My favorite season is upon us! Time to break out the grill and patio set and get creative with your patties, dogs, and potato salads. With the celebration of Memorial Day and the honoring of our nations heroes upon us, the start of the warm, sunny weather season practically begs for cook-outs and get-togethers. But, in our case, with a new baby (and in turn new expenses!) on the way, how can you throw a great backyard BBQ but on a budget? Here are a few of my tips to keep the party alive while still keeping your pockets stocked!
1. Don’t under estimate the power of the salads! In particular the potato and pasta kind. These are inexpensive, filling, and most importantly, a BBQ staple! Usually with pre-made versions, you pay for labor. By taking a few extra minutes to make them yourself, you can save a penny or two and your finished product will be something you are proud to serve. You can even make them a day ahead of time and let all those delicious flavors blend. And make more than one! Toss your pasta with tuna for a heartier flavor or go Italian with EVOO, basil, tomato, and mozzarella, or make it Greek with dill, EVOO, kalamata olives, and salty feta. For potato salad, toss in whatever is in the house! Get creative! My only requirement is don’t over cook the potatoes! Need more ideas? Here’s my favorite recipe:
6 small red potatoes, skin on, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
3/4 cup mayo
3 TBS dijon mustard
2 TBS capers
2 TBS chopped dill
2 TBS chopped parsley
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1/2 cup chopped onion
Salt and Pepper to taste
Place the potatoes into a pot of cold water. Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn the heat down to simmer for 6 minutes. Drain the potatoes and cool completely. Once the potatoes are cooled, toss with remaining ingredients.
2. Buy in Bulk! I am always reading the grocery store circulars and basing my dinners on what’s low in price. Around this time of year, stores usually rotate the meats that are on sale. Check a couple of different flyers to get the best price and base your meal on that. Chicken thighs and wings on sale? Make BBQ chicken! Ground beef at a low? Burgers (or even sliders for a crowd!) are the way to go. For a recent dinner, my recipe called for turkey burgers, but ground chicken was on clearance, a no-brainer swap for me!
3. Dress Up Classics with Sauces! By now I’m sure you’ve caught on to my love of sauces. They have the ability to enhance any meal and take it to a gourmet level. While my husband always leans towards the cheaper cuts of beef, these are not my first choice cuts of meat, especially now that I’m cooking everything well done! Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of great uses for them, but they tend to be tough and flavorless on the grill. You can avoid this by tenderizing a bit and using a great marinade. My choice? Lawry’s Signature Steakhouse Marinade with Worcestershire Sauce. It’s inexpensive and delicious! Then, be sure to let your steak rest after pulling it off the grill and before slicing into it. Now, serve with whatever creative dips and sauces you can think of! Check out my “Saucier” post for ideas.
This week I tried a new Pale Ale BBQ Sauce from this month’s Rachael Ray Magazine that was awesome! Tangy and pungent Sierra Nevada gave the perfect pick me up to my chicken burgers which, being low in fat content, can tend to dry out easily. The pretzel rolls are a different mix but if you’re budgeting, go for the regular rolls, the amazing BBQ sauce will make up for the difference, I promise!
*Tip: When cooking turkey or chicken burgers on the grill, either freeze the burgers for 20 minutes before hand to help them hold together better or cook in a heavy, oven safe pan right on the grill.
4. Buy In Season Vegetables: Anyone who has purchased limes recently knows that when supply and demand favors the suppliers, it get’s costly quickly! Buy things that are in season. Corn on the cob is quick, easy, classic, and an inexpensive summer staple. By cutting each cob in half you can also double your supply. Again, check the weekly flyer for what seems to be on sale. Interested in fruit salad? Cut it yourself! It’s a great arm workout and will save you a ton!
5. Enlist you Guests! Remember all those hungry people you’re feeding? Ask them to help! Don’t be afraid to assign jobs. When you send your invites, let your Uncle Tommy know you’d love to try his favorite punch recipe or tell Cousin Susie you can’t imagine a BBQ without her famous Cowboy Caviar Dip (this is all I brought to family get-togethers for years!). Odds are, they’ll be more than happy to help.
Whatever is on your BBQ menu this weekend, remember it’s a time to celebrate the wonderful freedoms (including our BBQ’s 🙂 ) we are blessed with and give appreciation to the men and women who have fought on behalf of us for them. So in the name of burgers and dogs, happy grilling all!
Stephanie a.k.a. The Foodetarian