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Budget-Friendly Tips for Meals this Summer

Amber Brandt  |  June 10, 2019

No matter the size of your family or your weekly grocery budget — everyone likes to make those dollars stretch! We thought it would be fun to compile a handy list of ideas, recipes, and even tips for saving money at restaurants to help you get the biggest bang for your budget this summer.

Buy generic

Generic food items are simply a store’s version of a brand-name product. Here’s an example of how buying generic can help you save. Let’s say you save $0.75 with every generic item you buy instead of the brand name equivalent. If you buy 10 items in one trip, you’d save $7.50.

Chances are you’d love everything you bought and notice no difference — but for sake of the example, let’s play it conservatively and say you decide only four of those items were worth purchasing again.

Every time you buy one of those items in future shopping trips, you’ll save $0.75. So, if you buy those four items once a month, you’re going to save $36 a year. (And remember, that’s a low-end estimate.) Some of the most popular generic items you can buy are paper towels, salad dressings, saltine crackers, liquid soaps, and tissues. If you buy generic versions of these items, you’ll save hundreds of dollars a year.

Stock up on sales

When certain food or household items are marked down for a temporary sale, it’s a great time to stock up on the items you use a lot. Just be sensitive to their shelf life and the amount of space you have at home to store these items. If it makes sense, you could stock up and split the items with a friend. You can also use your grocery store flyer to plan your meals.

Grow produce in a garden or frequent the local farmers market

If you have the space, growing your own garden is a fun and cost-effective way to save money on food — and enjoy fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs all summer long. Plus, you could can and freeze many of the items to use throughout the year.

Now we want to share a few simple meals your family will enjoy. Each of these ingredients can be easily found at your local grocery store. What’s even better, every meal equates to less than $2 a serving — and some as low as $.50!

Egg and black bean burritos

  • Can of black beans
  • Tortillas (8 pack)
  • Carton of eggs
  • Can of salsa

Scramble the eggs. Rinse and warm a can of black beans on the stovetop or microwave, and heat the tortillas through. Assemble the burritos and top with salsa, cheese, or whatever you like!

Grilled cheese and tomato soup

  • Loaf of bread
  • Sliced cheese
  • Box or can of creamy tomato soup
  • Butter

Place one piece of cheese between two pieces of bread, and butter the outside of the bread before placing in a pan over medium heat. Meanwhile, warm the box or can of tomato soup in a separate pan, stirring occasionally. Flip sandwich to brown both sides and watch to be sure cheese is melted.

Pot roast with vegetables

  • Rump roast (about $10 worth)
  • 6 potatoes
  • Small bag of carrots
  • Salt and pepper to taste

There are lots of ways to cook a roast, but the easiest way is in a crockpot. Simply cut up the veggies and place them in the bottom of the pot. Cover with the meat and then pour about a half a cup of water over the meat. Season with salt, pepper, and any other spices you prefer. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 4-5 hours.

Mediterranean pasta

  • 1 box farfalle, penne, or other pasta
  • Can of diced tomatoes
  • Can of chickpeas
  • Sliced olives
  • 1/4 cup Italian dressing

Boil pasta according to instructions on the package. Drain and rinse with cold water. Pour pasta into a bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Mix and refrigerate.


  • Bacon (1lb)
  • Loaf of bread
  • 2 medium tomatoes
  • 1 heart of romaine lettuce
  • Mayonnaise

Fry or bake the bacon according to package instructions. Set aside to drain the grease. Swipe mayo on two pieces of bread (toast first if you prefer!), then add sliced tomato, romaine, and the 2-3 slices of bacon.

Dine out and save

If you have plans to travel this summer, or get tired of cooking at home, here are a few practical tips for saving money while eating out at a restaurant:

  • Order water to drink. Alcoholic or soft drinks can really add up. Stick to water and save.
  • Don’t buy kids’ meals, split an adult meal instead. If your children are small enough, most adult portions can feed 3-4 kids without any leftovers, and the cost savings are significant!
  • Adults can share a meal, too. Do you often go home with leftovers? Why not take some money off the bottom line and fill two bellies with one meal? Or add an appetizer or side salad to stretch the main a little further.
  • Go to restaurants that have freebies while you wait. It seems like a no brainer, but how many times have you loaded up on chips and salsa before your meal even came? Go to restaurants that offer complimentary bread and butter or chips and salsa — then be sure to order smaller meals.
  • Check for Kids Eat Free nights. You might be surprised by how many establishments in your areas offer special deals (and even free meals) for kids. Do some research before you pick a place.

Feel like there’s a bunch of great ideas here, but you’re still not sure where to start? Check out the list one blogger shared of the top 35 easy-to-find food items she buys when money is tight.