What's Your Family Food Plan For the Summer?

Although I spend a lot of my time thinking and writing about good food, I'm pretty inconsistent when it comes to what I actually do. When my (then) three-year-old boy went on a calcium strike, for example, I caved in after about four minutes and made him chocolate milk. When my daughter pouted instead of getting dressed for school, I offered a piece of candy as motivation to speed things up. When I picked the kids up from school, I'd bring lollipops and crackers. When I had a rough day at work, I'd reward myself with a piece of ice cream pie.

I'm writing about these things in the past tense because I'm committed to change. Summer's coming, and my strategy of doling out treats in order to keep people happy needs to change. It will change.

The good news is that I've got the change of season working in my favor. I've ordered up my Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) box of organic veggies from Featherstone Farm, and I'm supplementing it with a new box of organic fruit each week from Fruitshare. So there'll be plenty of delicious, healthy, pesticide free foods in the house, and we'll all be compelled to eat them like crazy lest they rot. I'll admit to being a "just in time" grocery shopper, so having good food delivered to (or near) my house in a box each week helps a lot.

But how am I going to get my kids to accept the change? I'm not entirely sure, but initial signs are good. Without notice last month, for example, I declared over dinner that my (now) eight-year-old boy would be limited to one cup of chocolate milk per day. Did he cry? Did he pout? Did he demand more? Nope. When he woke up the next morning, he asked for water with his breakfast and his lunch. He said he was saving his chocolate milk for dinner time. He's done the same thing every day since.

Here's another example. My wife and I recently decided that our kids (eight and five years old) should eat what we eat, at least most of the time. Have they gone on a hunger strike? Called the authorities? Asked to eat at their friends' houses? Nope, nope, nope. They still request their favorite foods - sometimes in loud, whiny voices - but they now understand that they're not likely to get them. Is it a perfect system? Not at all. But it's a whole lot better than we expected, and it feels good to regain control of the situation - and the food - in our house.

But what about the summer? How do three less tightly structured months change what we do at home in terms of food? How does eating seasonally play a role in our lives? What about activity? Before we miss the opportunity to be purposeful about our food this summer, here are a few questions I'm asking myself:

  • What makes a good meal? Do we need to eat meat every day? Are there other ways for our children to get their protein?
  • Can we survive without chicken nuggets (even organic ones)?
  • When we grill outside, should be be serving the kids hot dogs? If so, which kinds are acceptable?
  • What about when we eat with friends? Are certain foods off limits for the grown-ups? For the children?
  • What about lemonade and other delicious sugary beverages? Can we commit to making these from scratch?
  • What kinds of foods make good picnics?
  • How many treats will we allow per day? Are weekdays different than weekends?
  • What about exercise? Can we make sure we take at least three family bike rides each week? Should we join the Y? Are there other activities we need to make time for?
  • How often can we get to a farm? We're participating in Riverbend Farm Days on the last Saturday of each month, but is there more we can do?
  • What about our own garden (planted with the help of A Backyard Farm)? Will our kids try the new foods we grow if we engage them in the process?
  • When we get the chance to go out to eat, which restaurants are not only delicious, but are also true to our values?
  • Should we commit to trying new recipes with the bounty we get each week from our farmshare?

The list goes on. These questions are not only relevant during the summer, obviously, but I'm taking this opportunity to think more than I normally would about the things I want for myself and my family.

What about you? Are you making a family food plan for the summer? Have you already got one? What are some of your guidelines? Do you use a format you're willing to share? Do you discuss food choices with your families? How do you eat differently when you visit family and friends or go to the beach?

Please let us know - we'd love to hear from you.


Lee Zukor is the founder of Simple, Good, and Tasty. Email him at or follow him on Twitter.