Summer may be the official season of late May through early September, but the unofficial sponsor of these hot summer months belongs to three letters: BBQ. And if you identify with the 74% of Americans currently on a budget, finding cheap BBQ ideas is a must for this time of year.


How to Throw an Incredible BBQ on a Budget

Don’t let restricted spending slow you down; instead, embrace the challenge of throwing an unforgettable BBQ on a budget with these ten cheap BBQ ideas sure to wow your guests:


1. Know Where to Shop

If you’re on a tight budget, the first lesson to pulling off an epic BBQ is knowing where to shop. As great as it may feel in the moment, shopping at an expensive organic grocery store will have you hiding from your mailman when next month’s credit card bill arrives.


It may not be glamorous, but discount stores like Aldi offer exceptional value and great food. Owned by Trader Joe’s, Aldi has nearly everything you need for your cheap BBQ recipes and then some. From organic meat, to all the fixin’s for a great burger, a decent wine and beer selection, and everything you need for the perfect s’more. The store even stocks up on seasonal must-haves like charcoal, plastic tablecloths, patio furniture, and more.


A great rule of thumb is to always head to a budget store like Aldi first, and then to your favorite grocery for whatever you can’t cross off your list.


2. Firm up your guest list

You can’t shop for a budget BBQ bash if you don’t know how many people will show up to your shindig. It’s not always easy to track down RSVPs for every guest, but it’s important to try - the more accurate your guest list is, the more you’ll save on food costs and leftovers.


Send out text messages asking whether a guest plans to attend and if they intend to bring kids or significant others, or use a free paperless invitation to manage the guest list and send automated reminders for you.


3. Get creative with your burgers

Today, turning plain old ground beef into grilled masterpieces is all the rage. Take advantage of this culinary trend and use it to stretch out your beef. Whether it’s with plain breadcrumbs, pureed veggies, or some other inventive add-ins—get creative with your burgers to not only impress your guests, but satisfy your personal budget.


Take it one step further by putting out impressive—yet inexpensive—-toppings and allow your guests to create their own masterpiece between two buns. Check out these awesome ideas, many of which can double as tasty sides. That’s what we like to call a win-win.


4. Don’t be afraid to go cheap on the meat

This next cheap BBQ idea may not seem like the most popular, but consider using a less expensive meat for certain dishes. We aren’t talking about visiting your back-alley butcher (is that even a thing?), but opting for hot dogs over brats is one way to cut back on costs when trying to satisfy the appetites of a large crowd.


5. Offer plenty of sides

When planning out your menu, be sure to fill it with plenty of cheap BBQ side dishes. Beans, chips, macaroni salad, grilled veggies, potato salad, and watermelon are just a few examples of BBQ side staples that are crowd favorites and budget friendly. Keep meat costs lower by offering plenty of sides your guests will surely love.


This level of variety not only shows-off your hosting abilities, it will also give your guests the chance to fill up on delicious food that’s much less expensive than meat.


6. Ask guests to pitch in

Consider making it a potluck, where you provide the grilled meat while guests bring the sides, dessert, or drink of their choice.  Or if you prefer, simply reach out to a few close friends who will happily pitch in.


7. Make your own sauces and rubs

Not only is it cheaper to take the DIY route with sauces and rubs, making them yourself is much tastier than buying from the store. Your guests will be impressed, your food will be delicious, and you’ll be amazed as just how easy it was.


8. Ration your fuel

Whether you’re the champion of charcoal or gifted at gas, it’s important to understand how to ration your fuel when grilling on a budget. 


Rather than dump a 10-pound bag of charcoal on the grill (which, for the record, is entirely unnecessary), use about 30 briquettes for every pound of meat. For gas grill proponents, be sure to turn off the burners immediately after you’re done manning the grill. Between getting your perfectly cooked meat on the table and digging in, it’s easy to forget to turn off the gas. And whether your grill uses propane or natural gas, keeping your grill on after you’re done is like burning through money.


9. Make cheap dessert (or don’t)

While dessert is a crowd favorite, don’t feel like you have to provide sweets to cap off those savory cheap BBQ recipes.


If you do want to provide dessert for your guests, there are plenty of ways to pull it off without breaking the bank. Instead of s’mores, grab a few bags of big marshmallows to roast over the fire. Jell-O jigglers and rice krispie treats are other popular and inexpensive dessert options.


10. Don’t send home leftovers

Our last cheap BBQ idea? Don’t send home leftover food. You’re already stretching your personal finances to throw a BBQ on a budget, so keeping whatever food is left over for your family should be priority.


And finally, don’t forget to have fun!

Being financially responsible shouldn’t stop you from having fun with your family and friends. Use these cheap BBQ ideas to throw an epic, wow-worthy cookout that will go down in history as the best. 


And remember—even when times are tight—the summer months are for family, friends, and FUN!

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