May 29, 2017

Frugal Summer Food - Have Your Summer Cookouts and Save Money

grilling food

Summer time isn't all about food, but it can seem like it sometimes! It can get expensive with all the quick foods and snacks and an on-the-go lifestyle that summer brings. Don't let it break your grocery budget - you can still serve good food - made frugally by you. Here are three ways to cut the costs of summer food.

Try bean burgers instead of hamburgers. (If you're not a bean person, these are better than they sound!) Serve them with southern style sweet tea for an inexpensive meal that's good enough for company, then top it off with pudding pops for dessert. Summer delight!

Here's the basic recipe for bean burgers. After you've made them once, you can adjust them to suit yourself. Different types of beans have different flavors, so don't be afraid to experiment. Add steak sauce, liquid smoke or Worchestershire sauce for a different taste. For this recipe, I used leftover boiled pinto beans from the freezer. Even if you buy canned beans, it's cheap food, and healthy, too. (And it's not just for summer.)

  • 2 cups beans
  • 1 cup of bread crumbs (amount may vary)
  • 1/2 finely chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, mashed or minced
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 heaping tablespoon flour

Drain beans and reserve the liquid. Mash or puree beans in a blender, then add onion, garlic, oregano and salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly. Add about half the bread crumbs and mix with a spoon, then add the rest slowly until the mixture is stiff enough to form patties. If it becomes too dry, add a little of the liquid from the beans back in.

Dip the patties into the flour to coat and leave them to set for a half hour or so. This will help them keep their shape when they're cooked.

You can panfry them, but they're great on the grill, too. Either way, 5 to 10 minutes is all it takes. Serve on a bun with traditional hamburger toppings or barbecue sauce.

To go with them, make your own ice tea this summer and save over bottled tea and tea mixes. Old fashioned, loose leaf tea has the best flavor and really costs less because it takes very little to make a gallon of tea.

To make southern "sweet tea" from loose leaf tea, here's the "recipe" for a gallon (you may have to adjust it for personal preferences). If you don't like sweet tea, simply omit the sugar, but follow the rest of the steps:

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 generous tablespoons of loose leaf tea
  • Enough water to make a gallon

You'll need a small saucepan, a one gallon container and a tea strainer. I strain tea with a piece from an old nylon curtain, but they do sell wire mesh tea strainers. Any loosely woven cloth makes a good tea strainer, though.

To start, bring the 2 cups of water to a lively boil, remove from heat and immediately add the loose leaf tea. Cover with a lid or plate and let it steep for about 15 minutes. Meantime, put the sugar in the bottom of your gallon container, add a couple of cups of cold water and mix until the sugar dissolves. If you're not using sugar, just use cold water. If you're using a glass container, this will help diffuse the heat when you pour the tea in and keep the container from breaking.

When the tea has steeped, strain it into the cold water in the container. Pour a little cold water over the tea leaves to rinse out the remaining tea, then finish filling the container. Mix again and chill. Serve with ice and slice of lemon if desired.

Dessert is food, too! Home made "pudding pops" are the finish to this summer celebration. If you've ever tasted them, you know how creamy and good they are on a hot summer's day. You can make them very simply. All you have to do is make pudding, either from a package or from scratch, and freeze it in individual containers like popsicle forms or plastic or paper cups. You can use ice cube trays instead for smaller ones, or save those single serving yogurt containers for that. A plastic spoon or knife can serve in place of a wooden stick. A short piece of drinking straw works for the smaller ice cube size.

With a little bit of effort, you can serve the best food ever this summer for almost no money!