Using these 19 simple and frugal BBQ ideas will help you eliminate food waste, and most importantly, not break the bank.At barbeques, so much food is wasted. Everything looks so delicious that you want to fill your plate with one of everything.Or maybe it’s just me? Before you know it, you’re so full that you can’t even finish the rest of your hot dog or hamburger, potato salad, and other delicious goodies.Even worse, if it’s YOUR barbeque that you’re hosting, your heart might sink at the sight of your guests throwing a plate filled with a half-eaten burger and a scoop of your famous (insert dish).Or, EVEN worse, when you see a child grab so much food and you know that they’re NOT going to even touch half of it, and then they throw the plate of food away. Yikes!Sound familiar?To make matters even more depressing, every time you see people waste food, you also remember how much money you’ve spent on the food itself. Not to mention the time you spent preparing and making the wonderful BBQ menu and food.It’s pretty cringe-worthy, right?However, using my 19 frugal backyard BBQ tips, most of these problems can be eliminated.Let’s dive in!
19 Ways to host a BBQ on a Budget
Frugal BBQ hors d’oeurves and SnacksFor starters, let’s begin with some frugal hors d’oeuvres. A great tip for budget entertaining is to serve many options of hors d’oeuvres. The reason we start with many hors d’oeuvres is because people like to talk, mingle and munch at the beginning of any gathering or barbecue.
Here are some great examples of budget-friendly hors d’ourves you can serve to your crowd at your next BBQ:
1. Chips, Nuts, PretzelsInstead of buying brand new bags of chips, nuts, and pretzels, use bags you already have at home (even opened bags… no one will know!) and place them in appropriate bowls for their amount. This makes for a great variety of little snacks to snack on during your BBQ.
2. Homemade Fruit and Veggie PlattersWe’ve all seen those super-expensive fruit and vegetable platters at the grocery store. But, did you know that making your own is so much cheaper and gives you a bigger yield when you cut and slice the produce yourself? Great budget-friendly fruits and veggies to buy and cut yourself are apples, strawberries, melons, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumbers, and peppers.
3. Cheese, Meat and Cracker PlatterOnce again, don’t waste your money on those expensive pre-made cheese and meat platters. Yes, it’s convenient, but come on! Slice up a block of cheese, grab a small variety of crackers (or use crackers you have at home…** extra frugal tip!), open a can of olives and add an assortment of sliced meats. You will spend way less money on this between using what you already have and buying a little extra, than buying an overly expensive pre-made platter. You can use cutters to cut the meat and cheese into fun shapes, or just make slices or roll the meat for a fancy homemade meat/cheese/cracker board.
4. Chips and DipsWe love making buffalo chicken dip for gatherings that we serve with tortilla chips, or serving potato chips with dip, or a homemade bean layer dip. Grab your beans, sour cream, cheese, olives, salsa, etc. and make your own bean layer dip to serve with chips.
5. Bread and SpreadsAll you need to do is grab a few loaves of French baguette bread (usually $1.99 at your average grocery store), or you can make your own homemade bread the day before using my bread recipe, and make a homemade spread. Take the loaves of bread and slice them into mini slices so they can stretch a long way for your BBQ crowd. Homemade spreads and dips are really easy to make too. They can be as simple as whipped garlic, herbed butter or a cream cheese type of spreadLet your guests fill up on appetizers so that when the main meal comes, they’re not ravening.
6. More Snacks…Utilize your grocery store’s BULK SECTION! Snacks that are great to buy in bulk are:
- party mixes
- chocolate covered pretzels
- dried fruit
Cheap BBQ side dish ideasServe hefty side dishes and fill those guests up! By serving large sides at your next backyard BBQ, you will once again tackle those overly hungry guests by filling them up on more frugal dishes, before bringing out the more expensive, meaty main dishes!
Here are some great examples of budget-friendly side dishes you can serve to your crowd at your next BBQ:
7. Mixed Green SaladsServing salad at your next backyard BBQ? Purchase your salad toppings, croutons, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, dried fruit, and as many salad toppings as you can in your grocery stores bulk section. Buy the tiny amount you need to make that beautiful gourmet salad and wow your guests with the fancy salad you prepared on a budget. Seriously, no need to buy full bags here. A cup of each at most!)
8. Corn on the CobYes, corn on the cob can get quite pricey, but when doing my little tricky-poo, you will have many corn on the cobs to go around.Take one ear of corn and break or cut it into 2 to 3 separate smaller pieces. Depending on the size of the corn, you can something get three pieces out of it. But let’s say you are able to get two pieces out of one ear of corn, if you buy 12 corn on the cobs and break them in half, you now have 24!Way better on the wallet and budget for your next BBQ!
9. Homemade Potato SaladHave I ever told you how much Mr. Hubs and I are obsessed with potatoes?! Potatoes are so cheap and you can get a 5-pound bag of potatoes for $1.99.Whip up a batch of your favorite homemade potato salad recipe and serve it in a huge bowl. We want guests to fill up on these cheap BBQ sides.
10. Homemade Pasta SaladLike the above idea, pasta noodles can be quite inexpensive as well, so make a large batch of your families favorite pasta salad recipe.
11. Deviled EggsIf you have chickens as I do, your eggs are free (well kinda), or you can purchase a dozen or two cartons of eggs at the store. Deviled eggs are always a crowd hit at any gathering and usually disappear rather quickly.To spruce up your deviled eggs, next time add some ranch dressing along with your mayo to the mixture. Mmm!
** If you want easy peeling, hard-boiled eggs for your deviled eggs, make sure to check out how to make them in your Instant Pot! **
Frugal Drink Ideas For Your Next BBQInstead of buying expensive bottled water and cans of soda, you can make a drink bar on the cheap with these few ideas.
Here are some great examples of budget-friendly drinks you can serve to your crowd at your next BBQ:
12. Ice WaterRather than buying those expensive water bottles of “technically” someone else’s tap water, serve ice water in nice pitchers for your guests to use.Water bottles get wasted or are left half drunken before tossed. A few minutes later, that same person usually goes and grabs another bottle.If using plastic cups, keep a few permanent markers around for people to label their cups.
13. Iced TeaHomemade iced tea can be made for pennies and goes a long way! Serve a few different varieties of homemade sweet tea: really sweet, semi-sweet and unsweetened.You can even spruce up your average sweet tea recipe by adding in slices of lemons or diced up fruit like peaches. Don’t forget to serve in pitchers!
14. Spa WaterSpa water, fruit infused water, herb water… it has so many names. Basically, the idea is to make the water a bit more appetizing by adding slices of lemons, limes, cucumbers, fruit and herbs (as much or as little as you’d like) to it.I love the look of spa water, it’s so pretty and always so refreshing if made correctly!
Cheap BBQ Main Dishes For GrillingNow that your guests have filled up on tons of hors d’oeuvres and snacks, it’s time to grill them up some cheap BBQ meaty main dishes to serve with your hefty, yet frugal side dishes.When serving your main dishes from the grill at your BBQ, think of the term “mini”.
Here are some great examples of budget-friendly “mini” main dishes you can serve to your crowd at your next BBQ:
15. Mini SlidersAfter stuffing ourselves with snacks and hors d’oeuvres, the last thing we need is a giant cheeseburger to go along with our massive side dishes.But it can’t be a BBQ without a nice flame grilled burger, could it?!Instead of serving up full-size burgers, serve mini-sliders! Better yet, buy ground beef in bulk and mix the meat yourself.
Try some of my stuffed burger recipes:
- Bac-Avo Burger (bacon, avocado stuffed burger) **Keto Friendly**
- Keto Meat Patties stuffed with feta cheese (omit the cream sauce for the grill)
16. Hot Dogs … in half!Serve halfties! Instead of serving up full-size hot dogs, pre-slice your hot dog buns and hot dogs in half.Trust me, no one’s going to complain about half hot dogs after having filled their bellies with your hors d’oeuvres, and then filling their plates with your frugal, yet filling side dishes!
17. KabobsMarinate chicken thighs (which is a frugal cut of meat) in your favorite marinade, and then place 2-3 pieces of chicken per skewer. In between, add things like bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, pineapple, zucchini, etc.The skewers will look beautifully vibrant and no one will think twice about the fact that there are only a few pieces of meat per kabob stick. Shh… our little secret!
18. Marinated or BBQ ChickenThis is the time where you will grill up whole pieces of chicken. Drumsticks are cheap, or if you have a pickier crowd you can do breasts.The key to making grilled chicken breast budget-friendly for your next BBQ, is to cook the meat, let it rest for a few minutes (to retain the juices) and then slice it and place it in a serving dish.You can easily get 4 pieces of sliced chicken or more out of one chicken breast!OR!You can pre-slice the chicken breast when raw, marinate it, and then grill it. Whatever tickles your fancy!
The last and final tip for hosting a backyard BBQ on a budget is this…
19. Accept Help!Never turn down someone’s offer to bring something! If someone asks, “Hey, is there anything I can bring?”….You say, “YES!”.Let them choose what they want to bring; a side dish, snack, appetizer, dessert, drink… whatever they want, we’ll take it!
Now you might have noticed that I didn’t mention ways to serve frugal and cheap desserts at your BBQ. This is simply because desserts don’t need a tip or hack to help make it cheaper if you choose to make a dessert using ingredients you already have at home.