Cheap summer BBQ ideas

Throwing a BBQ party sounds like a brilliant idea, until you consider the cost. All that cool kit and fancy food seems more likely to burn a hole in your wallet than give your meat a good grilling.

But a BBQ doesn’t need to be expensive. With a bit of imagination and savvy shopping, it’s easy to come up with some cheap alternative BBQ ideas which you and your guests will love.

Get the BBQ kit

You don’t need to spend much to get a BBQ that works, although it’s worth forking out a little more if you’re going to be grilling every summer weekend.

Get on eBay or local sales sites to find some smokin’ second-hand bargains. 

If you want to buy brand new, check out special offers in supermarkets and DIY stores. As a rule of thumb, a heavier BBQ suggests it’s made with better quality steel.

Steer clear of disposable grills as a few of these will soon add up to more money than a cheap reusable one and, if you’re watching your budget, cooking over coals will prove cheaper than grilling over gas.

Don’t be tricked into thinking you need the latest gizmos and gimmicks. The more cooking features a BBQ has, the more expensive it will be. Consumer bible Which? has some good advice on what to look for.

Alternative BBQ equipment

A BBQ is simply a heat source with a grill on top that you can cook on in the great outdoors. You can make one out of any heat-proof container - even an old oil drum. 

And of course you could put a grill over an open fire, but you’d need to know what you’re doing. Maybe that’s one best left to Bear Grylls.

But if you are a bit handy (and have some old bricks lying about), you could be quids in. Have a search online for how to build your own DIY brick BBQ, like this one on Gardeners’ World which could last you a lifetime, or how to build a DIY BBQ pit, with a little help from Wickes.

Saving on BBQ food

For cheap BBQ food, aim for cheaper cuts of meat. When it comes to planning the menu, see what’s on offer in your supermarket first and then shop and cook accordingly. Alternatively ask your local butcher for advice on how to get the most meat for your money.

Cheap cuts will bring in big savings. Forget costly steaks and make your own burgers from cheap and tasty beef mince instead. Ditch expensive – and dry – chicken breasts and instead serve some delicious drumsticks, which cost less. Dish up with a heap of tasty salads to fill up your friends.

Give your guests a job

Crowdsource your salads and desserts by asking your guests to bring a dish each. With the costs shared, they’re likely to go to town on their own offerings, giving you a great spread.

If you choose to do all the catering yourself, keep it simple. Cheap pasta and couscous salads served with roasted vegetables will help bring you in on budget.

Vegetarian BBQ ideas

For many, a BBQ without meat is like a bar without booze. But if you’re serious about keeping costs low, opting for a veggie grill will serve you up some instant savings.

Try corn on the cob, or vegetarian BBQ skewers packed with peppers, onions and aubergines. Greek cheese like Halloumi is made for grilling, while jacket or sweet potatoes, wrapped in foil and finished on the grill, cost next to nothing and taste amazing with some fancy fillings. The BBC has some great ideas online.

Plan your BBQ meal

At what other meal would you eat a burger, sausages, drumsticks and maybe a kebab or three? ‘No other meal’ is the answer. At no point during the year would you or your friends eat so much meat, so apply the same principles at your BBQ and you’ll save a fortune. Cater for two meaty items each and fill up with salads on the side. Cut up a few cheap French sticks to fill any remaining hunger holes.