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Summer is the perfect time to kick back with friends and family by hosting a BBQ or picnic. Even in tough economic times, there are several easy ways to host a BBQ without spending big bucks. Take the heat off your wallet by following these simple tips:

Save on Meat

Stock up on meat when it goes on sale and freeze it for later use. Many stores will cut prices on meat when it gets close to its “sell by” date. Use that strategy to your advantage and stock up.

Opt for less expensive meats such as chicken instead of beef. Also, consider which cuts will help you save even more. Chicken wings and thighs are much less expensive than boneless breasts and taste great when they’re marinated. If you’re entertaining families, throw some hot dogs on the grill. They’re kid-friendly and inexpensive.

Use a Good Marinade

Marinades can tenderize and enhance cheaper cuts of meat. Plus, they’re tasty. If you’re in a rush, check out brands like KRAFT BBQ Sauce or A.1. Steak Sauce and look for a coupon. If you have more time, consider making one yourself. Here’s a favorite marinade that has been in our family for over 30 years. Every time we make it, we get requests for the recipe:

  • 2 tsp. ginger
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp. dry mustard
  • 2-4 cloves garlic coarsely chopped
  • 2T molasses
  • 2T vinegar

Kebab It

Meat goes a long way when it’s used in making kebabs. The key is using a good marinade (see above) that infuses everything with great flavor. Marinate meat for several hours along with inexpensive veggies like green peppers, onions, Irish potatoes and mushrooms. Skewer (remember to soak wooden skewers), grill and enjoy. Because cooking times vary, skewer like items together.

Use Coupons

You can often find coupons for BBQ-friendly foods like hot dogs, cheese, mayonnaise and mustard; snacks like WHEAT THINS Crackers, chips and nuts; and family-friendly beverages like KOOL-AID canisters and CRYSTAL LIGHT drink mix products. Save time by printing coupons online at Coupons.com. You can also find recipes for great summer dishes on the recipe page of the Coupons.com site, where the lists of ingredients contain links to coupons. Or visit the Web sites of your favorite brands to see what kinds of deals are being offered online.

Fill ’er Up

Meat is usually the main focus of a BBQ, but offering inexpensive, flavorful accompaniments allows you to get away with smaller portions. Nobody will be the wiser! Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Garlic toast made from French bread (day-old bread works just as well and costs much less) cut into ¾ inch slices on the diagonal, and spread with butter and garlic. Throw these on the grill for added flavor.
  • Corn on the cob grilled with husks on (the key is to remove the outer layer of husk and soak in water for 20 minutes before placing on the grill).
  • Seasonal fruits like watermelon, strawberries and peaches (look for them at local farmers' markets). Serve them on their own or create a fruit salad. Add COOL WHIP whipped topping for a touch of sweetness.
  • Plain baked beans dressed up with a little brown sugar and ketchup to taste.
  • Potato salad made from scratch - look for coupons for mayo, mustard and pickles.
  • Rice pilaf, couscous, or orzo.
  • JELL-O brand gelatin is a summer favorite, and kids love the JELL-O gelatin-jigglers. Get creative and make a couple different colors to arrange in a cool design.

Go Potluck

Not only are potluck gatherings less expensive, you’ll end up with a greater variety of foods, which adds to the fun. Assign each household a different category such as salad, dessert or appetizer to avoid getting too much of one thing. Don’t be afraid to ask guests to BYOB as well. With casual gatherings like BBQs, it’s not only all right – it’s often expected.

Cheap Condiments

Stock up on condiments early in the summer when they go on sale. Many national grocery chains will offer things like ketchup, GREY POUPON mustard, mayonnaise, KRAFT MIRACLE WHIP dressing and pickle relish as loss leaders around holidays, so buy what you’ll need for the entire summer. Add coupons for extra savings; sites like these have coupon pages for easy-to-find discounts:

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