Best Foods to Grill When You Are On a Budget

Best Foods to Grill When You Are On a Budget

Do you have a special occasion coming around that you want to celebrate? Whether it is a birthday, anniversary, or graduation, for many families, celebrations usually mean barbecues. So, you timidly peek at the bank account, but turn away frowning. It seems the get-together is not in the cards this year. But don’t lose hope! You don’t need an over-the-top barbecue to make your guests happy. We will show you how you can make your BBQ a success without breaking the bank.

Grilling For a Crowd On a Budget

Throwing a BBQ doesn’t have to be expensive. It is all about a pinch here, and a pinch there. one will ever know the difference! There are numerous things you can do to ensure a cheap, yet delicious, meal. Follow these basic rules for grilling for a crowd while on a budget:

  • Incorporate lots of bread,
  • Cook with inexpensive meats,
  • Bulk up your beef,
  • Use small portions of meat,
  • Go heavy on the veggies, and
  • Grill fruit for dessert.

Incorporate Lots of Bread

You can make hearty appetizers with bread to get your guests so stuffed they will hardly make it to the main meal. You could make crostinis, grilled ham & cheeses, or go the old fashioned Italian way and grill up a loaf of garlic bread. Or how about grill up a crusty soup bowl, and pour your favorite dip in it? You will have the guests licking their fingers.

grilled sausages

Photo by Jonathan Taylor on Unsplash

Cook with Inexpensive Meats

The meat is almost always the star of the BBQ. It is also one of the most expensive parts of the meal. So if you want to stick to a budget, the meat is where you should start. But no worries, you can still make it delicious! Some of the cheapest meats can be out-of-this-world with a little love. Our cheap cooking-for-a-crowd favorites are:

  • Chicken thighs, drumsticks, and wings,
  • Ground beef,
  • Beef brisket,
  • Pork shoulder/Boston butt pork roast,
  • Chicken wings,
  • Whole turkey,
  • Beef back ribs, and
  • Hot dogs.

Bulk Up Your Beef

While grilling up ground beef is already one of the cheaper options, why not cheapen it up even more? Bulk it up with add-ins like shredded potatoes, pureed veggies, or herbed breadcrumbs. Pair your add-ins with your burger toppings and it will get the crowd talking!

Use Small Portions of Meat

Another helpful money-saving option is to serve meat in small portions. You can then dress it up with loads of other things that will fill the belly. Tacos are a perfect example: they have small but flavor-packed portions of meat, packed in with an assortment of veggies, cheese, and of course the tortilla. You could use the same principle with sliders. Or, get rid of the holding vessel altogether and make a big salad with small pockets of meat in it.

Go Heavy on the Veggies

Why not just ditch the meat altogether? Ok, you might think we are talking crazy here, but stick with us. Cauliflower steaks, sweet potatoes, eggplant, and stuffed portobello mushrooms are all great options as an entree. You can load them up with other ingredients, and pile on a delicious sauce. The flavor explosion will wow your guests and they won’t feel heavy and lethargic afterward. Trust us, they won’t even miss the beef.

Grill Fruit for Dessert

Dessert is usually thrown together at the last minute. Sometimes out of desperation you might run to the store and buy a cake. To save a little money, we suggest grilling some fresh fruit. It is quick, easy, and cheap. You can even throw on a dollop of ice cream. The melty ice-creaminess on top of grilled fruit will far outshine the cake frosting that stains everyone’s teeth rainbow colors.

Budget BBQ Ideas

Using some of these general rules, we have compiled a few meal options you could try out. Base the meal around one of these ideas, and you are sure to please the crowd. Your wallet will be happy, too. If you are also looking for some great side dish recipes, we’ve got you covered!

BBQ Chicken Salad Recipe:

  • 2 Grilled chicken breasts, seasoned
  • 6 Cups chopped romaine lettuce
  • 1 Roma tomato, diced
  • ¾ Cup canned corn kernels, drained
  • ¾ Cup black beans drained and rinsed
  • ¼ Cup diced red onion
  • ¼ Cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • ½ Cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • ¼ Cup Ranch dressing
  • ¼ Cup BBQ sauce
  • ¼ Cup tortilla strips

Place romaine in a bowl, topped with grilled chicken, tomato, corn, beans, onion, and cheeses. Finish with Ranch, BBQ sauce, and tortilla strips.

Gourmet Hot Dogs

Nothing says cookout like drinking beer and grilling hot dogs. However, you can’t make everyone happy with your beer selection. Why not make your event BYOB so the guests can bring the beer they like? You can save that extra money and use it for some bomb extra toppings for your hot dogs. Here are a few of our favorite gourmet hot dogs:

  • Cheesy Mexican: Top with cheese sauce, serrano peppers, tomatoes, cilantro, red onion, bacon, and queso fresco.
  • Greek: Top with feta cheese, tomatoes, cucumber, kalamata olives, tzatziki sauce, and lemon juice.
  • Spicy Bacon-wrapped: Wrap dog in bacon, and grill. Top with cheddar, jalapenos, and guacamole.
  • Buffalo-style: Top with chopped celery, blue cheese, and buffalo sauce.
  • Chicago-style: Top with yellow mustard, relish, white onions, tomato, sport peppers, pickle, and celery salt.
  • BBQ Bacon: Wrap dog in bacon, and grill. Top with BBQ sauce and crispy onion rings.

Grilled Tacos

Tacos are a great choice when you want to stretch your meat out to feed the crowd. You bulk it up by adding lots of toppings, and the taco shell or tortilla makes it filling. Of course, there are so many ways to make tacos fun and delicious on the grill. We like these fresh grilled fish tacos for a chill summer cookout. Another great idea is these black sage grilled chicken tacos. Rice and cheaper vegetables are added to help fill the bellies of the crowd.

BBQ Chicken Wings Recipe

Ingredients: 1 broiler/fryer chicken (3 1/2 to 4 pounds), cut up, and your favorite BBQ sauce.

Instructions: Make sure your grill grates are clean and greased. Check that your Kick Ash Can has been emptied. Preheat the grill to medium. To check this on a charcoal grill, place your hand 5 inches above the grill grate. If you can hold it for 5 to 7 seconds, it is at medium heat. Place chicken wings, thighs, or legs on the grate. Cover. Grill for about 30 minutes, using tongs to occasionally turn the meat. It will begin to turn golden brown. Baste chicken with BBQ sauce. Turn each piece over and repeat, continuing to baste for 15 minutes more until chicken is done. If you think it is cooking too fast, move the chicken to indirect heat.

tasty kebabs

Photo by Felicia Buitenwerf on Unsplash


To pacify the budget, load up your kebabs with mostly veggies and just a few bites of juicy meat. The guests will never know the difference. These grilled chicken kebabs will be sure to please. You can also go full vegetarian with these surprisingly-filling ratatouille kebabs. They also harmonize well with your favorite pasta sauce. Our mouths are watering!

Pizza on the Grill:

One great thing about pizza is that it is so versatile. Did you know you can even make pizza on the grill? If we are talking about meals for a crowd on a budget, this is a go-to. Not only is it filling with all that bread, but you can also get by with scrimping your meat. If you buy your pizza dough, it is surprisingly easy to make. If you make your pizza dough, your guests will be blown away by the effort, and it will taste that much better. Here is how to make a pizza on the grill:

1.Start with your pizza dough rolled out. You can shape it with your hands, or hold onto the edges while you let the dough hang and stretch to the right shape. Let it sit for five minutes, then push it out into a nice round shape. Place it on a lightly-floured cookie sheet.

2.Slide the dough off the sheet directly onto high direct heat. Make sure the grate is clean and has been greased beforehand. Close the lid and let it cook for two minutes.

3.Check under the dough to make sure it is browning evenly. When it is starting to bubble up, use your cookie sheet or pizza peel to remove it from the grill.

4.Paint the grilled surface with olive oil. Then spread one ladle of sauce evenly. Sprinkle your toppings, and then add mozzarella cheese. Slide the pizza back onto the grill.

5.If using a charcoal grill, close the vents on the cover almost all the way. Close the lid and cook for two to three minutes more. The bottom should be beginning to char, and the cheese should be bubbling. Pull off the grill and onto a flat surface. Slice and serve.

We wish you so much fun celebrating at your BBQ-on-a-budget. You can breathe a sigh of relief. Barbecues don’t have to be about pricey steaks to make guests happy. With all that extra cash in your pocket, why not spend some on a gift for the occasion? Happy grilling!