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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