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Summer Barbecue Hacks: Five Ways to Keep Costs Down

cookout savings

Summer is here, which means it’s time to plan for all of those summer barbecues. If you are looking to keep costs down, you’ve come to the right place. Maybe you always host the neighborhood Independence Day celebration. Or, maybe you prefer more spur-of-the-moment gatherings, which come together after a day at the pool with friends.

Either way, the costs to host those summer gatherings can add up to a whole bunch of dough … and not the tasty kind, either. In fact, Fortune magazine calculated a couple of years ago that the cost to make a simple hamburger at home has shot up 27 percent in the last decade.

And that just covers the main course. You still need to provide the sides, desserts, drinks, paper products and more.

So, if your summer plans include hosting a barbecue for friends and family, here are five ways to keep costs down:

Summer Barbecue Hacks

  1. Go for cheap cuts of meat: Steak is yummy, but it’s also expensive. Boneless ribeye can sell for $10 a pound. Instead, go with all-American hamburgers, made from ground beef that sells for less than half the price of ribeye, and kid-friendly hot dogs. Instead of boneless chicken breasts, which go for about $3 per pound on average, try chicken thighs and legs, which can sell for less than $1 per pound on sale. The slow cooker also can be your friend and a money saver when you use inexpensive cuts of meat. Turn pork shoulder, for instance, into pulled pork or London broil into shredded beef for sandwiches.
  2. Ask for help: Your guests are going to offer help anyway. Take them up on it. Ask them to bring sides, paper products, desserts, beverages and even the main dishes to round out the meal. You can give them specific instructions or just see what they bring. Perhaps their family’s preferred potato salad will be your own family’s new favorite.
  3. Get a watermelon: Is there any other fruit that provides both a tasty treat and a game? The sweet, juicy fruit and popular source of seeds for seed-spitting contests is a perfect addition to any barbecue menu. It’s tasty. And, it’s cheap. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it’s among the cheapest fresh fruits for sale at about 33 cents per pound and can feed a lot of people. You’ll get about 53, six-ounce wedges from a 20-pound watermelon, according to the National Watermelon Promotion Board. And, while you’re picking up that watermelon, perhaps from your local farmers’ market, look for other deals on seasonal produce. When bought in bulk, sweet corn, for instance, can be purchased at a deep discount.
  4. Say no to soda: A case of a dozen soda cans will set you back about $7, depending on where you’re shopping and what brand you’re buying. That’s about 60 cents per person. Why not skip the soda and go with a less expensive beverage? Homemade iced tea or ice water flavored with some lemon slices are both cheaper and healthier options for you and your guests.
  5. Plan ahead: Barbecues are typically held in the summer, but that doesn’t mean you need to wait until summer to buy the items that you’ll need for them. You can prepare all year. Check the clearance aisle for deals on paper plates, napkins and utensils. Buy hot dogs and hamburgers when they go on sale and stick them in your freezer. Stock up on gallons of ice cream, marshmallows, graham crackers, chocolate bars and brownie or cake mixes when prices are cut. Always be on the lookout for deals on chips, pretzels and other snack items to store away for the big day.

With a little strategy and some help from friends and family, a carefree and inexpensive summer barbecue is within reach.

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