Hot dogs, hamburgers, vegan kebabs, grilled corn… the list of delicious backyard fare to enjoy this summer goes on, and we are more than ready to celebrate with our friends and loved ones… It just doesn’t seem fair that as soon as we’re all ready to gather and party again that inflation has hit a 40-year high, making the ingredients for our perfect backyard BBQ some 15% higher than they were this time last year.
But at a time when everything seems to cost more and budgets are tight, it is still possible to plan something that will feel fun without spending a fortune. Here’s a rundown on how to plan the perfect backyard BBQ on a 2022 budget.
DIY Your Décor
Setting the mood is an important part of any gathering, and while that may include the playlist and menu, it’s also going to involve decor. That can get pricey fast if you head to your local Party City — disposable party supplies really add up. Because the gathering will be outdoors you can keep decor simple and DIY so much of it. “Let your plants, flowerbeds, etc serve as the natural backdrop to your gathering spaces,” says Michelle Jacobik, a personal finance expert.
Dress your tables with things you find in your own backyard such as ferns, cut flowers from your flower beds, rocks etc. Don’t have a ‘woodsy’ backyard? That’s ok too! “Visit your local Dollar Store or hit up the Target dollar section where you are sure to find some cute, budget-friendly decor,” says Jacobik. Grab some inexpensive fabric, colorful pillows and accessories to brighten up the area as well. “Don’t forget that you can bring some of your indoor furniture out! It adds a cool element to the vibe and keeps your budget intact!” says Jacobik.
Bring your own cooler. Seriously. Most of your guests will have their favorite go to IPA’s, wines, spiked seltzers, and libations of choice, so why try to please everyone by spending a fortune? This year, don’t even try to keep the various drinks flowing.
“Let your guests know to bring their own drinks so they have what they want right at hand,” says Jacobik. For non-alcoholic choices, you can make iced tea or lemonade, or even kick plain old tap water up a notch by infusing it with cucumber and mint, oranges or other fruits. (And by “infusing” we mean just chop it up and add it to a pitcher. You’ll be amazed how classy it will look!) You can add berries or grapes to your beverage table, and serve drinks in decorative dispensers (if you have them) and your party will have the hottest bar in town.
Potluck Isn’t Just Cheap — It’s Incredibly Popular
Keto. Gluten free. Vegan. Paleo. The list of diets your friends and family may be on is vast, and one thing we’ve noticed at HerMoney lately is that everyone is usually happy — if not thrilled — to be responsible for bringing a dish to the party so they’ll know they’ll have at least one “safe” thing to eat. “Host your summer party as a potluck and have your guests bring their favorite appetizer, main dish, or dessert to share,” says Jacobik.
If your guests are at a loss for what they might bring, then feel free to assign them a dish, perhaps based on their level of punctuality. Seriously. You know which guests are likely to arrive on time or even early. Have those people bring the apps. Likewise, some folks tend to make a late appearance. They’re now in charge of dessert.
READ MORE: How To Host A Galentine’s Party On A Budget
“This keeps things flowing while also keeping your food costs down,” says Jacobik.. It also adds so much variety to the table. Want to add an element of fun to the potluck gathering? “Ask guests to bring an item that begins with the first letter of their first (or last) name!” says Jacobik.
Stretching Ingredients Further
Consider serving items that can stretch your more expensive ingredients. For instance: “Instead of doing a Caprese Salad that uses quite a bit of expensive fresh mozzarella per person, make a Caprese Pasta Salad where you can use less cheese and have it spread out among the pasta,” says Christine Pittman, founder of COOKtheSTORY and The Cookful. Similarly, instead of doing a smoked salmon platter, do a smoked salmon dip. You’re stretching out a small amount of smoked salmon by using less expensive cream cheese and sour cream.
If you start thinking of it that way, it gets really easy. “If you want to have steak, but it would be way too expensive to do individual steaks for 6 people, make steak fajitas with lots of less expensive toppings like shredded lettuce, sour cream, bell peppers, and onions,” says Pittman.
Or if you want to have ribs but baby backs are too pricey, do pulled pork instead. And not just pulled pork, but stretch that out too by providing buns and a bunch of cheaper toppings like American cheese, sliced pickles, iceberg, thinly sliced tomatoes, store-bought pickled giardiniera.
And If Grilling Is On Your Agenda…
“I am a huge fan of doing less expensive chicken cuts for BBQs,” says Pittman. You can get a lot of chicken drumsticks for not a lot of money. “Cooking them in advance and then popping them on the grill right before serving also helps you to know for sure that the chicken is fully-cooked,” says Pittman. It would be a terrible waste of your money if nobody ate the chicken because it was pink in the middle. Having a good cook-ahead recipe for meats saves money and ensures people will enjoy the deliciously cooked meal.
Also, keep in mind that for many people, a good BBQ is all about the sides, which help people fill up their plates at a lower cost, says Pittman. In other words, there’s good financial reason that potato salad, macaroni salad, and coleslaw are always on our BBQ tables.
And when it comes to which meat to choose, the number one way to grill on a budget is to choose less expensive cuts of meat, says Andrew S. Turnipseed, Culinary Director at Grilla Grills. This means making modifications like substituting whole chicken, chicken thighs, or drum sticks for the more expensive chicken breasts.
Another good way to go, says Turnipseed, is to utilize flank steak, skirt steak, or hanger steak, instead of the more expensive “mainstream” cuts such as filet mignon, NY strip, or ribeye for example. Grills sausages are always a hit and usually approachable as per price point. Or, says Turnipseed, purchase bone-in pork chops as they are often found on sale and maintain better moisture on the grill than boneless chops.
A great way to maximize the meat is to serve kabobs. “I love kabobs because they are tasty, fun to serve, easy to grill, and they look massive when you serve them!” says Turnipseed. Your guests will get full, but you can carefully control the amount of food you are serving, which is particularly important when serving meat. In short: “You can put a few pieces of meat on the skewer, load the rest with vegetables, and you do not lose your shirt trying to feed each individual person a large portion of protein.” Sounds like a BBQ win to us.
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