5 ways to save money when you’re grilling out


Hosting a backyard barbeque is a traditional way to celebrate the Fourth of July, Labor Day or any weekend when the weather is nice. But grilling out can get expensive, so we have a few ideas to make sure your gathering doesn’t blow a hole in your wallet.

5 ways to save money on your next cookout

The key to making sure your outdoor entertaining stays within your budget really comes in the planning. If you’re scrambling at the last minute to make sure your crowd is fed, you will probably be paying too much.

Here are the areas where there are real opportunities to cut costs:

1. Use your fuel efficiently

Whether you cook on a gas grill, charcoal, electric, smoker or some combination of those is a very personal preference. They all work, as long as you know how to use them.

Charcoal grills are less expensive to buy, but the fuel required to keep them cooking is more expensive than gas.

You also want to make sure — no matter what type of grill you’re using — that your timing is right. If you fire up the grill two hours before the food goes on, you’re just burning money.

Need to buy a new grill? Start by learning more about the best time and place to buy one!

2. Pick the right meat

It’s fortunate for us grillers that some of the best meat for cooking over an open flame or smoking also tends to be less expensive by the pound than cuts that have better name recognition.

If you’re cooking steak look for flank or skirt cut, which are perfect for the grill. Set up a fajita bar!

When it comes to chicken, legs and thighs are hard to beat. They have the fat content to stand up to an open flame, where breasts do not.


If you have a smoker, look for any large cut like a pork butt, beef brisket or turkey legs and you can easily feed a big crowd on a shoestring budget.

For a vegetarian option, it’s tough to top eggplant. The versatile fruit grills up very nicely.

3. Don’t overspend on hot dogs

Hot dogs are a staple of most cookouts. If there are kids involved, they are a must-have.

While pretty much everyone can agree that Nathan’s makes great hot dogs, a recent taste test from the Washington Post says that money expert Clark Howard’s favorite store Costco sells the most flavorful frank.

Some notes from the judges:

  • They epitomize “classic dog taste.”
  • “I could eat three of these at a ballgame.”
  • They “taste like childhood.”
  • They “taste like summer.”

4. Make your own sauces…

No, you don’t have to make your own ketchup and mustard from scratch. But you can certainly whip up your own barbeque sauce out of ingredients you probably already have. The same goes for salad dressing.

5. …and sides

While you’re showing off your prowess at the grill, keep in mind that your guests’ tummies still need to be filled. A great way to cut costs is to make sure you have side dishes that people will enjoy.

Pound for pound, potatoes are way less expensive than any cut of meat you can buy and who doesn’t love a good potato salad?

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