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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4 Ways to Save Money on Meals While Hosting Out of Town Family

When you live on the other side of the country from your extended family, it’s a special treat when they come to spend a few weeks with you. Not only do you get to spend quality time together, but you get to show them your neck of the woods and play the role of tour guide too. Hosting and introducing the family to your state or region may be fun, but it can also be really expensive — especially if you’re used to living frugally.

If you have out-of-town family visiting this summer, here are some practical ways to address the financial strain it might create without letting it stress you out or take away from enjoying the time you have with your guests.

1. Start anticipating and stocking up on foods they enjoy.

Everyone has their own favorite go-to products, brands, and eating habits. While your guests may politely eat your organic, all-natural peanut butter, they may be secretly wishing they’d brought their own stash of JIF. It can get expensive to purchase items you don’t normally use just to have them in stock for your guests, but it’s also a part of being a good host who tries to make visitors feel as at home as possible.

To prepare, ask them to get you a list of their favorite snacks and staples and start looking for sales, and digital and print coupons. Purchasing these items on sale will put less stress on your grocery budget while still accommodating your family members’ taste buds.

2. Eat at home as much as possible.

It can be tempting to get carried away by taking everybody to all your favorite restaurants around town. After all, it’s a special occasion! Unfortunately, this can also derail your usual eating out budget much faster than a slightly higher grocery bill, even if you split the tab. The first tip is to make meals at home several nights a week and keep eating out for on-the-go weekend tourist activities. Even if you don’t enjoy cooking or think you’re good at it, choose the few things you do well and your efforts will shine. Grilled burgers with unique toppings or homemade pizzas are a few fun, cost-efficient options.

When you do eat out, focus on restaurants that double as entertainment or ambiance – something memorable, not just your everyday chain restaurant. Since these types of places tend to be more expensive, keep your eyes on Groupon, other deal apps, and local coupons that can save you money. If you haven’t already, set your favorite site’s preferences to receive email alerts for restaurant deals.

3. Use your dinnerware.

It’s easier to grab a pack of paper or plastic dinnerware when you’re feeding a few more mouths, but the costs add up fast too. If there’s ever a time to use your own dishes, it’s when you have guests. After all, guests are usually eager to pitch in and help clean up the dishes or at least load the dishwasher.

4. Stick to your routine.

Your guests don’t expect you to prepare a four-course meal for them every day they are visiting. They probably don’t eat like that at home, and neither do you. For instance, if you tend to eat light breakfasts, offer your guests options, but don’t feel like you need to prepare a breakfast buffet every day. Instead of assuming they expect large breakfasts or dessert every night, take the pressure (and expense) off by sticking close to your usual meal routine.

Entertaining out-of-town family is a blast, but it doesn’t have to blow your grocery budget or go against your frugal kitchen habits. Expect to spend a little more while your guests are in town, but prepare ahead of time, look for deals, and stick to your routine in ways that are both manageable and courteous. Happy hosting!

Article Source: Jessica Sommerfield for