Guest article by Mel Wong.
There’s nothing like spending long evenings outside with friends around a sizzling barbecue! It’s one of the simplest ways to both feed and entertain everyone, but it can get costly. Here are some of my best dollar-stretching barbecue ideas to keep your budget down this summer.
The most expensive barbecue-related item is probably the grill. Every household is different when it comes to extra functions, so you can save money by opting for an older model or one from a mid-priced range. To maximize your BBQ budget, however, choose a model that will last longer than a couple of years since having to replace it every other summer will eventually add up. Also, this is also one area where size will matter, so if you plan on entertaining big groups, then you’ll need a bigger grill surface. Multilevel grills are helpful if you need a space-saving model, but also think about the type of food you’ll be cooking and whether there’ll be enough room for both meat and veggies.
You can also save when it comes to choosing the meat that you’ll be grilling. Chicken wings and thighs can be a tasty substitute for the more expensive breast fillets, and keep an eye out for alternative cuts from the butcher like the neck of a lamb instead of a leg. And the old favorites like hot dogs and sausages can go further if you cut them lengthways and serve them with Cheddar cheese. Because burgers are a grill favorite, you can save money by cooking them from scratch with ground beef and adding things like sautéed mushrooms. Mashed chili beans, oats and even breadcrumbs can bulk up the texture and the flavor of a plain old burger.
To keep your barbecue energy efficient, be mindful of the amount of fuel you’re using. Lots of people make the mistake of using more charcoal on the grill, but all you’ll need is around three pounds, which is often more than enough to cook food for an average summer gathering. When it comes to lighting the BBQ, follow this grill tip from pro poker player and Brazilian Churrasco expert Felipe Ramos and start with some sausages “because they also help the fire get going on
the homemade grill…sausage fat drips to get the fire on point!”
Also, if you want to save some cash, then get creative with appetizers, rubs and your party invitations:
- You can make lots of tasty rubs just by using the spices you already have in your pantry; they’ll taste better because you can get the flavor how you like and they’ll potentially be lower in salt and additives than store-bought alternatives. Appetizers can be inexpensive, too, like grilled bread drizzled with homemade garlic butter, which is both tasty and filling.
- Think outside the box when it comes to the grill and don’t just use it for meat. Things like grilled peppers stuffed with rice and skewered veggies can make substantial main courses, and even the common watermelon can be grilled and drizzled with balsamic
- Another easy way to save money is to ask your guests to bring contributions to the barbecue party. Even small things like a bottle of wine or crate of beer, a side dish or salad or even a home-baked dessert can turn a budget grill into a feast.
I think that about covers it! Do you have any thrifty barbecue ideas to share? Comment below, I’d love to hear your tips!