Eat Well, Spend Less: What To Stock Up On This Season

This month in the Eat Well, Spend Less series, we’re talking about eating well and spending less during the often hectic season of summer. With kids out of school, most of us are out and about from our normal routine and are going on vacation, taking day trips, enjoy outdoor barbecues, exploring parks, and more.

And, many of us don’t really feel like cooking much during the summertime, which means we may be spending more than we’d like and not eating as well. Later this week, I’ll be linking up to everyone else’s idea for keeping the Eat Well, Spend Less idea going throughout the summer, but today, I’m taking a look at the seasonal items that you’ll want to stock up on during summer.

Image Credit: queen of subtle

I’m a big believer in stocking up when the price is right so you don’t pay more later. While it might be a little more hectic to go grocery shopping during the summer, it’s a great time to stock up on all sorts of foods, so if you’re trying to spend less, you’ll want to make a plan for stocking up on items that are at their rock-bottom prices during the summer, and often only at rock-bottom prices during the summer.

For grocery sales cycles, I consider summer to be Memorial Day through Labor Day. We don’t usually see many sales on summer-themed items much after Labor Day, so my goal is have enough “summer items” to last me through to the next Memorial Day by the time Labor Day rolls around.

Here are the items that usually hit their lowest price during the summer time. If you use these items year-round, you’ll want to stock up now so you don’t pay more (twice as much or even more!) later. [rss-cut]


Image Credit: a2gemma

Summer is really the only time of year we typically see sales on ketchup, mustards, pickles, mayonnaise, salad dressings, worcestershire sauce, steak sauce, and similar.

Most of us probably use ketchup all year round, so I wait for what I think will be the lowest price and then buy as much as I estimate we’ll use through the next Memorial Day!

Do be careful about stocking up too much on things like salad dressings and mayo – they have relatively short expiration dates, so keep that in mind if you’re stocking your pantry with those items.


Ground beef is often on sale during the summer, since so many people grill burgers! I remember once a couple of years ago, Safeway had their ground beef on sale for 88¢ a pound over 4th of July weekend – can you believe that?! I don’t expect to see that sale again, but we’re still seeing sales on ground beef for less than we typically find them throughout the rest of the year.

Image Credit: stevendepolo

Brats and fresh sausages go on sale a lot from Memorial Day to Labor Day as well.  We like to grill well after Labor Day, and I sometimes even cook brats indoors, so I’m looking for a good sale to stock up on both brats and the fresh chicken and pork sausage that our Sunflower Markets sell.

Last week, Sunflower had chicken sausage for $1.99 and we bought a fair amount, but then we ate it all!

Other meats that you would typically grill or smoke, like steaks or brisket or ribs, often go on sale during summer, too.

And, though they’re not part of “eating well”, this is the season for hot dogs, too! If you see a sale on your favorite ‘dogs, stock up! If you like to buy organic or nitrate-free hotdogs, don’t forget to look for manager’s specials or markdowns – this is the prime time for them to overstock these products and then have to reduce them to sell them quickly!

Fresh Produce

Even if you don’t have a garden, summer is prime time for preserving fresh fruits and vegetables! In Colorado, we typically see sales on berries in spring and late summer and peaches in mid to late summer – both items that freeze great for use in smoothies, fruit crisps, berry toppings, and more!

It’s important to have a plan for what you want to preserve so that you can be ready to buy a bunch and freeze it when you find it on sale – don’t get caught thinking, “man, I wish I had bought more of those berries last month!”

Image Credit: nieve44

I’m looking forward to buying a bushel or two or three of Hatch chiles this summer, roasting them, and then freezing.

Last summer was the first year we’d tried them, and by the time we realized we loved the flavor, their short six-week season was over and we weren’t able to freeze nearly as many as we would have liked. See what I mean about needing a plan?

One thing you can do to be prepared to preserve fresh produce is to have recipes already tested so that you know what you’re doing.  Perhaps you’re waiting for your big tomato harvest to come in, but it’s a good idea to test a recipe or two before you have dozens of tomatoes sitting in your kitchen.

I’ve made big batches of things like applesauce before with an untested method, and only after spending hours in the kitchen did I realize we weren’t really a fan of the recipe.

More Summer Specials

Everything from bottled lemonades to drink mixes tend to go on sale during the summer.  If you like these and drink them often, stock up!

Image Credit: cindy47452

Summer is also the season for sales on disposable goods like paper plates and napkins.

I personally rarely find these for a price that I would consider “cheap”, and prefer to use cheap white dinner plates from Goodwill when having parties at home – you can get them for 25¢ or less, they’re green, and they don’t blow away!

But, if you use a lot of paper goods or need some for a few picnics away from home, this is a good time to watch for a sale.  (Check your prices at Sam’s Club or Costco, as they may be cheaper there.)

The season for grilling means that charcoal sales are aplenty, too.  I’ve found that the best deals are usually at Memorial Day and 4th of July at the home improvement stores – Home Depot and Lowe’s usually run a sale where you can get two twenty-pound bags for around $10.

What are your must-stock-up items this season?

What items do you try to stock up on during summertime?  Have you ever overstocked or understocked and regretted it later?  Join the discussion in the comments!

Psst – have you entered our giveaway yet?  We’re giving away a membership kit to Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University!


  1. I think I overdid the free barbecue sauce this year, so I’ll be sharing with family. I look to summer as the time to stock up on condiments, as you mentioned, and the grilling meats that you mentioned too. We plant a big garden and I can a lot of food for winter – pickles, salsas, jams and jellies, fruits, pie fillings, vegetables, juices, etc. But even if you don’t garden, you can still do that by getting the ingredients at lower prices. If you find the right sale on tomatoes, onions, peppers, etc., you can make fantastic salsa (always follow a tested, approved recipe and adjust for altitude!) and can it for year-round use.

    Also, when onions or peppers go on sale, you can cube them, freeze them on a cookie sheet and bag them up for use year-round in casseroles, stir fry, soups, enchiladas, etc. :)

  2. Last summer I bought blueberries on sale for 1.00 a package…we ate lots of them and froze the rest on trays and then bagged them up…I ran out in October or November…this year I will buy more when they go on sale!!! I’m waiting…

  3. Emily @ Random Recycling says:

    We stock up on mason jars that go on sale in the summer and early fall. Or we look for them at yard sales. Great for preserving yummy summer fruits to giveaway as gifts later.