Barbecuing on a Budget
If weathercasters are right…Memorial Day weekend will be warm and sunny. After last week’s cold and rain; I’ll believe it when I see it. Or, maybe I guess – when I feel it!
One thing is certain, this weekend kicks off the summer season and many of you will begin hosting backyard BBQ parties. The tricky part for me is, hosting cookouts is expensive, so here are a few tips I’ve learned on how to rock a BBQ party on a budget.
Save on Meats: barbequing
Meats are the most expensive part of the meal so this is where you can save the most.
Chicken is generally is the least expensive meat and is universally like by most people, so that is a good start. If you really want some bang for your buck, go for wings or thighs (dark meat). They’re cheaper, more flavorful and are less prone to drying out once they are exposed to the dry heat of the fire then chicken breasts. The majority of the world’s grillmasters actually prefer dark Chicken meat to white.
If you decide to grill beef, avoid premium cut meats including porterhouse, rib eye or NY strip steaks. While these steaks taste great they also cost a lot. And when you are buying for multiple people that can add up fast. I recommend a more affordable cut such as sirloin, flank, brisket or even ground chuck. Who doesn’t like burgers on the grill? Even high-quality, organic ground chuck is more affordable then the top of the line steak. For ground chuck that delivers more flavor when making a burger choose one that is at least 15% fat this will make them juicier.
If you decide to grill steaks, consider cutting steaks into small strips, not only will they cook faster, but this will also allow your guests to take as much or as little as they want, which will cut on food waste.
Seafood is another grilling option; however going for the catch of the day is not always the best. I suggest grilling darker oily fish such as kingfish or sardines as they are packed with Omega-3 fats that keep the fish from drying out and are great for your health. Salmon and Tuna are also great on the grill however you will pay more.
Buy in Bulk
When hosting a BBQ party with lots of people, consider buying in bulk. Costco and Sam’s are great places to get bulk food at a discounted price. Here you can buy your bread, buns, desserts, utensils and even your meats.
Shop Your Local Farmer’s Market
If you are holding your party on Saturday afternoon or Sunday, stop by the local farmer’s market Saturday morning to pick up some fresh fruit and vegetables. Neenah and Oshkosh have awesome farmers markets and shopping there is a great way to support our local farmers. Don’t be afraid to negotiate a bulk deal in the process. I suggest bringing a cooler for your bulk purchases especially if you buy meat. Also, make sure you bring cash as most vendors are cash and carry. If you can arrive late, 30 minutes before closing you might find the best deals. View more information on the Neenah Farmer’s Market or the Oshkosh Farmer’s Market.
DIY Sauces and Seasoning
Pre-packaged seasonings can cost $4-$6 for a small bottle, where you probably have most of the ingredients to make a similar tasting seasoning in your spice cabinet at home. Taking the time to mix the seasoning or creating the sauce yourself will help cut down that overall cost. Looking for some good seasoning, marinade and rub recipes? Here are 12 recipes from delish.com.
Gas vs Charcoal:
This mainly comes down to preference, gas and charcoal grills both have their pros and cons. If you are looking at short-term cost then charcoal would be the way to go, however if you grill out often then you will save more money over time on the gas grill as fuel costs will be cheaper then buying charcoal all the time. If you are using a Charcoal grill you don’t need to use an entire bag of charcoal, a good rule of thumb is to use 30 charcoal pieces per pound of meat. If you are using gas then make sure you turn off the burner and close the valve on the propane tank when you are done. No matter which grill type you have or are looking at using just make sure you check and make sure you have enough gas or charcoal to be able to cook all the food you have. Running out of fuel half way through the grill out is not something you want to have happen.
You need to pay attention to grill maintenance especially if you want your grill to last you more then a couple years. Here are few tips:
- Be sure to clean off the grill top when you are finished grilling. The right time is to clean off a grill is when it is still warm, but not too hot. This will make it easier when using your wire brush to scrub off the foods, fat and oils.
- If you have a charcoal grill make sure to properly dispose of the used charcoal, for gas grills make sure to clean the catch-pan liner.
- Invest in a good waterproof cover for your grill in order to protect it.
Cook the Entire Meal on the Grill
Appetizer, side dishes, meat/main course, and even dessert and be cooked on the grill. If you cook it all on the grill at once that will save on fuel costs and make clean-up much easier as you won’t have as many dishes to clean up. I like to fill one side of the grill with meat like, burgers, chicken and/or pork chops. Then I put veggies on the other side along with buns and bread (to make them toasty). Basically you don’t have to have to turn off the grill until you are completely finished making everything including some tasty grilled dessert.
If you are looking for some great meals on the grill that won’t put a hole in your pocket book then here are couple sites with some meal ideas and recipes:
Mix Your Own Drinks:
If you are buying individual cans and bottles for drinks, it can get expensive. Not only that but you will be stuck picking up all the half empty plastic bottles and tin cans. Instead why not try making a self-served juice bar. Get a big pitcher and mix your favorite homemade summer drink, such as lemonade, iced tea, or even watermelon Margaritas, then load the pitcher with ice and put it in a shady area.
Hosting a summertime cook-out does not have get to expensive if you plan ahead and follow some of the above tips. We would love to hear from you if you have any other tips for grilling on a budget by posting a comment below!