How to Have a Summer Party for Less

With the summer in full swing and the national grilling holiday behind us, the internet is buzzing with cheap grilling recipes, BBQ meals, and cheap party suggestions. The various recipe sites suggest endless ways to help you prepare cheap summer meals, and if you still need to get a grill for your backyard, don't forget to consult our guide to cheap grills.

The AllRecipes web site provides a few options for sorting through cheap summer meals for a party or BBQ. You could just click on the BBQ/Grilling category or plug "budget" or "budget and grill" into the search tab to get a range of ideas for cheap grilling recipes. Some include rotisserie chicken on a gas grill and marinated spicy pork chops. Vegetarians can benefit from cheap grilling recipes with options such as black bean veggie burgers. This site provides several pre-made menu ideas, including a Low-Budget Menu category, but you have to be a paid member of the site to access them. is another great resource for finding cheap party food ideas and cheap grilling recipes. You can scope out the site's Budget Recipes section, which has Grilling and Party sub-categories to get fodder for cheap summer meals. The Barbecues and Grilling Guide also has meal ideas for the grill. "Good Housekeeping's" web site has cheap party and BBQ meals as well, as do and the Food Network.

Ground beef and sausages and hotdogs are some of the least expensive types of meat you can use for your cheap summer dinners or cheap party and BBQ meals. Bulk chicken wings and drumsticks can also drive down cost -- pick them up at Costco, BJs, or another bulk distributor in your area. Chickpeas and other legumes can be made into vegetarian burgers. In terms of produce needed in preparing cheap summer meals, stock up on low-cost bulk fruits and veggies from a local farmer's market and use them to make salads, kabobs, and sides for hamburgers and other BBQ favs. Getting a big bag of cheap potatoes can be useful for making your own potato salad, as buying the pre-made stuff for a large number of people can really bust your cheap summer recipes budget. Use Local Harvest's farmer's market finder to locate one near your town.

Also, don't forget to incorporate cheap pantry items into your cheap party and BBQ meals. You can use foods like chickpeas, lentils, pasta and rice, and canned tuna to make cheap pasta and rice salads and couscous. Using thawed frozen veggies works in a pasta salad if produce in your area costs too much. Bean salads with some veggies and baked beans can be used as sides for cheap summer dinners. Make sure to check out some of our blog posts on other cheap meals for vegetarians and vegans. Know, too, that you can skimp on certain items to save money -- generic plastic-wrapped cheese is fine to melt on burgers and cheap buns work well for your standard hamburger or veggie burger or hotdog.

Other ideas for cheap summer meals in the backyard include making your own BBQ sauce and salad dressing with items you might already have in the house. You can make a simple BBQ sauce for chicken, ribs, and other meats with a little sugar, ketchup, vinegar, and salt and pepper. Simple salad dressings can be made with mayonnaise, mustard, or oil and vinegar with a little seasoning thrown in. Again, a good resource for generating ideas is's Barbecues and Grilling section, which has a long list of sites for standard BBQ sauce recipes plus certain Southern styles and versions using fruit or liquor.

If you want to serve dessert along with your cheap party food, go cool and simple with fruit-juice flavored ice pops (you can throw in some vodka or rum you already have in the house if entertaining adults) or ice cream sandwich cookies made with cheap chocolate chip cookies and generic vanilla ice cream bought at the store. Cheap canned fruit cocktail works, or for a fresher, healthier version, use the produce or farmer's market trick and stock up on a few large hauls of fruit you can make into a bowl of fruit salad. Jell-O molds -- again, you can throw in some alcohol for adults -- with real fruit or coconut flakes or marshmallows make up simple, cheap party food ideas or cheap summer recipes.

As you prepare to stock up on cheap party food, check out some of our blog posts for saving at the supermarket in addition to our reviews of coupon sites that might save you even more on your cheap party and BBQ meals.

Live Well For Less

Behind every budget is a bucket list. From travel, food and lifestyle to product reviews and deals, we’re here to show you how to save and what’s worth saving for.

Cheapism in the News