7 Surefire Ways to Save on Grilling


Grilling season is upon us. Are you ready? With a little planning ahead and some keen creativity, you can rock your summer barbecues on a budget and still eat like royalty. Here are some outdoor cooking cost cutters to try this year.

1. Research Your Meat

If you plan to grill meat often this season, consider buying in bulk. One of my friends actually buys a whole cow from a local farmer and splits it with her neighbor because it's the most cost-effective option in our area. You can inquire about prices for half a cow or other types of meat. Buying from your farmer is a great, affordable option that also lets you support the local economy.

Don't have the storage space? Tiffany at Don't Waste the Crumbs suggests buying cheaper or less popular cuts of meat, like chuck roast rather than filet mignon. And consider swapping in poultry for beef from time to time to keep things interesting. Yes, you could grill yet another hamburger, but why not try chopping chicken and skewering it on a kabob for a change? (See also: Skewer This! 13 Dishes You Can Put on a Stick)

Whatever you do, it's wise to do the legwork to find out which farmers (and grocers, butchers, etc.) in your area offer the best prices for their meat. Some farms offer CSA meat options that will come along with your weekly produce. Is your grocery store having a sale? Stock up on what you can and what your space will allow you to stow away.

2. Think Outside the Beef

Or skip the meat entirely — at least sometimes. As a longtime vegetarian, I assure you there are so many different kinds of vegetable and fruit dishes you can grill that will dazzle your friends and family. Plus, you can pick many of these foods directly from your own garden. Try grilling pineapple rings for dessert, mastering black bean burgers, or making cauliflower steaks. (See also: 15 Grilled Veggie Dishes That Hold Their Own Without Meat)

We make our own grilled pizza topped with loads of seasonal veggies. Once you get all your pizza components ready and laid out (crust, sauce, and toppings), it's just a matter of getting the hang of the grilling process. Turn up your gas grill to high, then drop to medium and brush grates with olive oil. Place dough on the grill and flip after a minute before adding your sauce and toppings. Everything should be melted and delicious after only another couple minutes.

3. Shun Store-Bought Spices

You can make your own dry rubs and sauces to dress up your meals at a fraction of the price you'll find at the store. Need inspiration? Make this quick and tasty steak rub by combining ingredients you might already have in your pantry. Mix together salt, black pepper, raw sugar, beef bouillon, onion flakes, oregano, thyme, cumin, cocoa powder, cayenne pepper, and smoked paprika. Store in an airtight container for freshness.

The best part? Over time, you can customize this blend to suit your unique tastes.

4. Repurpose Leftovers

Get a little overzealous with your barbecue endeavors? It happens to the best of us. If you find yourself with leftover heaps of grilled foods, put them in your weekly meal rotation to eliminate waste. My aunt loves tossing last night's grilled steak onto lunchtime salads. This steak salad with herbs is a fresh and flavorful jumping off point for your own culinary ideas. Thinly slice steak against the grain and then toss it in with arugula, herbs, eggplant, and corn. Top with a zesty vinaigrette. Yum!

5. Skip Accessories

There are entire aisles dedicated to grilling accessories at your local shop. The thing is, you don't need much (if any) of this stuff. My dad has been grilling up meals for our family for decades and he mostly uses a thermometer to gauge meat temperature and a sturdy set of tongs to flip and grab. With those two things and a good oven mitt, he's set.

Before you stock up on the coolest looking gizmos and gadgets, think about what the basics can do and add the rest to your birthday or Christmas wish lists.

6. Make Your Own

Then there's the matter of tricking out your whole setup. Think you need to spend big bucks making your grill area look legit? Think again. For example, this impressive DIY grill station cost just $60 and took only an hour to build. All you have to do is buy some cinder blocks for the base and some patio stones to make a counter top. Start with a level surface and pile the blocks atop one another. Top with your patio stones and then give the whole thing a coat of fresh paint for added flair.

7. Protect Your Investment

Whether you use a charcoal or gas grill, you need to maintain it so it's working the best it can from year to year. Lowe's suggests regularly cleaning off the flame tamers with a wire brush to ditch debris that accumulates there. You should also check your burners to make sure they don't clog up. You can prevent food and bacteria buildup on the cooking grates by brushing them and then coating in cooking oil to prevent rust.

Perhaps most important: Inspect all fuel lines and clean tubing to keep your grill running safely. And clean the exterior of your grill to keep it looking new (covering it or storing in a shed/garage in the off-season will help).

How do you save money on grilling? Share with us!

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