When the temperature starts to climb, it’s cheaper not to cook. Yes, really.
Using the oven makes your house hotter, forcing the air conditioner to work that much harder and padding your electricity bill. Haven’t turned on the a/c yet? The extra heat may make it that much more tempting. But it’s not as though dining out is cheap, either. The combo solution: turn on the oven only in the cooler evening hours, use the microwave or grill outside when possible and work in a few no-cook, cooling recipes.
We asked chefs, bloggers and home cooks for their best cheap summer recipes that will help you beat the heat and don’t require the use of the oven or stove:
Chocolate Peanut Butter Frozen Bars
Cost: $1.78, or $0.15 per serving
Dietician Brenda Ponichtera, the author of Quick and Healthy, makes a frozen treat that is both decadent and diet-friendly. Line a 9” by 13” pan with graham cracker squares. In a separate bowl, prepare two packages of chocolate pudding according to the package directions but using only three and one-third cups fat-free milk. Beat in one-quarter cup peanut butter. Spread mixture on top of graham crackers and then top with another layer of crackers. Freeze for four hours, and then cut into squares.
Banana “Ice Cream”
Cost: $1.45, or $0.36 per serving
No ice cream maker necessary for this faux ice cream from Happy Herbivore blogger Lindsay Nixon. Just throw two frozen bananas into a food processor with a quarter-cup non-dairy milk plus a quarter-teaspoon each of vanilla extract and cinnamon. The chilled, blended banana mimics the texture of ice cream perfectly.
Tangy Watermelon Salad
Cost: $6.20, or $0.62 per serving
This recipe from Jill Ross of Gooseberry Patch is not your average fruit salad. Cube a watermelon (about 14 cups) and mix with one thinly sliced red onion. Set aside. In a small bowl, combine three-quarters cup orange juice, five tablespoons red wine vinegar, two and a half tablespoons honey, a tablespoon finely chopped green pepper, a half-teaspoon salt, a quarter-teaspoon pepper, a quarter-teaspoon garlic powder, a quarter teaspoon onion powder, a quarter-teaspoon dry mustard and three-quarters of a cup of oil. Pour dressing over watermelon and mix gently. Refrigerate for two hours.
Cost: $1.80, or $0.90 per serving
Joan Jacobsen of Baby Boomer Way makes stuffed tomatoes by cutting the tops off two large, firm tomatoes and scooping out the insides. In a bowl, mix a 12-ounce can of tuna, a stalk of finely chopped celery, a quarter-cup of chopped red onion, half of a ripe avocado and the pulp of the tomatoes. Add the juices of half of a lemon and salt and pepper to taste. Mix all together with a fork, and then place into tomato shells. Chill, then serve.
Strawberry Mint Lassi
Cost: $3.65, or $0.91 per serving
“Mint, yogurt and ice work collectively as a trilogy of coolants,” says Gurapeet Bains, the author of Indian Superfood. Place in a blender nine ounces of hulled strawberries, a few fresh mint leaves, seven ounces plain yogurt, a large handful of ice and sugar to taste. Blend together until smooth.
Cold Cucumber Yogurt Soup
Cost: $3.71, or $0.93 per serving
Cumin and peperoncini and a kick to this cold soup recipe from Anne Maxfield of Accidental Locavore. Blend, chill, enjoy.
Cost: $12.55, or $1.25 per serving
For a refreshing cold soup, Chef Eric Gruber of Shore Lodge and Whitetail Club in McCall, Idaho, pairs a peeled, diced seedless watermelon with more savory fare. Blend the watermelon in a blender in batches with 10 diced Roma tomatoes, two diced red onions, two peeled, seeded and chopper cucumbers, two seeded and diced jalapenos, one seeded and diced poblano, two quarts of V8 vegetable juice, a quarter-cup lemon juice, a quarter-cup lime juice, a bunch of chopped cilantro, a tablespoon Tabasco sauce, a tablespoon sriracha sauce, a quarter-cup olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate overnight and then pass through a medium mesh strainer to remove any remaining chunks.
Frugal Foodie is a journalist based in New York City who spends her days writing about personal finance and obsessing about what she’ll have for dinner. Chat with her on Twitter through @MintFoodie http://www.twitter.com/mintfoodie.