Friday, May 25, 2012

Summer Cooking, Frugally (sort of)

In Texas, we have now entered summer cooking season.  I don't know about you, but I tend to eat differently at different times of the year.  In Texas, it's summer, officially or not.  This can present challenges, in terms of cooking, eating, and keeping the food budget down.

 In theory, I could still use my oven and I do so about once a week. However, I'm really trying to keep my air conditioning bills down, and generally keep my home at around eighty. This is not uncomfortable to me, I dislike cold weather. It does mean that I am loath to heat up the house too often. I generally bake once a week, use my crock pot on rare occasions and otherwise stick to the grill and the stove top. My grill is my friend. I even bought an el cheapo gas grill at a yard sale. I've always been a charcoal girl, but I have to admit charcoal is a time factor issue for those occasions when I want to eat now. So, I'm willing to try gas and look at saving for a dual grill in the future.

On the one hand, it can be more frugal because I eat more simply in the summer, and I cook less often (and I live in an area where local fresh produce abounds for half the year).  I'm most likely to grill a whole pile of breasts (par cooking some), and putting them in the fridge or freezer. I them put them in salads, reheat with black beans and salsa-and I do the same with steak and other meats. I also alternate with simple soups and sandwiches, omelets with fruit and muffins (from my baking day) and even on occasion ready made ravioli from the deli section. Sometimes, the difference is not that huge.

Obviously, the financial downside of this kind of eating is that the kinds of meats and fish necessary for quick stove top cooking and grilling are generally more costly than the stew meats and pot roast and chili I throw in the slow cooker in January. Boneless chicken breasts, shrimp and lean meats are now a larger part of my one person budget. This means that I'm doing even more "extreme" couponing and buying in bulk as much as my small side by side freezer will take (I'm still looking for that small apartment sized freezer replacement). I'm hitting the farmers market every Saturday (not always exactly cheaper, but considering the quality, a much better deal). I've also explored Aldi, and on those rare occasions when I am near a store, Walmart or Target.

The end result is that so far, my food budget has been lower in the month of May. Whether this will continue to hold true during the summer, who knows. For know though, I'm piling on the grilled fish and meats and homemade salads and managing to do so frugally.

Oh, and let's not forget the occasional pint of salted caramel butter pecan ice cream from Safeway, which is to die for). I just need to remember that it and my quilting room are not a match made in heaven.


  1. I live in the Dallas area, and I hear you with not wanting to heat up the kitchen.

    For a few years now I have been a solar-cooking enthusiast. That's right - the sun does the work. This is the time of year I pull my solar cookers out of storage, now that the sun is really working overtime. I set up my oven in the back yard, let it warm up a bit, put the food in and let Mother Nature, the sun, and time take its course. This week I've roasted a chicken (leftovers for salad tonight), steamed veggies, made fish (tuna, salmon, and tilapia). I've also made super yummy cakes, and even turkey meatloaf. Stews, chili, and beans also come out great. Really,a solar cooker is very similar to a crock pot without the electricity.

    I have three solar cookers that I got through the Solar Oven Society at They aren't super cheap, but there is a charitable component to each purchase (plus you save on electricity) I love love love them (the cookers and the organization). The Solar Oven Society supports solar cooking efforts throughout the world with every purchase.

    There is definitely a bit of learning curve, but it isn't difficult at all. You can't really ruin your food, and to me this is the most fun way to cook. I cook most every night because it saves money, not because I particularly enjoy the chore. But I tell you, I get the biggest kick out producing meals with my solar cookers. It really amazes people!

    Also, it has really come in handy during power outages.

    Okay, I'll shut up now. I just can't help myself because I really LOVE solar cooking (I promise, I'm not a paid spokes-cooker. Just your everyday average Texas housewife).

  2. I usually do the outside cooking, and I like the gas grill b/c it's easy. B likes the old charcoal grill. It tastes better, she says. She asks me to use the charcoal. I say I'll use the gas, if it's all the same, but she's welcome to get out the charcoal anytime she wants. She says maybe she will. There's a bag of charcoal in the shed. It's been there, unopened, for two years now.

  3. Tessie it sounds lovely however I hae many active dogs with full run of the yard and I would not feel comfortable (plus which I cannot afford any new expenditures). When I am ablee I may look at one..................

  4. sightings thanks for the input. We have always sworn by charcoal but last week at a yard sale there was tiny gas grill with fuel for forty bucks and I grabbed it. So we will be experimenting for sure. The electric lighter is broken so I have to use a lighter, and it needs cleaning. I'll let ya know how it goes.

  5. I agree with you that the summer meat is more expencive than winter meat. Chicken is crazy high!! I try to do most of my baking in the early AM during the summer before it heats up to much or put hubby on the grill in the evening. I can take the heat during the day and keep the temp at 78 but at night I can't stand to heat so I spluge and turn the temp down. Congrats on your new to you grill, happy grillin

  6. We grill five out of seven days. If we use the oven, it is before four. Our electricity rates double fron four to seven!
    We have gotten into cooking our veggies on the grill as well. I use a crockpot- but put it on the shaded porch. It cooks a bit faster, but the results are the same.
    I just want to know why our grocery bill has almost doubled. Our list is the same. It is crazy!

  7. We use our little convection oven for most of the cooking... In the summer months it gets quite hot here as well, so I really try to stick to "quick & easy" meals! Especially when the mercury climbs!!


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