When daylight hours lengthen, my backyard beckons to me. Summer evenings were made for outdoor living, including cooking on the grill and dining al fresco. And, eating outdoors is best when it’s shared with family and friends.
Barbecue parties with good company, delicious food, and unforgettable memories can be the highlights of your summer. You don’t want to get to the end of the season, however, and realize that you blew your budget on hosting extravagant gatherings. Instead, use these seven tips for a frugal summer barbecue so you can throw outdoor parties the smart way.
Use Electronic Invitations
A summer get-together is better with friends, but paper invitations and stamps can put a dent in your budget long before you start buying food. Instead of taking a traditional approach to inviting folks, rely on an electronic method.
While you could send a basic text to all of your friends, an eye-catching digital invitation is more appealing. Free and low-cost invitation apps often allow you to customize graphics and party details to create a personalized invitation that’s unique to your event.
Just be sure to request RSVPs. That way, you can plan for an accurate number of guests. You don’t want to run out of food, but you also don’t want to cook too much. An overabundance of leftovers becomes wasted food, and that’s money down the drain.
Choose Your Grill Wisely
If you already own a grill, you can skip this step, but those looking to purchase a new grill should carefully consider their options. Charcoal grills usually come with a lower price tag than gas ones. However, charcoal is a more expensive fuel than gas.
For those who don’t barbecue often, the initial cost savings of a charcoal grill can make it a good choice. However, those who cook out at least one night a week throughout the summer will save money in the long run with a gas grill.
Keep Your Meat Budget in Check
The heart of a summer barbecue is the meat that you serve, but that doesn’t mean that you must buy filet mignon for 20 guests. Instead, feed a crowd with lower-cost meats. Some of the best budget-friendly choices are hamburgers, hot dogs and bone-in chicken thighs. If that sounds boring, just remind yourself that all three are classic grilling items.
Even better, you’ve heard of BYOB, right? How about a BYOM party: Bring Your Own Meat? Ask guests to provide their own uncooked meat, and you’ll grill it up once they arrive. With this method, not only will you save money, but every family will get to eat exactly what they want.
Make It a Potluck
Asking others to pitch in doesn’t make you any less of a hostess. Rather, it invites others to join in on the fun of planning your get-together.
When everyone brings a side dish or two to share, there will be plenty of tasty accompaniments to go around. Assigning side dishes to guests is one way to make sure that you won’t have repeat dishes, but using a sign-up system allows cooks more freedom to decide what items to bring.
If cooking isn’t a strong suit for some of your guests, there are still plenty of ways for them to contribute. Ask those folks to bring buns, chips, paper goods or drinks.
Prepare Low-cost Sides
You’ll probably want to prepare a few sides to share, too. Select recipes with low-cost ingredients so you can make each dish for just a few dollars.
The price of fresh veggies plummets in the summer, so give them a starring role in your sides. Whip up a crunchy salad, or toss seasoned zucchini and asparagus on the grill. If you have a home garden, you can save even more on vegetable dishes.
Need something other than veggies to round out your party? Try soft homemade rolls, juicy watermelon slices, creamy deviled eggs and warm fruit cobblers.
Serve Drinks in Batches
Individually packaged drinks are convenient, but they’re also expensive. Whether it’s beer for the grownups or fruit juice for the kids, you could easily spend a dollar or more on each drink.
Making a big batch of punch is a money-saving alternative. You can make one variety for everyone and set mixers on the side for adults, or you can make both a kid-friendly punch and an alcoholic one.
Offer Simple Desserts
Fancy sweets are fun, but the ingredients can really add up. And let’s face it: After filling up on burgers, hot dogs and a slew of side dishes, there’s only so much room left for dessert anyway. Keep it simple with easy treats that feature short ingredient lists, such as cookies, cake pops and crispy rice treats.
If you can’t imagine heating up the oven to bake something, go one step easier and buy frozen juice pops. These icy treats will appeal to both kids and kids-at-heart, and they’re a perfect finishing touch for a summer gathering.
Other Backyard bbq Tips
Want to throw a summertime party, but you’re pinching pennies? Invite a few friends over for a backyard bbq, take advantage of simple summer fun, let mother nature do the decorating and enjoy! A backyard bbq is both simple and budget friendly if you follow these 5 money saving tips:
Always check the grocery ads before planning your menu! Grocery ads come out each Wednesday in your newspaper and online, and prices are good through Tuesday. If ground beef is not on sale, but chicken thighs are…guess what you should be serving! No sales, no worries – the all American hot dog can be the star if you dress them up with a fixins’ bar: cheese, onions, chili, relish, slaw, ketchup and mustard. Don’t shy away from store brand condiments and chips because they’re easily disguised in serving bowls, and they’ll save you an average of 25%! Grocery ads will also help you choose the best bargains for soft drinks, beer, chips and side dishes. Be nostalgic and serve a variety of ice cream bars for dessert!
Let your guests know that you’re providing the meat and beverages, and you’d like them to bring a side dish or dessert. When they r.s.v.p., ask what they’ll be bringing to avoid having a party with all desserts and no side dishes! Actually, if you have all desserts, invite me!
Utensils and Paper Products –
The Budget Diet was recently featured in the June 27th issue of First for Women touting the dollar store as the go-to place for bargain utensils and paper products. A bag of 48 forks, spoons or knives is just $1 compared with the $8 box of 150 pieces (50 of each utensil) at superstores. You’ll find similar savings on paper products.
Take advantage of simple summer fun like a water balloon toss, watermelon eating contest, horseshoes, croquet or whatever yard games you may have. Minute to Win It challenges is another budget-friendly idea to keep your guests entertained!
One of my favorite budget-friendly table decorations is a simple glass bottle or glass soda bottle with a flower from your garden. Cost: $0. If you entertain outdoors frequently, it would be worthwhile to invest in oilcloth for table covers. You can cut it to fit, no hemming is required and it’s easy to wipe clean and reuse. The Budget Diet girl suggests a simple red and white check oilcloth which would come in handy for bbq’s, picnics or Italian dinners. Oilcloth is sold at fabric stores for about $5 a yard, but be on the lookout for coupons or sales.
What are your favorite ways to host a backyard bbq on a budget?
Is a budget-friendly summer party possible? I find that when everyone pitches in, we all go home stuffed but not broke. If you’re a budget-bbq pro, post a comment about how you throw frugal parties. Then, share this article with the friends you’ll be inviting to your next summer bash.