First off, my apologies to those of you who will read this post and say “duh!” You’re probably at least ten steps ahead of me already on hacking mommyhood and otherwise simplifying your parental existence. When I stop and think about what I’m about to tell you, part of me thinks, How banal! How obvious! Who on earth will find this useful?
Well, a little over a month ago, I would have found this post useful. As always, the goal of this website is to make the lives of parents everywhere easier, by sharing with you stuff I’ve figured out bit by bit over time. Sometimes I stumble across my parenting hacks by accident (like this one); sometimes they come about from much trial and error. But if it makes my life easier, I want to pass it on, so you can benefit from what I’ve learned the hard way without having to repeat some of my mistakes.
So: Watermelon. One of my kids’ favorite summer treats. What’s to hack about that (besides the watermelon itself, with a knife)?
Well, until this summer, I found myself avoiding buying watermelon for my kids as often as they might have preferred. There’s nothing like the juicy, sweet goodness of farm-fresh local watermelon in the summer. The problem is not with buying it, or eating it, but with storing the leftovers and eating them in a timely manner.
Those of you with older children may have forgotten how everything just takes longer with a toddler and a preschooler around, leaving less time for the basics. Like keeping the countertops visible. Or cleaning up after meals. Or having that precious few minutes to prepare a healthy snack when your little ones are having a meltdown and want it NOW.
Or rearranging the contents of your refrigerator every time you want to put in or take out the remains of a half-eaten watermelon, precariously balancing cut-side-down on its own plate so it doesn’t make a sticky mess all over the inside of the fridge, its dome-shaped hump occupying a huge amount of space because you can’t exactly stack something else on top of it.
Let alone locating the cutting board and knife, slicing off some fresh wedges, and then getting it back on the plate and once again safely tucked away in the fridge (along with everything else you had to haul out in order to access it in the first place). Not to mention washing and drying and putting away the cutting board and knife.
Those disincentives alone – revolving around those priceless five minutes that I often didn’t have when my little ones suddenly decided it was snack time – were enough to guarantee that more often than not, at least a little of the watermelon would go bad before we got to finish eating it.
And so we would pass by displays of fresh local watermelons for sale with longing and regret.
Fast-forward to this past Independence Day holiday. We had a low-key day planned; my husband had to work, so our celebration consisted of a last-minute play date with a friend’s three-year-old son and his grandmother, when said friend went into labor with her second son a few weeks early. As a special holiday treat, for lunch we had a picnic of watermelon and ice cream on our shady front lawn. I’d bought the smallest seedless watermelon I could find, about the size of a basketball, and waited until that morning to cut it, so it would be as fresh as possible.
In an effort to get everything outside with minimal effort, I took out a large plastic food storage container with a lid, sliced the watermelon into circles and then sliced each circle into eight wedges, packed the container with as many pieces as I could squeeze into it, and snapped on the lid, to keep the bugs away when we weren’t replenishing our plates.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that most of the watermelon fit into the container! (After our picnic, I cut up what was left of the melon, and because we’d already eaten so much, I was able to fit all the remaining wedges into a smaller container.)
Even better, the container fit into the fridge much better than a partially-cut melon had in the past. We were able to stack things on top of it or under it with ease.
And best of all, when my kids wanted to snack on watermelon the following day, all I had to do was pull out the container and pile already-cut wedges onto plates. The wedges were as fresh as if I’d just sliced them, and the prep time was down to seconds instead of minutes. No cutting board to locate and then wash, no mass of stuff to rearrange in the fridge just to get the watermelon out and then get it back in again.
If you’ve read this far, then perhaps you’re having the blazing-flash-of-the-obvious moment right now that I did on Independence Day. Sometimes it’s the simplest things that can make our life easier. So, to review what I learned last month about enjoying the freshest possible watermelon the easy way:
Buy the smallest seedless watermelon you can find, ideally about the size of a basketball (or the height of a 16-oz. bottle of water).
- When you’re ready to start eating it, save a few extra minutes to cut up the whole thing (rather than just cutting off what you need to snack on at that moment). After slicing it into circles, cut each circle into eighths (i.e., wedges that are easy for even the littlest watermelon lovers to manage).
- Let your kids eat as much as they want, and put the leftover wedges into a large resealable food-storage container. (Ours is a rectangular Rubbermaid one similar to this one.)
- Now that the rest is cut up and safely stored away, it will take up much less space in the fridge, and you’ll find it’s much easier to snack on the rest in a timely manner.