Cooking out is one of my favorite parts of summer. I love inviting over my friends and family for backyard cookouts. The food is pretty delicious too. But of course, we don’t want to go over our budgeting by spending too much on outdoor entertaining. So in this post I have 12 tips for a frugal summer cookout that will let you enjoy your summer fun and still come in under budget.
12 TIPS FOR A FRUGAL SUMMER COOKOUT
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You can absolutely enjoy a fun summertime cookout without spending very much money. It just take a little planning ahead and a tiny bit more work.
One of the best reasons to follow these steps and save money by having a frugal summer cookout is so that you can have them more often!
And of course, saving money and sticking to your budget are pretty good reasons too.
Here are the 12 tips for a frugal summer cookout.
MAKE IT A POTLUCK
Hosting the cookout in your backyard does not mean you need to be the only one providing the food.
And most guests would be excited to bring over a side dish and have something to contribute to the meal. `
You could just serve the meats or main dish and all your guest could bring their own sides for a fun backyard potluck.
I think it’s especially great to do a potluck when not everyone knows each other at your gathering. It gives them an easy something to talk about!
Find some great summertime potluck themes and tips here: Summer Potluck Theme Ideas
And find tips for a successful potluck here: 10 Tips for the Perfect Potluck
OR LET THEM BRING SOMETHING SMALL
If you don’t want to host a full blown potluck cookout, you can still invite your guests to bring something small and helpful.
Someone can bring napkins. Someone else can bring paper plates or cups. And someone else could bring the plastic utensils.
All of these little things will add up to big savings off your total cookout hosting costs.
Simply ask when inviting them. Say something like “Would you like to bring the napkins?”
And again, they will probably be very happy to bring something small.
MENU PLAN BASED ON SALES
Don’t just plan the same foods cookout, after cookout, after cookout.
Sure, some of the big staples can stay the same.
But when you’re thinking about what you’re going to make, look to the sales.
What are the good deals this week? How can you incorporate them into your cookout?
Buy one, get one bags of potatoes might mean potato salad or grilled fries.
If a certain brand of pasta is on sale, it might mean using a new brand for your pasta or macaroni salad.
Check the front and back pages of the weekly sales flyer for the best deals and brainstorm ways that you can use take advantage of those loss leaders for your cookout.
TAKE A FEW MINUTES TO GATHER COUPONS
I don’t spend very much time on coupons, but I’ve found that taking just a few minutes to look in the right places can mean big savings at the grocery store.
Look specifically for coupons that you can stack on top of sale items to amplify your savings.
Here are my favorite coupon strategies: How to use coupons without being extreme
When you find a great deal on cookout friendly foods, stock up for the season.
You can simply freeze whatever you’re not going to use soon.
And things like condiments will be fine on the shelf for a long time as long as they’re not opened.
So, when you’re getting a tremendous deal, lock in those savings and stock up on that item.
This will make shopping for your next cookout much easier too!
Hosting a cookout doesn’t have to mean serving a huge meal.
You can decide to just serve appetizers or finger foods – and that’s perfectly fine!
The point of having a cookout is getting together (and hopefully enjoying some nice weather.) The time together with family and friends is all that really matters.
So, it’s perfectly fine to just serve small dishes.
However, you’ll want to be sure to tell your guests that’s your plan so they don’t come expecting a huge meal.
DIY, NOT BUY
It’s always cheaper to make a dish yourself than to buy the prepackaged version.
So, for the foods you’re serving try to DIY as much as possible.
Salad dishes (macaroni salad, pasta salad, potato salad and even green salad) only take a few minutes of prep work and are significantly cheaper to make yourself.
Even fruit salad can be fairly easy to DIY – and much, much less expensive. Just skip the fruits you have to chop and use berries (and even grapes if you can find them on sale) mixed together.
BUY GRILL MEATS IN BULK
Unless you find a great sale at your local grocery store, buying grill meats in bulk from the warehouse store will be your best bet.
We shop at Costco and in the summer we buy the giant package of Kirkland hot dogs. It’s 3 packages of 12 hot dogs and like $8. They’re pretty good too.
I love Costco, but I don’t really love their burgers because they’re just so huge.
My mother-in-law gets burgers from BJ’s and they’re delicious and just the right size.
Buying grill meats in bulk is a great way to cut down on the cost and get the large amount that you might need for a cookout.
And if you have any leftover you can just freeze them for next time.
Tip: Rolls will probably be on sale at the local grocery store and much cheaper to buy there.
KEEP THE GRILL TOP DOWN
I know we’re always seeing the grill tops up on television barbecues, but that is not the right way to do it.
Grilling with the top down conserves fuel and cooks faster.
So, resist the urge to check your food often and set a timer instead.
SKIP INDIVIDUAL DRINKS
Instead of buying the expensive individual sized drinks like cans of soda, juice boxes, or water bottles just put out large portions of drinks to share and cups.
(Someone else can bring the cups!)
You can serve filtered (or even tap!) water in a large water dispenser.
Serve iced tea or lemonade straight from a pitcher.
Put out 2 liter bottles of soda instead of cans.
Get a big jug of juice instead those expensive little juice boxes. large water dispenser
This little switch can yield huge savings for your next cookout.
If you’re permitting alcoholic drinks at your cookout, make them BYOB.
This could eat up all your money if you decide to provide them for everyone, and there’s really no reason to.
Let everyone bring what they like for themselves.
It will cost them very little to get their own. But it will save you a lot of money and hassle to try to do get it for everyone.
GET YOUR DECOR FROM THE DOLLAR STORE
Do you know how much amazing stuff you can find at the dollar store?!
My favorite one is the Dollar Tree. Everything they sell truly costs $1.
You can get tablecloths, decorations, even small backyard games.
And don’t overlook their containers! You might find some trays for carrying everything outside.
Just don’t fall into the dollar store trap where you want to buy everything because it’s only a dollar! Set a limit for yourself (say $5) before you walk in the door – and then stick to it!
BONUS TIP: SAVE YOUR LEFTOVERS
Don’t toss out your leftover food!
Save your leftovers to repurpose and eat throughout the week.
This will cut down on your grocery costs and make cooking out more affordable.
Leftover pasta salad makes a great lunch.
Leftover burgers can be chopped up and used in the place of ground beef for just about any recipe.
Get more leftover ideas here: The Benefits of Leftovers
ENJOY YOUR FRUGAL SUMMER COOKOUT
Now you know how to have a frugal cookout, the only thing left to do is put these tips into action.
You’ll be prepared to save money on your next cookout. Consider hosting a potluck or inviting guests to bring something small. Plan your menu based on sales and gather up a few coupons to use for even bigger savings. When you find a great deal, stock up for the season.
Try a small dish cookout instead of serving a huge meal. DIY any side dishes you serve instead of buying expensive pre-packaged versions. Unless there’s a sale, buy grill meats in bulk to get the best price. Serve large pitchers of drinks with cups instead of the expensive individual sizes. And tell drinkers to BYOB.
Finally, grab some cheap (but cute!) decor from the dollar store and save your leftovers to keep your savings going throughout the week!
Try as many of these tips as you can to save big on your frugal summer cookout!
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