The 5 Things on My Family’s Summer Bucket List This Year

Do you ever get to the end of summer and regret all the things you didn't eat? Meghan Splawn is planning ahead to make the most of the season.

Plate of yellow and red watermelon

Simply Recipes / Lori Rice

Summer break is quickly approaching for my elementary aged kids. While the last few months have included securing summer camp spots and vacation rentals, I’ve been thinking a lot about what kind of food memories I want to make with them, too. I’m acutely aware of just how few summers of ice pops and lazy swimming pool days we have left as my oldest is entering her last year of primary school. 

So while the countdown to summer break is on, I sat down to write out my family’s summer bucket list. It includes those day camps and pool days, but it also includes the kind of edible memories I have from my own childhood that I want to share and new memories we get to make together. Here are five ways I’m celebrating food on our family’s summer bucket list this year.

  • Go Strawberry Picking and Make Microwave Jam

    Microwave Strawberry Jam
    Elise Bauer

    School happens to end smack dab in the middle of strawberry season where we live in the Southeastern US. We usually meet friends early in the day to pick berries and have strawberry ice cream at the farm for lunch. We take home more berries than we can reasonable eat, so many of them are destined for the freezer, but last summer my oldest learned to make microwave strawberry jam (not from her food editor mother, but a kid’s cooking kit) and we’re both really looking forward to making it again. 

    Luckily Simply Recipes also has an easy to follow Microwave Strawberry Jam recipe, too.

  • Host a July 4th BBQ and Watch the Fireworks

    Memphis-style Pork Ribs
    Elise Bauer

    Our July 4th tradition involves smoking a few racks of ribs, making portable s’mores (like these cookies), and watching the fireworks together. Last year, we had just relocated to a new city and didn’t know who to invite. This summer, we’ve got neighborhood friends to host and feed who also have the best view of our city’s fireworks from their porch. 

    I find dry-rub ribs the easiest for feeding a crowd, like this Memphis-Style Pork Rib recipe.

  • Make and Eat Ice Cream for Dinner

    Side view of a bowl of the best vanilla ice cream with caramel sauce and ice cream cones set behind it.
    Ciara Kehoe

    One of my favorite childhood traditions was the one sticky-hot night of summer every year when my mom would pack us in the car and take us out for ice cream for dinner. Yes, we often ate less celebratory cold-cut sandwiches later in the evening as our real meal; But for at least an hour our mom was the most fun parent who fulfilled all our dessert for dinner dreams.

    This year, I want to make the most of the ice cream machine I always dutifully pull out of storage, including plopping the canister into an already packed freezer, and then never make full use of. My game plan? Let each kid pick out their own flavor and have our own sort of ice cream eating contest to see who makes the best batch. 

    Here’s how to host your own ice cream for dinner night or ice cream social: 12 Must-Have Recipes for the Best Ice Cream Social

  • Eat the Juiciest Peaches, Corn, and Watermelon from Our Farmers Market

    farmers market salad
    Alison Conklin

    Have you ever gotten to the end of summer lamenting that you didn't eat enough tomatoes or peaches? I certainly have, which is why I have to put regular farmers market attendance on our bucket list. Personally I’d add tomatoes (my kids haven’t come around to their deliciousness yet). The farmers market also gives us the opportunity to celebrate where our food comes from.

    I'm going to pick up all the ingredients for this salad one week, too: Farmers Market Salad

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • End the Summer With a Seaside Shrimp Boil

    Clambake recipe
    Sally Vargas

    The last hurrah of summer break for our family is two weeks on the Carolina coast with friends. My youngest is seafood obsessed and is looking forward to eating his weight in shrimp and crab! The same cannot be said of his older sister, but my fingers are crossed that a big steamer basket of boiled shrimp, potatoes, and corn will be so much fun she won’t notice the seafood—or at least she won’t spoil her brother’s joy. 

    Here’s a recipe you can use to create your own boil or clam bake at home, if you can’t get to the beach this summer.

Our summer bucket list is intentionally small so that we can enjoy the spontaneity of summer days without burning ourselves out in planning and executing endlessly. Sprinkled in amongst the summer camps and pool days, I hope this list will be just enough to create lasting memories for my kids before they grow up and start making their own summer bucket lists.