As the summer approaches, it gets hotter and the days are longer. Now that things are opening up, you want to enjoy life a little and not spend all your time in the kitchen cooking and cleaning. But you also can’t throw money at take-out all the time.  To help out, here are 11 simple and frugal summer meals and appetizers to eat.

These meals and apps are good for the hot weather, refreshing, and simple to make. 

1. Fruit Platter

If you want an easy snack or healthy dessert, aka ‘nature’s candy’, enjoy a fruit platter. You can easily create a fruit platter full of blueberries, strawberries, kiwis, watermelon, pineapple, mango, and more. You can browse sales at the store or the deals section and have that as an easy go-to. It’s great for parties as well. 

2. Gazpacho 

Gazpacho is a cold soup perfect for summer that is popular in Spain. There are many versions and I typically make a simplified version with cucumber, tomato, red onion, vinegar, salt, pepper, and olive oil in a blender and refrigerate for an hour before serving. 

For a more authentic recipe, you can check out this recipe with green bell pepper, red onion, sherry, and cumin. It’s super healthy, refreshing, and great for hot days where you can’t imagine being in a hot kitchen or eating hot food. 

3. Charcuterie Plate 

You can DIY your own charcuterie plate thanks to Trader Joe’s. You can choose from their Spanish meats, or Italian meats, and get a sampler of cheeses as well. The wild mushroom brie is divine! Blueberry Vanilla goat cheese, to die for! Pair those with a baguette or their Rosemary Olive Crisps, and it’ll be like you’re at a fancy wine bar at home. Instead of spending a ton of money, you could get away with something nice for $10-$20. I often have this as my go-to when I want a “nicer” meal but not eating out and something that can be easily assembled. 

4. Tacos

One simple and frugal meal is tacos. Get your favorite meat, some taco shells, pico de gallo, and you’re set. Many of these ingredients are easy to find at Trader Joe’s.

If you want to add something more, you can add avocado or Greek yogurt as a healthy cream. You also can’t go wrong with Trader Joe’s Chili Lime seasoning. If you have soft tortillas that you need to use after making tacos, you can put them in the oven and make your own chips. 

5. Arugula Salad 

When I want a salad but don’t want it to be a lot of effort, I use arugula, beets from Trader Joe’s that are pre-packaged, goat cheese, and balsamic vinegar. Add a little olive oil and salt, this salad is refreshing, tasty, and decadent. The arugula has a kick to it, the goat cheese has a nice tang to it, and the beets soften the taste and go well with everything. This is a great summer salad that keeps well. 

6. Guacamole 

Ok, I know avocados aren’t always cheap. But if you get them on sale or have them ready to use, making guacamole can be a great, simple, and tasty appetizer.

Get a few avocados, add some tomatoes, garlic, lime juice, and salt and mash everything together. Grab some tortilla chips and you get the crunch of the chip and smoothness of the avocado for some seriously tasty goodness. 

7. Instant Pot Salsa Chicken 

In the summer you don’t want to bother with the oven or something super time-consuming. That’s where your instant pot or crockpot can become your friend. You can make a delicious instant pot salsa chicken. You can put chicken breasts and salsa in an instant pot or crockpot and add your favorite seasonings. Voila, super simple. Check out this recipe for inspo. 

8. Fish and Vegetables 

When I’m tired and don’t want to cook but I want something healthy, I cook a frozen fish I got on sale and dice up bell peppers and put it on a sheet. I place the fish and veggie combo in the oven at 400 degrees for 20 minutes and everything comes out perfect.

I’ve also experimented with mushrooms, zucchini, and other vegetables. Sheet pan meals can make it simple and easy to have a healthy dinner with little prep and a short amount of time. 

9. Burrito Bowl 

One of the meals that I have decided to batch cook on Sundays and have for all my lunches during the week is a burrito bowl. I make a big batch of rice or quinoa on Sunday.

Then I add black beans from a can, pre-made pico de gallo from Trader Joe’s, and a dollop of Greek Yogurt and chili lime salt. It’s delicious and so simple. It’s a good mix of protein and fiber and doesn’t take a lot of time to put together at all. 

10. Chickpea Salad

Another simple and frugal meal I enjoy making when it’s hot out and I don’t have a lot of energy is a chickpea salad with cucumbers, tomatoes, red onion, and lemon juice, and salt. If I’m feeling fancy I might add some avocado and I want something creamy, I’ll add Greek yogurt to it as well. 

11. Watermelon Salad

If you want something refreshing and hydrating with a mix of sweet and savory, try this watermelon salad recipe. It’s a cool mix of watermelon, cucumbers, feta, lemon zest, sea salt, and basil. The combination of flavors is powerful and the taste is satisfying and can quench your thirst in the summer heat. 

Bottom line 

This summer in particular it’s easy to want to go out all the time and not cook. While you can still do that occasionally, having simple, frugal summer meals for the heat that are also easy to make and affordable can make your life easier. 

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