Written by Brenda Sale, SNAP-Ed Extension Associate
Now that kids are out of school for the summer, you no longer have to wonder if your parenting skills are adequate for 4th grade math! Maybe that’s only me… You also no longer have to trudge through 7th grade essays trying to correct spelling and punctuation. It is however, time to think about feeding your kids for the summer and this doesn’t have to be harder than 4th grade math.
A few tips and tricks can make feeding your kids for the summer easier, cheaper and stress free.
Plan… Plan …. Plan….
The key to having plenty of food on hand, and the right food, takes a little planning and preparation. First, involve your kids. Find out what kinds of foods they would like for meals and daytime snacks. Brainstorm possible lunch ideas together as a family (that both mom and kids approve of) and make a meal schedule or a list. This can be as simple as a calendar of meal options or list of available foods that kids can choose from. Make the list visible on the refrigerator or cabinet to help kids be aware of the healthy choice options. Also, when planning your evening meals, prep for larger portions, so kids can heat up leftovers. Turn leftover roast into BBQ beef sandwiches, beef nachos, or French dip sandwiches the next day.
Determine preparation skills that are age appropriate for making meals. If you are not at home, can they use the microwave, stove, knives or other appliances? Set ground rules for what things can and can’t be used, if mom and dad work, and then plan for easy to make meals which require little prep or tools. If mom/dad are home for the summer, use this time to involve the kids and learn a new cooking skill. A couple of Extension websites that can help with kids learning to cook are: www.kidsacooking.org, and http://food.unl.edu/food-fun-young-children. Both sites are great resources for kid friendly recipes, with nutritional information, instructions, and videos available.
One thing I like to do for my kids is have cooked chicken on hand all the time. I fill 1-2 cookie sheets with chicken breasts and season them with a general chicken rub or teriyaki type seasoning. Bake chicken in the oven (or in the summer you can grill) until the temperature of the meat reaches 165 degrees. Cut the chicken into strips and lay on a cookie sheet in the freezer. This is a key step. You want to freeze the chicken in individual pieces; if you put it in a bag when it’s warm and put it in the freezer, it will be one solid mass making it difficult to pull out single portions.
After the chicken has frozen, usually over night, I scrape off the chicken into a freezer bag, and seal it for later use. Having cooked chicken on hand allows for quick lunches that are easy for kids to make, such as chicken salad sandwiches, chicken with noodles, quesadillas, salads, and wraps. They can also cook chicken with frozen chinese vegetables, soy sauce and peanut butter for a hot, quick, single pan meal. The Teriyaki chicken is great for salads, paired with lettuce, spinach, onion and dressing. To make wraps, my teenage girls heat up the chicken and put it in a tortilla with toppings of their choice: usually spinach, lettuce, onions, tomato, banana peppers, shredded cheese, and a flavored ranch (mexi-ranch, salsa ranch or bacon ranch dressing).
Have washed and pre-cut fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator for quick, easy snacking. If kids have to prep too many things, they will grab an easier snack that is processed and less healthy. Have pre-cut vegetables with dips or ranch, bowls of fruit with apples and oranges, washed grapes, and fruit salads in mixture of cantaloupe or watermelon available for quick grab and go snacks. String cheese, hard boiled eggs, beef jerky, trail mixes, low fat popcorn, frozen fruit for smoothies, and low-fat yogurt and fruit for making parfaits also make for quick snacking options.
If feeding your kids for the summer is straining the pocketbook, find your local summer lunch feeding program. The USDA Food and Nutrition Services provides summer meals at various locations across Nebraska. Sites may offer breakfast, lunch, or both, depending on location. Locate a summer feeding program near you at: https://www.fns.usda.gov/summerfoodrocks.
- 2 6-inch French rolls
- 3/4 c. pizza sauce
- 1/4 c. Mozzarella cheese, shredded
- 1/4 c. green pepper, chopped*
- 1/4 c. onion, chopped*
- Preheat oven to 475 F.
- Cut French rolls in half as you would to make a sandwich. Place each half on a baking sheet. Spread pizza sauce over each half.
- Top each half with Mozzarella cheese, green pepper, and onion.
- Bake for 10 minutes or until cheese is melted.
Nutrition Information per Serving: Calories 120, Total Fat 3 g (4% DV), Saturated Fat 1.5 g (7% DV), Cholesterol 5 mg (2% DV), Sodium 380 mg (16% DV), Total Carbohydrate 19 g (6% DV), Dietary Fiber 2 g (7% DV), Sugars 2 g, Protein 5 g, Vitamin A 4%, Vitamin C 25%, Calcium 10%, Iron 8%.
This post was reviewed by Morgan Hartline MS, RD, LMNT. Frozen chicken and list photos by Brenda Sale. Recipe photo by Craig Chandler, University Communications.