Six Healthy, Inexpensive, and Quick Summer Meals

My kitchen is often a laboratory around dinner time. I’m constantly striving to prepare a tasty meal for my family with healthy ingredients as quickly as I can. My kids and my wife combine for the ultimate test – if they both like it, it’s a success. If it’s fairly quick and healthy, it’s a big success – that’s something we’ll have again in some form.

Here are six of the big successes I’ve found over the last year.

Grilled Parmesan Tilapia Fillets

You can use this recipe with any kind of fillets – catfish works quite well, for example. However, my family simply loves the tilapia.


3 tilapia fillets (6-8 ounces each), rinsed thoroughly with water
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1 cup mayonnaise (I’ve tried other things, but there’s no substitute – this just works)
4 tablespoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons margarine or butter


Mix the Parmesan, the mayonnaise, and half of the lemon juice, and soften the butter/margarine. Dip the tilapia fillets in the butter, then the remaining lemon juice. Grill them over high heat for 6 minutes, flipping halfway through. Flip again, then spread the lemon-Parmesan sauce on top. Grill for 3 more minutes until the sauce turns golden brown. Serve!

Trent’s Burgers

During the summer, we have grilled burgers once a week. After many experiments, this is the recipe my family loves. These can be done just as easily in a pan, of course.


1 1/2 pounds ground beef (very lean if you’re cooking in a pan, not if grilling where the fat will drip off)
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 cup whole wheat Pepperidge Farm goldfish, crushed to dust


Mix everything together. Make 6 round patties out of the meat, about 2/3 inch thick. Press down gently in the middle of each patty, making a small indentation. Grill over medium high heat for about 10 minutes, flipping halfway through (check for doneness). Serve!

Campfire Meals

These cook very well by simply tossing them onto the edge of a camp fire, but you can also grill them or bake them in an oven. These are VERY flexible and have widely varying cooking times – you need to check them and make sure they’re done.


ultra-lean ground beef
chili beans
chili powder
diced potatoes
chopped carrots
butter (not too much)
aluminum foil


Tear off a rectangular piece of aluminum foil and add ingredients above to your heart’s content. Add two ice cubes, then wrap the aluminum foil into a tight package. Cook the package on the edge of a campfire or over high grill heat for 10-15 minutes. Serve! (It’s good to have everyone make their own individual packages, because people have different tastes – I like eggs and chili and carrots and just a few potatoes, whereas my wife avoids the chili and eats plenty of potatoes.)

Grilled Chicken & Spinach Quesadillas

This was adapted from a recipe I spied in a magazine (not sure which one) I read while standing in a checkout aisle a few months ago. I saw a delicious looking picture, put down the magazine, and picked up some spinach and cheese.


2 pounds cooked chicken breasts or a whole small rotisserie chicken, meat shredded
6 large flour or corn tortillas
3-4 ounces baby spinach (4 or 5 cups or so)
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 cup salsa
8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese (2 cups or so)
1/4 cup sour cream


Mix the chicken, spinach, chili powder, and cheese. Heat the grill to medium. Put 1/3 of the mix on each of three of the tortillas and spread it evenly. Put a second tortilla on top of each one to make three “sandwiches.” Grill the “sandwiches” over medium heat, about 4 minutes per side, and serve them with sour cream and salsa.

Quick Red Beans and Rice

We make a big batch of this on lazy summer days. We get it going, let it boil while we play outside in the late afternoon, then come inside for a delicious meal! This recipe makes a ton of leftovers.


4 cups dry read beans
2 quarts water
1 pound sliced Andouille sausage (optional)
1 large onion, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon black pepper
4 cups rice


Soak the beans overnight in cold water, then drain. Add all ingredients but rice, then boil it for two hours (slow boil). When there’s about half an hour left, add 3 cups water and the rice, bring it back to a low boil. Stir it about every twenty minutes or so after adding the rice. Serve!

Grilled Tuna Sandwich

This makes for a great lunch or the centerpiece of a light supper.


1 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 small red onion, diced
1 small celery stalk, diced
16 ounces tuna
olive oil (for bread)
pepper to taste
hearty bread of your choice


Mix lemon juice, tuna, mayo, cheese, onion, and celery. Make sandwiches out of the bread and tuna mixture, then brush olive oil lightly on the outside of the sandwiches. Grill over medium heat, 4 minutes on each side.

Trent Hamm
Trent Hamm
Founder of The Simple Dollar

Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 after developing innovative financial strategies to get out of debt. Since then, he’s written three books (published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press), contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.

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