With summer on the horizon and the weather getting warmer (most days!), the time is ripe for barbecues and grilling. Hosting a group of friends and family for an outdoor gathering is a great way to entertain frugally if you do it right. Here are some tips to help you save some money on barbequing and still have your event be a hit.

  1. Make it a Potluck: don’t try and carry the weight of the entire meal on your shoulders at your barbecue. The best thing about barbecues is that it is generally expected that guests should bring something to contribute.
  2. Give People an Idea of What to Bring: decide what you would like to provide at your own barbecue, i.e. meat on the grill. Then have your guests fill in the blanks. However, to make sure that you don’t end up with 50 bowls of pasta salad, try giving your guests a category of food they should bring. For example, tell some guests to bring appetizers, some to bring dessert, etc.
  3. Dietary Restrictions and Allergies: try to be informed as to dietary restrictions and allergies so that you don’t prepare food that your guest won’t eat!
  4. Make Skewers: skewers are a great way to make the most of the meat you purchase. It breaks up the meat with some veggies to make for a nice, filling snack on a stick. Skewers have a great presentation and work wonderfully for portion control.
  5. Fill Them Up on Carbs: instead of spending a ton on lots of meat or expensive cuts of meat, fill your guests up on things like pasta salad, potato salad and inexpensive side dishes.

    Here are some great ideas for sides from About.com:

    And no BBQ is complete without pasta salad. It’s easy to customize with ingredients you have on hand and it’s cheap to make. Take a look at this article from Cheap Party Food for a guide to making a great pasta salad.

  6. Inexpensive Meat: if you want to prepare meat for your guest on the grill, try going for the more inexpensive cuts.
  7. Buy in Bulk: BBQ’s are instances when it will behoove you to take advantage of bulk sales, especially in May and early June. May is also a great time to buy barbecue supplies, so stock up while you can, especially if you’re planning on entertaining frequently throughout the summer.
  8. Make the Most of Your Ingredients: creating dishes that share ingredients is a great way to save money while cooking for others. For example, if you have a big bag of potatoes that you got on sale, use them to make potato salad, put them on some of your skewers, wrap them up with some tin foil with other veggies, etc.

What are some of your best tips for hosting a barbecue on the cheap? Let us know in the comments – and thanks for being a Tip Hero!