5 Simple Dinners for Busy Summer Nights

Here are 5 simple dinners for hot summer nights you can throw together that the whole family will enjoy.

Here are 5 simple dinners for hot summer nights you can throw together that the whole family will enjoy. #summertime #dinner #whatsfordinner #simplemeals #busynights

5 Simple Dinners for Hot Summer Nights

Summer is such a busy time for us, as I’m sure it is for most of you as well. Between fun activities, gardening, and just wanting to be outside in the nice weather, there is plenty for us to do at all times!

Keeping our energy up by eating a good meal can be a thought that sometimes goes to the wayside. Who has time to cook when there are weeds to pull? (Who really wants to cook after pulling weeds all day anyway?) I understand, I really do. I’m also one of those people that thrives on fresh produce in the summer, almost to the point where I don’t have much of a taste for things cooked in a hot oven. If it comes straight from the garden I will be happy to put it straight in my belly!

—New to gardening? Here are 14 Simple Gardening Tips

But we all have families that probably would protest if we stopped cooking to eat salads all summer so that’s what today’s simple list of ideas is for. These 5 recipes will give you inspiration for what to make for your family on those busy summer nights.

Dinners for Hot Summer Nights

Pizza in 30 Minutes

Having nightly “theme” nights is a great way to make meal planning easy. If your family enjoys a weekly pizza night, you need to give this 30 Minute Pizza recipe a try. It can easily be topped with whatever you have on hand (including fresh garden veggies…zucchini is yummy on pizza!), and including the from-scratch crust, it can be made in just 30 minutes from start to finish.

If you don’t want to have to make anything at all and would rather have a pizza inspired dish that you can just pull right out of the freezer, you need to check out this recipe for my mom’s Pizza Roll Ups.

Side Ideas: Salad, Olive Oil Baked Potatoes, Zucchini Fries

–You can also make an easy pizza night by making your own pizza dough ahead of time with this Frozen Pizza Dough recipe.

Dinners for Hot Summer Nights

Chef Salads

Ok, I know I said above that your family probably won’t eat salads every night, but in the summer it should definitely be a meal idea for some nights. With the abundance of fresh garden lettuce and other delicious fresh veggies, you can’t go wrong with a big Chef Salad.

Top your salad with some hard boiled eggs or leftover cooked meats for a good protein and have some homemade salad dressings on hand to pour over the top. Some of our favorites are: Homemade Ranch Dressing, Homemade Dorthy Lynch, Homemade Russian Dressing, Homemade French Dressing, or this Easy Salad Dressing is also wonderful if you need one you can make in a hurry.

Topping Ideas: Cheese, Shredded Carrots, Grapes, Raisins, Cucumbers, Cherry Tomatoes, Bell Peppers, Artichoke Hearts, Sunflower Seeds, Broccoli, Pineapple, Fresh Berries.

—Try one of these 5 Amazingly Simple Homemade Salad Dressings Worth Trying!

Dinners for Hot Summer Nights

Crockpot Drumsticks with Fresh BBQ Sauce

Excuse the not-so-great pictures, I put together and photographed this recipe a long time ago for LHL! Even so, it’s a wonderful little recipe and perfect for using fresh garden tomatoes in your meal. Not to mention it’s easy on your budget since drumsticks are usually a cheaper cut of meat.

I also love that this meal can be made in the slow cooker which makes it great for the nights that you still want a warm meal but without having to turn on the oven. While you are outside working in your garden and playing, dinner will be cooking away.

Side Ideas: Buttermilk Biscuits, Salad, Homemade Onion Rings, Steamed Broccoli, Old Fashioned Scalloped Potatoes, Fresh Fruit.

–Looking for more slow cooker recipes that can cook while you’re outside? Here are 77 Easy Recipes to Throw Together in the Slow Cooker

Dinners for Hot Summer Nights

7 Layer Taco Dip

This fun layered dip is so hearty that it makes a great simple meal and the best part is that the kids will think it’s so fun because it doesn’t seem like a traditional “meal”. But the fact is, it’s got protein, it has veggies, and it even has fruit (tomatoes). What’s not to love?

This recipe uses a canned chili for ease but you can also sub with homemade chili or with refried beans if you’d rather. Adding some browned hamburger into refried beans will give it a similar texture/flavor to the chili but is a little more cost-effective and easier depending on what you have on hand.

You don’t need to bake this meal at all but if you want you can put it in the oven to make the cheesy melty before serving.

Sides: None are really needed with this recipe!

–If you like Mexican inspired food, you should try this yummy Chicken and Cheese Queso Recipe, so good!


Dinners for Hot Summer Nights

Simple Vegetable Pasta

We make this easy pasta all of the time at our house. It’s especially easy to make in the summer when there is an abundance of zucchini, squash, and other veggies that can be “noodled”.

This recipe can be made just with vegetable noodles but if you want something a little more hearty, you can mix them with regular or gluten-free noodles for a more filling pasta dish. I use a tomato-based sauce in the recipe shown but we’ve also made this with an Alfredo Sauce and it’s delicious!

If you love veggies and don’t already have a Spiralizer, I would highly recommend it. We use ours several times a week to make various kinds of noodles. The kids love eating their veggies if they are in a fun shape!

Sides: Cheesy French Bread, Salad, Roasted Vegetables, Fruit Salad.

—If you have meatballs in the freezer, you can easily pull them out to go on top. Learn How to Make Make Ahead Meatballs.

If you enjoyed these 5 simple dinner ideas, here are a few more to check out:

Divider LineMeal Planning Made SimpleTrying to plan better, more frugal meals for your family so that you always have a warm meal on the table and aren’t wasting money at the grocery store? You’ve got to check out my ebook Meal Planning Made Simple. Even if you thought meal planning didn’t work for your family, this ebook will help you find the perfect fit for your family’s style.

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What are some of your family’s favorite go-to simple meals for busy nights?

Merissa bio

This post on Dinners for Hot Summer Nights was originally published in July 2017. It has been updated as of March 2020.

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  1. Seven layer dip is delicious, but I have never made it using chili instead of refried beans. Sounds wonderful. Thanks for the idea, all 5 ideas actually!

  2. Someone said Pizza 😉 And it’s done in 30 minutes. We’ll have to give it a try this week Merissa. Our kids love their pizzas

  3. Congratulations on that new baby!! They do take quite a bit of adjusting to fit into your routine!! Really appreciate all the good recipes hints & free things! Thanks

  4. All of these sound amazing!

    I would love for you to share this with my Facebook Group for recipes, crafts, tips, and tricks.

    Thanks for joining Cooking and Crafting with J & J!

  5. Learning so much from you. Love your cost saving recipes and new ideas for the stuff we grow in our garden.

  6. Love how quick and easy these are. Cooking in the summer is all about fresh and fast. Love this options 🙂