Great Summertime Grilling for Any Budget


Grilling at home is a beloved summer activity but it can get really expensive, depending on what you buy and how often you grill it. In addition to the cost of food, you also have to pay for fuel to run the grill. A gas grill is cheaper to run than a charcoal grill, at about $1 per grilling session versus about $3 for a charcoal grill. But buying a gas grill is more expensive up front than a charcoal grill, depending on which grill you choose. I switched to a gas grill years ago, and the higher cost of the gas grill has been offset by the lower cost of operation over the years. (See also: 10 Reasons You Should Be Grilling on Gas)

I investigated prices for items to grill at my local grocery store and found several items you can grill for $1 or less per four-ounce serving, or $4 per pound. Chicken and vegetables are the big winners for the cheapest things to grill. Watch out for steaks and fish, as these pricier items can run over $5 per four-ounce serving. Using my account at my grocery store, Hy-Vee Aisles Online, I was able to gather these prices per serving. Prices in your area may vary somewhat, but these 24 items are sure to be among the cheapest things you can make on the grill.

1. Bananas

You can throw bananas right on the grill for a very cheap grilled dessert. Add flavors such as vanilla or cinnamon for a novel treat.

Cost: 15 cents per serving.

2. Chicken drumsticks

Add barbecue sauce or Sriracha sauce to chicken drumsticks before grilling for some flavorful grilled protein.

Cost: 24 cents per serving.

3. Chicken thighs

Not everyone likes chicken drumsticks, so grill some cheap chicken thighs, too.

Cost: 25 cents per serving.

4. Pineapple

Once McDonald's tried to sell a hamburger with a grilled slice of pineapple instead of meat. It didn’t catch on at McDonald's, but grilled pineapple is a cheap side dish, or you can throw it on a bun with condiments for a great vegetarian option.

Cost: 26 cents per serving.

5. Hot dogs (store or cheap brand)

Hot dogs are one of the cheapest meats you can grill, especially if you go for the cheapest brand.

Cost: 35 cents per serving.

6. Onions

Throw some sliced onions on a sheet of aluminum foil with some butter, and you’ll have a grilled treat to put on top of hamburgers or to serve as a side dish.

Cost: 44 cents per serving.

7. Zucchini

There is no reason not to grill some vegetables along with your meat. Wrap some sliced zucchini in foil with a pat of butter for some easy grilled veggies.

Cost: 50 cents per serving.

See also: 15 Grilled Veggie Dishes That Hold Their Own With Meat

8. Eggplant

Slice up an eggplant, spray it with cooking oil, and grill it up for a side dish or even to put on a bun and eat as a veggie alternative to a hamburger.

Cost: 50 cents per serving.

9. Corn on the cob

With a little prep, you can grill a couple ears of sweet corn for well under $1 and avoid running the microwave on a hot day.

Cost: 67 cents per serving.

10. Chicken breasts (boneless/skinless)

Serve grilled chicken breasts on a bun, or on their own as a main course for well under $1 per serving.

Cost: 75 cents per serving.

11. Ground beef

You can sometimes find special offers on cheap ground beef, so stock up and put it in your freezer for cheap grilling all summer long.

Cost: 75 cents per serving.

12. Jalapeño peppers

Add some spice to your meals by grilling some fresh jalapeño peppers. Spray them with cooking oil and put them right on the grill or set them on a sheet of aluminum foil. Add some cheese in the middle of each pepper before grilling to make your own jalapeño poppers.

Cost: 75 cents per serving.

13. Pork loin

Grilled pork tastes great and is typically cheaper than most cuts of beef.

Cost: 83 cents per serving.

14. Pork loin butterfly chop

This is another cheap alternative to more expensive steaks.

Cost: 83 cents per serving.

15. Hamburger (fresh, 80% lean)

You can upgrade to fresh ground hamburger for a few cents more per serving, which can be worth it for the extra flavor.

Cost: 83 cents per serving.

16. Beef ribs

I picked up a cheap pack of boneless beef ribs and it was one of the best things I have grilled so far this year.

Cost: 87 cents per serving.

17. Frozen pizza

You can actually cook a pizza on your grill. This can be a great alternative to firing up your oven inside on a hot day. A grilled cheese pizza or veggie pizza is a nice option at your cookout for people who are not carnivores.

Cost: 93 cents per serving.

18. Ground chuck (steak burger)

Ground steak makes for delicious hamburgers, and even though it seems like it would be a pricey meat option, you can try ground chuck steak without going over $1 per serving.

Cost: $1.00 per serving.

19. Pork top loin chops

Pork typically costs less than beef, making it ideal for cheap grilling. A pork top loin chop is a boneless cut from the loin, which is lean and tender meat.

Cost: $1.00 per serving.

20. Pork loin rib-eye chop

Pork loin rib-eyes are a boneless pork chop cut from the rib area of the pork loin.

Cost: $1.00 per serving.

21. Pork loin porterhouse chop

A pork loin porterhouse chop usually has a "T" shaped bone in the cut and includes a section of loin on one side and tenderloin on the other.

Cost: $1.00 per serving.

22. Asparagus

Asparagus is an easy vegetable to grill and adds some class to any grilled meal.

Cost: $1.00 per serving.

23. Ground Turkey

The ground turkey was a bit higher than $1 per serving at my grocery store on the day I checked prices, but with a bit of digging I am sure ground turkey can be found for less than $4 per pound to bring it into the realm of cheap grilling.

Cost: $1.05 per serving.

24. Bratwurst

Bratwurst was also a bit higher than $1 per 4 oz serving at my local store, but this price was for some fresh bratwurst in a variety of flavors. With some power shopping, cheaper bratwurst can be had and enjoyed for less than $1 per serving.

Cost: $1.07 per serving.

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