The sun is finally shining in MOST of the country (ok, so in New England we're apparently stuck in April's Showers) and with the Fourth looming this weekend, three little letters are on everyone's mind:
Summer means outdoor eats, weekend get-togethers and for many of us, "staycations" rather than pricey getaways. We can invite the neighbors over without having to clean the house, and entertain larger groups of people in backyard open space. But how to work the summer fun without breaking the budget? Here are a few tips to trim the budget on your summer shindigs!
-Meat on the cheap
Don't leave yourself at the mercy of the grocery stores the weekend of your BBQ! Meat is going to be the largest chunk of your entertaining budget, so careful planning and a little freezer space will go a LONG way towards creating an affordable menu. Meat sales tend to run in 4-6 week cycles so just about every month will bring fantastic prices your way. In my area, I can get just about any meat for $2 a pound or less ($1 a pound for bone-in) if I hit the sales right - normal prices run $3-5 per pound so when I'm feeding a crowd the savings add up fast! Watch your flyers, and when the prices go low, stock up - bring home your stockpile and get things marinating in Ziploc bags to save time as well as money on your party day!
-Buy selectively in bulk
Got a Costco or a restaurant supply store nearby? These are the resources you want to tap for the BBQ items that will get used and abused - condiments! Ketchup, mustard, relish, mayonnaise (for salads, slaws and sandwiches), and dressings can be found for a fraction of the price when you buy the supersized containers. If your friends/family plan on rotating the hosting duties, get everyone to pitch in and create a traveling condiment box - you'll never have to worry about eating a naked burger again :)
-Paper goods in unusual places
Unless you simply MUST have that star-spangled matching set, look to the local dollar stores, Odd Lots and overtstock outlets for your paper supplies! So many folks assume the big-box wholesalers (Costco, BJ's, etc) sell EVERYTHING more cheaply, but it's often the paper goods that carry higher prices than even the local grocery stores. Watch your unit prices, but I can usually find VERY inexpensive disposable dinnerware at the dollar store. I don't need super high quality since it's all ending up in the trash anyway!
-Share the responsibility
Does your mom make THE BEST potato salad? Can your neighbor whip up a mean summer dessert? Allowing your guests to bring a little something to the party might feel like cheating, but it will help trim your budget AND can give your guests a chance to showcase their favorite summer eats too! Planning and communication are key so that you don't cause unneeded stress or end up with five bowls of coleslaw - keep a list handy and make a call the week before to confirm what folks are bringing, which will give you a little time to fill in the gaps as well.