In a vacation state of mind.

By Briana Riddock
June 29, 2018
 Photographer: Kelsey Hansen; Food Stylist: Karen Rankin; Prop Sylist: Audrey Davis

With the July 4th weekend approaching, this week has been a great time to start planning for traveling. Independence Day lands smack dab in the middle of the week this year, making it a semi-awkward time to take advantage of the holiday and request off from work. However, whether you are packing up at the beginning or the end of the week or simply staying put to celebrate at home, we figured that an easy-to-follow blueprint of July 4th dishes to make ahead of time would be useful. Because getting a jumpstart on you cookout prep this weekend means next week will be smooth sailing, no matter what you’ve got planned. We also have a few pro-tips on how to navigate everyone’s favorite budget grocery store, Aldi, to help you stretch your dollar while buying groceries for the week ahead. Let the planning commence!

For a summer get-together, planning ahead smartly can include pre-slicing veggies, making a homemade barbecue sauce, assembling your pasta salad, and creating an cooling make-ahead-friendly treat for dessert, like an icebox cake or these delightful Blueberry Sorbet “Cupcakes”

If you are hitting the open road, particularly with kiddos, I’m telling you now… pack plenty of snacks. Besides finally arriving at your destination, snacks are the best things about road trips, after all. You can make the typical road trip-friendly snack such as trail mix, granola bars, and popcorn, or be a little extra with Apple-Oat Energy Balls, Homemade Cheddar Crackers, or Almond Joy Candied Bacon. For lengthier drives, it’s also not a bad idea to pack a few portable lunches in a cooler in you’re hoping to avoid hitting the drive-thru. (Or don’t, but if you’re sucker for the occasional fast food meal, you definitely need to check out out our copycat fast food sauces… you can make them at home to get the same drive-thru flavor, without all of the weird preservatives and mystery ingredients.) These make-ahead meals will save you money while on the road and help reduce the chance of anyone reaching unbearable levels of hangry.    

In case the kids need something fun to play with outside of their smartphones and tablets, take it back old school and make a batch of fun, colored slime. The sticky-stuff is satisfyingly enjoyable in all its low-tech simplicity, and our version is 100% non-toxic. Just be sure to have a large plastic container for the kids to handle the slime over and remind everyone that just because you can eat it, doesn’t mean you should.

Now that you’ve done such a great job of planning ahead for the Fourth, those making a little vacay of the week might also want to think about what you and your family will eat once you get home. (Isn’t it weird how adulting seems to constantly revolve around planning what to eat?) Most likely, the plan is gonna be: Work with what you got. Hopefully, you’ll have pasta, grains, or bread to at least serve as the base to a meal. Or, you can just grab store-bought pizza dough (taste-test approved) from the store on your way home along with a jar of tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, and a few toppings for an easy DIY pizza night. 

Pizza is like a reliable friend, and it always saves the day. Therefore, when in doubt, make pizza.