Cheap and cheerful barbecue food

Go outside on a Saturday afternoon in the sunshine (or even the rain) this time of year and you are bound to smell the scent of someone’s barbecue wafting through the summer air. Smelling somebody else’s barbie or ‘bri’ as DJ calls it (he grew up in Africa) always makes me wish that we were having one of our own. You can’t beat a summer barbie and eating al fresco if you’re lucky enough to have an outside space.

But barbecue food doesn’t always come cheap. Traditionally British barbies have been about burgers and bangers, but more recently our cooking has become more adventurous, with Australian, American and Jamaican recipes entering the fore thanks to the influence of Ainsley Harriott, Bill Grainger etc.. If you’re looking for new recipes, Ainsley’s Barbecue Bible is a great read, as is Weber’s Charcoal Grilling by Jamie Purviance, which is an amazing book with recipes from all over America devised by people who take part in barbecue cooking competitions. Lately I’ve sampled barbecue dishes including surf and turf in a chilli marinade and pears cooked on the barbie and wrapped in pancetta and cheese. Fine now and again if it’s just for the two of you, but they’re not exactly frugal options if you’re throwing a party.

If you’ve got a lot of guests coming, I’ve found it’s easy to panic in the supermarket and overspend on barbecue food and drink. A good way round this is to count the number of expected guests, work out roughly how much food you will need per person before hitting the shops (eg. two burgers and sausages each, less for the children), then put together a shopping list and stick to it.

If you’ve got time, you could make your own burgers from scratch. It may be a faff but you’ll be able to reduce the meat content by adding extra onion or potato to bulk them out. Why not go meat-free to save cash? Spicy vegetable burgers can make a change, are just as tasty as meat burgers and are cheaper to make. If you have any leftover, you can freeze them and use them at a later date.

Griddled vegetables can be a delicious but cheap barbecue dish. Last year we dealt with our glut of courgettes by slicing them thinly and cooking them on the barbie. Vegetables, such as onions and slices of pepper, in kebabs can help eek out the meat content and a tomato or vegetable salsa can be a tasty accompanying dish too. Pork is a good option which is usually cheaper than beef if you’re putting a kebab together. Just make sure that it’s properly cooked.

A big bowl of couscous with vegetables and a stock cube thrown in can be a good filler, as can a potato or pasta salad. Try a Jamaican style rice and peas recipe if you fancy more of an exotic theme. I find potato wedges are always popular with our guests too, although you’ll probably have to prepare them in a conventional oven. Last year I became so addicted to eating my own home grown potatoes as wedges that I gave up buying frozen chips all together. Just slice the potatoes (King Edwards or Maris Pipers are good bets), throw them on a baking tray in a pre-heated oven, sprinkling some salt, pepper, herbs or paprika on them along with a good glug of olive oil. They’ll take about 45 minutes to cook at around 180 degrees or gas mark 4. Don’t forget to turn them halfway through cooking.

A cheap but tasty dessert is bananas with chocolate inside them baked in foil on the barbie. If your budget is particularly tight, why not ask friends who live nearby to contribute a dish, or agree to provide the food but request that everybody brings their own drinks? Look out for deals on charcoal and stock up because if you’re using it for your barbie, it usually keeps well over the winter in a shed.


What are you favourite frugal barbecue recipes? Got any other tips for saving money on the barbie? Leave a message and let me know.

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6 Responses to Cheap and cheerful barbecue food

  1. Kerri says:

    If you are having guests over, don\’t feel embarassed to ask them to bring something with them. It might take a little organising – you don\’t really want everyone to turn up with burgers! but suggest you will cover the rolls, side salads, soft drinks etc, then ask people to bring meat and what alcohol they want. You wouldn\’t turn up at a dinner party without a bottle of wine so why should a bbq be diff?

  2. Christine says:

    It\’s a fine line between feeding people nicely on a frugal budget and just being a plain tight cheapskate. You have to know your guests well enough to know where this line is. The other side of the coin of course is not to have to feed a tribe very often. You can then save up a bit, do a proper job and you\’ll be properly appreciated.

  3. Christine says:

    Not that I live in an area that does BBQs I may add – if there are ones, they are family only and not at all upmarket like your ideas Piper. I\’d like to see the looks on the faces of people I go round with if you asked them to a dinner party as well she says laughing.

  4. Kerri says:

    If would imagine if you were inviting people round, you\’d know them well enough to suggest they brought something. Personally, if i was invited to a BBQ, I would always ask if there was anything in particular they would like me to bring. Our neighbours have BBQs quite frequently, smells wonderful – I often hope they might chuck a burger over the fence lol! 🙂

  5. Piper says:

    The one we had last weekend featured mainly bangers & burgers, but DJ likes to push the boundaries with the barbie and try different recipes. Home grown asparagus griddled on the barbie is one of his favourites. When we throw a barbie for people friends often ring up first & ask what they can bring along. Our friend Matt has often called up on the way over and asked if we need ketchup etc. and other friends have thrown parties where we all bring along a dish.

  6. Unknown says:

    The frugal life — not happening much in Conservative constituencies .

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