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Credit: Joe Lingeman

51 Little Ways to Save Money This Summer

published Jul 6, 2021
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After more than a year of staying home, this summer may be even busier than usual. You’ve got big plans to go places, see people, and eat meals that you didn’t have to cook yourself. We get it: You want to get back out there! But all those things can be expensive! With the goal of pinching as many pennies as possible, we’ve rounded up 51 great tips to help you save money this summer — on groceries, utility bills, entertainment, kitchen gear, and more.

  1. Throw a cookout, but make it a potluck. Yes, you want to see all your friends and loved ones who you’ve been missing. No, you don’t have to pay to feed them in order to make that reunion happen! Tell everyone you’ll provide the burgers and dogs but put someone on drinks duty and ask other people to bring the sides. Don’t forget to assign the dessert.
  2. Shop farmers markets toward the end of the day. Vendors tend to discount some or all of the produce at the end of the day so they don’t have to haul it back to the farm. Go later in the day and see what kind of discounts are on offer.
  3. Scope out a few different farmers markets. Many vendors sell at multiple markets each week and the prices often fluctuate (due to a few different reasons). Hit up a few and decide which market has the best prices and makes the most sense for you.
  4. Get a free trial with a grocery delivery service. Sign up for a grocery delivery service and take advantage of free delivery for a set period of time. Read more here.
  5. And refer friends. Get a friend to sign up for a grocery delivery service — like Instacart, Walmart, or FreshDirect — and you’ll both get money credited to your account to use.
  6. Pack your own food for a day at the beach. Why pay $15 for a mediocre sandwich when you can pack one you know you’ll love for much less? Invest in a top-notch cooler now and it’ll save you money for many summers to come.
  7. Make a big batch of cold brew. Just follow our recipe.
  8. Buy your rosé by the case. Most wine shops will offer some sort of discount if you buy a case (12 bottles) at once. You can almost always mix and match, too, versus having to buy 12 of the same bottles. Even still, if that’s too much wine for you, see if a friend or neighbor wants to go halvsies with you.
  9. Join your grocery store’s loyalty program. They’re almost always free and lead to big savings without having to clip coupons. Not convinced? Read more here.
  10. Invest in reusable bags. Yes, you’ll have to spend more upfront to get a stash of reusable bags, but they will save you money in the long run. Kitchn editors are currently in love with these bags.
  11. Make your own ice cream. Take the whole family out for ice cream and you’re dropping at least $20. We even have a no-churn recipe that doesn’t call for any special equipment.
  12. Make your own pizza. Similarly, bringing in pizza could cost you $40 or more (two pies and a salad add up!). Save money by making your own pizza on the grill. You’ll wish you’ve been doing it this way all along.
  13. Grate your own cheese for said pizza. Convenience foods (anything that’s been grated or chopped or sliced for you) are always going to cost more than their whole counterparts. Get a block of cheese and grate it yourself. Just read this first.
  14. Host a movie night. One more tip in our Expensive Nights Out series! Instead of going to the movie theater, just host movie at night home. So many streaming services are ready to go with original flicks. Take advantage!
  15. Shop your house. After all these months of being at home, your surroundings are probably looking a little stale. Instead of buying, say, new art for your kitchen, try stealing a print from another room. Move items around to freshen things up without spending a single dollar.
  16. Check the seal on your fridge. Grab a dollar bill and check the seal on your fridge. Close the dollar in the door and pull. If it slides out, then your seal isn’t as tight as it should be, which means your fridge is working harder than it has to, which means your energy bill is likely higher than it needs to be.
  17. And keep the door closed. Every time you open the fridge and freezer door, cold air escapes and warm air from your kitchen (especially if you don’t have AC!) sneaks in. This causes your appliance to work extra and raises your utility bill. Not sure what you want? Think about it before you open the fridge and mindlessly stare in.
  18. Grow your own vegetables. Victory gardens were huge during quarantine and we should keep that up even now that things are getting back to normal. We’ll tell you how to start one, whether you have a big plot of land or just a container on a balcony.
  19. Learn how to use your crisper drawers. Produce that rots goes in a drawer with a low-humidity setting. Stuff that wilts goes in the high-humidity drawer. (Read more here.) Don’t let produce spoil before you can get to it!
  20. Grow your own herbs. It’s easy to grow your own oregano, basil, mint, and more. And it sure beats dishing out a few bucks for a so-so bunch at the grocery store.
  21. And store your herbs correctly. Once again, you don’t want stuff to wilt before you get your money’s worth! What’s the correct way to store herbs? We ran some highly scientific tests to find out.
  22. Have a freezer night. Challenge yourself to make dinner using nothing more than stuff that’s already in your freezer. No buying anything extra!
  23. Make your own cleaning solution. When did specialty cleaners get so darn expensive? The next time you run out, instead of buying a new bottle, make your own. You probably already have everything you need!
  24. Order a berry saver. If you spend $5 on berries and eat them, that’s great. If you spend $5 on berries and they mold before you even have one, that’s not great! This berry saver can help make sure they last!
  25. Try the “we have food at home” mantra. We know how tempting it is to stop and pick up your favorite summer treat while you’re out and about. But if you have food at home, maybe just wait until you get back to make yourself something. Use this mantra even just once a week and you’ll save big!
  26. Hold a kitchen swap with your friends. Clothing swaps are a thing, so why not hold a similar swap for kitchen gear? You can get rid of those Popsicle molds you never use and pick up a new set of nesting bowls that you’ve been needing.
  27. Have a garage sale. On a related note, this one won’t save you money but it will certainly make you money!
  28. Make your paper towels harder to access. Paper towels are not inexpensive. The more you use, the more you’ll spend. So put the roll in a cabinet and you might find the barrier to be just enough to have you rethinking how often you reach for one. Use a rag when you can. It will be better for the environment … and for your wallet.
  29. Stash a snack in your purse. If you get hangry while you’re out, you can snack on some almonds or crackers.
  30. Start carrying a water bottle with you. Stop paying for bottled water.
  31. Learn the sweet spot for your fridge and freezer. If your fridge is too full, you might accidentally block vents, which forces the appliance to work harder. On the other hand, because the already-cold items help keep everything else cold, if your fridge isn’t full enough, it will use up more energy to cool itself off every time you open the fridge door. The solution: Aim to keep your fridge (and freezer) about 75 percent full at all times. 
  32. Unplug your small appliances. You’ve heard of vampire power! (Which is the energy that a plugged-in appliance uses even if it’s not turned on.) If you want to save as much as possible on your power bill, try to unplug smaller gadgets like your toaster, coffee maker, or tea kettle when they’re not in use.
  33. Start a cookbook club. Looking for something you and your friends can do that doesn’t end with a giant bar tab? Start a cookbook club! Everyone will get to eat, socialize, and learn! We’ve got some great book ideas here — and you can even join a club with Kitchn!
  34. Make Meatless Monday a thing. Meat will cost you more than other sources of protein. Go meatless at least once a week and you’ll save.
  35. Organize your spices so you can see them. If you can’t see all of your spices at a glance, you’re more likely to miss something and buy a bottle that you already have at home. That’s wasteful and costly! Take some time during the next rainy weekend to get your spices under control. We have some ideas here.
  36. Seal up your chips properly. Humid weather can be not nice to an opened bag of chips! Seal them up properly between snackings. These $2-a-piece Gripstic bag sealers are a favorite of our team.
  37. Store condiment bottles upside-down. Don’t wash out that bottle of mustard until it really is truly empty! Alton Brown has a smart tip to help you get the most of your burger and hot dog condiments.
  38. Sandwich paper towels between your cast iron cookware. Instead of nesting cast iron pans one inside another, metal on metal, use a paper towel to separate each piece. This will help protect your hard-earned seasoning, which will save you money and time.
  39. Add a fan to your kitchen. You may have fans in your bedrooms and in the living room, so, why not the kitchen?
  40. Grill outside. If it’s super-duper hot, don’t even bother turning on the oven. Your AC will have to work extra, which can raise your bill. If you have outdoor space, take your cooking outside.
  41. Close your blinds. Help keep your kitchen cool by closing your curtains and blinds. Again, this will translate to savings on your energy bill.
  42. Don’t buy everything organic. It’s important to buy certain organic produce (especially ones on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen fruit and vegetable list), but you don’t need to pay up for, say, organic crackers.
  43. Make your own salad dressing. It’s almost always cheaper to go the DIY route. We have a ridiculous ranch recipe and this house dressing recipe, which will make you want to eat salad all the time.
  44. Run the dishwasher at night. Utility companies typically charge higher rates during peak hours (the daytime when people are awake!). Instead, run your dishwasher at night to save on electricity, gas, and water costs.
  45. Don’t throw out food based on it’s “best by” date. According to the USDA, that label just indicates when the food is most likely to be the highest possible quality.
  46. Check the clearance sections. Lots of grocery stores have clearance sections and they’re almost always worth checking out.
  47. Don’t forget the freezer section when it comes to produce. Frozen fruits and veggies cost 20 to 30 percent less than their fresh versions. While fresh produce is super tempting this time of year, go with the frozen stuff if you’re looking to save and/or have concerns about being able to use something up in time.
  48. Shop for hearty greens that will stay fresher longer. Stop buying arugula that wilts before you can finish the package. Instead, try a heartier green like curly kale, which will spoil a lot slower.
  49. Go to a BYOB restaurant. Many of us are pumped to be going out to eat in restaurants again (and we love the idea of supporting them as much as possible!), but if you want to go out while saving money, go to a BYOB spot.
  50. Turn off the water when you’re washing dishes. The average American goes through 80 to 100 gallons of water a day, with up to 27 gallons used for hand-washing dishes alone. Turn it off while you work on scrubbing that pot.
  51. Use cold water when rinsing plates, pots, and pans. “Cold water will help the grease to remain solid, which allows it to travel down drain lines more easily,” says Doyle James, president of Mr. Rooter Plumbing, a Neighborly company. “Using warm water emulsifies grease, so as it cools while traveling through the line, it becomes solid and coats the inside of the line, which will eventually lead to stoppages.” Do what you can to keep your pipes in good shape now, and you won’t have to pay for a costly plumber down the road.

This list is just a starting point; if you have any other smart tips, definitely leave them in the comments below!