Summer’s here and it’s time to fire up the grill and have a backyard BBQ. It’s an iconic summer experience, but hosting one can be a pricey proposition. Here are five tips to help you host an affordable summer BBQ that will bring the heat without burning up your budget.

1. Plan your menu carefully

The most important part of any successful summer BBQ is, of course, the food. But that doesn’t mean you need to go big on prime cuts of meat and fancy sides. Get some budget-friendly proteins like chicken drumsticks, pork ribs, or sausages—they’re not only cheaper but also universally loved. (In fact, regular pork ribs are the centerpiece of most legendary BBQ joints!) 

Don’t forget to make some vegetarian options; they can be cost-effective and are a perfect way to accommodate your guests who are herbivores or just looking to eat lighter. Grilled vegetables, veggie burgers, and corn on the cob are delicious, and usually inexpensive.

Also think about dishes that can stretch expensive ingredients. For example, a pasta salad with a few cherry tomatoes, some olives, and a sprinkle of feta can feed a large crowd without using a lot of any single costly ingredient. A classic potato salad or coleslaw can also be made in large quantities really inexpensively, and they’re both perfect, traditional BBQ sides. You can also channel your inner Texan and make a big batch of chili—it’s simple and cheap to make, filling, and also freezes well in case you have leftovers.

2. DIY as much as you can

Pre-made BBQ sauces, marinades, and desserts are convenient, but they also cost a lot. Making your own from scratch is easier than you think, and you can customize the flavors to what you like. A simple BBQ sauce is made from basic ingredients like ketchup, vinegar, brown sugar, and a dash of Worcestershire, all pretty cheap to buy. Making it yourself will save money, and homemade is a personal touch that always brings the whole experience up a notch.

For dessert, it’s hard to find anything more fun (or inexpensive) than s’mores. All you need is graham crackers, Hershey bars, and marshmallows. Then give everyone a stick and stand around the grill and see who can keep their marshmallow from catching on fire.

3. Buy in bulk and look for sales

Keep an eye on local supermarket sales on meat and other cookout staples. Planning your summer BBQ around what’s on sale can reduce costs by a lot. Also, try to buy non-perishable (or freezable) things in bulk, especially if you plan to host more gatherings throughout the summer. Bulk purchases can lead to significant savings on things like drinks, snacks, and even meat. Just make sure you have enough storage/freezer space!

4. Keep the drinks simple

Alcohol can quickly become one of the most expensive parts of hosting a BBQ. Simplify the drink options by offering a signature cocktail, like a large, refreshing batch of sangria or a summery punch—both of those can be made with inexpensive wine or spirits and seasonal fruits. For non-alcoholic options, everyone loves homemade lemonade or iced tea, and they’re incredibly cheap when you make them in large quantities. You could also ask guests to bring their favorite drink; that cuts down on costs but also adds some variety to the drink selection.

 5. Get creative with decorations and entertainment

You don’t need to spend a fortune on decorations to create a festive atmosphere. Heck, it’s summer, so you already have a sunny, warm outdoor atmosphere. Use things you already have—string lights, tablecloths, and candles can transform any space. You can use natural elements like flowers or branches to create elegantly simple centerpieces. 

For entertainment, plan some backyard games like frisbee, cornhole, or even a homemade ring toss. These are fun games for all ages, and they also keep guests entertained without needing expensive rentals or equipment.