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Budget Woes Killing Your Cookout? How to Barbecue on a Budget

July 27, 2018 | By Mason Roberts

Ah summertime! The word itself brings thoughts of warm days, pleasant nights, lakes, beaches, pools, camps, lush green foliage, fresh mowed lawns, and quality time with family, friends and neighbors. And last but not least, the greatest of the All-American summer activities, the barbecue!

The summer barbecue has pretty much become a time-honored tradition over the years, as it serves to bring people together in a relaxed, informal environment, where everyone can let their hair down and just enjoy the moments. It’s always fun to host a barbecue, but if you’re on a fairly tight household budget, it can be stressful. Fear not however, as there are a number of ways to have a wonderful barbecue and enjoy the event without straining your finances.

Plan and Set Your Barbecue Budget

First, take a good look at your finances and determine what you really can afford. Certainly you want to have a good time, but if you overspend, you may find yourself without funds for other summer activities down the road. Use the following tips to help you throw a terrific cook-out without overextending yourself:

  • Use what you have on hand: Before you start your shopping, take a good look in your cupboards, refrigerator and freezer. You may discover that you have meat, basic ingredients for an appetizer or dip, or at the very least condiments that you don’t have to purchase. The smaller your shopping list, the smaller your cost!
  • Don’t go crazy on the meats: Barbecues do not require you to serve ribeye steaks to be successful. People are typically happy with burgers and hot dogs; in fact, some of us prefer them. Look for sales in your neighborhood stores, and don’t ignore the cheaper cuts. As fattier steaks tend to be more flavorful, so do fattier burgers. You don’t need ground round to make a good burger when regular ground beef will do just fine. You can stretch your burger beef by adding ingredients, such as a package of onion soup mix or other ingredients, getting more burgers per pound. And don’t forget cheaper cuts of chicken; they come off the grill just as tasty as the premium cuts.
  • Shop at the big box stores: Stores such as Costco and BJ’s are known for having good quality meats and other food items at low prices, especially when you buy in bulk (like for a barbecue). If you don’t have a membership, find someone who does and ask them to take you - you’ll be surprised by the savings.
  • Make your barbecue a potluck event: Let your guests know that you’re supplying the meat, and ask them to bring a dish, be it a side item, dessert, appetizer, whatever. It’s certainly not considered rude to make such a request and it often gives folks an opportunity to show off their cooking and baking skills.
  • Take it easy on the beverages: Soft drinks don’t not have to be brand name, as they typically taste alike. Additionally, a barbecue does not require that you serve pricey beer or premium liquors. Check the sales for reasonably priced beer (regular or light) and buy a case or two as needed. Regarding liquor, make a spiked tropical punch or something similar as your feature drink. Or if the beverage thing is stressing you out, make it a Bring Your Own Booze (BYOB) party. That way everybody is happy, including you and your wallet.
  • If you must decorate, keep it on the cheap: Generally, your yard and company should be all the atmosphere that’s required, but if you feel you must decorate, go easy. A few inexpensive streamers & balloons will usually suffice. If you choose to go the route of matching paper plates, cups and napkins, don’t forget to visit your closest dollar store, as they typically are well-stocked with these items and you’ll enjoy tremendous savings.

Don’t let a temporary financial glitch put a damper on your summer activities. An installment loan can help you through the tight times and keep your summer fun on track.