As the days get longer and hotter, the slow cooker goes in the cabinet and the outdoor grill gets cleaned off. When you'd rather spend time lounging at the pool and less time slaving away in the kitchen, utilizing the grocery store's deli section is a convenient and relatively healthy option for easy summer meals. Here is how to do it.


salad bar

There's no shame is taking the easy route. [Photo courtesy of Kevin Krejci via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)]


Full Meals From the Deli Section

The salad bar, while more expensive than buying directly from the produce section, is a great way to load up on vegetables. Choose wisely, as it’s usually priced in the $7 to $10 per pound range. Don’t grab heavy vegetables like artichoke hearts, and buy your own dressing.


Most grocery stores have an assortment of prepared cold protein salads that pair well with vegetables from the salad bar. Tuna, chicken, or seafood salads are good options. You don’t need a big portion, so the little bit of mayonnaise in the salad won’t derail your nutrition goals.


Purchase deli turkey, ham, roast beef, and a bit of high-quality cheese from the deli counter to turn your greens into a chef salad. Rotisserie chickens are also located in this section, which are a convenient protein option. For a starch, choose a quinoa salad, potato salad, or pasta salad. Go for the ones with added vegetables, like broccoli or kale.


When you get home, use a regular size plate to eat your deli section meal, not one of those outdoor decorative barbecue plates that are the size of a small dog bed. Use half the plate for your salad, and divide the rest between the protein and starch.  


Grilling and Side Dishes

You may have a big rack of ribs or burgers to grill when you get home, but what about side dishes?


Asparagus, squash, and vegetable kabobs with onions, peppers, and mushrooms work well on the grill. For an extra side dish, add potato salad, coleslaw, or broccoli slaw from the deli section. Many stores now have vegetable salads, usually prepared in a light oil dressing and have raisins, nuts, and other interesting textures and flavors. Having these store-bought options in the fridge can save you time and effort.


As with anything bought in bulk, you’ll end up with leftovers. Here are two ways to repurpose your leftovers into an interesting breakfast:


  • Broccoli slaw omelet. Make a cheese omelet and top with broccoli slaw. Coleslaw or potato salad also make a delicious omelet topper.
  • Protein toast. Melt cheese on a slice of toast and top with spinach from last night’s salad. Add two or three slices of leftover deli turkey, and that’s a solid breakfast. Add a piece of fruit and you’ll be fueled for your mid-morning workout.


A Stress-Free Summer

Deli meals are not the most perfect and healthy option, but they are convenient when you’d rather relax and enjoy the warm weather. Buy in bulk so that you have plenty of leftovers. You’ll be sick of them by the time summer is over, just in time to dust off your slow cooker for stew season.


More ways to same time and enjoy your summer:

Save Hours and Dollars: Streamline Your Meal Prep