Ah, the 4th of July. Typical for most people on this holiday, not only are we celebrating our country’s independence and freedom, but it’s also a day filled with family, friends, fun, and of course BBQs and picnics.

Which also means plenty of food. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to cost a lot to either host or attend a BBQ or picnic. Many people in our community struggle enough to just put food on their own tables without feeding friends and extended family for the holiday.

At Making A Difference Foundation’s Eloise’s Cooking Pot Food Bank we strive to provide for people experiencing hunger who may not have the financial means to stock a full table for themselves or their families. Clients of the food bank can receive fresh, healthy food that’s perfect every day and for celebrating this holiday.

Whether clients need regular staple items, culturally sensitive food, special diet food, or fresh produce, Eloise’s Cooking Pot Food Bank works to get the items people need and want. And these items are perfect for creating some great dishes for the 4th of July festivities.

Here are five tasty side dish recipe ideas to try when you’re on a budget for the holiday:

1. Cold pasta side salads are a great and easy choice for both a BBQ or picnic. Pasta is a staple item in many people’s diets that get donated to the Eloise’s Cooking Pot Food Bank often. Pasta is simple to make and you can jazz it up in so many ways! Try fresh, zesty Italian pasta salad by cooking up a bag of rotini or penne pasta (other styles will work, too; use your favorite), then draining and chilling it. Once chilled, add a can of diced tomatoes (drained) and Italian dressing, cut olives, and sliced pepperoni to taste. Stir it up and serve cold.

2. Fresh fruit salad is always a favorite at picnics and BBQ. Depending on the fruits you like, this dish is quick and cheap to make. Try a variety of berries (blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries) along with diced up bananas and a can of mandarin oranges. Stir together with either Cool Whip or whip up a carton of actual whipping cream. Serve cold.

3. Make a fresh garden salad with dressing on the side. Chop up fresh iceberg and/or romaine lettuce, add some shredded carrots, diced olives, chopped tomatoes (or just add cherry or grape tomatoes), cheddar and/or mozzarella cheese, diced ham or bacon bits. Slice up a hard-boiled egg or two and mix it all together. Serve cold and let your guest pick their own dressing.

4. Cold tortilla wrap sandwiches are a nice change from the traditional sub sandwiches. Simply take a flat flour tortilla and spread your favorite cream cheese on one side. Add sandwich-sliced ham, turkey, or roast beef on top of the cream cheese. Then placed sliced cheese (cheddar, provolone, pepper jack, or mozzarella all work) over the meat. If you like, add lettuce and then roll the tortilla. Once rolled, slice the roll into even pieces. Make many and mix and match your meats and cheese for a nice variety.

5. Of course, you can’t forget a tasty dessert! For something easy and budget-friendly, try no-bake lemon tarts. Get a bag or two of graham cracker crust mix and a larger muffin cooking pan. Mix up the graham cracker crust using melted butter. Press the prepared graham cracker crust into the muffin pan to create a bowl shape. Next, mix up some no-bake, instant lemon pudding. Pour lemon pudding into the graham cracker bowls until level with the crust top. Chill and let set. Once set, add some fresh berries on top for extra flavor and a yummy look. Serve cold.

As with most foods, always remember to have plenty of ice and coolers on hand to pack and store the foods you bring to your picnic or BBQ so they remain fresh and safe to eat. Don’t leave food sitting out for too long, especially in the sun and heat, and always keep food wrapped until you are ready to eat and once finished eating.

Making A Difference Foundation wishes all our clients, volunteers, partners, and the community a happy, safe, and blessed 4th of July