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Grilling for a Crowd – 30 Frugal Tips and Tricks

Grilling for a crowd can be a challenge. It’s the day of my barbecue. My fridge is empty and I need to stock up quickly, I have to begin cooking in a few hours! I rush over to the supermarket and start stuffing a cart filled with cuts of beef, chicken, sausages, and vegetables.
As I make my way through the grocery store, my stress multiplies. I have vegan guests coming, I should buy some vegan hot dogs. I know Jen doesn’t like fish so I’ll buy extra burgers. Do I have the ingredients for my steak marinade?
All these questions running through my mind, I quickly fill my cart. At the checkout line, to my horror, the bill is massive. I have a cart filled with one day worth of food, plates, tablecloths, silverware, napkins, and cups.
I load the car up and realize I need ice. I run back, sweat running down my face, I need to start cooking fifteen minutes ago! The first guest said he’d be there soon. I’m running out of time, overspending, and stressing out hard.
I could have easily avoided all my problems if only I saw this list before hosting a large barbeque party. I could have planned my party out and began shopping a week before. I could have asked guests to bring their own foods. I could have done a lot!
Don’t fall victim to my mistakes! Follow these tips and tricks and turn your expensive BBQ into a cost-effective party, that everyone will remember!

Hosting a Party

Hosting a party of any type can become expensive quickly. My fourth of July barbecue this year was a prime example. The bill rapidly became overwhelming, placing me way over budget. Keeping the budget for your party low is possible and easy!
Below I have listed a handful of helpful tips to keep the budget below your limit, without having to compromise on quality for your party. Learn from my mistakes, don’t fall victim to large grocery store bills.

Become a Power Host

Being the talk of the town, or the workplace, can improve your life. Hosting an amazing party can put you in the limelight without breaking the bank. Ask your guests questions. Can I expect to see you? Are you bringing any friends? These questions might seem invasive but asking them in an upbeat tone can make it seem like you actually want them to invite friends.
Think about your guests. This step is totally free, think about who you invited and what they eat. If you invited a group of vegans to your party don’t be surprised when all the meat you bought gets packed as leftovers.
Have adequate seating or other accommodations. Either have enough seats for everyone or no seats at all. Having a good mix of seating options is your best bet. A couple chairs, maybe a bench, a few large blankets sprawled out on the grass. They all do the trick.
Prepare easy finger foods before your meal. BBQ corn on the cob is a great example. You can start barbecuing them prior to guest arrival, this way they begin eating right away.
A great cheap drink alternative is infused waters. Take a couple cucumbers and slice them into a large pitcher of water. Let it sit overnight. Now you have infused cucumber water, refreshing and cheap. This method works with a handful of fruits and vegetables.
Decorate your party with items you already have. Use tables from your house, use blankets and lights. Bring your inside-outside, this will save you some money and create a comfortable atmosphere people will enjoy.
Most importantly when trying to be a good host, put yourself in your guest’s shoes. If you notice a lot of bugs, splurge on some citronella candles. If it’s hot and sunny, set up a shady location people can cool off in. Putting your guests first will really pay off in the long run.

Set Up a Budget

Setting up a budget will give you a clear stopping point in spending. This budget should be thought out, to include all foods required but also to cut spending waste.
If you are supplying all the food at the BBQ you should plan exactly how many of certain foods you want to buy. Along with what exactly you are cooking.
A good way to start a budget would be to create a menu. Menus are easy and helpful in organizing the cooking process. List the amount of certain foods you are buying, 30 burgers, 30 hotdogs. Now by looking at your menu you also know you will need 60 buns.
This also helps with cooking times. Allowing your foods to be served quick and hot. If you are serving burgers and hot dogs, for example, you should start the burgers a few minutes before the dogs. Ensuring both are ready at the same time.

Ways to Save Money

Before we get to the list lets go over some basics on saving money.
The most important detail you must follow is to plan ahead. Sometimes it’s impossible to know exactly how many people will be attending your event, but having a good estimate will help. With this knowledge, you can accurately plan the amount of food to buy.
Plan your menu! You may not feel like this is important but it can make the difference between overspending and stay below budget. If you plan exactly what you are making you can set limitations on ingredients you purchase. This also allows you to save time while shopping, time is money.
Pick a store wisely! Everyone reading this should know certain stores are more expensive than others. It’s true that sometimes selection varies depending on the store but most stores stock everything you need to host a barbeque party.
Hot Tip
Without proper planning of your event you leave yourself open to unnecessary spending.

30 Tips and Tricks

Following these tips and tricks will keep your spending down, without losing any quality for your party.
1. Plan Ahead
Planning your party is key! Even without being concerned about budget restraints, an unplanned party can have a lot of faults. Running out of food, or having too much food is a great example.
2. Estimate the guest list
Trust me I understand sometimes the guest list is out of your control. Just get a rough estimate of how many you think will show up.
3. Make a Menu
You may feel like this step is reserved for restaurants and high-class events, that’s not the case! Planning a menu will list everything you need to buy on paper. You will be able to cut costs and save time.
Menus can be simple. A list of what you’re making for the evening.
You don’t actually have to show people your menu.
Though displaying a clear, clean menu can add to the parties aesthetic.
4. Figure out what you don’t need to buy
Knowing what you already have laying around your house can save you some money. Most likely you have most of the marinade ingredients.
5. Get Creative!
Look around, figure out how you can use what you already have to do something different. No purchase necessary.
6. Pick foods that are quick
Quick foods are usually thin and cheaper than thicker cuts. I’m talking burgers, shrimps. Not to mention it makes your job easier.
7. Keep the lid closed
Precious heat escapes when the lids open. Heat you want to use, don’t waste unnecessary gas.
8. Grill a lot of Vegetables
Vegetables are cheaper than their meat counterparts. Plus more veggies lead to a healthier diet. A grill basket will help you with small vegetables, and keep everything contained and mess-free.
9. Use Lava Rocks
Lava rocks are a great way to save gas if you’re using a gas grill. Using Lava rocks allow you to turn off the heat and still cook the foods.
10. Buy In Bulk
Places like Costco and Sam’s Club offer huge quantity at cheaper prices. If you need to grill for 30 your safest bet would be to buy all meat and buns at warehouse clubs.
11. Pick foods that require no silverware or plates
Not having to buy 100 disposable plates will save you some dough. Instead make foods that are holdable, easy to grab and eat.
12. Don’t use high heat
Using high heat uses more gas. Instead, use a medium heat and cook your foods longer.
13. Kebabs!
Kebabs are super easy to cook and prepare. They also require very little ingredients, a few veggies and a few pieces of meat. They don’t require plates or silverware and are fun to serve. A great set of metal skewers for kebabs ca be found on my Best Metal Skewers page.
14. Pick foods that are in season
Yes, some foods may be perfect to grill, but picking foods that are currently abundant will bring costs down.
15. Potluck
Informing guests to bring some of their own foods will instantly bring food costs down. It also allows anyone with dietary restrictions a peace of mind. Ask some to bring a side and some to bring a dessert.
16. Shop Cheap
Picking stores is crucial. If you are buying just some plates go to stores like dollar tree. They also sell cups, silverware, and other grilling necessities.
Hot Tip
If you’re worried about the environment and don’t want to buy plastic plates and cups you can find thick paper plates and cups at your local grocery in the paper isle
. Easy cleanup and earth friendly.
17. Prep Yourself
Prepping foods yourself can save you some money, in exchange for time. Boneless chicken is usually more expensive than bone in. Save a few bucks by buying ingredients you can turn into what you need, instead of paying for convenience.
18. Create your own rubs and sauces
Most rubs are a combination of salt, pepper, and some other seasoning. Most likely you already own the majority of the ingredients. Same with bottled BBQ sauces. Google what you need and make it yourself.
19. Maintain your grill
The most expensive part of grilling is the grill itself. Properly care for your grill and you won’t have to buy a new one anytime soon!
20. Buy cheaper cuts and use marinade
Search some cheaper cuts for the meat you require, and use a good marinade. You can also tenderize beef to make some of the tougher cuts easier to eat.
21. Tacos!
Tacos allow you to make more of the meats you buy. Try stuffing a little taco tortilla with a lot of meat, it doesn’t work. People eat less without knowing they are. Letting guests make their own tacos also gets them involved in the prepping process.
22. Network
Meet the local butchers, either in large chain supermarkets or small specialty shops. Start by asking questions, about the food. Use this connection to find cheap cuts and save a few bucks over time.
23. Do your homework
Don’t go into your party blindly. Research what you are cooking, how to cook it, and the best way to cook it. This step may not only introduce you to a cheaper alternative but also save you time. Time = Money
24. Save Gas
Whether you are cooking on charcoal, gas, or electric, being frugal with your fuel source will save money in the long run.
25. Buy in advance!
Your shopping doesn’t need to be done in one day! Start buying things cheap a week or two before, and freeze them.
26. Cheap Side Dishes
Your BBQ is going to need a few sides. Pick items that are quick, easy, and cheap. Garlic bread and potato salad are two good examples. Both very tasty and dirt cheap!
27. BYOB!!
If you are serving alcoholic beverages, don’t be coy, ask your guests to supply some as well! Alcohol can rack up expenses faster than any food can. Maybe a guest has just discovered a craft brew they would like to bring and share with others.
28. Find Serving stations
Instead of going out and buying a new table, move a table outside and some chairs. Buy a cheap tablecloth and serve your foods on it.
29. Don’t go overboard
Planning a party can cause you to feel overwhelmed. Don’t get caught up in the stress and buy too much. Plan accordingly and buy what you need.
30. Invest in a good Grill
If you plan on throwing a lot of BBQ parties invest in a good grill. It may seem expensive up front but should last you the rest of your life. Buying one good grill is better than buying many inexpensive ones.
Head on over to my Recommended Gear page, you can find there a grill that suits your style and needs, including the one I’ve had for several grilling seasons and was very happy with.


Hopefully out of these 30 tips you’ve found some ways to save money and still throw a great barbecue party!
Here’s one last tip. Remember to not spend all your time at the grill, spend time with your guests and enjoy the party!