Fire up the grill—it’s barbecue season! Nothing says “summer” like a good backyard barbecue. You’re like, all I need is a pack of hot dogs and I’m good, right? But you want to eat healthier. And now that you think about it, you do have a lot of people coming.
Next thing you know, you’re pushing a heaping cartload through the checkout. Ca-ching, ca-ching! And your budget is officially smoked.
Here’s the good news: You don’t have to sacrifice your budget to have those savory grilled meats, yummy, summery sides and a great time. Here are a few tips for planning a backyard barbecue both your people and your pocketbook will love.
1. Cut down on Cost
The star of the show—the meat— is always going to be the most expensive item on your list, so be mindful of the budget when preparing your menu. Think smart about your cuts. Choose flank steak in place of a porterhouse and flavor-packed sausages instead of ribs. Grill less expensive fish like tilapia or sole with lots of fresh lemon juice and seasoning in place of salmon filets.
Don’t ignore the less expensive cuts of chicken for the always popular chicken breast. Chicken thighs, legs and wings are flavorful and much more cost effective. Better yet, stores often have great sales on whole chickens, which are easy to debone and grill once you’ve learned how.
2. Head to the Garden or Local Farm
Hearty summer vegetables make great additions to any healthy barbecue. They’re filling, nutritious and perfect for the budget. Try making kabobs with red onion, zucchini, bell pepper and mushrooms. Grill ears of corn for a sweet and satisfying starch. Or, toss a bunch of asparagus or green beans with olive oil, salt and pepper, and grill in a foil packet.
3. Create Your Flavor
Pre-made marinades and rubs may save you a step—but it’ll cost you! Make your own instead. With a plentitude of recipes online, it’s easy to find the perfect one to satisfy your tastes. Most BBQ sauce recipes are made with a base of inexpensive tomato sauce, and Italian dressing is a deliciously simple marinade for chicken and vegetables.
4. Have a Few Extra Bucks?
A traditional backyard barbecue of burgers and hot dogs would likely please most guests. You can keep it simple. If you do have a few extra bucks, it doesn’t take much to step up your game. Try blue cheese crumbles on burgers, hot dogs wrapped in bacon or grilled peaches served with ice cream as dessert.
5. Make it a Potluck
It never fails—when I offer to host a party, the first thing out of most of my guests’ mouths is: “Can I bring anything?” Keep costs down and bellies full by allowing friends and family to bring along a dessert or healthy side like a salad or fresh fruit.
Throwing a healthy backyard barbecue on a budget doesn’t have to be boring or stressful! Keep it simple. Fresh, seasonal veggies, delicious, filling salads, hearty, low-cost cuts of meat and good company are all you need to enjoy the summer season with a perfect outdoor meal.