I don’t add a protein to a salad, I serve one on the side.

Salad Sundays are easy, make-ahead, and pretty much everyone can find something he or she likes. Plus, I can get creative as I like, exploring new salads while not having to think about what to make.

Have you tried all these classic salads? I’m going to be working my way through the list. Soba and Green Goddess salads are not ones I’ve tried.

Some of our favorite salads include:

If there are any leftovers, the fam packs them for lunches the next day. And let me tell you, more than one kid last week was thrilled to find leftover macaroni salad!

Burger Night

Fast food prices have gone crazy here in San Diego County. With the exception of In-n-Out Burger, any takeout costs an easy $10/person. Not gonna do it; not gonna do it.

Planning a weekly burger night fits the bill so much better. Typically, I have a stash of ground beef, turkey, or chicken that I’ve found on clearance at Ralphs or I can buy it fairly cheaply.

Burger night equals 12 to 16 burgers for our family of 7, so that’s about four pounds of meat. You see why I buy the meat on clearance!

We try to vary the burger toppings, but keep them exciting as well. You can add so many yummy sauces and toppings or bake your own hamburger buns. I challenge you to make a really excellent burger at home this summer!

Pro tip: I’ve made it my mission to make ground turkey and ground chicken burgers that don’t suck. The secret is to add quinoa flakes to the meat along with hamburger seasoning. The quinoa adds protein while also helping the meat to stick together. You know how squishy it gets? Mischief managed.

Taco Night

I could eat tacos every night or multiple times a day. And I love to go to City Tacos for their creative gourmet tacos. The Papas con Rajas Tacos Dorados are amazing. Seriously. Go there on your next San Diego trip.

But, alas, dinner at City Tacos is not in the cards every night — or any night these days while we’re tightening the budget.

Honestly, we only go on date night when there’s just the two of us to buy tacos for. Is it bad that we’ve never taken the kids there?

Good thing that exile in Kansas City (where there was nary a good taco to be had in 2008) forced me to learn how to make all my favorite taco fillings and sauces.

Keep in mind that there are soooo many ways to get creative — if you want to — with tacos: make your own tortillas, try different types of meat (carnitas, carne asada, pollo asada, etc), vary the toppings. You can make “American tacos” or explore the world of regional differences among the different Mexican states and how they make tacos.

Flour, corn, crunchy, soft — no matter how you like your tortillas, Taco Night is always a good idea. It is super easy to prep and we can all find something we like when I prep a Mexican buffet at home.

Grilled Chicken Night

Chicken Caesar Salad was very on trend when Fish and I got married back in 1994 — and last summer when it was my go-to Wednesday night dinner. Since we’ve already got salads covered this summer, I switched things up for grilled chicken. This gives me so much more flexibility.

Grilled chicken can be boneless, skinless chicken breasts marinated in an Asian marinade and served with Asian bowls. It can be grilled leg quarters alongside instant pot potatoes and green beans. It can be grilled Tandoori Chicken served with rice and a Veggie Curry.

Bryan loves to grill, so this is a major win for me. Sides are easy — and when I play my cards right, I have a bunch of chicken in marinade in the freezer. I’m currently down to my last bag!

protein waffles with yogurt and berries.

Breakfast for Dinner

Thursdays is our typical date night when Bryan and I go out to eat, just the two of us. I like having an easy meal plan that the kids can execute, so Breakfast for Dinner has become the go-to.

There are so many different breakfast things you can make and mix and match in different ways that it really doesn’t have to get boring. Plus, sales and markdowns on bacon, sausage, and ham are pretty frequent around here so I always have some meat the kids can add to eggs and breakfast carbs.

FishChick15 loves to prep it, so no one has resorted to cereal for dinner yet, but I don’t think they’d complain about that, either!

Grilled Pizza

Grilling pizza is one of the highlights of Bryan’s week. I’m a fan, too. I get a fantastic meal — better than I’ve ever had at a pizza place — without the expense. Talk about a winning deal!

Pro tip: Pizza screens and plates! Until recently, the kitchen suffered a pizza night hangover in the form of too many pizza screens that needed washing. This summer I solved that problem by purchasing these pizza trays for serving. They are easy to wash and now the problem is solved.

Each week we make a double batch of my Sourdough Pizza Crust recipe. I’m finding that refrigerating the dough gives it better texture.

In the late afternoon, we craft six to seven pies and vary the toppings to suit what everyone is in the mood for. They are thin crust, 14-inch pies and the best ever!

Head here for more pizza tips and recipes.

charcuterie board set up on divided trays, aka prison plates.

Snacky Saturday

My time budget for the summer has me doing meal prep on Saturday. This means that after spending time in the kitchen earlier in the day, I don’t really want to cook dinner. Snacky Dinner it is!

This can change from week to week based on what we have, what’s on sale, what’s leftover, but it’s generally cheese and meat platters, veg, fruit, nuts, pickles/olives, and some kind of bread like crackers or sourdough bread.

If you want to get fancy, you can serve more elaborate appetizers or a ploughman’s lunch. There are so many ways to make a snacky lunch or dinner amazing! Check out these various snack trays (aka charcuterie boards) for more inspiration!

summer meal plans printed on a clipboard.

How this saves me money….

Since summer weather will last through October and into November, I don’t plan to change our meal plan rotation much, at least not until after the weather cools down. This will help me save both time and money since I won’t be buying a lot of extra fancy ingredients, but will instead be sticking to some general basics.

Ground meats and chicken breast tend to be the cheapest proteins in my area so having these on repeat will keep costs low in general. Another shoutout to Ralphs’ amazing meat clearance, too.

In my monthly survey of the freezer, I did find some hot dogs and sausages, so I will be working those into the meal plans, either alongside the hamburgers or as a protein to serve on Salad Sundays.

plate of pancakes and berries with a heart-shaped butter pat melting on top.

More Summer Tips

What’s on repeat at your house?

I’d love to know I’m not talking to myself. Leave a comment and share what meal ideas are on repeat at your house each week.

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  1. We have pasta night — Bolognese, carbanara, vodka pasta, Salisbury noodles, Mac n’ Cheese, etc. We have sandwiches for Saturday lunch. Sunday dinner is a roast; either a beef or pork roast or a whole chicken or turkey. Wed. night is always a Penny supper. I set out all the leftovers in the fridge and let everyone make their own plate. Whatever doesn’t get eaten goes out for trash pickup on Thursday morning.

  2. Love these ideas. It’s winter here.
    yesterday I updated the old meal plan rotation for summer and winter with relatively inexpensive meals after asking the family for input. 2 weeks for each.
    Simplified the master grocery list that goes along with it ready to overhaul the price book thats been collecting dust since 2017.

    The last few years I’ve been flying by the seat of my pants just getting what ever Lowest cost items I could find and put them together. While the budget survived I know I can do better. I need to get back on the wagon.thanks for the inspro to do it.

    Fyi: for those with an abundance of summer greens (chard/spinach) to change it up last night boiled greens with a pat of butter and a splash of fish sauce have converted my family members who were not a fan of them.

  3. I like your ideas – kind of like a meal matrix. Decision fatigue is a real thing. I love that you already decided what type/category of dinner each night, so most of the work is done – just have to fill in exactly what type of tacos, etc. Our family’s summer schedule is so wonky I’m going to focus on cleaning out the freezer and pantry and then create theme nights/meal matrix for August.

  4. We’ve done much more traveling this summer than in the past, so meals at home have been very similar to your weekly themes. But in 2 1/2 short weeks marching band starts for my 2 still at home and in 4. 1/2 weeks be back to school for inservice (school starts 8/14!). I need to get back on top of meal planning!

  5. I’m going to incorporate some of these this week! I’m slowly working my way out of a cooking rut-end of May and June was a wash with kids away at grandparents /kids sick with no appetite. Side note, I dusted off my copy of NYM make aheads- felt good to get a few meals in the freezer last week!

  6. I love your theme nights for summer. I instituted theme nights last fall, and they worked like a charm for us. Thanks for the reminder!

  7. Hi Jessica! I have been getting your emails and reading your posts for a few years now. I always enjoy reading about what you are cooking and what you have been up to. I feel like we are in the same stage of life. I have 2 sons. One is married and I have an amazing daughter in law and 2 grandchildren. The other son just started college. So soon I will be an empty nester. But I am not going to be upset about it. I am enjoying this new phase of life and being a grandmother.
    Take care,

    1. Congratulations on this new season of life, Kim! It’s exciting, isn’t, helping kids figure out their own nests? We are in such a transition now for the next ten years, I imagine, but I’m looking forward to it. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. 🙂

  8. Jessica, I always find your posts helpful. My five kids are adults now, with four still living at home and eating most dinners together as a family. Our summer meals on repeat are grilled burgers, grilled chicken (different flavors each week), taco bar, pasta night, and homemade pizza. Other nights are leftovers or YOYO.

    1. Hey Michelle! Sounds like we live parallel lives. lol. It’s awesome that your schedules work to eat together. We’ve got Sundays dialed in but every other night we may eat in shifts or someone is missing.

      1. I forgot to mention that your blog has been my inspiration for my meal planning and so many of our meals are your recipes 🤗
        Last night’s pizza on the grill was a win – no heating up the oven in this summer heat!

  9. Thank you!!!
    This is just what I needed to simplify the rest of summer meals (& NO ovens! B/c it’s too hot!) – but also keep some variety.

    1. So true! I do anything I can to avoid turning on the oven in summer! IP, slow cooker and more recently the air fryer, are my best friends. It’s 110 def today and so I don’t even feel like I can get out and grill much in July!