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Budget-Friendly BBQ: Host a Summer Feast Without Breaking the Bank

Last updated 07/03/2024 by

SuperMoney Team

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Hosting a summer BBQ doesn’t have to drain your wallet. With a bit of planning, creativity, and smart shopping, you can throw a fantastic, memorable event without overspending. From budget-friendly menu ideas to fun activities and smart decor tips, this guide covers everything you need to know to host a great BBQ on a budget.
Summer is the perfect time to gather friends and family for a BBQ. The combination of good food, great company, and sunny weather creates lasting memories. But throwing a BBQ can get expensive quickly. Fear not! With some savvy planning and a few creative hacks, you can host a fantastic summer BBQ without breaking the bank.

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Plan your budget-friendly menu

Let’s dive into some tips and tricks to help you save money while ensuring your BBQ is a hit!

Skip the pricey cuts of meat

Affordable meat cuts
The most significant cost of a BBQ is often the meat. Instead of expensive steaks or seafood, consider more affordable options like chicken, sausages, or pork shoulder. Chuck and flank steaks are less costly than tenderloin. Choose chicken thighs and legs over cutlets for a flavorful, inexpensive feast. These cuts are not only budget-friendly but also delicious when grilled to perfection. You can also include vegetarian options like grilled veggies or portobello mushrooms to diversify the menu and cater to all guests.

Embrace potluck style

potluck style
Don’t hesitate to ask guests to bring a dish. This not only lightens your workload but also spreads out the cost. Suggest they bring side dishes, salads, or desserts. Potluck-style gatherings create a sense of community and allow everyone to showcase their favorite recipes.

Dress up the old faves

Are you staying traditional with burgers, hot dogs, and bratwurst? Try some new twists on standard fare. Stuff burgers with cheese or bacon, marinate brats in beer, or split the dogs and stuff them with cheese and sautéed onions. These small changes can make your BBQ more exciting without adding much cost.

Cook extra portions

Leftover barbecue is delicious, and who wants to cook again after hosting a party? Be sure you only make enough for an extra meal or two to prevent food waste. Our Precision Elite Digital Kitchen Scale is an excellent tool for measuring portion sizes.

Make skewers

Make skewers for an epic bbq on a budget
Kebabs are a great way to make the most of the meat you have on hand. To make a meal that’s filling and attractive, alternate chunks of meat on your skewer with a variety of bright summer vegetables. This not only stretches your meat further but also adds a colorful and healthy element to your BBQ.

Buy seasonal vegetables

In-season veggies are cheaper than specialty items. Zucchini, corn, tomatoes, and lettuce are economical, healthy, and flavorful side dishes. Vegetables can also be tossed into a pasta salad for a fun and healthy side dish.

Make your own fruit salad

Watermelon, berries, and cantaloupe are a light, sweet treat at the end of a meal. Though tempting, skip purchasing the $25 pre-cut fruit salad and buy full fruits to cut up yourself. This leads to instant savings and fresher, tastier results!

DIY marinades and rubs

Don’t spend money on fancy rubs, sauces, or marinades. You can easily make your own blends at home with ingredients you already have on hand. Rubs are just a combination of standard household spices. Here are four easy BBQ marinade ideas from Family Circle:
  • Lemon Herb: Olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and mixed herbs.
  • Spicy BBQ: Ketchup, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, and hot sauce.
  • Asian Fusion: Soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and honey.
  • Classic Italian: Olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, and oregano.

Don’t waste fuel

Most people use way too much charcoal when grilling. Three pounds of charcoal is enough when cooking for four to six people. When cooking with propane, be sure to shut the grill off after the debris has burned off to save fuel.

Get creative with decorations

DIY decor ideas

Skip the expensive store-bought decorations and get crafty with DIY options. Use items you already have at home or visit a dollar store for supplies. Mason jars, string lights, and homemade bunting can create a charming atmosphere without costing much. Personalize the space with handwritten signs or custom table settings for an extra touch.

Reuse and repurpose

Think about repurposing items from around your house. Old blankets can become picnic spots, and mismatched chairs can create a quirky seating area. Be creative with what you have to save money and add a unique flair to your BBQ.

Fun activities on a budget

Lawn games and entertainment

You don’t need to spend a lot to keep guests entertained. Classic lawn games like cornhole, frisbee, or badminton are inexpensive and fun for all ages. Set up a DIY photo booth with props for some memorable snapshots. These activities encourage interaction and laughter, making your BBQ memorable.

Music on a budget

Create a fun atmosphere with a curated playlist. Use free music streaming services or ask friends to share their favorite summer tunes. If someone in your group is musically inclined, invite them to bring their guitar for a sing-along session. Live music can add a special touch without any extra cost.

Smart shopping tips

Get to know your butcher

Not only do butchers know when meat will go on sale, but they can also offer you more affordable “butcher cuts” of meat. Butcher cuts are often not put on display, but they are tasty and less expensive. Building a relationship with your butcher can lead to insider tips and better deals.

Buy party supplies in bulk

Party supplies often go on sale at the end of May and the beginning of June. It’s a great time to stock up, especially if you entertain frequently or like the ease of disposable plates and cutlery. Buying in bulk can significantly reduce costs.


Provide soft drinks and let guests bring other beverages of their choice. You will save money and guests will have the beverages they enjoy best. This approach ensures that everyone has something they like to drink without you having to guess and spend extra.

Invest in the right tools

Invest in a food thermometer

A quality food thermometer lets you avoid stabbing the meat repeatedly with a fork, allowing delicious juices to escape. Our Precision Elite Digital Food Thermometer monitors the temperature of your meat with a 1.5mm step-down probe that keeps the juices in the meat. You will always be biting into food that’s cooked to perfection.

Precision kitchen tools

Investing in tools like a digital kitchen scale can help you measure portions accurately, preventing both food waste and overspending. Precise measurements ensure you cook just the right amount for your guests, with a little extra for leftovers.

Host a more intimate gathering

Probably the number one key to a fantastic party of any kind is your guest list – and it’s OK to be selective. Just because you’re grilling in your backyard, don’t feel like you have to extend an invitation to the entire neighborhood – or even everybody you know. Carefully curate your guest list by including the family and friends you enjoy spending time with the most. An intimate gathering of eight or ten people can be more engaging and relaxed than a party with 25 or 30 people.
Limiting your guest list is also a surefire way to eliminate a lot of your expenses – especially if your gang is on board with the idea of helping to make the evening memorable.

Pros and cons of a budget BBQ

Here is a list of the benefits and the drawbacks to consider.
  • Save money while hosting a memorable event
  • Encourages creativity and resourcefulness
  • Promotes a sense of community and collaboration
  • Requires more planning and organization
  • Potential for limited food and drink variety
  • May need to compromise on some luxuries

Save money with a cashback debit card and budgeting tools

One smart way to save money on your BBQ purchases (as well as all other purchases) is by using a cashback debit card. Some banks now offer debit cards that provide cash back on purchases, similar to rewards credit cards but without the fees or interest charges. Every time you buy groceries, party supplies, or decorations, you earn a percentage of your spending back in cash, which can significantly reduce your overall costs.

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Pairing your cashback debit card with a checking account that offers robust budgeting tools can further enhance your savings. Here are some tips to make the most of these tools:
  • Track your spending: Use budgeting tools to categorize expenses and identify areas to cut back.
  • Set up direct deposits: Ensure your paychecks are available immediately to cover bills and expenses.
  • Use automatic transfers: Stick to savings goals by automatically transferring funds to savings accounts.
  • Utilize your bank’s mobile app:Track spending, set transaction alerts, and monitor your account balance in real-time to prevent overdrafts.
By leveraging a cashback debit card and effective budgeting tools, you can make your money work harder for you, helping you save on BBQ costs and promoting better financial management overall.

Frequently asked questions

How can I save money on drinks?

Buy drinks in bulk from discount stores or consider making large batches of homemade iced tea, lemonade, or punch. You can also ask guests to bring their favorite beverages.

What are some cheap side dish ideas?

Simple salads, grilled vegetables, pasta salads, and fruit skewers are affordable and delicious side dishes. These can be made in large quantities without spending much.

How can I keep my BBQ eco-friendly?

Use reusable plates, cups, and cutlery instead of disposable ones. Encourage recycling by setting up clearly marked bins. Opt for biodegradable decorations and avoid single-use plastics whenever possible.

Key takeaways

  • Choose affordable protein options like chicken and sausages.
  • Host a potluck to spread the cost and effort.
  • DIY decorations and repurpose items to save money.
  • Plan budget-friendly activities like lawn games and a curated playlist.
  • Consider the pros and cons of budget BBQs to balance savings and enjoyment.
  • Invest in the right tools to enhance your BBQ experience.
  • Limit your guest list to close family and friends to keep costs down.
Article sources

SuperMoney may receive compensation from some or all of the companies featured, and the order of results are influenced by advertising bids, with exception for mortgage and home lending related products. Learn more

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