What’s for dinner?

Plan ahead to save time and money on summer meals.

In the summer time, I often find myself trying to make dinner within a very short time period due to a busy summer schedule. Add to that a hot kitchen, and I can very easily be persuaded to run in for some fast food or pick up something for dinner on the way home that is often high in fat and calories as well as costing me extra money from my budget.

To keep this from happening, I have found a few solutions to save money and keep our summer diet a little more healthy. The first thing is to plan ahead. Before shopping at the grocery store for the upcoming week, I sit down with the grocery store flyer and plan some meals for the week. Usually, this includes only the evening meal; we have very similar breakfast from day to day such as yogurt, cereal, fruit and I keep those on hand. A change of pace might be yogurt and fruit smoothies whipped up in the blender with a splash of fruit juice.

Lunch usually consists of a sandwich or leftovers. If I pick up take out or fast food for dinner, there no leftovers for lunch. When that happens, sandwich meats such as turkey, whole grain bread, raw carrots, and fresh fruit make a quick lunch.

When planning the evening meals, I try to keep the most of the meals quick and easy. Spaghetti with sauce from a jar and a salad is an example. Or tuna noodle salad with peas and cheese sticks and whole grain crackers on the side. If we grill chicken breast or fish, I try to make enough to have some to slice up for a chicken or fish salad the following evening.

Cutting up produce on the weekend for the week is another time saving tip. Having sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, green pepper slices and chopped romaine makes it easy to have a salad with dinner or to have raw veggies with lunches. Cleaning fresh berries, grapes or cubing melon when I come home from the grocery store saves time later and makes it much more likely that we will eat it for meals and snacks. Produce is plentiful in the summer; take advantage of seasonal items such as fresh berries, greens, melons, green beans, snow peas and other summer time favorites to keep the cost down.

Michigan State University Extension has other ideas for saving money at the grocery store. Check out the website and remember that planning ahead can save you time and money. Keep it simple and your family will have a nutritious and inexpensive summertime dinner routine. 

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