Saving Money on Your Summer Cookout

Money is a big concern these days. Even though gas prices aren’t what they used to be, food prices are on the rise, thanks in part to bad weather hurting crop yields. But all that doesn’t mean you have to cancel your Fourth of July barbeque or family cookout!

Economists are predicting that the price of an average barbeque — including burgers and dogs, drinks, condiments, plates and napkins, and charcoal for the grill — will cost around six percent more than it did last year. This rise is making shoppers stop and thinks when they start to stock up for parties. Do you really need to offer both burgers and dogs? Ketchup and mustard? You’re planning a celebration — do you want to have to worry about cutting corners?

Barbeque favorites are being hit hard by rising costs. The price of a pound of ground beef or a six-pack of beer has only gone up about one percent since last summer, but a package of hot dogs costs nearly seven percent more this year than it did last year. Bun prices are up an average of fifteen percent — would this be a good summer for a return of the no-carb Atkins craze? A one-pound bag of chips is up more than ten percent over 2007 prices. (Statistics from the Consumer Price Index.)

What can you do to save some cash on your summer cookout? Here are some tips:

  • Buy your supplies as far from holiday weekends as you can. Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day are popular BBQ times — and prices can rise accordingly. Shop during the off-times and you might find lower prices! You can buy meats in advance and freeze them until the day before your cookout. If you have room in the freezer, you can stock up on ice long before prices jump for the holiday. Don’t forget to pick up charcoal or propane for the grill early, too!
  • Pick store brands/generics over name brands where you can. Even if you only choose store brand paper goods like plates and napkins, you’ll still notice the difference in your grocery bill.
  • Find a friend with a discount club membership — Costco and similar stores are great for stocking up when it comes to party time. Beware of going overboard — Costco is great if you’re having a large party but you may end up with too much if you’re just having a small gathering.
  • Look for stores that do price matching. Take the time to skim the grocery store ads to find the best prices.
  • Ask your guests to contribute to the party. Make a list of $5 or $10 purchases and assign an item to each person or family. You’re not asking a lot of them financially, and you’ll get the things you need for your barbeque!
  • Ask your guests to bring their own drinks. You’ll provide the food; let them bring sodas, beer, and whatever else they’d like.

Remember that time with friends and family is one of the greatest pleasures in life. Whether you pull out all the stops and bust your budget on a backyard cookout or save some cash with the tips here, the most important thing is the people who will be there. Not the food, not the money.