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Sometimes, summer means skipping out on grocery shopping day because the beach or a walk outside plead for your attention. And, well, you can always fall back on your pantry to concoct a cheap summer meal.

This, of course, requires a well-stocked pantry. With budget-friendly staples in hand, you've got the foundation for a variety of cheap summer meals and a strategy for keeping your grocery bills in check.

Here's what you need to get started: sea salt, black peppercorns, olive oil, chicken bouillon, dried pasta, cooking wine, vinegar, herbs and spices, assortment of nuts, cans of diced tomatoes. Items to store in the fridge include garlic, lemon, and parmesan cheese.

Try spicing up your cooking repertoire with the following three recipes. Each uses some of the above ingredients, makes enough for two, and costs less than $3.

1. Lemon Garlic Pasta

Inspired by a recipe we found at I Nom Things, this is a pasta dish at its simplest but most elegant. Dressed with lemon, garlic, sea salt, and olive oil, the pasta itself shines as the main star in your cheap summer meal.


15 minutes


1/2 lb spaghetti
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 t olive oil
1/2 lemon
1/4 c grated parmesan cheese

Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Drain. In a skillet, sauté the garlic in olive oil until golden. In a bowl, toss everything together and serve. For a cold pasta salad, refrigerate for several hours.

2. Pasta with Pesto

A homemade pesto much like the one we found at Simply Recipeswill completely transform and elevate any pasta. Add a cheap blender to your toolkit to concoct this cheap summer meal over and over again.


20 minutes


1/2 lb pasta of your choice
1/2 c olive oil
1/3 c pine nuts
1/2 c grated parmesan cheese
2 c fresh basil leaves
3 med garlic cloves, minced
Salt and pepper

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain. Combine pine nuts, garlic, and a pinch of salt in a blender. Pulse a few times. Add basil, pulse a few more times. While the blender is whirring, drizzle in the olive oil to create a coarse paste. Add grated cheese, pulse again. Serve with pasta.

Tip: If you have leftover pesto, throw a few bread slices in a toaster oven and use the sauce as a dip.

3. Chicken Cucumber Pasta Salad

Summer heat calls for refreshing salads, and we're fans of the one posted at Made Man, in slightly altered form.


30 minutes


1/2 lb bowtie pasta
1/2 c cubed cooked chicken breast
1/2 can diced tomatoes
1/2 cucumber
1/2 c shredded cheese
2 T olive oil
1/2 lemon
Salt and pepper

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and let cool to room temperature. Peel and cube cucumber. Combine pasta, cucumber, chicken, cheese, tomatoes. Toss and drizzle with olive oil, lemon, and salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate before serving, if desired.

What are your favorite cheap summer meals?

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