Prices are sizzlin’. In 2004 it was 28% cheaper to feed 10 people at a typical BBQ get-together than it was in 2014, found by the Rabobank BBQ Index, reaching $66.82 compared to 2004’s cost of $51.90. It wasn’t until 2007 when that increase really started to take off, when a BBQ was $55.62- cheaper by 17% than in 2014.
No, you don’t have to strip down to a Minie-Me sized BBQ to cut costs, but sometimes that’s a best a man can do.
Keep these following guidelines close by so your next BBQ party is easy on the budget (and what you envisioned).
1. A grill worth more doesn’t always mean more quality.
The quality and functionality of many grills in the $1k+ bracket are no more, no less than cheaper units. Getting your budget worked out is priority number one, and you can’t over-stress the value in looking over reviews. Barbecues rated at the top in their category can be brought home for 9-$1,000 (Weber’s Genesis is one heck of a gas grill), and not often do grills costing 2-$400 or more rate better based on the reviews. If your budget is tight, other grills with little difference in quality, to the ones with high ratings can be snagged for 2-$300 less if you can do without those ‘shiny’ add-ons.
And if you have the patience, September is an excellent month to seal the deal on a grill for big savings.
2. Take Advantage of Retailer’s Coupons and Promo Codes
You’ve been living under a rock if you didn’t know Home Depot is good for BBQ hardware and accessories. Sometimes they have a 10-15% off coupon, and usually a valuable promo code to plug in on their website before placing your order.
Here’s some current coupon codes for Home Depot and a guide on what to look for and how to use them.
3. Buying only what you need
Not overdoing it on supplies is one of the smartest steps to take for extra savings. Buy enough supplies, and not be tempted by filling your cart with all the different steak cuts you drool over, and don’t go more than a couple servings per guest. Say you want to cook about four hamburgers (6 ounces each), you’d need 1 ½ pounds of ground beef.
Now if you’re shopping for a larger group, buy from a warehouse like Costco or Sam’s Club; walk out with a bulk meat purchase (or two) versus chancing it on a handful of cuts.
4. Conserve Fuel
You might be tempted to turn every burner in your gas grill as far as they go, but the higher temps are only needed when you’ve just started to cook. (The grill might not even need to be set to high for particular foods). Also, the burners can be overdone. If you’re able to manage with two burners or even one, have your food pushed to one side and the remaining burners turned off so you’re saving some gas.
If your grill is charcoal-based, use some old plain newspaper to start ‘er versus using a starter kit (which usually aren’t cheap). The stack should be high enough, but not too much. The recommendation from Kingsford is to fill a chimney no lower than fifty percent for a heat level at medium, but reference the instructions from your grill manufacturer for the ideal amount.
5. Dirty Grills Don’t Clean Themselves
Keeping your grill clean will give it extra years of usability, however, it’s an investment that won’t yield savings right away. When the heat drops low enough is the time the ashes can be dumped and the grates scoured with a grilling brush (preferably coarse).
6. Less Expensive Cuts
The price will widely vary on different lamb or beef cuts. Just so things are kept reasonable, go for cheaper staples like duck legs (chicken for the real frugals) instead of the duck’s breast, or skip the sirloin for flank steak.
7. Don’t Throw Away the Left-Overs!
The food that’s left over can be saved and re-purposed into a similar dish for tomorrow’s lunch or dinner. Any chicken not eaten can be snuck in a recipe from sandwiches to burritos. Didn’t eat all the hamburger? It does really well in soup, and there’s no better base for tacos than uneaten pork. To avoid that “leftover” taste, reheating in an oven at a low temp or a Crock-Pot low and slow should do the trick. Otherwise it may taste reheated if you put it through a hot oven or a microwave (that zaps it in seconds).
8. Rubs and sauces can be made at home.
Home-whipped BBQ rubs and sauces are stupidly simple to do yourself and usually less expensive than buying a bottled brand. Your pantry probably holds most, if not all, the ingredients needed already. The base of most BBQ sauce starts with vinegar or ketchup, while brown sugar or paprika is typically the first part in a rub.
9. Higher Vegetable to Meat Ratio
Meat is often pricier than whole vegetables (and fruit if you’re not shy). For a low budget selection, look to include a meaty cut or two and four or five different veggies. There’s almost nothing you can’t grill up that doesn’t have deep flavor.
10. Mix your Own Drinks
Stuffing your cooler with soda or beer may keep your guests happy, but there’s more money saved when you prep a big batch of lemonade, sangria, or punch at home.
11. You Don’t Need to Buy Ice
You probably don’t have trays upon trays of ice cubes ready to pack a cooler, and you probably don’t have to run to Kwik Trip for bags of ice, either. Water bottles instead can be frozen the morning before or a couple days in advance. As a little bonus, after you see the ice melting, use one for a cold, hydrating drink nearby.
12. Plastic-ware is a Budget Wear
Disposable utensils, plates, and cups usually make cleaning up less of a chore, but your money is (literally) being thrown away (more true if you’ve planned a set of summer cookouts). There’s dinnerware sets made of plastic that aren’t expensive and can be used more than one time. This set from Target includes 21 pieces– a definite frugal pick.
13. (Politely) ask your guests to bring something.
And you thought you were in charge of all the drinks and food (evil laugh..). Put them to the task of bringing a side dish or two while you cover the recipes you know well.
Have any cheap BBQ ideas for a large group? What are your strategies to host a successful BBQ?