Thrifty Summer Meals You Can Cook Outside

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If you are lucky enough to have a firepit in your backyard, thrifty summer meals are yours and you won’t even have to heat up your house. No firepit? No problem! There’s a section below on tinfoil packet meals you can cook on any type of outdoor grill.

Food on a Stick

My kids have always delighted in cooking “food on a stick.” There’s something about roasting your own meal over the flames that most kids enjoy. Here are some of our best ideas. And no, I promise, we don’t eat hot dogs all the time – just once in a while during the summer. The type of hot dog you get will give you some flexibility with regard to whether it’s reasonably healthy or not.

  • Marshmallows: Duh – that’s kind of a classic, isn’t it? You can take it a step further and turn your roasted marshmallow into a S’more by popping it on a square of chocolate between two graham crackers.
  • Octodogs: I’m not much of a hot dog fan but once in a while we’ll have them cooked on a campfire. If you cut them into “octodogs” you’ll get the tasty crispness on more of the surface of the hot dog. Simply slice the hot dog at one end, longways, to make “legs.” Then put your roasting fork into the uncut end of the hotdog and cook it over the flames until you’ve reached the desired degree of doneness. The “legs” will curl up, making it into an “octodog.”
  • Pigs in a Sleeping Bag: Usually they’d be pigs in a blanket, but this is a campfire! Place your hot dog longways on your skewer. Then, use crescent roll dough to wrap around the hot dog. Wrap this very loosely in foil and let the kids roast away above the flames. It will take about 15-20 minutes for the dough to get cooked and the hot dog to get crispy.
  • Campfire Crescent Rolls: Use your crescent roll dough to wrap around your roasting stick. Use the coals and not the flames for cooking this. Rotate your stick slowly over the coals so that your bread rises and gets brown. It takes 510 minutes to get your crescents done. When you’re ready to eat them, simply tear strips off your stick and enjoy with the rest of your meal.
  • Cinnamon Roll Skewers: If you want some dessert, you can make that on a stick too. Using the ever-so-popular crescent roll dough, wind it around your skewer as above. But this time, before you cook it, roll it in a cinnamon sugar mixture to coat it with tasty goodness. Then, cook it over the coals for about 5-ish minutes until the dough is no longer gooey and the outside is crisp and lightly browned.

Campfire Pizza

Don’t forget campfire pizza! You’ll need a Dutch oven for this one.


  • Premade Pizza Crust*
  • Marinara sauce of your choice
  • 2 cups of shredded cheese
  • Your favorite pizza toppings


  1. Grease the Dutch oven well and then place the crust on the bottom of it.
  2. Top the crust with sauce, half the cheese, pizza toppings, and the other half of the cheese.
  3. Put on the lid and place the Dutch oven on the coals. Add a few coals to the top of it and leave it alone for about 10 minutes.
  4. Let it cool for 5 minutes, then slice it into triangles and scoop it out to serve it.

*If you want to use homemade pizza dough, pop it into the greased Dutch oven and cook it for 5 minutes in the coals before adding your sauce, cheese, and toppings. Then carry on with the rest of the instructions.

Tinfoil Packet Meals on the Grill

One of the easiest ways to cook outside is by wrapping your meal in a packet of tinfoil. You can use any type of grill for the following meals. Another bonus is that you can customize the meals for family members with allergies or picky tendencies.

  • Sausage and peppers: Place bell pepper and onion slices on the bottom of your foil and top it with your favorite sausage. (We enjoy bratwurst for this.) You can add some minced garlic or even a whole clove of it. Wrap it up tightly and pop it on the grill for about 20 minutes.
  • Garlic Potatoes with Cheese: Cut up your potatoes into thin wedges. In a bowl, mix olive oil, minced garlic, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, and optional finely minced onion. Stir the potato wedges into the oil mixture, then place single servings of potatoes onto pieces of foil. Spoon any left-over olive oil mixture over the potatoes, then seal up the foil packets. Grill for 30 minutes, then open the packets and sprinkle on shredded cheddar cheese. Allow the cheese to melt, and then serve with sour cream.
  • Mexican Chicken Packets: Mix corn, black beans, salsa, and chili powder, then drain off the liquid. Place one serving of the mixture on a piece of foil. Top this with a skinless, boneless chicken breast. Sprinkle cumin, salt, pepper, chili powder, and lime juice on top of the chicken. Seal the packet and grill for 30-45 minutes or until the chicken is done. Flip the packets every 15 minutes.
  • Pork Chops and Veggies: Put some olive oil on each piece of tin foil. Add a mixture of your favorite veggies. We like green beans (they can be fresh or frozen), bell peppers, and onions. Feel free to use your family’s favorite vegetables. Top this with a pork chop, then season this with soy sauce and some bottled plum or duck sauce from the Chinese section of your grocery store. Grill for 30-45 minutes or until the pork is done, flipping the packets every 15 minutes.
  • BBQ Cheesesteak Sandwich: Cut a loaf of good quality bread longways. Add a little bit of olive oil to a piece of aluminum foil big enough to wrap around the entire sandwich. Place the bottom piece of bread on the foil, spread it with garlic butter, then top it with thin-sliced roast beef, a mixture of bell pepper and onion slices, and mushroom all very thinly sliced. Pop some mozzarella cheese slices on top of that, then add the top layer of bread. (Be sure to add garlic butter to that bread, too. Wrap the whole thing up in foil and put it on the grill for 30 minutes, flipping once.
  • Grilled Quesadillas: For each quesadilla, place a tortilla on a piece of foil. Tip it with refried beans, whatever meat you have cooked already, a dash of salsa, and some shredded cheese. Fold the tortilla over to make a half-moon shape and then cover it with foil, leaving the ends of your packet open. Grill it for 15 minutes, then check to see if the cheese is melted and the tortilla is crisp. If not, use tongs to flip the packet and let it cook for another ten minutes. Let it cool a bit, then slice and enjoy.
  • Side Dish Veggies: This is so simple it’s almost embarrassing. But…when you’re grilling up some protein, you can make this simple, tasty side dish for the whole family at the cost of about $1. Grab a bag of mixed veggies from the grocery store freezer aisle. Plop a little pat of butter on each piece of tin foil then divvy up your bag of veggies. Sprinkle your favorite seasonings on top (we like MSG-free seasoning salt) or leave them simple. Add a little more butter if desired, then wrap your foil pouch tightly. It will take about 20-30 minutes for your vegetables to be fully cooked. Be sure to flip the packet every 10 minutes so the contents don’t burn.

With these general ideas, feel free to experiment with what you have on hand! You have an idea of how long things need to cook and the formats you can use, so the sky is the limit for making creative, individual meals for your family members.

Keep your cool with thrifty summer meals

Your family will love the smoky taste of the foil packet food and food on a stick, and you’ll saving money by using these simple, inexpensive ingredients and NOT making your air-conditioner combat the heat of cooking indoors. Plus, what’s more fun than a campfire or barbecue?

What are your favorite inexpensive meals cooked outdoors? Share them in the comments!

Thrifty Summer Meals You Can Cook Outside
Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is an author and blogger. She's the single mom of two daughters and credits extreme frugality and a good sense of humor for her debt-free lifestyle. She is the author of numerous books, the editor of, and is the founder of a small digital publishing company in the emergency preparedness niche.

2 thoughts on “Thrifty Summer Meals You Can Cook Outside”

  1. Just did individual pizza’s on the grill the other night! I used the premade pizza dough ‘shells’ ( he likes thin and crispy, I like a ‘ regular’ crust). You could use english muffins as well. I moved them a quarter turn every few minutes so the bottom didn’t burn. The possibilities are endless!

  2. You can make some pretty nifty desserts in foil packets, like cobblers and crumbles. Just plain cut up fruit with some spices added, in a foil packet, can caramelize and be wonderful. If you’re working with a fire you can make fruit kebabs, and if you have a grate you can do grilled peaches.

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