Overview: Easy summer meals that don’t require much effort or heat up the kitchen! So you can have more fun and stay cool!
One prime indication that it is summer for me is that I have no desire to cook. It’s hot outside, and I don’t want to make it hot inside by cranking up the oven. Of course, those of you who have been reading this blog for any length of time know that I will use any excuse I can to get out of cooking… but in summertime no one wants to cook, right? Right? It’s not just me, is it? :-)
So I’ve rounded up some ideas for easy summer meals – dinner options that don’t take a lot of time to throw together, so we can have our fun and eat it, too. No weird ingredients mean these recipes are also kid pleasers. AND they happen to be nice and cheap. In summer I’d rather spend my money on doing fun stuff than on food. Who’s with me?
Easy Summer Meals — that won’t break the bank or heat up the kitchen:
1) Grilling just about anything. I mean, obviously.
Especially if it’s been marinated. We love to grill hamburgers, chicken, fish, and brats. (Can I just say I LOVE brats??) One caveat — while you can throw burgers on the grill while they are still frozen, the chicken, fish, and brats grill better when they’ve been thawed first. And for the brats specifically, make sure you do them low and slow — to get them fully cooked on the inside. I almost always pair these items with my yummy cole slaw — the kids like it, and it’s easy to throw together, so it’s a win-win!
I know this doesn’t seem like it would work for summer, but the hot spices in chili actually make you cool down! And it’s quick to open a few cans and heat up on the stovetop, which means less heat in the kitchen. Try my favorite chili recipe!
3) Another SUPER QUICK AND EASY favorite is tacos.
Especially with my easiest taco recipe ever! If you don’t want to mess with heating the oven to crisp up the taco shells, turn it into a taco salad with tortilla chips instead. YUM!
4) Anything in the crockpot — especially if you put the crockpot OUTSIDE.
Never thought of that one, did ya? :-) That way it won’t make the kitchen any hotter than it has to be while it is cooking food all day. I put mine on the deck which is just a few steps from the kitchen. (If you have an instant-pot, you may not have this problem — I haven’t gotten one yet.)
What to put in the crockpot? The easiest thing for me is frozen chicken tenderloins or thighs or drumsticks with a little marsala or white cooking wine, some basil or rosemary, and salt and pepper. Another easy one would be to slather the chicken with barbecue sauce. Another option is to mix salsa and mustard and spread that on the chicken — it’s spicy but SO GOOD! Set the crockpot on low all day and then make your sides when it’s closer to eating time. Super simple!
5) Throw some cooked cubed chicken (or maybe some tuna) in any of your favorite veggie salads.
Yesterday we had broccoli salad — with chicken. I can imagine this working well with potato salad, that yummy pea-and-cheddar salad, any kind of bean salad, cucumber salad, corn salad — the possibilities are endless.
6) Or just use leftover cooked vegetables as the base of a salad, to which you can then add a protein, if desired.
I usually will just coat the cold veggies with olive oil and add some salt and pepper, and maybe sprinkle some parmesan cheese in there, too. This works well with green beans, broccoli, and brussel sprouts, to name a few. Voila, a yummy cold salad with hardly any effort! You can cook them in the cool of the morning and then refrigerate them until it’s time for dinner, if you don’t have enough leftovers.
7) Leftover soup.
Not soup that is leftover from the night before, but soup that is MADE OUT OF leftovers, lol. Clean out the fridge and make a super-easy, nutritious supper at the same time. You can find out my tricks to make it here: How to Make Soup from Leftovers.
8) Take-out Chinese.
Wait, she didn’t just say that, did she? Yes, she did!
OK, I will totally admit that this is not as cheap as the other options on this page, but it is easy and yummy and fun and you can mix-and-match for everyone’s tastes — and as far as take-out goes, it is one of the more economical options out there, because of how much they typically give you and how far you can stretch it. And it doesn’t heat up YOUR kitchen! Am I right?? :-)
(Another option along these lines is, of course, bringing home a pizza from your favorite local pizza joint — but I figure that goes without saying, lol!)
9) Any lunchtime favorites are fair game for dinner during summer, imho.
Grilled cheese sandwiches, egg salad sandwiches, tuna sandwiches (or tuna melts, yum), a sub bar where you set out all the fixins and they make their own, even good ‘ol PB & J in a pinch — why not?? All that matters is you giving your family nutritious food to fill their bellies. Who cares what the meal category is? In summer all rules of this nature are suspended. And frankly, in my house, they are pretty much suspended the rest of the year, too!
10) Need more ideas for easy summer meals?
I wrote a guest post a couple years ago with some of our other favorite cheap easy summer meals. Things like pasta salad variations, a yummy chili-alternative called Cowboy Beans, and others — you can see them all here: Cheap and Easy Meals for Summertime.
By now you may have figured out that I am the master of NON-cooking, lol. Get more of my RIDICULOUSLY easy meal ideas in an ebook by clicking here: 30+ Ridiculously Easy Dinners for Busy Families on a Budget. Don’t miss out on making dinnertime simpler!