Hosting Your Backyard Barbecue on a Budget

Getting friends and family together for a barbecue is a staple of summer. However, trying to feed & entertain large groups can get expensive if you’re not careful. Here are some ways to grill up some fun without going broke.

Trimming the Bill

You don’t have to wow guests with fancy Japanese wagyu steaks—simple burgers work just fine. Chicken legs & thighs also have a lot of flavor and are usually less expensive. Additionally, good marinades give cheaper meats tender textures and flavorful character. Even low-priced hot dogs can please a crowd when dressed up with delicious toppings & condiments.

Establish a budget and design your menu around what’s on sale. Buy items in bulk when they’re discounted, then freeze them until needed. Take inventory of what you already have before shopping so you don’t double up and waste money.

Sharing the Sides

The host of a barbecue doesn’t have to provide everything. Ask guests to bring side dishes and desserts. Make specific assignments, though, or you could end up with 20 bags of chips. And you’ll need ice—stock up from your own fridge by putting it in plastic bags beforehand. Organizing a pot-luck-style meal also helps you count how many people are coming.

Sides will also reduce the need for costly meats. People will fill up on chips, dips and veggies instead of seconds of the chicken, burgers or steaks. And if you’re asked to bring a side dish, avoid purchasing pre-made food. Make your own pasta salads, rolls or baked beans to save cash.

Finding the Flatware

Most dollar stores have plenty of colorful plates, utensils, napkins, and decorations. If you’re having a smaller gathering, consider using dishes and silverware. Yes, it will make for more work afterward, but it only costs time. You could also invest in reusable plasticware specifically for barbecues.

Planning the Party

Inexpensive activities can also make for a memorable barbecue. Water balloons are a cheap, entertaining way to beat the heat. You could run a three-legged race, set up a simple obstacle course, or stage a watermelon-eating contest. A neighbor might have a volleyball net or horseshoe set that you can borrow. You can also keep kids (and some adults) entertained with a box of sidewalk chalk.

Regardless of what you do, remember that when it comes to backyard barbecues, people tend remember the socializing more than the food. A simple get-together is sometimes the best way to create lasting memories.