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Plan the Perfect Summer Cookout on a Budget

summer cookoutSummer is here and if you want to spend time with family and friends you may be planning the perfect summer cookout.  Spending a day outside with good food is a great way to spend your weekends, but providing food for big groups of people can be very expensive.

If you want to plan a summer cookout with ribs, chicken corn on the cob, macaroni salad and coleslaw here’s how you can do it on a budget.

Shop and compare prices by ounce

One of the best ways to save money at the grocery store is to shop by unit price instead of overall price.  Most price tags show the cost per unit and if they don’t do some quick math on your phone – or if you’re lucky in your head.  If the cost of chicken per ounce puts you over budget move on to the next best thing which may be hot dogs and hamburgers.

Always buy your items bulk

When shopping for items like plates, forks, cups and napkins always shop in bulk.  Those types of things can be used year round and therefore never go to waste.  It’s worth it to spend an extra $2 if you’re getting double the quantity.  Be sure to compare apples to apples when buying supplies.  How much is the cost of 100 Bounty napkins versus 100 no name napkins?  Throw the cheapest one into your shopping cart.

Freeze leftovers

If you’re planning the perfect summer cookout and guests end up cancelling at the last minute your mind probably automatically starts thinking about all the money you spent and all the food that’s now going to go to waste.  But wait, it doesn’t have to be wasted because you can freeze leftovers.  Party hosts usually over plan when it comes to food because having too much is better than not having enough.  That’s not true for your budget, but it is true for your guests.  US News also says to stock up on frozen foods as appetizers and desserts as a way to help stretch your dollar.

Home cook what you can

Of course it’s much easier to buy a big tub of coleslaw or pick up a bucket of fried chicken, but is that really what’s best for your wallet?  Just remember that money saved on food can be used towards something else, another fun activity like the next summer cookout on Labor Day.  Big parties can be planned on small budgets if you DIY as much as you can.

Shop ahead of time

If you wait until the very last minute to buy all the food you may find yourself overpaying because of necessity and desperation.  It’s much better to scan flyers and shop over a couple of weeks leading up to the party so you can make sure you’re buying food and drinks at the very best price.  Enlist the help of your spouse, your friends and your family to look for the best deals.

Forget buying alcohol for everyone

Providing drinks for a large group of people at a summer cookout can be expensive, actually it will be very expensive.  You can save a ton of money if you have guests bring their own alcohol.  That’s fair because you’re providing the venue, food and entertainment (music).  The least the guests can do is pay out of pocket for their own drinks.

No decorations needed

Skip the decorations at your summer cookout and save a lot of money.  The outdoors is ambiance enough, especially during sunset and evening.  Colorful table cloths are a cheap way to add some fun colors to your backyard BBQ.

Don’t plan a sit down dinner

A sit down dinner usually implies an expensive dinner.  Let people grab food throughout the afternoon, walk around and socialize.  It helps save money and more of the food will most likely be eaten because your guests will continue to snack into the evening and maybe even have a midnight bite to eat.

No name is O.K.

So often no name products get a bad name, but sometimes (not all the time) the quality is comparable and the price per unit is much better.  When it comes to food be sure you splurge for quality, but supplies don’t have to be top notch.  Paper plates are usually cheaper than plastic and white utensils are cheaper than colored ones.  Little tips like that can help save big bucks.  Also remember that Pinterest is your friend.  Scan boards to find party theme ideas and money saving tips.

Are you planning a summer cookout this year?  What’s your favorite food?

About the author

TK

TK is a Certified Financial Planner with over 15 years of experience in the banking industry. She started blogging in 2009 after the market crash. TK enjoys helping people plan their retirement, pay off debt, invest wisely, live on a budget and enjoy happy financial lives. You can see what she’s up to on Twitter @TahnyaKristina.

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