Smart Ways to Save on Food This Summer

Not sure how to budget your meals this summer? Don't sweat it. There are tons of ways to save when you sit down and do the math.

Nobody wants to be cooking in a hot kitchen all summer long. Nor does anyone want to give themselves more work with little downtime during a season that celebrates enjoying oneself. Perhaps that’s why the urge to dine in or order takeout often skyrockets during the summer. The good news is, that there are plenty of solutions to beating the summer heat whilst still enjoying what you eat, and these options are notably cheaper than any restaurant will ever be.

We’ve all been guilty of spending a little (or a lot) more on food than we can actually afford. Doing the honest math, there have been times in my life when the majority of my budget was all but blown on meals and meals alone, especially in the summertime. The fact is, fun in the sun can lead to throwing caution to the wind and eating whatever we want, but our budget should not be forgotten.

When I asked myself “how did this happen?,” the answer always turned out to be simple and the same: I overlooked how easy it is to save on food when you actually make an effort to do so. When I changed my ways, my overspending went down, my savings significantly went up, and my summers remained just as fun and fancy-free (if not more with a little extra change in my pocket).

The first step to saving on food in the summer is to get serious about it right now. No matter how easy it is to impulsively order a meal and swipe that card again and again, eating out adds up. Dining away from home should become more of a periodic treat than a weekly norm if you plan to save money. Consider it an experiment: try to avoid eating out for a month and then evaluate the difference that it made in your budget. My guess is, it’ll prove worth making your meals at home more often than not.

If you want to take the work and worry out of “what’s for dinner?” you’ll need to start planning accordingly. So without further ado, here are some of the smartest ways to save on food costs in the summer.

Make Simple Meals

veggie skewers

No matter how you slice it, summertime is an ideal season for taking it easy in the kitchen. Now’s the time to go back to basics. As we all know by now, when it’s hot outside, less is always more. And as temperatures rise, there’s no need to overheat the inside of the house while feeling overworked. Most notably, the simpler the ingredients list, the more dough you’ll likely save along the way.

If possible, void any many-step meals that involve using the stove and oven. Instead, search for simpler routes to breakfast, lunch, and supper time. Tis the season for salads and sandwiches, after all!

Read More: Ten Great Summer Jobs For Extra Income

Meal Prep (and Snack Prep)

Meal and snack prepping is another way to take the heavy lifting out of your meal planning. This holds true in every season. When you’re not running to the store every time you need to whip something up, you’ll save a notable chunk of time and money. Not to mention, you’ll have a lot less to think about when you’ve prepared even one of your meals in advance for every day of the week.

There’s nothing quite like reaching into the fridge and having a full meal ready and waiting. To get the most out of this money-saving method without getting bored of the same old thing, try prepping at least one meal every week to start. But always have snacks on hand.

meal prepping containers

Summer is a great time to have healthy, prepped snacks ready to eat. Personally, I like to keep containers of fruit chunks in the fridge for enjoying at home and taking wherever I go. Sometimes, I am not in the mood to cook at all and when temperatures rise, my appetite seems to drop. So having snacks to graze on all day long keeps me going and satisfied between meals.

Meal prepping is also a money-savvy way to steer clear of impulse purchases. If you have an idea of what your planned meals will look like from one week to the next, it’s a lot easier to keep your eyes on the prepped prize without getting distracted by delicious diet-breakers when you enter the grocery store. By meal and snack prepping, you’ll also have time to familiarize yourself with the best deals before you go.

Read More: The Cheapest Healthy Foods for Your Family

Invest in a Crockpot

As we discussed, turning on the stove in the summertime is generally not ideal. When it’s 90 degrees outside, why make matters hotter in the place you come to cool off? Of course, this is just one of many reasons owning a crockpot can come in handy.

Typically, crockpot recipes are cheap, simple, and savory. They’re also great for when you want to have guests over and need to make a lot of food, but don’t want to do a lot of work or spend too much. With a crockpot, you won’t just be saving money on meals, you will always save on time and workload.

Rather than multi-tasking to prepare a perfect meal, you’ll be free to step away and spend more time enjoying your day than preparing any big meals. While this kitchen staple is an easy and affordable go-to in any season, there’s no time like summertime to let the crockpot do most of the work for you.

Grill Out as Often as Possible

I can’t get enough of crockpot cooking, and I know I’m not alone in that. But in the summertime, there is forever one method that reigns supreme: grilling out. Whether you’re cooking veggie skewers, juicy burgers, or street corn, grilling is a brilliantly simple way to take any and every meal outdoors and save a little money in the process.

If you can’t set up a grill in your backyard or you don’t own one, consider heading to a public park. Just be sure to bring some extra charcoal. While there are obviously unhealthy grill options out there, this summer-friendly method gives you the opportunity to grill up a healthy smattering more often than not.

Group of young people having fun in the park at barbecue grilling and eating meat skewers together

Once upon a time, I used to bake asparagus in the oven and not only did it feel like I was waiting centuries, but I could never get the texture quite right. Then I discovered the power (and swift speed) of the grill. I thought “if a grill can do that to asparagus, what can’t it do?!” I soon found myself attempting to grill just about anything I could, especially in the summertime.

No matter what you’re into eating, grilling out is easy and relatively fast. And let’s face it, nothing says “it’s summertime” quite like grilling out with friends and family on a sunny afternoon. So fire it up, friend!

Read More: Barbecue on a Budget to Unlock Your Best Summer

Eat a Diet Full of Summertime Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are always our friends, and you’ll find a well-rounded selection during the summer. Before you go shopping, read up on the seasonal specials, sales, and local produce being promoted. Every time you enter the grocery store, spend as much time browsing the produce section as possible and leave no stone fruit unturned. If you prioritize produce this summer, you’ll be sure to get your money’s worth.

Fresh fruits and veggies aren’t just great for you, they’re generally more affordable than most other grocery store options. These days, I live on a mostly fruits and vegetables diet, but there’s no time that grocery shopping becomes more exciting or affordable than in the summer. Options become more abundant and prices sometimes steeply drop. And I waste no time picking my produce accordingly.

reusable bags

With summer heat forever on the rise, we could all use the extra energy, hydration, and super surge of overall health that fruits and veggies provide us. Summer is a time to take care of ourselves, inside and out. So drink your H2O, don’t skip the SPF, and stock up on things like pineapples, watermelon, plums, and spinach, to name a few.

If you’re a smart summer shopper, you can always walk away under budget. So go into the grocery store with a plan and explore your seasonal options. When you return home, take those healthy fixings and pair them with your main dishes. Take what’s left and make snacks for the future. Meal prep as you see fit. And never underestimate the power of a summer salad! It can offer a lot of variety without breaking the bank and is always a real crowd-pleaser.

Ultimately, summertime will always be a great chance to establish (or re-establish) a healthier routine with our best present and bright future in mind, and our finances are no exception.

Read More: 14 Tips to Help You Save All Summer Long

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