Host a Complete Backyard BBQ on a Tight Budget

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Now that summer is here, who doesn’t like the sound of having some friends over, grilling something up and enjoying a drink or two on the back deck? 

The season is short, and while you may be tempted to scoop up the best rib-eye steaks you can find and stock your fridge with some pricy brews, the quintessential summer cookout can be done right, on a budget with a little planning. 

We've set ourselves an imaginary goal of hosting a BBQ for six guests for under $60 - why? Because its fun to set arbitrary goals!  Let’s fire up the grill and give it a shot.

When summer is so short anyway, why have a BBQ on a budget?

Well, for starters, you can have more of them. Instead of one big overpriced cookout, you could do our plan below every week and it would still be cheaper than a dinner for two at a mid-range restaurant. Also, our plan is pretty tasty (if we do say so ourselves) and we like the idea of getting more bang for your buck when it comes to entertaining.  Still don't buy it? Read on.

See who RSVPs with an offer to bring something: $0

Everyone has a favourite summer salad, dessert idea or cocktail they love to toss together and share. Let them. You don’t need to do everything. Take your guests up on an offer to bring something small.

Music: BYO! $0

Bring a Bluetooth speaker with a line-in jack outside. Give your guests the heads up that everyone is responsible for a 5-10 track playlist of their favourite summer music. If they don't want to share their own, tell them they have to cue up a Spotify or Google PlayMusic station. Awesomeness ensues.

Beer: Between $0 - $20

You can go alcohol-free or BYOB, but if you want to mix it up a bit, (while you're assigning music playlists) ask your guests to bring 6 of their favourite summer drinks to share. People like the idea of showing off their great taste and beer aisle discoveries and knowing they'll get to try some other savvy guests choices makes it fun too.

Of course, you can make your own beer or wine and cut this cost way down year round.  We can talk you through it!  Check out our posts on great homebrew and how to make your own wine.

Appetizer: Grilled Flatbread: $2

This 5-minute bread variation is fantastic. Oil your grill, BBQ the flatbread, toss it with a bit of butter and salt, and serve to the guests ahead of the main course. Add a salsa or favourite sauce to dip it in, if you like. It is crowd pleaser and even those weirdos guests who avoid ‘carbs’ will enjoy watching this bread cooking on the BBQ.

Veggie: Grilled mixed veggies $8

We bought a BBQ Grill basket years ago and it basically doesn't leave the grill now. Keep it oiled and pre-heat. Toss an assortment of onions, peppers, zucchini or whatever else is in season with some canola oil and Montreal Steak Spice (No, it isn't just for meat and yes, this is an inside joke to see if Robin proof-reads everything I write. I'm notorious for putting Montreal Steak Spice on everything to see if it works). Grill away on the side while the main course cooks.

Salad: Bagged Salad $5-6

We're normally all for DIY, but when you look at the rest of the menu here and realize how busy you're going to be around the grill, cut yourself some slack. Bagged salads are quick and painless and will give your Side-dish game a bit of punch that you would otherwise have to shop the whole store and spend a lot of prep time to get. We've written at length about a favourite we have, but your grocery store probably has some that will make you look like a culinary wizard too.

Chicken: $10-$15

Sure, burgers are more conventional, but nothing pleases a whole crowd easier than chicken. On sale, you can get a couple “Roasters” and quarter them yourself. Grill them up (be sure to put a drip tray in your grill to prevent chicken flare-ups) with a few different sauces to please a variety of palates (our favourite is a simple 50/50 – maple syrup/soy sauce baste), and serve. Sticky fingers abound!

Dessert: $5

Go ahead and laugh now, but when you pull out a box of no-name fudge bars, ice cream sandwiches or space pops, your guests will think you’re a genius. Usually no one has room for a big dessert anyways, and after all that time in front of the grill, you’ll appreciate the simple, cold treats. Pretend it is ironic if you like – we won’t tell.

Decor: $2

Keep it casual and low-key. You didn’t put your Christmas lights too far away in storage did you? No. Good – get a few strands out and hang them around your fence. Don’t forget to hit the dollar store for a few Citronella candles to keep the bugs away too.

Do you have a favourite dish to serve at your BBQs?

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