Now that summer is here, you are excited about firing up the backyard grill and sharing a meal with loved ones. Whether you are entertaining a smaller crowd and following distancing guidelines, or the restrictions have lifted a bit more and you can call in a larger crowd, you can still stay on budget. Here is our guide to cooking on the cheap for a crowd.
Where to buy bulk meats at big savings
- Use your club card at your local grocery store and buy whatever is on sale and build your menu around it, whether it is beef brisket, pork ribs, whole chickens, hot dogs or ground beef.
- Shop at a restaurant supply or wholesale grocery store that is open to the public (such as Cash & Carry on the West Coast, or Market Grocery in Georgia).
- Consider a membership at a store like Costco or Sam’s Club if you will use it often enough during the year to recoup the membership fee.
- Check out local butchers and small farms in your area to see if they offer a bulk purchase or hanging weight beef or pork purchase.
Cuts of meat that save you money
- Buy a roast and cut up steaks yourself, such at tri-tip roast, beef rib roast or even beef tenderloin for filet mignon. Cutting your own steaks can save you 60% or more off regular retail prices for steaks.
- Cook up inexpensive cuts like beef brisket, beef chuck pot roast or pork shoulder to create a batch of shredded meat that you can stuff inside burger buns or taco shells, or serve over steamed rice.
- Buy ground beef (or grind your own from chuck roast) to make hamburger patties or buy whole chicken and cut it up yourself.
- Ask your local butcher for seasonal deals on meat cuts.
Recipes for cheap cuts of meat
- Texas oven-roasted beef brisket
- Barbecued Beef Chuck Roast
- Mexican Style Shredded Pork
- Kalua Pig in a Slow Cooker
- Grilled Hawaiian Huli Huli Chicken
- Grilled Chicken Thighs Tandoori
- Grilled Chicken Adobo
- Basic Easy Chicken Wings
Get your guests involved
Have your guests bring their own meat and/or beverage of their choice. Or, have guests bring an appetizer, salad or dessert. Assign the dishes by alphabet. (For example, last names ending in A-F bring an appetizer, G-L bring salad, M-Z bring dessert).
Now that we have the meat out of the way, let’s turn our attention to the side dishes. Your best bet is to make your own. The least expensive sides include potatoes, beans, macaroni or pasta, and grains such as rice. Fortunately, many of these ingredients make delicious, hearty dishes that are easy on your budget.
Depending on your menu, don’t overlook a simple pot of steamed rice — it is the perfect backdrop for grilled foods — sauces from barbecue to teriyaki and vegetable salads. Fresh, local produce is abundant and affordable, so take advantage of fruits and vegetables at the grocery stores and farmers’ markets in your area. I like to make one or two sides that I know everyone loves, plus one or two that offer something unexpected. So, don’t be afraid to cook out-of-the-box while you are hosting a party outdoors.
Macaroni and Pasta Salad
- Old-Fashioned Macaroni Salad
- Mexican Macaroni Salad
- Asian Chicken and Orzo Salad
- Tomato Feta Pasta Salad
Rice and Grain Side Dishes
Vegetable Salads and Slaws
- Grilled Vegetable Salad
- Summer Vegetable Salad
- Three Bean Salad
- Asian Style 3 Bean Salad
- Aw-some Cole Slaw
- Overnight Slaw
- Chocolate Texas Sheet Cake I
- White Texas Sheet Cake
- Peanut Butter Sheet Cake
- Golden Rum Cake
- Chocolate Mint Brownies
More tips for cheap and elegant summer parties:
- How to throw a picnic for less
- How to save money on a summer party
- Best vegetarian burgers using cheap and tasty beans
- Free guides on how to barbecue safely
- Tasty recipes for cheap and abundant zucchini