Summer is just around the corner, and what better way to celebrate than hosting a backyard BBQ party?
These days, of course, everybody is feeling the pinch of inflation, particularly where groceries are concerned. But you don’t have to let a tight budget eliminate all your summer fun. A great backyard BBQ is possible without breaking the bank. All you need is the right mixture of guests and creativity, plus a little food and drink, to get the party started.
Here are some practical tips and ideas that can help you host a fabulous backyard party without straining your wallet:
Go for Intimate Gatherings Instead of Blow-Outs
Probably the number one key to a fantastic party of any kind is your guest list – and it’s OK to be selective. Just because you’re grilling in your backyard, don’t feel like you have to extend an invitation to the entire neighborhood – or even everybody you know.
Carefully curate your guest list by including the family and friends you enjoy spending time with the most, whether that’s family or friends. An intimate gathering of eight or 10 people can be a lot more mentally engaging and relaxed than a party with 25 or 30 people that you barely know.
Limiting your guest list is also a surefire way to eliminate a lot of your expenses – especially if your gang is on board with the idea of helping to make the evening memorable.
Opt for a Potluck-Style Feast
One way to significantly cut your costs is to throw a potluck BBQ. This is a time-honored tradition among a lot of friends and families already.
You can basically take two different approaches for a potluck supper:
- You provide all the meat. This is the preference of many backyard chefs, since that means you can marinate early and show off the full extent of your skills on the grill. You can ask your guests to contribute to the rest of the feast by bringing a side dish or a dessert.
- You ask your guests to bring their own meat. The host does the grilling and provides all the sides and desserts. This is a little more unusual, but it can be a good solution if you have guests with disparate tastes. That leaves the menu open for everything from burgers and hot dogs to seafood and steak – or even vegetarian options.
Just make sure that you spread the word about the expectations so that nobody is unpleasantly surprised when they show up.
Embrace the “BYOB” Policy
If there’s alcohol involved in your backyard BBQ plans, a “BYOB” policy can significantly cut down your overhead. Beer, wine and liquor are expensive, and supplying everybody with their preferred options can get very pricey, very fast.
Let your guests know that it’s a “bring your own drink” party and that they should bring whatever they want to drink with them. You can supply the cups, the ice and any mixers (colas and other sodas) they might need.
Keep the Menu Simple and Seasonal
Maybe you prefer not to ask your guests to bring anything – and that’s OK, too! You can still cut your costs by being selective about your menu items if you stick with one basic policy: Simplicity is key.
Opt for affordable cuts of meat like chicken, hotdogs or hamburgers instead of expensive steaks or seafood – but dress them up with your favorite marinades and homemade sauces. Seasonal fruits and vegetables can be a budget-friendly addition to salads and sides, and you can slim down your liquor costs by creating one or two “signature” drinks for the party and limiting the options. For dessert, opt for something finger-friendly that you can make at home, like cupcakes or brownies.
Go for DIY Decorations and Ambiance
You don’t have to splurge on decorations to create a festive atmosphere. Stick with easy and inexpensive decorations like fairy lights strung up around your deck or in the trees around the backyard and use Mason jars to hold citronella candles.
Tiki torches can be found at bargain prices, and they can add to the ambiance you want to create. So can the right music, so make a playlist of your favorite tunes and set up some speakers so that you can get the upbeat tunes going early.
You can also create a fun atmosphere by having some easy entertainment set up – and you can probably find some of these in your garage or borrow them from friends:
- Set out some board games or card games, like Monopoly or Uno, on your picnic bench or table.
- If you have a couple of those “giant checker” games with rugs for the playing board, toss them on the ground.
- Look for yard games like cornhole or Tic-Tac-Toe. Set out bubbles and sidewalk chalk and encourage your friends to let their inner children out to play.
- Set up a S’mores station near the fire pit, where guests can entertain themselves by making their own toasted treats.
- Get out the Nerf guns or water guns and challenge willing guests to an after-dinner battle.
Even the way you organize your lawn furniture can contribute to the party atmosphere. You can easily encourage a sense of community and fun by locating all of the chairs in small groups or in a circle.
Throwing an unforgettable backyard BBQ party on a budget is entirely achievable with a little planning, creativity and resourcefulness. Potluck-style gatherings or a simplified menu can easily cut your costs, as can DIY decorations and clever shopping strategies.
Remember, the true essence of a BBQ party lies in great company, a fun atmosphere and lots of laughs. So, roll up your sleeves, fire up the grill and get ready to create lasting memories with your loved ones.