So you've mastered the art of cooking on a dime? You've revised your shopping list, made use of that leftover ham, brown-bagged your lunch at work and stocked up on sales & staples. Good for you! In the spirt of summer, we've put together a list of new and additional tips, cool new links for frugal cooking and eating, and brand new summer recipes focused on lighter, more picnic-esque fare, which tend to remind folks of the warmer months.
A few brand new tips
- Frozen confections are overpriced. Make your own mini-popsicles by pouring your favorite juice into an ice tray and placing a toothpick in each ice slot.
- When any recipe calls for butter, use half margarine and half real butter. Doing this will get you butter taste at margarine prices
- Make an advanced grocery list, including how much you are going to spend, and the approximate cost for each item on the list.
- Stay seasonal. A number of fruits and vegetables are in their peak season during the summer, and will naturally be cheaper during this season. Check out a list of seasonal produce
- Save money by using dried or powdered milk in any recipes that call for it.
- Skip the grocery store and buy locally produced products from a farmers market or bazaar.
- Befriend pasta and rice. Both are reasonably healthy, and cheap fillers. Using these with meats and vegetables in your main dish spreads your dollar.
(All prices are approximate. Actual costs vary slightly based on region, the particular store, and minor changes in the economy.)
This recipe was made to be grilled outdoors (hence the name "cookout"), but could also be made indoors by boiling hot dogs.
- 1 package hot dogs ($2.50)
- 1 package chili ($1.50)
- 1 package hot dog buns ($1.00)
- 1/2 bag shredded cheddar cheese ($1.50)
- Butter, optional (negligible)
- Mustard, Relish, & Ketchup, optional (negligible)
Grill hot dogs on grill until fully cooked. While the dogs are grilling,heat the chili up in the microwave for 3 three minutes. If you prefer toasted buns, grill those with a small amount of butter for 1-2 minutes. Top fully cooked dogs with chili and cheese.
Summertime bean trio salad, $3.45 total cost (serves 6+)
- 1 can Kidney beans ($0.75)
- 1 can Wax beans ($0.75)
- 1 can cut Green beans ($0.75)
- 1 can of either Carrots or Lima beans ($0.75)
- 1 tablespoon onion powder (negligible)
- 1 tablespoon Canola oil (negligible)
- 1/4 Cider vinegar ($0.35)
- 1/4 cup brown sugar ($0.15)
Drain beans and vegetables well. Set aside. In a small pot, combine brown sugar, cider vinegar and Canola oil over medium heat and bring to a boil. When the sugar dissolves into the mixture remove from heat. Add the mixture to a serving bowl along with the beans and vegetables. Mix & allow to marinate for AT LEAST one hour before serving. The longer the better.
For variations on this recipe, change the types of beans (black beans, black eyed peas, etc) and the vegetable (carrots, peas, etc.)
Choco-crispie banana pops, $2.80 total cost, serves 12.
- 6 bananas ($1.60)
- 1 cup chocolate chip morsels ($.50)
- 1/8-1/4 cup milk ($0.25)
- 1/4 cup crisp rice cereal ($0.45)
Cut bananas in half. Make the halves into "pops" by sticking lollipop sticks, chopsticks, kebabs sticks or anything you have handy. Allow to firm by placing in freezer 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, melt chocolate chip morsels and milk on stovetop or mircowave.Dip the firm banana pops into chocolate. Scatter cereal on clean countertop, cutting board, or large plate and roll banana pops through, ensuring they are equally coated. Loosely cover pops with plastic wrap or wax paper. Allow to sit in freezer at least 10 minutes before serving.
For a fun variation on this recipe, use chopped nuts or crushed candy bars instead of cereal.
Penne, tuna & olive salad
- 1 box penne pasta (or substitute your favorite pasta suitable for salads) ($1.00)
- 1/2 package block Mozzarella cheese ($1.60)
- 1 can or pouch Albacore tuna ($0.85)
- 1/2 can, or 1 small can, Black olives ($0.65)
- 1/2 cup Italian dressing ($1.00)
- Salt to taste (negligible)
- Pepper to taste (negligible)
- Basil, fresh or dried to taste (negligible)
Cook pasta according to "al dente" according to package directions. While pasta is cooking, cut the Mozzarella cheese block into bite size cubes, and drain oil and/or water from tuna. Mix all ingredients together in a serving bowl. Allow salad to marinate in refrigerator for at least one hour.
For a variation and health benefits, add any number of vegetables into the mix. Switch old regular pasta for whole-wheat, and full flavor dressing for a lower-fat, reduced calorie version.
A few new favorite links featuring budget recipes
- CHOWS' budget recipes
- Better Budgeting's recipe index
- Grub Girl's blog "Meals for 3 dollars or less"
- Stretcher.com's "Frugal meals for big families"
- "Cheap Eats" blog