10 Low-Cost Ideas for a Summer BBQ


For a lot of people, summer means long, lazy evenings spent hanging out on the patio or by the pool with family and friends, and a BBQ is often part of the action. But that can get expensive.

How can you host BBQ guests will rave about without spending your whole grocery budget for the month? Here are ten ideas you can mix and match.

1. Expand the menu

In the American South, BBQ usually means ribs and/or brisket, both of which can be expensive. Save money by using the rest of the country’s definition of BBQ: anything cooked outside on a grill.

Hamburgers and hotdogs are popular BBQ fare (although southerners would call that a cookout!), and are a lot cheaper than ribs.

2. Make your own

It’s almost always cheaper to make things yourself than to buy them already prepared.

Sure, those pre-formed hamburger patties are convenient, and if you go gourmet and get the kind with other ingredients already mixed in, they can be pretty tasty.

But it’s a lot cheaper to buy ground beef and mix them up yourself.

3. Make it potluck

One thing that’s great about the casualness of a BBQ is that it seems natural to ask everyone to pitch in. You can save some serious money by providing the main dish and asking guests to bring side dishes and desserts.

While BBQ parties are all about fun, they are not complete without some tasty treats.

4. Check the ads

A lot of grocery stores run sales on picnic items during the summer months. While chicken breasts may be expensive BBQ fare at $4.99/lb., they’re downright economical when you get them on sale for $1.99/lb.

Just make sure you buy healthy foods only. Cheap foods may be of poor quality.

5. Hit the dollar store

Unless you’re lucky enough to find a huge sale, you can probably get a better price on some of the staples at a dollar store. Paper plates, napkins and silverware are a must.

If you need to stock up on condiments, you can get those at the dollar store, too. And don’t forget popsicles for the kids. You can usually get a big bag of the ones in little plastic tubes for just a dollar.

More: 6 BBQ Recipes You’ll Be Making All Summer Long

6. Shop at warehouse stores

It’s hard to beat warehouse stores for buying in bulk. You can often get party-sized quantities of meat, chips, etc., for about the same price you’d pay for a much smaller portion at a grocery store.

If you are planning to have a small BBQ party, though, there’s no need in buying in bulk.

7. Serve the kids water

Few kids need more sugar, and water does a better job of rehydrating kids who have been running around outside.

Leave those expensive little pouches of diluted syrup at the grocery store, and keep a non-breakable pitcher of ice water where the kids can help themselves.

8. Make it BYOB

Alcohol can gobble up a huge part of a party budget.

Slash that line item by making your party BYOB. A lot of people bring their own drinks anyway so they can be sure they’ll have what they want, so most guests won’t think anything of it.

9. Label drinks

People set their cups down to visit the restroom or refill their plates, then forget all about them until they get thirsty again. By that time they have no idea where they left it, so they go get a clean cup.

Cut down on wasted paper or plastic cups by writing names on them. And, if you’re using real wine glasses or beer mugs, keep some of those little hanging tags on hand.

10. Plan for leftovers, but not too many

Have you ever looked at your table after a party and wondered what in the world you were going to do with all of that food? Sure, you’ll probably eat any leftover meat, but how many days in a row can you eat baked beans or fruit salad?

While running out of food is a huge faux pas, having so many leftovers that you’ll never be able to use is just throwing money in the trash. Be realistic about the amount of food that you need. If you think about the parties you’ve attended, how many have run out of food? It’s much more common to have way too much.

More: 10 Quick and Easy Barbecue Recipes

A BBQ is all about casual fun. Take advantage of that atmosphere, and follow some of these cost-saving steps. You can be a great host without going into debt. Now that many people face financial problems, a budget-friendly BBQ is a great option to consider.

What’s your way to host a low-cost BBQ party? Share your hints with us, please.