Food prices are rising, so here’s a look at ways to keep your cookout costs in check.Summer cookout season is synonymous with watermelon, burgers and cool, refreshing drinks.
Team up with friends or neighbors. Don’t feel as though you have to handle all of a cookout’s costs and preparations on your own. Rather than buying extra coolers or chairs, ask to borrow those items from friends or neighbors. You could even make it a neighborhood cookout and invite several families to share hosting responsibilities. Use one family’s yard for a volleyball game or relay races for the kids, another for the grill and family-style food, and so on.
Send digital invites. Rather than mailing printed invitations, go digital by inviting guests via Evite, Paperless Post or Facebook. This gives you space to include more details than you could on a printed invitation and saves money on postage and printing. It’s also more social so guests can see who else is attending or even arrange carpools.
Make it potluck. Having guests bring a dish not only reduces your workload, but it also saves you money and lets guests sample your neighbor’s prizewinning apple pie or your co-worker’s famous potato salad. Because beer and wine can get pricey, you could also make the cookout BYOB (bring your own booze) so guests are sure to have what they’d like to drink. Either way, have plenty of sparkling or regular water available so no one gets dehydrated. Sparkling water is inexpensive but is a little fancier than water from the tap. Add a few citrus slices to a pitcher of water for a classy touch.
Stock up during sales. For nonperishable food you’re preparing yourself, start shopping several weeks in advance so you can scout out sales on condiments, potato chips, paper napkins, soda and more. Or head to a warehouse club if you have a membership. Consider buying plastic utensils and paper goods at a dollar store, as they’ll be used only once and quality is less important. Solid-colored napkins and plates are more versatile than patterns; you can use leftovers at another event. You also may want to pick up a few inexpensive serving tongs or spoons, as these are often in short supply at cookouts and guests don’t always remember to bring them for serving their own dishes.
Use DIY decorations. Pinterest has plenty of ideas for inexpensive recipes and do-it-yourself decorations. I love ideas such as using old cans as flower vases, putting out condiments in the compartments of a muffin tin or hollowing out a watermelon to use for cocktails or lemonade (use the insides of the watermelon in a fruit salad). There are also great tutorials on eHow, including this easy wreath made of cupcake liners.
Photo credit: Getty Thinkstock, Tonia Larson for eHow