Backyard BBQ season is finally here and we couldn’t be more excited! But from food to supplies, the cost of a cookout can rack up fast. FIRST found ways to host your loved ones without breaking the bank.
Keep scrolling to discover how to throw a backyard party on a budget without your guests ever knowing.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.
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Backyard Party Food Ideas
Opt for this meat.
“You can feed a crowd on the cheap with fajitas. Just grab some flank steak for $5 a pound (rib-eyes are double that) and estimate 1 pound per 4 people. Then marinate (home-made marinades save you even more) for 24 hours, grill and cut into strips. Grill some onions and peppers and put out a pack of tortillas, which costs just 99 cents, saving you tons over $4 packages of buns.” —Stacy Lyn Harris, author of Stacy Lyn’s Harvest Cookbook ($27.93, Amazon)
Backyard Party Ideas
Score cloth napkins for a song.
“Use bandanas as napkins to add a splash of color. When you lay them out on the table or wrap them around cutlery, it makes your table look so bright and cute. You can find different colors of bandanas at OrientalTrading.com for $10 per dozen. Plus, using cloth napkins rather than paper adds a little luxurious touch to your table setting. It’s such an easy thing to do, but it adds so much flair and is really unique — without costing a whole lot.” —Bronwen Smith, owner of BFloral.com, a flower and event design company in New York City
Ideas For A Backyard Party
Turn dessert into a contest.
“People love to show up with something, so don’t be afraid to get your guests involved. One idea is to make it a contest and give a prize for best contribution. Put out a jar with a sign asking people to vote for their favorites. Then make ribbons to present to winners of categories like ‘best dessert’ and ‘best side.’ Your guests will have a great time and it will save you money.” —Art Freedman, CEO of MaxWarehouse.com
Backyard Party Decoration Ideas
Pick up cheap ‘tablecloths.’
“I love using paper as a table runner. Just look for ‘brown builder’s paper’ at the hardware store in the paint section. You can get a 140-foot roll for $10. Then put it on the table with multiple purposes: Plate your food and write on the paper what each dish is or let your guests know the pulled pork is gluten-free. Besides the ‘cute and crafty’ factor, it’s great to be able to simply throw it all away after the party.” —Amy Whidby, creative director of Puckett’s Gro. & Restaurant, Nashville
Backyard Party Ideas Adults
Make aluminum foil do double-duty.
“Here’s a cost-cutting grilling tip: Instead of wasting money on expensive grilling trays to keep smaller items like asparagus, potatoes, zucchini or sliced peppers from slipping through the grill grates, use heavy-duty aluminum foil to create a makeshift pan. You can just take a sheet of foil and roll up all four sides to create your own grilling tray. Best of all, you can ball up the remains of your foil “pans” and use them to scrub down the grill grates when the party wraps up!” —Stacy Lyn Harris
Backyard Bbq Party Ideas
Keep beverages ice-cold for free.
“In the weeks before a party, I start saving milk jugs, water bottles, soda bottles — any vessel that can hold water. Then the day before the party, I freeze water in the bottles. On party day, I nestle the bottles around drinks in a wheelbarrow or kiddie pool. I even add food coloring to make the bottles festive (like red, white and blue for a July 4th party). Now I never have to pay $4 for bags of ice. But I always make sure to leave some room at the top of the bottles when I fill them since water expands when it freezes. That’s a les- son I learned the hard way!” —Katie Owens, mom of three, Charlotte, South Carolina
Backyard Party Decorations
Mix up money-saving sips.
“My go-to drink for entertaining a crowd is punch. You can make any punch you like using one part spirit (like rum, bourbon or vodka) to one part sweetener (like simple syrup) to four parts juice (such as orange or cranberry). The combinations are endless and really wallet-friendly: You’re buying one or two bottles of liquor over cases of beer or other drinks, which can add up. It’s also fun to play with the ice cubes to toss in the punch: Just fill the trays halfway with water. When they’re partially frozen drop in a blueberry, add cranberry juice and freeze. As they melt, they add a hint of flavor to your punch.” —Anthony Caporale, Director of Beverage Studies at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City
Decorating For A Backyard Party
Upcycle old dishes into serveware.
“When it comes to setting the stage for a party, you don’t have to buy new things. Use a fishbowl for punch and bud vases for dressings. And use dishes to create a tiered server: Place a large plate on the table, then top with an inverted bowl and another plate on top. Top with a second inverted bowl and a smaller plate on top (use putty to attach). You’ll have a fantastic tablescape that looks pricey but doesn’t cost a thing.” —Mark Addison, founder of EventStyle, MarkAddison.com