How to Feed a Big BBQ Crowd on a Small Budget


June 24—One of the best times of summer is getting together with friends and family for a backyard barbecue. But how do you celebrate when inflation is pushing food prices above hot summer temperatures?

You don’t have to give up the barbecue. You just need to plan carefully to stay within budget. Here are some tips for throwing the best summer party for 20 people while keeping costs under $100, or even as low as $50.

Let’s start with the appetizers. Deviled Eggs are an age-old picnic favorite that can feed your crowd for around $3. Pop your own popcorn and flavor it with your favorites for just a few dollars. Carrots and celery only cost a buck or two and can easily be chopped up for a quick raw with homemade dip for a total of $5.

The most expensive part of a barbecue, unsurprisingly, is the meat. Determine these proteins to start your menu. This lets you know exactly how much money you have to fill the rest of the table.

Luckily, some great and delicious grill options are very affordable. Chicken thigh quarters usually cost less than a dollar. Some grocery stores have them in 10-pound bags as low as 69 cents a pound, so you can feed your crowd of 20 for $14. The problem right now is availability.

That perennial staple, the hot dog, is another inexpensive choice. They’re more affordable than burgers, more kid-friendly than ribs, and the easiest thing to grill. Hey, some people even prefer them a little charred. Buy your francs – and buns – on sale and you could end up spending $14. The condiments might cost him a few dollars.

Side dishes can get expensive if you buy them at the deli or snack aisle, but some of the more classic picnic sides are inexpensive and easy to make from scratch.

Shredding a super affordable cabbage and tossing it with a dressing can make plenty of coleslaw for as little as $3. Potatoes, especially fruit bats, are inexpensive. Egg prices are on the rise, but they remain affordable. Toss them with a little mayonnaise and you have a potato salad for about $6.

Then there are the beans. Start with dried beans and you can spend less than $2 for a vegetarian baked bean dish. Add sausages or a small bag of real bacon bits, and you can make it meatier for a total price of around $6. Or maybe three bean salad is your thing. It’s the easiest salad to make — just a few cans of green beans, kidney beans, and chickpeas and an Italian dressing make a substantial bowl for as little as $5.

Depending on availability and sales, fresh corn can be a great option, but corn salad can be even cheaper. A big bag of frozen corn can taste tangy with fresh onions, peppers and tomatoes or just a tub of salsa that has it all mixed together already. Let it sit overnight and you can get people begging to eat their vegetables for just $7.

Then there is the dessert. The easiest and most enjoyable option for the screaming summer crowd. Buy a watermelon, chill it to icy perfection, and wedge it. The melons are on sale now for as low as $4 each. Kids may also be delighted with these plastic tube popsicles available at dollar store prices.

If you want something a little fancier, go for the cupcakes. Easier to decorate than a bigger cake, they have built-in portion control. With canned cake mix and frosting, you’re looking at about $5. From scratch, it could be even less, giving way to more fantasy than just plain vanilla.

And that brings us to negotiating drinks. The perfect choice for all ages is lemonade. Make it from scratch with lemons and sugar or shorten it with a blend. It’s affordable anyway. A bag of lemons and sugar each could keep your crowd hydrated for just $5; use a canister of sugar-free drink mix, and it can cost less than $2 for 3 gallons.

Maybe you want to indulge in adult-only drinks. Stick to a big booze punch to save while you splurge. Mix fruit punch and lemon-lime soda with vodka — that’s definitely not the right thing — and you could have a fun option for as little as $10.

Tip: Use a brightly colored drink in a different shade than your kid-friendly drink to make sure toddlers won’t accidentally get one and teenagers can’t slip some of the red in. their lemonade without being noticed.

In total, your party could cost $96. If you streamline it with just one or two options for appetizers, main courses, sides, and a dessert, you could bring the total down to $47 — a good option if your party of 20 contains more young children.

But the best way to save money on a garden party is to spread the costs around a potluck. Hosts can do the heavy lifting with main courses and drinks for a total of $48 and have other guests fill in the sides and desserts.

Whatever the options, the most important thing is to find a way to not only save money, but also have fun.

Lori Falce is the community engagement editor of Tribune-Review. You can contact Lori at [email protected]

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