6 ways to trim your summer food bill
Summer is in full swing, and with it comes warm weather, vacation time and a natural world in full bloom that you can take advantage of. Here are six ways to take the richness of summer and use it to trim your food bill.
Grill. No one wants a hot kitchen during the summer, which just adds heat to the house and can make a perfectly comfortable room feel sweltering in no time flat. Instead, take that meal preparation outside and use the grill.
You can prepare almost any meal you can imagine on your grill, from the typical grilled foods like steak and burgers to more unusual grilled foods like pizzas, baked beans, bread and scrambled eggs – yes, I've made all of these things on our grill. A grill provides the means to quickly and cheaply cook almost anything. Plus, the food acquires an aroma and flavor that an oven just can't quite capture.
Pack picnics. Summer is a wonderful opportunity to dine outside and enjoy the beauty of the great outdoors, and there's no better way to do that than to pack a picnic. It doesn't need to be anything complicated – just a few simple sandwiches, vegetables and a beverage or two carried in a backpack works.
One of the best places to enjoy a picnic is in a local park. Find a nice shaded area with a picnic table or a grassy area to spread a blanket and then enjoy your meal with friends and family as you take in the sunshine and the greenery of the park.
Buy fresh produce. Between your own garden, farmers markets, roadside stands and the produce section at your local grocery store, there is never a better time to pick up inexpensive fresh produce than the peak months of summer.
Of course, using all this fresh produce can be a challenge. The trick is to try different recipes you might not have otherwise. Mix a giant salad for supper, or learn how to prepare turnips and beets and make something unexpected. It's likely you'll find something new and delicious that you'll love.
Preserve the extras. If you pick up fresh produce – especially if you buy it in bulk – you're going to have some left over. The worst thing you can do with those extras is throw them away.
There are lots of ways to preserve extra food, from canning to simply freezing it. Almost every fruit and vegetable has methods for storing them for later. You can also make meals with the fresh produce, like pasta sauce, and store those for later, too.
Pack snacks and meals before you travel. Summer travel and road trips can be expensive all on their own, but when you add in the cost of food along the way, from restaurants to convenience stores, it can really add up.
A smarter strategy is to pack snacks and meals before you go. Fill up a cooler with beverages and foods that need to stay cold, and then keep other food items at room temperature in the car with you. Instead of stopping at a convenience store, pull a beverage out of the cooler or a snack out of the bag. Instead of stopping at a restaurant, stop at a park and have a quick picnic (plus the kids can burn off some energy on the playground equipment).
Make your own sweet treats. Few things are tastier on a hot summer day than a really cold treat, but stops at the ice cream shop or even in the freezer aisle at the grocery store can be expensive. A better approach is to make your own cold treats.
Try freezing strawberries, banana slices and berries on a cookie sheet in the morning and pulling them out for an icy delicious snack in the evening. Try making a batch of homemade ice cream – all you really need is rock salt, ice, sugar and milk. Try turning the fruits of summer into a pulpy juice, popping a stick into a cup of that juice, then freezing it to make a healthy Popsicle. The best taste treats of summer aren't bought in a store.
Take advantage of the bountiful opportunities of summer to save a little money on food while also exploring delicious recipes and meal opportunities. You'll be glad you did!
Copyright 2015 U.S. News & World Report
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