Back Yard Barbecues That Won’t Break the Bank
It's summer. And since we all have to eat anyway, why not incorporate it into our entertainment agenda and have some folks over for a barbecue? Following are several ideas to pull off a successfully hosted event without busting your budget. (See also: Sexy Summer Dinners: 5 Great Hot-Weather Meal Ideas)
The first item on your agenda when planning a backyard get together is what to cook. Once that's taken care of, you can move on to desserts and after dinner activities. Here are five menu plans to get you started.
Grilled Steak Salad
Looking for a way to feed 4-6 people on a single piece of meat. Look no further. You can offer an impressive dinner salad with thin, diagonally cut slices of a decent sized grilled steak on a bed of mixed spring greens or spinach, home grown grape tomatoes, sliced onions, and pan roasted corn salsa. Close the top of the grill and toss in a foil covered garlic bread from the grocery store to cook along with the steak. Dress it up with a DIY berry or pumpkin vinaigrette and a bottle of Our Daily Red wine. Sexy. Simple. Affordable. Perfect for a date or getting together with another couple for a grown ups' evening.
These really are a fun and visually dramatic way to stretch your meat and produce pennies. Using either beef, pork or chicken chunks, onion wedges, small to medium mushrooms, and cut up green peppers (they're usually the cheapest), thread one piece of each in repeated succession onto moistened grilling skewers until each one is full. Prepare as many as you need to feed the number of people you'll be hosting. (I find 2-3 per person is fine.) Put a batch of rice in the rice cooker and chill up an appropriate amount of your favorite microbrew. You can individualize this with various basting sauces or marinades. Pick what fits your tastes and budget. Incidentally, you could also modify this menu only slightly and get a whole different feel. Roast the vegetables in tin foil packets and slice the meat in thin lengths rather than chunks. Weave them onto the skewers and marinate in teriyaki. Stretch an affordable boxed wine even further by mixing up a homemade sangria.
Catch of the Day
Basically, you just go fishing and pick a side dish. Depending on where you live, your water harvest will be different. Trout, perch, lobster, clams, oysters, salmon, shrimp, halibut . . . DIY fishing can provide some seriously bountiful booty. A few frugal sides? Roasted garden corn, thinly sliced potatoes with butter, salt and pepper in tin foil packets and grilled vegetables such as eggplant, asparagus, zucchini or red peppers. Field greens or Asian coleslaw are also budget friendly. If you're really worried about picky younger eaters, throw on a pot of rice. For drinks, mix up some freezer slush margaritas or other make ahead freezer cocktails.
Gourmet Hot Dogs
Smoked sausages, cheapie coupon hot dogs, tofu pups . . . any of these can get the job done. Toast the rolls on the grill as well and have several stuffing and topping options available such as chili, cheese sauce, specialty relishes, chopped onions, homemade ketchup and a gourmet mustard or two. Have a huge batch of your favorite bean recipe in a crock, or go the easy route and pick up a bulk number ten can or two of precooked ones from your favorite warehouse store. Suggested beverage for this menu plan? Hard lemonade.
The Vegan Special
Grill larger slices of vegetables and serve with fresh pita bread and either hummus or motobal. Add tabouleh if you're feeling energetic, and serve with Syrian arak or cold lemon with mint for drinks.
What about dessert?
I wouldn't let you down. Here are a few of my favorite summer picks.
Ice cream toppings bar
Pick a simple vanilla, a couple of sauce options, some cherries and a sprinkle choice or two. Or celebrate the simplicity and richness of homemade ice cream on its own for a more "back to basics" type of event.
Coupon purchased whipped topping, berries from your yard, and homemade biscuits combine for a simple seasonal treat.
Another flavorful and affordable treat that's great with whipped topping.
Frozen banana treats or homemade popsicles
Linsey's already done an awesome job of providing recipes for these, so I won't repeat the process here.
Loads of options are out these for this, many of them without frosting, which is a major calorie saver. Here's a recipe for a blueberry one.
Brownies and cookies
You can make up some traditional chocolate chip dough for the freezer, or have a bulk batch of brownie mix to make up an 8 x 8 inch pan on the fly. Each of these is really enough of a treat in its own right, but you could dress them up in the form of brownie Sundaes or ice cream cookie sandwiches.
Lots of flavors are available here. Lemon, mango, strawberry . . . take your pick.
Often overlooked as something you can make at home, these are wildly popular with kids of all ages. Easily enough even when cut in two, these are tasty with both traditional and peanut butter fillings.
Who doesn't love these?
If you're just doing this as a weekday dinner option, then structured activities probably aren't on your list of things to worry about. But if you're having folks over, or it's family night Friday, you may want to incorporate one of the following.
If you don't have a pool, waterfront, or nearby neighborhood swimming hole, consider at least turning on the sprinkler and letting the kids go nuts.
Family friendly or romantic. Take your pick.
Easy conversation, after dinner cocktails and roasting marshmallows with the kids. Doesn't get much more relaxing or affordable than that.
Oh play me some mountain music, like Grandma and Grandpa used to play...
OK, so maybe country tunes aren't your thing. So leave the Delta Dawn renditions for another event and go for House of the Rising Sun or Sweet Child of Mine. If you don't play guitar, invite someone who does.
A round of cards
Julie recently covered this as an affordable entertainment option for kids. Bonus? Many adults enjoy card games as well. Definitely a frugal backyard entertaining option.
Get everyone in the game
This takes a larger crowd and a bigger back yard, but lots of affordable options exist here as well: kickball, volleyball and croquet are just a few.
Here's one for the urbanites. Invite everyone in your apartment building to a grilling party on the roof. Bring some tunes for after dinner dancing. The card game and sing along ideas would work here as well.
Other money saving tips?
- Don't worry about the decorations.
- Throw a pot luck.
- Take advantage of seasonal sales on meats, condiments, etc.
OK Wise Bread readers, that's my best shot. You now have plenty of resources to host a back yard barbecue for less. So hurry up and get partying. No excuses. Have fun everybody!