Quick Summer Dinner Ideas on a Budget

Most of us want to know how to prepare meals that are quick and easy on the budget. The good news is, that’s particularly easy in the summer – produce is abundant and more affordable and the weather is conducive for grilling outdoors. If you or a neighbor has a garden, produce may be free for the taking. Here are some ideas for quick and frugal dinners to take advantage of summer’s bounty.

1. Fresh Tomato Penne (serves 2)

* 8 ounces whole wheat penne pasta
* 2 cups chopped, fresh tomatoes
* 1/4 cup each minced, fresh basil and parsley
* 6 ounces grated mozzarella cheese
* 2 tablespoons olive oil
* 1 clove minced garlic
* 1/2 teaspoon salt

About 2 hours before dinner, combine the tomatoes, herbs, olive oil, salt, and garlic in a bowl. Cover and let it stand at room temperature until dinner.

Cook penne according to the package’s directions. Drain and mix with tomato mixture while still hot. Top each serving with half the mozzarella cheese and toss.

Serve with crusty bread and a side of steamed asparagus or broccoli dressed with olive oil and lemon juice.

2. Grilled Tilapia and Vegetables

Tilapia is one of those fish that is both affordable and low on the mercury-containing scale. This recipe is for 4 servings.

* 4 frozen tilapia fillets
* Juice of 1 lemon
* 1/4 cup olive oil
* 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
* 1/2 teaspoon paprika

Mix lemon, olive oil, sea salt, and paprika in a shallow dish. Add frozen fish fillets and stir to coat with marinade. Cover and thaw in the refrigerator for 8-10 hours, turning fish occasionally.

Remove fish from marinade and grill on well-oiled, foil-covered (with holes punched) charcoal or propane grill over medium-high heat. Cook for 5 minutes per side, or until fish flakes easily. Baste with leftover marinade as fish cooks. Discard the rest of the marinade when fish is done and serve with lemon wedges.

* 2 yellow squashes
* 2 green zucchinis
* 1 large, sweet onion
* 1 pound asparagus, trimmed
* Sea salt to taste

At the same time as the fish, place vegetables cut-side-down on the oiled grill. Baste with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt during cooking. Grill for 5 minutes on each side, or until desired degree of doneness.

3. Herbed Chicken Breasts with Fresh Corn and Tomato Salsa (serves 4)

* 4 chicken breast halves, skinless
* 2 tablespoons olive oil
* Juice of 1 lemon
* 2 tablespoons minced, fresh herbs such as basil, parsley, thyme, or sage
* 1 clove minced, fresh garlic
* Salt and pepper to taste

Place chicken in olive-oil coated, shallow baking dish. Pour lemon juice over chicken. Sprinkle chicken on both sides with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle top of chicken breast halves with garlic and herbs. Cover dish and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Raise oven temperature to 425 degrees and remove cover from chicken. Bake for 5-8 minutes more.

* 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
* 1/2 cup fresh, cooked corn removed from the ear (1 ear of cooked corn will yield approximately 1/2 cup)
* 1/2 medium red onion, chopped
* Juice of 1 lime
* 1/4 cup chopped, fresh cilantro or parsley
* 1 small jalapeno pepper, minced (more or less according to your heat tolerance)
* Salt to taste

Mix all ingredients and serve with chicken and a side of corn chips.

Our Favorite Tshirt Collection