by Texas Homesteader ~
I’m sharing a few tricks to summer cooking without adding extra heat & humidity to our home. I’ve included cooler food choices, cooler slow cooker methods, outdoor grilling ideas, solar cooking option and MORE!
(Note: Some links in this post will take you to other related articles for further information. But links preceded with * are affiliate links. If you click and buy something I could receive a tiny commission.)
Living in the hot and humid environment of Texas, keeping our home cool in the summertime is an expensive endeavor. The AC really really has to work overtime!
To keep our home more comfortable and to keep our utility bills low I’ve learned a few tricks to suppertime meals without adding unnecessary strain to our AC system (or our budget) during the summer heat.
Focus On Cooler Foods When It’s HOT Outside
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this tip first. The most effective way to keep heat out of your house is to not to cook at all.
Try to serve cool foods when those hot summer days hit. They’ll eliminate that cooking heat all together and help your body stay cool too.
Cold Food Options For HOT Days:
Some fast & easy examples of cold food for hot summer days are:
Chilled Pasta Salad
Hearty Cold Garden Salad with chopped meats, boiled eggs & homemade dressing
Cold sides such as pickled okra, cottage cheese, boiled eggs, etc.
Cold Leftover Meatloaf Sandwiches
Homemade Smoked Ham Salad or Egg Salad
I like to serve a large cold garden salad when it heats up outside. I’ll make it hearty though, chopping cooked chicken, adding chopped boiled eggs, and of course all the veggie goodness too.
I even have a very healthy Creamy Salad Dressing filled with probiotics that I can whip up in only 1 minute to top it all off.
It’s delicious, it’s healthy and it’s filling. And no heat required.
Fill The Oven ALL The Way – Cook Lots At One Time
If I must cook, my go-to method of cooking is to cook-once-eat-twice. This simply means that if I’m going to fire up that oven for, say, meatloaf – I’ll go ahead and cook an oven full of them!
We enjoy delicious meatloaf for dinner that night. Then when the remaining meatloaves are cooled I simply section them off in meal-sized servings, label and freeze.
That way when we’re in the mood for meatloaf again I don’t have to cook it. I just pull one of my pre-cooked meal-sized servings out of the freezer and place it in the refrigerator overnight to thaw.
When it’s time for supper a quick heat in the microwave & a couple of added side dishes are all I need.
Not only has a home-cooked supper arrived to the table in record time, but precious little additional heat has been added to our home because the entrée had already been cooked.
That’s a budget saver in two different ways!
Summer Cooking: Use Slow-Cooker Outside
Another idea is to actually cook outside. I really love using my slow cooker to slowly cook my main dishes like Slow Cooker Spicy Sticky Chicken to savory perfection.
Even though a slow cooker doesn’t put out near as much heat as an oven, I still don’t want to add unnecessary heat inside when it’s so hot. And that slow cooker will be producing heat for several hours as it cooks slowly.
Easy fix: I fill my slow cooker with all the ingredients needed for my recipe and take it out to my back porch. Then I set it on an outside table and plug it in.
Voila – no extra heat in the house!
I also use this outside table when using my toaster oven for smaller dishes like individual chicken pot pies and also when using my * Rotisserie Oven for grilled veggies, fish or of course rotisserie chicken.
How To Brew Tea For Free Using Solar Energy
How about using free solar energy to make sun tea? All you need is a teabag and water in a large jar with a lid.
You don’t need to buy a special container for your sun tea. I use this large repurposed picante bottle for my sun tea.
The hourglass shape makes it easier to securely carry. And it’s large enough to hold several cups of water.
When the tea is brewed I bring it inside and pour it into my tea pitcher. Then I top off the pitcher with water and I’m done.
Making our tea with the sun means there was no purchased energy necessary. And no extra heat in the house either!
Potential Sun Tea Concerns
There are some who have commented that brewing sun tea does not allow the tea to get hot enough to kill the bacteria in water. I’ve read that it must be boiled 3-5 minutes in order to be safe, then refrigerated immediately until consumed.
So as I typically do when I have such a question, I went to the experts – my extension agent.
Apparently according to my extension agent (who is an AWESOME resource) the source of potential problem microbes isn’t the water, it’s the actual tea leaves. She recommends bringing the water to 195 degrees and steeping the tea for 3-5 minutes, then pouring into a pitcher over ice & refrigerating.
Of course you’ll want to use your own judgement about making sun tea. If you have concerns about your individual health, your doctor is always your best source of advice.
For us, sun tea is still king. I continue to make sun tea several times each week, the same as I’ve done for years.
Free Solar Energy To Cook Food Outside
My biggest save when cooking outside is by using my solar oven. I actually cook outside using just the free energy from the sun.
OMGosh y’all, I have the Sun Oven brand of solar oven & I LOVE it!
I’ve cooked lots of things in my solar oven, including:
Solar Oven ‘Boiled’ Eggs Cooked Right In The Carton!
Chunky Apple Cinnamon Bread
Boneless Pork chops,
Solar Oven-Baked Potatoes,
Marinara Sauce In A Solar Oven
Solar Oven Cooked BBQ Pork
Fresh Bread Baked In A Solar Oven
You can see all my Solar Cooking Recipes Here.
So if you have a solar oven, summertime is a great time to put it to good use! If you don’t have one of your own yet, you can *Find Solar Ovens Here.
Cook On BBQ Grill To Keep Your Kitchen Cool
And of course grilling outside is always a good option for keeping cooking heat out of the house.
Go ahead and combine your outdoor grilling with the cook-once-eat-twice cooking. And don’t forget to fill that grill surface up!
After supper just section off cooled meal-sized servings, label and freeze.
Hopefully I’ve gotten your mental gears turning. These are all easy ideas to incorporate in almost any household.
Let’s learn from each other. What are some of your favorite ways to keep cooking heat out of the house in the heat of summer?
Links Included In This Post:
- Creamy Salad Dressing
- Efficient Cooking: Cook-Once, Eat Twice
- Comfort Food – Homemade Meatloaf
- Slow-Cooker Whole Chicken Recipe, Sticky Chicken
- Savory Chicken Pot Pie
- *Rotisserie Units
- Brewing Tea Outside – Sun Tea
Baked Breaded Pork Chops
- Solar ‘Boiled’ Eggs Cooked In The Carton
- Chunky Apple Cinnamon Bread
Baked Potatoes In A Solar Oven
- Effortless Homemade Marinara Sauce
- Homemade Bread
Solar Cooking Articles
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- Is Food Past The Expiration Date Safe To Eat?
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- Don’t Waste It – Free Vegetable Broth
- Make A Cute Dish Carrier From Old Jeans
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- Paper Napkins In A Paperless Kitchen
- Use ALL Of Your Spray Cleaner
- Easiest Self-Sufficiency Steps To Take NOW
…and many MORE!
See ALL Our Frugality Articles
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These are fantastic ideas! I really love your solar dehydrator! Could you post a tutorial on how to make one sometime??
Thanks for sharing these ideas with us on Simply Natural Saturdays!
This is my first southern summer and I need all the tips I can get! I’ve chosen this post for my feature this week on Front Porch Friday – once again, thanks for stopping by.
I love the cook once, eat twice thing. I do it your way sometimes and other times I cook more of the most time-consuming part of a meal (roasted pepper, baked chicken, etc.) and then use it in two or three meals. Thanks for posting all of your great ideas!
I’m so loving the idea of cooking once and eating twice. The oven is the one thing that really heats up the house really quickly. Great tips and thanks for sharing on Merry Monday.
So many great tips for cooking outside! Usually, just using the grill for us during the summer but I’ll keep the rest in mind to try, thanks!
The solar oven is very interesting…great ideas to beat the heat!
I’ve been crockpotting on the porch for years! I also cook later, I’m a night owl anyways so I cook the next day’s dinner after the kids have gone to bed, once it cools off outside. Prep goes faster, too! Hello from Natural Living Monday.
Great ideas! I love making sun tea in the summer. I also cook more and have it for later. Thanks for sharing!
Great post. I never thought to take my crockpot outside – I use it all throughout the summer. Thanks for sharing on Wildcrafting Wednesdays! I hope you’ll join us again and share more of your awesome posts in the future.
Stopping by from Thriving Thursday. I try to use the oven for more than one thing when I cook in the summer months. We usually grill instead. Love the ideas you have here – never heard of the solar oven. Kim
I love your ideas … especially the cooking outside options (your dehydrator is fabulous). The great thing about your alternatives to the oven and cooking indoors is that they are Eco-friendly as well as “cool”. Brilliant! I found this post via Wonderful Wednesday Blog Hop!
I found your blog from Down To Earth. Thanks for the great summer ideas! I have some tea on the back deck now. I don’t know why I didn’t think of the sun for iced-tea before.
We like to use our cast iron dutch oven over charcoal….especially in the underground oven we built with flashing and river rocks.
I have also used my steamer and my crockpot in the garage.
I am really interested in the solar oven, I will check I out.
Great ideas! I hate to turn the oven on in the summer, so the cooking for more then one meal is a great idea. I also like the idea of taking the crockpot outside! Thanks for more money saving tips for TTF this week!
I struggle to find “cool” ways to make dinner on hot nights. We turn to our grill A LOT! The crockpot outside is a great idea. My kitchen is small so when the crock pot is on it really warms it up.
I’m a new follower 🙂 I would love for you to come visit me 🙂
Love your ideas. We do a lot of the same. We will grill once and eat twice too. I also run the overhead vent when I use the stove in the oven. Helps to draw the heat up and out so it doesn’t heat up my kitchen.
We’re going to attempt to build a clay oven sometime this year! It will move the heat outside and we’re hoping to draw folks to the farm with some clay oven pizza and fresh bread.
These are all really great ideas. I have a ‘summer kitchen’ on my back porch for this very reason. It’s a bar height table that my husband made out of old decking lumber. I paid my handyman $50 to install outdoor outlets at bar height behind it.
I use all the portable kitchen appliances you mentioned plus a lot more. Did you know you can bake bread in a toaster oven and a crockpot? You can cook pasta in a deep fryer – just add water instead of oil. You can steam or boil anything in a deep fryer. I also use an electric skillet to saute or fry food. And of course, my grill is on my back porch for barbecue.
It makes a huge difference in the comfort level of my house & it’s very conveniently located right outside my kitchen.
These are great ideas and I have to say I never even heard of a solar oven. We take the crockpot outside too….in fact, I thought I might be the only strange one who does that. 🙂 I just don’t like to smell something that long. Thanks for the ideas!
Great ideas!!! We are cooking outside as much as possible these days!
Summer heat can really get oppressive, and these are great ways to alleviate some of it. I’ve done a few of these things, but never thought about the concept of cook once eat twice. good ideas.
We mainly just avoid recipes that have to be cooked, especially baked or cooked a long time. Gazpacho (mentioned in a comment above) is a favorite, and marinated tofu over salad, and hummus with vegetables to dip. Cooking a lot on a rainy day and then eating leftovers on hot days works, too.
We use a George Foreman Grill to cook veggie burgers and other flat, pre-cooked foods. My brother, a home energy auditor, told me it’s very energy efficient because so little heat escapes. It toasts the buns, too! You don’t get that “standing over a hot stove” feeling while using it, and it doesn’t make the kitchen noticeably warmer than the dining room.
I am all about cooking two or three things at once. Last summer when I would heat up the oven to cook bread, I would cook several other items along with it. It would be like Thanksgiving when the oven is filled with stuff.
This year I will be making more english muffins. They are cooked stovetop, or in my case on the electric griddle. I am also going to use my dutch ovens more for cooking outside. I am working up plans for a brick oven for our space out back. I would love a solar oven, I think that having skills like this are important. Being able to think and cook outside the box is a wonderful Idea.
I live in Arizona and the heat is no joke here too. We just moved into this house about a year ago and one of my major projects i hope to finish soon is an outdoor kitchen of sorts. I love your food dehydrator and a solar oven in on my wish list as well. Something else I do is bake in the early mornings.
Here in Spain, raw-vegetable gazpacho is standard summer fare, nearly on a daily basis. I also use my crockpot and portable camping cooktop out on the porch at night (we have dinner around 9pm), and try to do no cooking indoors during the day.
I’ve also been contemplating a solar oven – I would love to hear about how it works for you! -Karen (Toledo, Spain)
I used to make sun tea, then heard that it’s not completely safe; evidently the water may not get hot enough to kill off all the creepies that might be lurking. Now I boil the water or use a iced tea maker I picked up from Freecycle. Better safe than sorry? ~TALU~
Great ideas. I need to work on some of these. I can’t wait to hear about your solar oven cooking.
Thanks for some awesome tips. I’ve never thought to cook once, eat twice or move my crock pot outside. We have actually sweat our way through four summers without air conditioning and it’s supposed to be installed TOMORROW. I can’t wait!
We use a couple of your suggestions here in Connecticut. I grill mo about 6 months out of the year and we make sun tea here as well. I like the idea of the solar cooking too.
Thanks for sharing Tammy.
Once you start using your solar oven – you will love it! I live in Las Vegas and use it all the time. You can use it to bake or cook so many different things and it doesn’t heat up your home and it costs toning to use – yay!
I live in Las Vegas and it’s about 110 here right now. My power bills are threw the roof even though my AC is set at 79. Where did you get the solar oven and how do you use one?
These are great ideas! Our house stays relatively cool in the summer (we live in Maine), but there are a few weeks of incredibly hot weather and we typically don’t cook at all at those moments, instead opting for salad and smoothies 🙂 I would love to have a dehydrator. I have heard of people using their cars for such a thing in the summer! Maybe this year I will give it a go as well!
I like the grill option when it gets hot.
I have been reading a lot about Solar Ovens. It look really interesting!
Sandra – I’m planning to expand my solar oven usage this year, I can’t wait to cook more in my solar oven! ~TxH~