Backyard Cookout Ideas on a Budget

The smell of a sizzling barbecue, sunscreen, and freshly mowed grass fills the air – summertime is indeed in full swing. And chances are, you’ve already been to a backyard cookout or pool party this season. If you’re looking to host friends and family for some grilling and fun, there are plenty of ways to have a party without breaking the bank.

Here are our top inexpensive grilling ideas for your next summer cookout!

Start budgeting and planning

Before you start shopping for grilling and party supplies, it’s always a good idea to start with a list of what you need to budget for. You may even want to consider having a maximum amount you can spend. Once you have a rough starting point of what you’d want for your cookout, you can determine what is essential and what is a wish list item.

Your cookout shopping list might look something like this:

  • The main course: Hamburgers, hotdogs, meatless alternatives, rolls, and buns
  • Side dishes: Vegetables, potato or pasta salad, coleslaw
  • Condiments: Ketchup, mustard, relish, and other grilling staples
  • Starters: Dips, chips, crackers, cheese platters
  • Desserts: Watermelon, ice cream, cookies
  • Beverages: Soda, water bottles, seltzer, iced tea, beer, wine, and fixings for cocktails
  • Utensils, napkins, cups, and paper plates
  • Insect repellent
  • Decorations & games
  • Grilling accessories
  • Cooler(s) and ice

Do you already have condiments at home? Or perhaps you don’t need to buy new decorations and outdoor games. Try to think where you can cut back from your list, and figure out how much you can afford for party expenses.

Stick to the grilling basics

Grilling enthusiasts might hand you a detailed list of pricey grilling accessories, but don’t be fooled. You actually don’t need as much as you think (even if those items are helpful). The only essential tool for grilling is wood, which enhances the flavor of the food you’re grilling or barbecuing. Another helpful instrument is a meat thermometer, which is relatively inexpensive. The internal temperature of your meat is the best way to ensure it’s cooked properly.

Consider alternatives and shop sales

If you’ve been in a grocery store recently, you’re likely aware that meat prices are soaring. This is forcing many shoppers to consider alternative options for their barbeque parties and meal plans. Don’t get discouraged just yet, though. There are a few different ways you can approach saving on meat costs.

Here are a few we recommend:

  • Explore meatless options: Stock up on veggie burgers, and look into cooking vegetable-based entrees (grilled portobello mushrooms are delicious, and some are as big as a burger anyway!). Also, have you ever tried grilled pineapple or watermelon? If not, it’s a must!
  • Make your own patties: Instead of getting more expensive pre-made patties for convenience, consider using ground beef and making your own.
  • Shop sales: This may go without saying, but you should always keep an eye out for sales on meat products – and try to buy less expensive cuts like chicken and turkey.

Make it a BYOB or potluck party

Don’t be afraid to ask your friends and relatives to bring their own beverages. Beer, wine, and liquor prices really add up fast – and your guests probably all have their own preferences. Another approach is to make your backyard cookout a potluck party. This way, each person can bring their favorite dish, and the guests can plan who’s responsible for bringing what. Either way, this will take some of the weight off your shoulders and will be easier on your wallet.

Make your own sauce

You don’t have to be a master chef to make a delicious rub or BBQ sauce. Plus, you likely already have all the ingredients in your kitchen. All you’ll need is salt, pepper, ketchup, vinegar, and mustard. For an easy to make rub – we recommend salt, sugar, pepper and paprika. Of course, your sauces can be a bit more flavorful if you’d like – try some of these homemade BBQ sauces for inspiration.

No matter the size of the cookout, there will always be ways to save on the final grocery bill. The first step is to determine how much you can actually spend, and then give yourself a cap. Without that max budget – your shopping list could get out of hand, and the idea is not to accumulate debt by having a fun summer get together. We hope you enjoy the rest of your summer and get to spend some backyard time with family and friends!

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5 Tips for Holding a Frugal BBQ

One of the many joys of summer are BBQs. The aroma of hamburgers and hotdogs grilling, the refreshing taste of lemonade and watermelon and finger licking corn on the cob…can you say YUM?! But as we know, frequent outdoor entertaining can become quite pricey. Here are a few ways to save some money:

portal-graphics-20_1156087a1. Bring Your Own

The classic BBQ frugal tip is to have guests bring their own. They can bring whatever type of meat they want — or other items to grill, including fish, veggies, and tofu/soy based meat substitutes. Not only can this save you money, but it also ensures that everyone is happy with the BBQ offerings.

Even if you don’t have your guests bring their own meat, it’s possible to have them bring their own drinks. This is a great way to make sure that everyone has the drink he or she wants, and it can save you money — especially if your guests prefer alcoholic drinks.

2. Pot Luck

Perhaps you want to provide the meat and the drinks. You can reduce your costs in other areas by asking guests to bring something to share with everyone. Assign chips, fruit bowl, veggie tray, buns, condiments, and other items. You can even ask someone to bring the paper plates, napkins, and cups. If you are doing a themed BBQ, ask someone to bring decorations. This will help you save a little money on the affair, and ensure that everyone has a good time.

3. Consider Plastic Dinnerware

If you are serious about providing BBQ entertainment, you can purchase inexpensive, reusable plastic dinnerware. The initial outlay is a little bit more, but you can reuse the plates, cups, and utensils year after year. You won’t have to keep buying the paper versions (which can get expensive). The clean up isn’t too bad, either, as long as you get dinnerware that is dishwasher safe.

4. Carefully Consider Your Meat Purchases

Those who like providing the meat can do so less expensively by taking care to consider what they choose. Bone-in steaks are often less expensive than boneless varieties (and it helps keep the meat from drying out). You can also buy ground beef and form your own patties, rather than buying pre-made patties. Another option is to make kabobs. You use less meat, and more veggies, so you can keep the costs down. Get creative, and you will find that you don’t spend as much money on your BBQs.

5. Buy Your Grill Items Off Season

Finally, if you want to save more money over time, you should buy your grill items in the off season, and on sale. Get a grill in the fall, and you can get it for much less. The same is true of cooking utensils, as well as outdoor furniture and other items. You can also get charcoal, propane and other related items on discount if you are vigilant about prices. Pay attention, and you can save more over time, and reduce the per-BBQ cost of your outdoor entertaining.

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