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Backyard BBQs on a Budget

by Kim Danger, Family Savings Expert for

It just wouldn't be summer without the traditional backyard barbecue meal. Food seems to taste better when it's hot off the grill. However, with the cost of meat and groceries rising right along with the temperature, a bbq can be expensive. 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. For great everyday prices, check warehouse stores like Sam's Club, Costco and BJs.

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 for the kids. They may not be the best cuts of meat, but they're kid-friendly and inexpensive.

Make Your Own Marinades

There's no need to purchase bottled marinades, sauces and seasonings when you can make them at home quickly and easily. Save your money and experiment with recipes of your own. Here's a favorite marinade recipe 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 recipe 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 barbecue friendly foods like chips and dip, hot dogs, fruit snacks and the ingredients for side dishes. Save time by printing coupons online at You can also find recipes for great summer dishes with links to coupons for the ingredients on the recipe page of the site. Or visit the Web sites of your favorite name brands to see what kinds of deals are being offered online.

Fill'er Up

Meat is usually the main focus of the barbecue, but offering inexpensive yet 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 3/4 inch slices on the diagonal, and spread with butter and garlic powder. 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.
  • Plain baked beans dressed up with a little brown sugar and ketchup to taste
  • Potato salad made from scratch
  • Rice pilaf, couscous, or orzo

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 barbecues, it's not only alright - 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, mustard and pickle relish as loss leaders around Memorial Day, so buy what you'll need for the entire summer. Or if you miss the first summer holiday, check again around 4th of July.

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