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8 Budget-Stretching Summer Staples

By Haley Nelson
Created January 10, 2017
Stock your pantry with these must-have ingredients and enjoy stress-free meals all summer long.
8 Budget-Stretching Summer Staples

1. Fresh Produce

grilled watermelon

Fruits and vegetables are at their peak in the summer, which also means they are at their cheapest. Make this the summer of experimentation with fresh produce. Try making salsa out of watermelon, or better yet, grill it! Mix veggies and fruits next time you’re making kabobs. Give pickling fresh vegetables a go (peppers, perhaps?). And when fresh produce isn’t an option, make sure your freezer is stocked with frozen vegetables (like Green Giant Honey Roasted Sweet Corn) and frozen fruit. Frozen produce and fruit is preserved at the peak of freshness so it has all the nutritional value and flavor of the fresh stuff.

2. Suddenly Salad

cranberry, bacon and blue cheese pasta salad

Summer wouldn’t be summer without the increase of impromptu picnics and get-togethers. Stock your kitchen with a few boxes of Suddenly Salad, and you’ll be prepared for spontaneous summer gatherings. It’s an awesome item to have on hand because it’s so easy to customize! Simply toss in whatever fresh veggies you have on hand—cherry tomatoes, diced cucumbers, chopped spinach, etc.—and some olives, cheese, chopped bacon or nuts. In mere minutes, you’ll have a party-ready side dish. (The Cranberry, Bacon and Blue Cheese Pasta Salad recipe, pictured above, gets it right.)

3. Salad Dressing

homemade green goddess dressing

Salad dressing is one thing I almost always make homemade. Why? One, it’s easy. Two, it tastes better. Three, because it saves me money. The most basic of vinaigrettes uses three parts olive oil to one part vinegar (like balsamic or red wine vinegar, but feel free to experiment with what you’ve got on hand). Add a pinch of salt and pepper and some fresh or dried herbs. Place ingredients in a lidded jar, shake vigorously and voila, it’s ready to go. 

Beyond this basic vinaigrette, I’d recommend learning a few additional homemade dressing recipes like this one for Raspberry Vinaigrette and this iteration of Buttermilk Green Goddess (pictured above). Once you’ve mastered the basics, you may never go back to bottled dressing again!

4. Yogurt

Yogurt is a must-have ingredient any time of the year, but it’s especially delicious and refreshing in the summer. For a quick, filling breakfast, I top yogurt (Greek, preferably) with fresh or frozen berries, chopped almonds and a drizzle of honey.

5. Taco Fixings

If you stock your kitchen with Old El Paso taco shells, beans and seasonings, you’ll always be prepared for a last-minute Tex-Mex meal. All you need to add are grilled meat (look for what’s on sale), fresh, in-season veggies, cheese and sour cream.

6. Canned Beans

black bean sliders

Beans are both versatile and low-cost, making them a year-round staple in my kitchen. Progresso black beans, cannellini beans, and garbanzo beans are some of my favorites for use in summer salads and soups. When I’m feeling creative and have a little more time, I like to make Black Bean Sliders or homemade hummus.

7. Lemonade


A cold glass of lemonade can make any day feel like summer. No matter what kind you make—homemade, frozen or powdered—you can’t go wrong. Serve it up in a jar and garnish with fresh strawberries for an inexpensive, fancy-feeling upgrade. 

8. Hot Dogs

hot dog bar toppings

Hot dogs are a quintessential, all-American summer food. This summer, take it up a notch and set up a build-your-own hot dog bar. For toppings, try chopped jalapeño peppers, shoestring potatoes, refrigerator pickles, shredded cheese, chopped bacon or chili. In addition to the requisite ketchup and mustard, try hot sauce, ranch dressing and cheese sauce. 

With these tips in mind, you can enjoy all of summer’s bounty without breaking the bank. Have fun, and let me know if there are other money-saving summer staples I should add to my shopping list!