Five Simple Summer Salads with Grilled Chicken

By Ashley Roe, Contributing Writer

Summer means longer days and fun in the sun. So slaving over a hot stove to cook dinner when it’s already warm outside doesn’t sound too appealing. There are a number of ways to have easy meals that don’t require a hot stove like using a crock-pot, grilling or meals that don’t require any cooking.

One of my favorite meals to make on days that I don’t want to do a lot of cooking or when it’s too warm outside is salad made with grilled chicken breast. I love how easy it is to throw a good meal together with just a few ingredients that I often have on hand anyway. It’s also a great way to use up leftover chicken or to make extra for this purpose.

Five Simple Summer Salads with Grilled Chicken - Young Wifes Guide

How to Prepare the Chicken

I think the best way to make chicken for salad is to grill it but you could also broil it in the oven or use an electric grill. To prepare, just spread a little olive oil on each side of the chicken breast pieces and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Then cook using whichever method you choose.

You can use other seasonings as well, just be sure to think about how it will go on the type of salad you decide to make. For example, spicy chicken wouldn’t go so well with more delicate flavors like a strawberry spinach salad but would be great for making a chicken taco salad.

If you’re not sure what you will do with all the chicken you cook or don’t want to think about adding other flavors, just stick with salt and pepper.

For more grilled chicken ideas try my grilled chicken fajitas or BBQ herb grilled chicken.

Five Simple Summer Salads

Now that you have your chicken ready, it’s time to throw a salad together. Here’s some ideas based on the kinds of salad I like to make. These aren’t true recipes, just ideas for you to try. Feel free to add as much or as little of each ingredient as you like or change it up to make your own!

Strawberry Spinach Salad

I first remember having strawberry spinach salad made by my mom but I never tried it with chicken until ordering it at a restaurant. Now it’s one of my favorite salads to make. I’ve also made a similar salad with other fruits like orange segments, pineapple, cherries and/or blueberries.

Ingredients: spinach, crisp cooked bacon – crumbled, feta cheese, sliced strawberries, toasted almond slices, chicken, poppyseed dressing.

BLT Salad

I actually started making this salad based off of a recipe on the back of a bag of croutons. I don’t think it originally had chicken but it is a good addition to the other ingredients in the salad.

Ingredients: romaine lettuce, crisp cooked bacon – crumbled, fresh sliced cherry or grape tomatoes (can also use larger tomatoes, just seed and dice into small chunks), shredded cheddar cheese, ranch dressing

Cobb Salad

Cobb salad is a classic! It’s also another one of my favorites that I often order when eating out and want a salad.

Ingredients: romaine lettuce, crisp cooked bacon – crumbled, diced avocado, sliced hard boiled egg, fresh sliced cherry or grape tomatoes (can also use larger tomatoes, just seed and dice into small chunks) chicken, dressing (creamy herb, ranch or blue cheese), blue cheese crumbles

Sundried Tomato Salad

This salad I threw together after picking up a bottle of sundried tomato dressing on a trip to Earth Fare one day. It sounded good and so I picked up a few things that I thought would go with it. It turned out great and so it’s another salad on the list.

Ingredients: kale and spinach blend, fresh sliced cherry or grape tomatoes (can also use larger tomatoes, just seed and dice into small chunks), feta cheese, sundried tomato dressing, avocado, chicken

Grilled Chicken Cesar Salad

I have my husband to thank for this one! I never would have thought I liked Cesar salad but after trying his homemade dressing, I have grown to love it. It tastes great as a plain Cesar salad but adding grilled chicken to make it a meal is even more delicious!

Ingredients: romaine lettuce, freshly grated parmesan cheese, croutons, freshly ground black pepper, chicken, Cesar dressing

More Salad Inspiration

Looking for more salad inspiration? Check out these links for more ideas:

Dressings 

Salads 

Five Simple Summer Salads with Grilled Chicken 2 - Young Wifes Guide

What’s your favorite type of salad or meal to make in the summer months?

Budget-Friendly Summer Potluck Ideas

By Shannon, Contributing Writer

Summer brings about so many fantastic opportunities to join with our friends and neighbors in times of community with potlucks and BBQs. The great news is, you can do it all while still saving money on groceriesHere are 16 budget friendly summer potluck ideas that won’t blow your grocery budget.

Summer Potluck Ideas

To celebrate the past year of growing community and fellowship, our small group leaders hosted a fun appetizers and desserts potluck for everyone. The kids splashed in the pool, the guys played lawn games, and the girls gabbed in lawn chairs. Everyone had an awesome time, and I was so impressed that it was also a budget-friendly affair that everyone could feel comfortable attending.

16 Budget-Friendly Summer Potluck Ideas

Here are a few tips I noticed at our fun budget-friendly potluck.

Fresh Fruit and Vegetable

Focus on what’s in season for the best prices and a chance to use your own garden-fresh produce or you-pick finds.

Recipe Ideas:

  • Watermelon – You can get a good sized watermelon for under $5 that will be plenty to bring to a potluck with lots leftover for your family.
  • Fruit Salad
  • Vegetable Salad-  This fresh Italian salad will wow at any picnic, and is gluten free and grain free.
  • Homemade Salad Dressing – Don’t forget to include your favorite homemade salad dressing.
  • Homemade Salsa
  • Fresh Fruit Skewers
  • Grilled Corn on the Cob

Stretch the Meat

If you’re hosting, make it an appetizers and desserts party rather than a full on dinner. One fun option everyone loves is sliders. You can feed a much bigger crowd on a budget with these mini-burgers. Kababs are another fun way to make your meat go further, as you layer it with fresh in-season veggies.

Recipe Ideas:

  • Sliders
  • Meat and Veggie Kebabs
  • Chili

Stick to Frugal Staples

We can use many of the same techniques to stay on budget during summer as we do all year around. Beans are great, potatoes, and pasta are frugal staples that can be served so many different ways!

Whether you’re hosting or attending, these budget-friendly summer potluck ideas will help you save money while still enjoying the fellowship of family, friends, and neighbors. After all, that’s what summertime is all about!

Budget Friendly Summer BBQ Potluck Ideas 1

What do you do to save your budget while entertaining in the summer?

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Balancing a Homemade Lifestyle

By Anna Christensen, Contributing Writer

Recently we read Laura Ingall Wilder’s “Farmer Boy” aloud as a family. No matter how productive of a day I’d had, it seemed lazy in comparison. The Wilders made 90% of their food, clothing, and shelter from scratch. They regularly worked from before dawn till past dusk, with only a handful of holidays throughout the year. A day spent blueberry picking counted as “vacation.”

Their story paints a striking contrast to the typical modern lifestyle of consumerism and constant media distractions. Thankfully, a refreshing change is beginning to tackle our culture’s deep-seated consumerism. There is a growing trend toward a more homemade lifestyle.

Want to bring back the charm, taste, and health of a fresh homemade lifestyle, but don't know how to squeeze it in? Here are some simple steps.

Beautiful homemade ravioli (one of many things I *don’t* make from scratch!)

Many reasons exist: homemade foods are usually tastier, healthier, and more affordable than their store-bought alternatives. Homemade products generally save money and are more healthy.

But even though we’re blessed with so many modern conveniences that Laura didn’t enjoy, her stories highlight an important point about the homemade lifestyle: making things from scratch takes a lot of time and effort.

Balancing a homemade lifestyle with our busy modern lives isn’t always easy, but by starting small, prioritizing, involving our kids, investing in useful tools, and capitalizing on freezer space, it is possible to enjoy many of the benefits… without working 80 hours a week!

Balancing a Homemade Lifestyle

Start small

A quick scroll through Pinterest is all it takes to find recipes for hundreds of items you can make from scratch. There are recipes for everything from homemade mustard to all-natural shampoo, fresh bread to creamed soups. Many of the recipes look simply amazing and it’s tempting to try them all at once. But usually that’s just a recipe for burnout.

Start small. Pick just one or two new things to try at a time and find what works best for you. 

Choose what matters to your family

About six years ago, I tasted my very first homemade tortillas. They were amazing. The flavor and freshness transformed the simple tacos into an unforgettable meal. My friend shared the recipe and I began making homemade tortillas too. It’s worth it to me because I (and my family) love them. As an added bonus, they’re much healthier and a bit cheaper than store-bought tortillas.

For many moms, making homemade tortillas would be ridiculous. It would not be worth it at all. It would turn a simple meal into a chore. That’s how I feel about homemade noodles. They’re just not worth the effort to me. Pasta dishes are my fall back on days when six o’clock rolls around and I think Oh no! Can it really be time to eat? We need food, fast! Making my own noodles would defeat the whole point.

Find the homemade things that are worthwhile to make for your family and enjoy the 21st century convenience of being able to buy the rest.

The big kids helped pick, wash, and de-stem fresh strawberries.

The “big” kids helping me pick, wash, and de-stem fresh strawberries— a perfect late spring activity! 

Involve your kids

As all moms know, a toddler “helping” in the kitchen isn’t really helping at all. But involving the little ones is a wonderful way to spend quality time together while teaching them valuable life skills. It also demonstrates that food doesn’t magically appear on the shelves at the store and lets them delight in the taste of fresh herbs and get their hands dirty in a pile of bread dough.

Though involving little ones takes more effort upfront, as they grow up and become more capable, having their help is a huge blessing.

Invest in useful tools

It’s totally possible to lead a homemade life-style with just the bare basics. I naturally tend to minimalism, but investing in a few useful tools makes balancing a homemade lifestyle much more pleasant and efficient.

A few of my very favorite tools include a grain mill for grinding fresh grain, a tortilla press, and huge ceramic bowl. (That bowl gets used all the time!)

Capitalize on freezer space

Speaking of modern tools, the freezer has got to be one of the handiest. Not only can you freeze soups and casseroles (like these 36 awesome freezer meals!), you can even freeze things like sandwiches and homemade jam. If you are taking time to make something from scratch, make extra to store for later. It multiplies your efforts easily.

Balancing a homemade lifestyle

Few of us would choose to return to the hard-core homemade lifestyle Laura Ingalls Wilder recorded. But by starting small, prioritizing the things that matter most, involving our kids, investing in useful tools, and capitalizing on freezer space, we can each incorporate a bit of the charm of a homemade lifestyle into our busy modern lives.

Start small - take baby steps - and you can create the homemade lifestyle that is right for YOUR family!

What is your favorite thing to make from scratch?

3 Family Favorite Homemade Salad Dressing Recipes

By Victoria Osborn, Contributing Writer

One of the best things about summer is the abundance of fresh, delicious produce available in the grocery store or farmer’s market. It’s bright, colorful, flavorful and packed with nutrition. I love to stock up and pack most of my summer meals with fresh fruit and vegetables to make “lighter” meals to end the warm and lazy days of summer.

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Somehow I have been blessed with two little ones who not only eat their vegetables, they love them! In fact 9 times out of 10, when giving them a snack choice, they make a healthy choice. I can’t complain, in fact it makes me think twice about the snack choice I’m making for myself!

Since my kids are both vegetable lovers, I am free to plan meals around a variety of fresh and in season produce. One of the ways I always get another serving of vegetables in is by serving a salad alongside with dinner. I also like to make big salads for myself for lunch.

I build the salad with whatever lettuce is plentiful along with some power greens, either spinach or kale, followed by tons of delicious add-ins to make the salad as colorful as possible. Currently my kids love eating grape tomatoes, carrots and cucumbers. My husband and I also love purple onions, radishes and celery. To make it a complete meal I might top it with sliced almonds, fresh berries, raisins or shredded chicken.

Strolling through the farmer’s market will tell you what vegetables are in season, so whenever I go I load up on a variety to not only make fresh, seasonal salads but also to serve as snacks or to roast and cook for dinner sides.

While the salad itself can be very nutritious, I love adding a little bit of dressing on top to give it even more flavor. The problem is most store bought dressings are loaded with sugar, soy and other questionable ingredients I can’t even pronounce. So I have started to make my own.

salad dressing recipes fresh produce

Contrary to popular opinion, making your own salad dressing is simple and a frugal alternative to the store bought variety.

Plus since you are making it, you know exactly what it is in it avoiding unhealthy ingredients you wouldn’t want to serve your family. I can easily whip up these dressings in no time for quick salad prep, in fact I often include the kids because what little one doesn’t love to shake things? Just make sure the lid is tightly sealed (ask me how I know!)

Today I wanted to share with you 3 family favorite, homemade salad dressing recipes that pair well with your favorite salad toppings and are tasty enough to please a crowd!

3 Family Favorite Homemade Salad Dressings

Simple Dressing

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • dash of salt and pepper

Mix the ingredients above in a small bowl or glass jar with a lid, and pour over the salad. This also makes a super simple and tasty marinate for chicken.

Easy Italian Vinaigrette

  • 1/2 cup Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp dried parsley
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • dash of salt and pepper

Combine the oil and vinegar in a bowl. Whisk in the dried spices and mix well and transfer to a cruet or clear class jar with a tight fitting lid. This dressing can be stored in the refrigerator but due to the oil solidifying, it will need to come to room temperature by sitting out on the counter for about 30 minutes before use or being placed under warm running water. This also makes a delicious marinade for chicken and steak.

Simple, 3 Ingredient Blue Cheese Dressing

My favorite dressings are those that are oil and vinegar based but my husband loves a good tangy and creamy blue cheese dressing. This one is his personal favorite dressing, plus it couldn’t be any easier to make!

  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • Dash of black pepper

In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, sour cream and the pepper. Fold in the blue cheese crumbles and transfer to a cruet or glass jar with a lid. This will store in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Another dressing variety we love is this Caesar Vinaigrette Dressing. It tastes just as delicious and creamy as a traditional Caesar dressing yet it’s light and perfect for summer since it’s an oil based dressing. Since it’s dairy free, it makes a great side for outdoor cookouts and picnics.

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All three of these dressing recipes are my standard, go-to dressings that whip up in seconds and make a delicious, vegetable loaded salad even tastier.

What are your favorite homemade salad dressing recipes?

7 Simple Tips for Once a Month Cooking Success

By Shannon Brown, Contributing Writer

A couple of months ago my sister and I got the bright idea to do a once a month cooking day together. We planned to have the kids hang out with the daddies while we whipped up dozens healthy, homemade meals for the freezer.

To be sure, we had Pinterest-y visions of making a month’s worth of meals in just a couple of hours.

7 Simple Tips for Once a Month Cooking Success

We dreamed of the time we’d spend playing with our kids each afternoon instead of cooking, how much more cheerfully we’d greet our husbands after work, and of course how much money it would save on groceries!

About 7 hours later, the cooking still not done, my sis had collapsed on the couch, and I was slumped over the kitchen counter exhausted. In that moment, we both agreed that we’d prefer to cook dinner every night to the marathon of once a month cooking!

7 Simple Tips for Once a Month Cooking Success

Luckily, I’ve learned a few simple tips for once a month cooking since then to help make the process much simpler, faster, and less exhausting!

1. Pick a Freezer Cooking Plan with Recipes that Your Family Usually Eats

Mistake number one on that fateful freezer cooking day was that we chose a Paleo meal plan. The problem: Neither of our families eats Paleo and we were not used to cooking that type of recipes.

Instead, choose recipes that you know your family will love, so the food doesn’t go to waste. It will also be much faster for you to cook recipes that are at least somewhat familiar.

2. Choose a Freezer Meal Plan with No-Cook Recipes

This tip will make your freezer cooking day go light-years faster, without adding any extra time on the day you actually serve the meal.

Look for something where the most you have to do is brown some ground beef. It will be much faster than than forming meatballs, browning them in the oven, letting them partially cook in the crockpot, then allowing them to cool before freezing like we tried to do!

Here are a couple of my favorite freezer cooking plans:

3. Get ready for Garbage

While freezer cooking you’ll need to be ready to deal with all the packaging and food scraps that will need to head to the garbage.

Make sure you have receptacles conveniently available for trash, recycling, and compost. This could be simply a grocery sack or your regular cans. Either way it’s much easier to have these right where you’re working.

4. Take a Break

I know it can seem counter-intuitive to take a break when all you want to do is get your cooking day over with as soon as possible. However, just sitting down to rest for a few minutes will let you come back rejuvenated and will help you get done faster in the long run.

5. Have a Snack

While surrounded by a month’s worth of groceries, it can be strangely easy to forget to eat. Everyone’s a bit different, but I always need to eat frequently, especially when I’m on my feet for hours in the kitchen.

If you start to feel sluggish, make sure to grab a quick bite to eat to get energized again.

6. Ask for Help

Freezer cooking is much easier when you have a helper on your team. Whether they simply wipe the counters, load the dishwasher, or read the recipes to you, having a helper on freezer cooking day is a huge asset.

Consider asking your mom, a friend, or even your husband to help out to make your freezer cooking day a success.

7. Do it kid-Free

Don’t get me wrong, I love to include my kids in the kitchen. However, for freezer cooking day, I find it is much easier to focus and get it all done quickly if the kids are otherwise occupied.

Luckily, with the tips above, you’ll be able to get it all done within naptime plus maybe a little screen time, or a little quality time with Daddy or Grandma. You’ll know what works best for your family, but I highly recommend planning ahead for this.

7 Simple Tips for Once a Month Cooking Success

Freezer Cooking Success at last!

This past weekend my husband and I did the unimaginable. We put away 20 freezer meals in just 3 hours. I never would have thought it possible after my initial freezer cooking disaster.

What a blessing it is to have these meals already prepared, so my family can have a much calmer wife and mommy in the evenings. Plus, I love that once a month cooking is a great way to save money on groceries.

If you’ve been afraid to give once a month freezer cooking a try, be sure to apply the tips above to keep it simple, and you’ll be sure to have success!

Have you tried once a month freezer cooking? What are you best tips for success?