Summer parties are the best, but can be low key expensive when you’re asked to contribute some sort of food dish. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made a mad dash to Whole Foods or an upscale convenience store on my way to a party, only to walk out $45 in the hole with nothing more than a few hard cheeses and bespoke sea salt crackers.
In an effort to save money over the last few years, one thing I’ve worked on is banking some recipes with inexpensive ingredients. Now, when I’m invited to a summer party and don’t want to show up empty-handed, I make one of these recipes, whose total ingredient cost is under $15!
NOTE: Food costs based on average of online retailers.
I call this “Minnesota Dip” because the recipe came from a friend in Minnesota. In reality, it has nothing to do with the Midwest. It’s a salty, tart, and semi-sweet bean dip that will make everyone who eats say, “What’s in this?!?” and become instantly addicted. The best part is that you can toss it together and serve it immediately. Just throw all of these ingredients in a bowl and serve with tortilla chips:
|1 green pepper, chopped||~$.75|
|1 red pepper, chopped||~$1.50|
|1 onion, your choice of color, chopped||~$1.00|
|1 can corn||~$1.15|
|1 can black eyed peas||~$1.50|
|1 can pinto beans||~$1.00|
|4 or 5 jalapeños, chopped, de-seeded||~$1.25|
|1/2 cup canola oil||~$1.50|
|1/2 cup apple cider vinegar||~$2.25|
|1/4 cup sugar||have at home|
|Salt to taste||have at home|
|Total cost before tax:||$13.90|
*Note: why are we buying $5 bags of chips when UTZ, Calidad and Santitas chips are right there for $2!!! Be reasonable, people!
Beer Battered Green Beans (with a dip!)
Green beans are so cheap, it’s almost a miracle. Any green bean-based recipe is going to be a win for your wallet, and if you’re feeling adventurous, I’d recommend this dish of beer battered green beans (with dip!) that requires:
|½ pound green beans, washed, dried, trimmed||~$1.00|
|1 ¼ cups of lager (less than a can or bottle of beer)||~$2.75|
|¾ cup self-rising flour||~$1.50|
|½ cup corn meal||~$2.00|
|Garlic, 2 cloves (from 1 bulb)||~$.75|
|1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (1 lemon, squeezed)||~$.75|
|½ cup Mayonnaise||~$3.00|
|¼ teaspoon or more, to taste, of salt||have at home|
|2 tablespoons olive oil||have at home|
|Black pepper to taste||have at home|
|Total cost before tax||$13.75|
Let’s make and chill your aioli sauce first. Mash that garlic and ¼ tablespoons of salt until it gets pasty. Then whisk in mayo, oil, and lemon juice. Season with pepper and a little more salt if desire. Cover and place in the fridge.
As your aioli sauce chills, mix the flour, cornmeal and beer in a bowl. Then mix in the crisp, fresh, dried green beans. In a pot, heat 1 – 1.5 inches of oil to approximately 375 degrees. (Yes, you will need a cooking thermometer for best results. Ask for it for your birthday.) In small batches, place the green beans into the oil, frying in small batches, about 2-3 minutes per batch. They should be golden brown when you remove them and place them on paper towels for draining.
Let it cool for a few minutes, then serve the GBs with aioli sauce on the side.
Healthy Mexican Bean Dip
This is so easy that I mastered it in college. It does taste significantly better if you let it refrigerate overnight, but beggars can’t be choosers, and it’s fine to serve day-of. All you need to do is throw all these items in a big bowl, mix, then serve with tortilla chips. The best part is that anything left over (if there is any) will make excellent omelet or breakfast taco filling the next day!
|2 cans black beans||~$2.30|
|1 can corn||~$1.15|
|1 medium white onion, but whatever you love is fine||~$1.50|
|10-15 sprinkles of hot sauce||~$3.00 (or less for a small bottle of generic)|
|One healthy drizzle of olive oil||have at home|
|Salt to taste||have at home|
|A healthy smattering of cilantro||~$2.00|
|Total cost before tax||$14.45, assuming you don’t have hot sauce at home (you totally do!)|
Vegetarian Italian Pasta Salad
So simple. So beloved. Ideally requires two hours of refrigeration before you take it on the go, but we’re not picky! Remember not to overcook your pasta, because the dressing will soften your noodles even more. To save money, I’ve eliminated meat (better for vegetarians, anyway!) and replaced a more expensive red pepper with a second green pepper.
Here’s what you need to throw in a bowl:
|1 16 oz box of tricolor rotini, cooked||~$1.50|
|2 green peppers, chopped||~$1.50|
|1 red or orange pepper, chopped||~$1.50|
|1 medium red onion chopped||~$1.50|
|1 pint grape tomatoes, quartered||~$3.00|
|1 cup of bottled Italian dressing||~$2.00|
|1 cup mozzarella cheese, cubed||~$3.50|
|Salt and pepper to taste||have at home|
|Total cost before tax||$14.50|
Sweet ’n’ Salty Potato Chip Chunks
Sorry not sorry. It’s time you know about these. They’re divine. They’re unpretentious. They’re salty. They’re sweet. And best of all? They’re cheap.
|2 cups crushed ridged potato chips||~$4.00 (go crazy, get the name brand!)|
|9 ounces white baking chocolate or baking chips||~$4.00|
|½ cup chopped pecans, because you’re fancy||~$6.00|
|Total cost before tax||$14.00|
Melt that white chocolate in a (microwave safe) bowl. Then mix in your crushed chips and nuts, and use a spoon to put chunky dollops of the mixture on wax paper or foil, then refrigerate for two hours. Remove and enjoy!
Happy summer snacking!