6 Tips for Healthy Summer Cooking

During the dog days of summer, the last thing anyone wants to do is spend time in a sweltering kitchen making hot food. Besides, when you factor in summer cookouts and grab-and-go meals from the grocery store, the spike in your summer food bill can rival the spike in the thermometer. How do you keep from breaking the bank?

Creative meal strategies are the answer. Here are six tips for meal planning that will make your at-home dining easier, healthier and more affordable this summer.

1. Check out your local grocery store’s food specials for the week. 

You can often find out what’s on sale through the store’s sale paper at the front door of the store or on their website. Take 10-15 minutes once a week and try to plan your weekly menu around what is on sale. More than likely you will be inspired by the interesting foods that are on special. This is a good year-round strategy.

2. Visit a local farmers market.

There are many wonderful local farmers markets in our area. An early morning weekend visit to a farmers market can yield a relaxed, not–too-crowded shopping experience where you can chat with the folks who grow the food you are buying. Because there is no shipping and marketing cost, the food may be cheaper. And because it is from the field direct to you, the food can be especially fresh!

3. When grilling, meal-prep for several meals. 

Making barbecue chicken breasts for dinner? Cook a few extra breasts so you can slice up what you don’t use tonight and refrigerate the rest for grilled chicken salads tomorrow and wraps the following day.

4. Try a foil packet meal on the grill. 

This delicious meal is a great way to increase vegetable intake. Dice a combination of your favorite fresh vegetables like onions, carrots, mushrooms, squash and zucchini. Season them with olive oil, fresh ground pepper and rosemary. Wrap them up in foil and toss them on the grill for 15 minutes, turning every so often. By the time your meat is done, you will have a great side dish with no heat in the kitchen.

5. Use your microwave and crock pot.

These appliances cook well and give off very little external heat, keeping the kitchen cool. There are great recipes available for many different types of healthy meals using these cooking alternatives.

6. Make cool meals. 

Consider making a meal of pasta or quinoa salad, salad greens with added protein such as cheese, eggs or beans or deli-style sandwiches. How about some fresh fruit on the side? Cut your melons as soon as they are purchased to keep in the fridge for a healthy, cool snack. Slice oranges, lemons or lime and put them into water in a large pitcher and let them infuse for a refreshing, healthy drink.

Cooking in the summer can undoubtedly be a hot chore. However, with a little planning and preparation, summertime meals can be a breeze!

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