Cooking food over direct fire has been done for thousands or years and humans have developed many techniques to make the humble barbecue what it is today.

Summer used to be the time to take out the barbie (that’s BBQ, not the doll) and cook outside in the fresh air. Today having a barbecue is done all year round, even when there is snow outside! Barbecue has become a universal favourite kind of meal prep and every nation around the world has their own take on cooking barbecue. Be it outdoor grilling, barbecue or asado, whatever you call it the principle is the same; cooking meat and vegetables over an open fire or a bed of charcoal.

During the summer months there’s nothing better than a day at the beach, lake or the park with a charbroiled hamburger, hot dogs, chicken, pork chops or steaks. A pitcher of cold sangria to share or a sweet iced tea sipped between every delicious bite of barbecue is a great way to eat!

If you’re hosting a barbecue, you don’t need to spend as much money as you might think. You can still have a wonderful barbecue and have fun without breaking your budget and still have some leftovers for next week. Hosting a barbecue can be a burden if you have a large guest list; you’ll have to rent a pavilion and your shopping list is going to be about a mile long with expensive bread rolls, expensive meats and summer desserts. However, a barbecue can still be great without spending too much.

Below are 11 useful tips on how you can save money and still host a wonderful and fun barbecue that your family and friends will remember.

1. Ask Friends to Bring Some Food to Share

Potluck is the word here. There’s nothing bad about being a gracious host and providing the food for all of your guests, but your budget will run out fast. Host a potluck barbecue instead. You can prepare a menu with specific guests in mind and delegate. If someone asks you what they can bring, just give them one or a few of the options on your list. Commonly, you’ll need hot dogs, hamburgers, hot dog rolls, salad fillings, chips, fruits or desserts. Even these simple ingredients can be a huge help. Some people have different preferences for meat, so you can also ask your friends to bring their own meat. This will also give variety to the spread.

2. Stock Up On Charcoal

A barbecue is not a barbecue without charcoal, so if there’s a sale on coals, stock up! Charcoal doesn’t expire. Just keep it in a cool, dry place and bring it out for your barbecue. A barbecue tastes better when cooked over charcoal than using a gas grill.

Image credit: www.popsugar.com

Image credit: www.popsugar.com

3. Don’t Blow Your Budget on Expensive Cuts of Meat

Steaks are good, but save the porterhouse or T-bone cuts for special family occasions. You can instead purchase inexpensive skirt or flank steak, chicken thighs and legs, chicken breast with bone-in, different kinds of sausages and darker, grill friendly seafood like bluefish, mackerel, blue marlin or tuna.

4. BYO Drinks

Again, you don’t have to buy everything. You can buy a couple cases of soda or beer so there’s enough to go around, but you can ask your friends to bring their preferred drinks, alcoholic or otherwise. Everyone will have different preferences for drinks and this way there will be variety.

5. Make Your Own Invitations and Decorations

With the help of Pinterest, you can get party inspiration and many DIY ideas that will not break your budget. You can start by creating a summer barbecue board, pinning anything you can find that strikes your fancy. For invites, you can do simple card stocks, stamps and stickers. A handmade invitation adds a personal touch which your guests will appreciate. In case you don’t have the particular items to make the invitations, think of anything that you can use around the house without buying new invitations.

6. Combo Kebabs

This is a good way of stretching your meat for the party. You can use meat chunks, mushrooms, onions and bell peppers on skewers or barbecue sticks and grill them over charcoal. Thread one piece of each ingredient and prepare as many as you need to feed the number of people you are hosting. You can also individualise the flavors by providing basting sauces or marinades.

7. Buy Drinks In Cans or Cartons

1 and 2L bottles are heavy and take up space, thus buying drinks in cans or cartons is a much better alternative for your barbecue. It’s easier to stack cans in a cooler and you won’t be stuck with flat and half-full bottles of soda after the event.

8. Buy and Serve In-Season Food

Fish, fruits and vegetables are always cheaper when they are in season. Plus, they are more flavorful and will not go out of stock, especially at your local farmers market. Look for the best discounts on any in-season produce.

9. Dress Up the Regulars

Burgers, chicken, hot dogs, and sausages are great by themselves when grilled, but you can elevate their flavour by adding inexpensive elements to them. You can stuff some blue cheese, barbecue sauce, chips or bacon inside your burgers before grilling them. Wrap a piece of bacon around your hot dog or add some cheddar in the middle of the hot dog by cutting it lengthwise. Marinate your chicken overnight for a more flavorful and juicier taste right off the grill.

10. Know Your Guest

Do not fuss too much about impressing your guests with an elaborate menu. A barbecue party should be simple and fun. Instead of trying hard to cook recipes, serve the tried and tested simple dishes that you know everybody will  like. Your uncomplicated and simple menu will surely please kids who are picky eaters.

11. Always Clean Your Grill

This is one of the most important and the most basic things that you need to do every time you barbecue. Grills are quite expensive to replace, so once you have invested in one, make sure you clean and maintain it every time you use it. Remove the charcoal ash from the bottom and use it as fertilizer for your plants. The grill should be cleaned gently but thoroughly. Gunk, sticky sauces and fats will stick and you don’t want to eat a burger tasting of grease and dirt during your next barbecue, right? If you’re keeping your grill outside, make sure to use a weatherproof cover for protection. The grill is the life of any barbecue and it needs some tender loving care.

These are just some tried and tested money saving tips for your next barbecue! If you have some extra tips, let us know in the comments below. Let’s barbecue!

About Author

Jon specialises in research and content creation for content marketing campaigns. He’s worked on campaigns for some of Australia's largest brands including across Technology, Cloud Computing, Renewable energy and Corporate event management. He’s an avid scooterist and musician.