Are you planning a great outdoor BBQ for Memorial Day, Labor Day, or the 4th of July? Or maybe you’re just looking to throw a simple barbecue cookout or birthday party.
Either way, you probably don’t want to spend a fortune. Well you’re in luck, because here are 13 ways to throw an awesome, cheap summer party on a budget!
Summer entertaining can actually be quite inexpensive with these cheap BBQ ideas!
You can feed your family and friends, and have a fun and memorable time doing it.
This post may contain affiliate links. You can view my full disclosure policy here.
You May Also Like:
- 120 Free and Cheap Summer Activities
- Ultimate List of the Best Summer Movies
- How to Throw a Fabulous Holiday Party on a Budget
- 25 of the Best Dollar Store Party Supplies
- Indoor Grilling: 7 Ways to BBQ Without a Grill (or even a backyard!)
How do I plan a BBQ on a budget?
1. Determine your budget
How much does it cost to host a BBQ? Well, it’s up to you!
The first step in throwing a bbq on a budget is to decide what that budget actually is! Depending on what size crowd you expect, a $50-$100 budget is perfectly reasonable.
How much you have (or want) to spend will help determine the grilling menu, decorations, drinks, and how many people you can invite.
2. Make guest list
An easy way to stay within your summer entertaining budget is to keep your guest list small. The fewer people you invite, the more you can spend per person.
Plus, it’s simply best practice to invite just the people you like, and who like each other. There’s no need to have 25 guests unless you really want to.
Inviting the right people is more important than inviting everyone anyway.
3. Make it a potluck
There’s no shame in asking people to bring a dish. In fact, most people like it!
They’ve probably seen some fun summer recipes on Pinterest that they’ve been wanting an excuse to try.
Or they have a signature dish that everyone always praises them for that they would be willing to bring.
To ensure you don’t get lots of duplicates, you can ask a few people to bring side dishes, and others to bring drinks or desserts.
Even more specifically, you can ask people to bring something in particular (like a salad), to make sure all bases are covered.
4. Borrow serving pieces
Instead of buying a bunch of pricey serving platters, ask to borrow some.
Most people are happy to share what they have, because they spent money on them, and want them to get good use.
5. Save on ice
For a week or two before the party, start saving ice from your freezer in large Ziploc bags.
That will help save on the cost of buying ice at the grocery or corner store.
And it will ensure you have backup ice when the first batch melts.
Plus, there’s something kind of seriously annoying about buying ice. Or is that just me?
6. Shop at Aldi
Stocking up on condiments, buns, cheese, chips, and veggies at a discount store like Aldi will save you SO MUCH money.
You can probably buy everything you need at Aldi, but I find the items above to be where the biggest savings is.
7. Save on decorations
Truthfully, most people don’t even notice decorations. They’re usually far more interested in the food and other guests.
If you do want to have some cute BBQ decorations, check out your local dollar store.
Some basic string lights (for when the sun goes down) will have the most impact for little cost. And you can use them all summer!
Planning your cheap BBQ menu
8. Check your pantry before choosing the menu
When you’re brainstorming cheap BBQ menu ideas for a crowd, be sure to first check your pantry and freezer.
You’ll probably come up with some great items you can serve as side dishes at your party.
Got a few boxes of pasta? You could make pasta salad or macaroni and cheese.
A bag of dried beans could be used for baked beans. Or a jar or two of salsa could help make a tasty appetizer.
9. Plan your menu based on store sales
Every week the front cover of your grocery store sales flyer is covered with the best deals on meats and vegetables.
Quite often, those sale items are discounted 50% or more!
The more of your menu that you can plan around these sales, the further you can stretch your barbecue budget.
10. Use your slow cooker
Ah, the beauty of the slow cooker. You might not think about using it for your backyard barbecue, but hear me out!
Using the slow cooker saves you time, because you don’t have to stand there stirring a pot or watching something cook.
Plus, it keeps your kitchen from getting too hot. And saves on grilling fuel like propane or charcoal.
You can also use it to make cheap side dishes like corn on the cob, baked potatoes, or baked beans.
Or you can make inexpensive BBQ pulled pork or chicken by simply adding the meat and some barbeque sauce to your Crock Pot, and letting it cook low and slow all day.
11. Make kabobs
If you’re feeding a really large group, kabobs aren’t the best route. No one wants to skewer meat and veggies for 100 guests obviously.
But if you’re having a smaller crowd, shish kabobs are an excellent way to stretch your meat budget.
Instead of everyone getting their own steak or chicken breast, they get smaller pieces mixed in with vegetables.
They won’t realize they’re getting less though, because they’ll be so impressed that you put forth the effort to make such a special dish!
12. Don’t buy expensive meats
Summer BBQ parties don’t have to include steaks and ribs for everyone.
Burgers and hot dogs are much more affordable. A ‘bar’ format like a burger bar or hot dog bar are some of the cheapest ways to serve food at a party.
People love it! It feels festive, and they have fun picking and choosing from all the different toppings.
Or if you want to serve chicken, try cheaper cuts like wings or thighs instead of boneless, skinless chicken breasts.
13. Serve cheap drinks
The cost of individual cans of soda and bottles of water add up really fast. If you’re going to serve soda, 2-liters with plastic cups will save a ton of money.
Your best bet is to serve big pitchers with lemonade and ice water.
If you’re planning to serve alcohol, don’t feel the need to provide $20 bottles of wine or a full bar.
Choose one signature cocktail, a spiked punch, or regular cans of beer.
Or better yet, make it a BYOB!
Go forth, and celebrate on a budget
As you can see from these cheap BBQ entertaining ideas, your summer cookout party can work on almost any budget.
Grilling out is actually a very affordable way to entertain a crowd!
Choosing the right budget, the right people, and the right food are the most important components to any great party.
Enjoy your summer barbecue!
Be sure to also check out:
The Ultimate Summer Bucket List: 120 Free and Cheap Summer Activities
Ultimate List Of The Best Summer Movies
13 Easy & Fun Ways to Make Your House Smell Like Summer
Grilling Indoors: How to BBQ without a Grill (or even a backyard!)
51 Things To Do Before Vacation (+ free vacation preparation checklist printable!)
How to Throw a Fabulous Holiday Party on a Budget