Healthy Summer Side Dishes That'll Save You Money
When it comes to hot-weather meal ideas, one of the main concerns is having a repertoire of simple side dishes to go along with them. These healthy summer side dishes are not only simple, but cheap to boot. (See also: Simple Summer Menus)
Grilled vegetables aren’t anything but healthy, and there are a number of different ways you can go. You can grill corn on the BBQ with your favorite sauce, baste some zucchini strips with a tomato-basil vinaigrette, or whip up some pepper-and-mushroom skewers to top off your favorite dinner salad. Grilled eggplant slices are another fun way to go if you’re looking for an unusual way to squeeze in more veggies to your hot weather meal planning. Whatever veggies you decide to slap on the barbecue, you can rest assured you’ll end up with a health dinner side that’s great for your waistline as well.
Aluminum foil packets save on cleanup time and fat content whether you are tossing them on the grill or in the oven. Why? Because you can minimize oil due to the steaming factor, the calorie content is reduced greatly. A simple one to start with is chunks of red Spanish potatoes mixed with olive oil, chopped rosemary, sea salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Placed on the grill, they are done by the time that chicken breast or steak is cooked to perfection. One of my favorite tropical treats to make is Polynesian foil packets made with pineapple chunks, green pepper pieces, and other ingredients. It’s one of a number of cheap pineapple recipes I like to use in the summer to keep things fresh and light at the dinner table.
The health benefits of beans are well documented. But how do you keep them fresh and fun as a dinner item for the summer months? By chillin’ them up in a side salad of course. A fun and frugal one that I make quite frequently is to cook up large batches of kidney and garbanzo beans in advance for a variety of uses, and then tossing them together with chopped French green beans and a light homemade vinaigrette. It’s colorful, healthy, and super affordable to whip up. You can also use regular green beans from the garden if you have one. Two other fun salads are this zesty lime-marinated white bean salad and Lebanese black-eyed pea salad. Neither white beans or black-eyed peas take forever to cook like some beans do, so you can have them cooked and chilled for salad prep much faster than other bean varieties.
Toaster Oven Yummies
If there’s something you need to make that absolutely requires baking on a hot day, consider whipping it up in your toaster oven. The overall energy cost will be less, and you won’t have to heat the house up unnecessarily. One simple thing we do quite often is to slice long, whole-wheat sub rolls into half-inch rounds to toast up and have as a salad side with hummus. It’s a filling side that takes minimal prep and costs pennies. Also, since I frequently put potatoes in the crock pot in the summer, I have a ready supply of material to make homemade potato skins in the toaster oven. The baking strategy is much less fatty than deep frying, and I can control the calories even further by brushing on a limited amount of olive oil as opposed to having the skins be coated with too much of it.
Greens, Greens, Greens
Not only is eating as many dark, leafy greens as possible good for you, it’s cheap and easy as well. One of the easiest side dishes we eat regularly during the summer (and all year, really) is sautéed Swiss chard. It’s only a buck or two per bunch at the grocery store (free if you’re an at-home gardener), cuts up without needing to remove the center vein like collards, and wilts down with a couple of tong tosses in less than three minutes. It’s a nice break from spinach salad, and a colorful addition to the dinner plate. This Swiss chard recipe from the Mayo Clinic adds soy milk and cheese for a bit of creaminess, if that appeals to you. If gardening isn’t in your schedule this summer, and pennies are tight, consider foraging for edible greens in your back yard and perhaps tossing in some free wild mushrooms for extra flavor.
Healthy summer side dishes don’t have to cost a mint or require much time. These five ideas are proof.
Do you have a favorite summer side dish that’s healthy and cheap? Share the love in the comment section below.