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Finding ways to save money on food during the summer vacation can be difficult for several reasons.

Maybe your children are home all day, with ready access to the fridge and pantry. Children at home really are like little hobbits – no sooner do they finish breakfast but they’re ready for second breakfast!

Or perhaps they need to bring packed lunches and snacks to summer camp.

And then there are all of the extra outings!

Pack the kids up to go outside for the day … and you’ll still need three meals and snacks. Packing a day’s worth of food can seem like torture when the weather is hot.

Fortunately, there are several ways to save money on food during the summer. Here are some ideas.

DON’T Eat Fast Food

Pound for pound, it is a lot cheaper to make your own food at home, and it will be healthier too. Experiment in making your own healthy special sauce, or a great homemade pizza, and you can save a bundle.

DON’T Order Takeaway

This is also much more expensive than making it yourself, even when it’s on sale.

As an example, our local pizza makes an amazing product, and they have a half-price sale every Friday afternoon. An extra large pizza with three toppings for $20. To feed the six people in our family, we need three pizzas.

I can make a pizza loaded with meat and cheese that will fill six hungry bellies, and I can do it for about $15. Let’s call it an XXXL with triple meat and cheese. (No, you can’t pick up a slice of my pizza and eat it in your hand – you need a fork.) If I add a salad, there are sure to be leftovers.

Of course, your prices are going to be different, but even if they’re not so dramatic, the takeout will still cost more!

DO Learn How to Make It Yourself from Scratch

This summer, go through the menus you usually order from and highlight which are your favorites. Next, head online to look recipes similar to those you love. If you go to any popular chains like Applebee’s, look up “copycat recipes” to get an idea of how to make your favorites.

Go shopping for the ingredients.

Follow the instructions carefully.

Cook the recipe exactly as is the first time, with no changes or substitutions.

Taste the dish.

Then make notes on how you and your family might want to change it in the future.

Cook together as a family and have fun.

One other consideration: if you are watching your weight, you could try to come up with healthier versions so you don’t need to deprive yourself of the foods you love.

DON’T Waste Leftovers

All across North America, we currently throw away as much food as we eat, to the tune of approximately $160 billion a year.

You work too hard for your money just to throw it away. It also ends up rotting in landfills, affecting greenhouse gases and climate change.

DO Plan Your Meals

The whole family can get involved in meal planning so you can cut down on waste.

Plan meals around a central protein, such as a whole chicken or a pork tenderloin.

Eat one meal hot, and stretch the rest of the protein into tacos, burritos, a stir fry, and more, with the help of some vegetables.

DON’T Make Only Enough for One Meal

Personally, I hate cooking when the temperature soars.

It’s a good idea to have a good no cook meal plan for when the weather is hot, but no matter what, it’s a great idea to minimize your cooking.

It’s often just as easy to make 8, 12, even 16 portions as it is to cook 4, but it does require a bit of planning ahead.

Bulk cooking means that you serve up one family-sized portion of the meal and then package up the rest. You can parcel it up in two more meals or four, or you can create individual portions like TV dinners.

Plan your bulk cooking for a time when the temperature is bearable, and then when it heats up, you can simply warm up what you want to eat.

Make-and-freeze meals are a form of bulk cooking, with the recipes formulated so all the ingredients can be frozen. You can go to the supermarket, bring home your food and start cooking, which will save time compared to putting all the groceries away. Depending on the size of your family, you could cook several weeks’ worth of food in a single day.

DON’T Rely on Cold Cuts

Cold cuts for sandwiches can be very expensive per pound and are also very unhealthy. They are full of cancer-causing chemicals like nitrates and nitrite, and full of salt.

You can make your own chicken breast, turkey breast, roast beef, or ham by roasting your own and slicing it.

It will mean having the oven on, but you could cook it in the early morning or evening, which are the cooler parts of the day.

Recently, I bought a counter-top meat slicer. Now instead of buying deli meats, I can cook up a roast, let it cool completely, and then slice the meat as thinly as any expensive deli meat.

Finally, DO shop the sales, use coupons, and shop at warehouse clubs to get the best deals.

Just Plain Living

With the children at home, day camp lunches to pack, and increased family outings, food costs can go up like the temperature!

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