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With summer just around the corner, grilling outdoors is about to become a weekly staple. And, if you plan to invite folks over for a BBQ on the regular, you may be worried about blowing your budget and dipping into your savings account.
The good news is: With a little advanced planning, you can enjoy the wonderful weather, good company and delicious food without sweating bullets. Just heed these 10 summer BBQ hacks and you’ll be on your way to saving money.
Choose Cheaper Cuts of Meat
Merilee Speigner, Founder of the Debt Snowball Calculator says that, “chicken drumsticks are one of the best options for BBQing because they are not only inexpensive but they also stay moist because it’s dark meat.” Plus, according to Speigner, “drumsticks are also perfectly casual…people are already expecting ‘messy’ for BBQs!”
Grill More Veggies
Adding more veggies to the mix can help keep costs low. Vegetables are generally much cheaper during the summer and there’s no shortage of delicious veggie recipes these days. You can add more veggies (or fruit if you prefer) to seafood or meat kebabs and other recipes to make meals stretch further.
Keep the Decor Simple
Look no further than your local dollar store for affordable party decorations. Of course, if you happen to be good at crafting, Pinterest has no shortage of ideas for creating a festive theme without breaking the bank. If you plan to host a few BBQs this summer, then be sure to recycle or repurpose your decorations for each one.
Stock up on meat during summer sales
If you already have a membership at a warehouse store such as BJ’s or Costco, then this is a great place to buy meat in bulk at any time of the year. Outside of this, most grocery stores often run promos on BBQ food items throughout the summer, and especially around major holidays. For example, hotdogs, hamburgers and pork ribs are often cheapest during the Fourth of July weekend. You may also consider investing in a chest freezer in order to stock up on meat when prices are more affordable.
Make it BYOB…
This is not to say that you should have zero alcohol on hand but rather, it indicates that you don’t plan to spend hundreds of dollars on drinks. Plus, your guests can bring their beverage of choice. Creating a signature cocktail, serving homemade iced tea and fruit-infused water are also excellent thirst-quenchers that you can provide that won’t break the budget.
…And/or Potluck Style
Diana Farmen, a middle school teacher and founder of Diana on a Dime, says that when it comes to budget hacks for summer BBQs, “I always recommend a potluck.” After all, as the saying goes, food always tastes better with company. And, as Farmen says, (a potluck) “cuts down the cost for everyone and allows for a wide variety of dishes.” Another good rule of thumb: Create a group chat so that everyone doesn’t bring the same side dishes.
Ditch the Pre-Made Extras
“It can be very easy to get sucked into the grocery stores’ BBQ prepped food, but by making it yourself, (you can save a considerable amount of money). For example, “a fruit salad can be made from fruit in season or on sale.” says Farmen. “Take a few minutes to cut them up yourself instead of paying for the convenience of a store prepping it.” The same principle can be applied to pretty much any side such as guacamole!
Take Care of Your Grill
By properly maintaining your grill, it can last you for many years to come. The good news is that you don’t need to invest a lot to keep your grill in tip top shape, according to Cecilia Paola, a young wife and mother in New Jersey. She says that when it comes to cleaning your grill, “a grill brush with soap and water works perfectly.”
Don’t Go Crazy on Grilling Accessories
Many of us are guilty of purchasing kitchen gadgets that we never end up using. Avoid going down this same route by investing in three key items to start: a sturdy set of tongs, a good meat thermometer and a grill brush. There’s a good chance that you’ll be able to find the other accessories you need by taking a quick look through your cupboards.
Make Enough For Weekly Meal Prep
One great way to reduce your per-meal fuel cost is to cook enough leftovers that will last a couple of days. This will also save you time during the week and help you avoid the need to order takeout.
Summer-Proof Your Budget
It’s important to budget for every season since our spending habits change just like the weather. Summer happens to be the second most expensive season – a time when people tend to overspend during longer, warmer days. Creating a separate “summer fun money stash” is a great move if you want to avoid slipping into credit card debt.
And one of the easiest ways to save money for BBQ season is by automating your savings. Chime makes it easy for you to do this by helping you to save as soon as you get paid. If you open a Chime bank account and select Automatic Savings, Chime will automatically transfer a percentage of every paycheck directly into your savings account.
It’s also important to create a budget for non-fun items that can easily derail your budget during this time of year. Last summer, for example, the AC in my car suddenly stopped working. However, because I had been funding my miscellaneous spending account during the prior few months, handling an unexpected $600 expense was no sweat off my back.
Now that you’ve learned how to take the heat off your summer budget, it’s time to fire up the grill and make the most out of the next few months!