How do you throw a cheap BBQ? How to have a bargain BBQ on a budget

Now the hot weather is here to stay, it's the perfect time for a BBQ.
  • We earn a commission for products purchased through some links in this article.
  • Even though everyone promises to "bring something", whoever is hosting a BBQ can end up spending more than their fair share on the occasion.

    Whether it’s on the essentials like food and drink or the equipment, hosting a BBQ rarely ever comes cheap – or is done successfully on a tight budget. This might be down to our excitement over the occasion, after all, suitable BBQ weather in the UK only comes round once a year so we often find ourselves wanting to splash out and make the most of it.

    READ MORE: How to light a BBQ – and the best ones to buy online today

    But BBQs are supposed to be about sitting in sun and chatting with friends or family, enjoying a drink. Not stressing out too much about whether the sausages are a little burnt or thinking about how many times you’ve tapped the credit card.

    We shouldn’t need to spend lots of money and have the best of everything to put on the best BBQ. So this summer, don’t feel like you need to spend an arm and a leg to have a good time around the grill.

    This is how to have a cheap BBQ in style…

    Before you go shopping, do a price comparison on supermarkets

    When you know that you’ve got a BBQ coming up, whether it’s the coming weekend or in a few weeks time, start your research on the best and most affordable places to buy BBQ goodies.

    “Check which supermarket is cheapest for BBQ goods before you go out shopping. The cheapest may even surprise you; for example, Waitrose products are often cheaper than their Tesco counterparts, believe it or not.” Andy Barr, co-founder of online price-tracking website Alertr, says.

    “You don’t have to go around each supermarket to find the price – you can go direct to their website or use a price-tracking site such as Alertr.”

    Think ahead about what you’re going to cook

    Then once you’ve done that, keep your eyes open for bargains on meat and other cheap BBQ must-haves every time you go for a shop at that supermarket.

    During the hot weather, not only is the supermarket going to be rammed with people searching for the same thing as you, but all the bargains will be gone in an instant – or won’t be there to start with. So be sure to buy burgers, steaks and chops when they’re on offer as you see them, and store them in the freezer for safe keeping.

    Then the night before your BBQ, all you need to do is take them out to defrost over night.

    Anna Lavfors, consumer expert at Price Runner, suggests stocking up even earlier than a couple of days before. “Buying out of season will mean you can get more for your money, as the spike in demand during summer increases prices. Prices can also spike during hot weather when everyone inevitably has BBQs on the brain. According to PriceRunner price comparison insights, the best time of year to buy a BBQ is during the Black Friday sale, or 5-7 days before Christmas.” 

    Disposable vs. permanent barbecues

    Credit: Getty

    The question of disposable vs. permanent barbecues essentially comes down to how often you think you’re going to be using it.

    While a permanent BBQ will last you summers on end, they can be expensive to buy in the first place and you need somewhere safe and dry to keep them in the winter, otherwise they might not last until the following summer. A disposable barbecue is cheap and cheerful, but they are only single-use and you’ll likely have to buy more than one for every barbecue you have.

    As Andy from Alertr says, “It’s prudent to make a decision on the type of BBQ you want; if you are expecting to have barbie after barbie, then you’re going to save a lot of money in the long run by purchasing a permanent barbecue, rather than continuously buying the disposables. However, if you’re hosting one outdoor party and that’s it, then it would be in your best interests financially to get a disposable.”

    Have a think and decide what is best for you. And if you find that you want to go down the permanent route, check out these barbecues under £30…

    “Don’t be fooled into thinking that you have to spend hundreds of pounds on a BBQ to get the best results. You can pick up perfectly good BBQs with change to spare for under £50.” Anna from Price Runner tells GoodtoKnow, “Smaller gas grills are just like bigger models, yes with fewer burners, but the cooking results are very similar, making cooking outdoors simple and no waiting around for the BBQ to heat up to the right temperature. Time is money after all!”

    Give your guests a list of things to bring

    If you’re inviting others who don’t live in your house, they should bring something! Don’t be afraid to ask them to contribute to the BBQ, as after all, they’re eating it too.

    Having someone else bring a plate of food that you’re a little unsure how to make, or asking them to stop by the shops and grab a couple of beers will make a whole world of difference to your BBQ – and save you money in the process.

    Go for frozen BBQ food rather than fresh

    Credit: Getty

    There’s no problem with putting frozen meat or other food items on the BBQ. In fact, it will certainly work out cheaper.

    On a price comparison between frozen burgers and fresh ones from Tesco, a pack of 8 frozen Butcher’s Choice burgers were on average £3.70 cheaper than if you were to buy them fresh. So the savings would really add up if you bought frozen for all of your BBQ products.

    Just make sure you read the instructions on the packet really carefully before cooking, and cook everything through really thoroughly.

    Make a filling salad

    cheap BBQ

    Credit: Getty

    Something like a big pasta salad, or a green and leafy one with lots of avocado or couscous, will go down just as well as heaps of burgers and steaks – or alongside them. So instead of stocking up on the meat and their vegetarian or vegan alternatives, why not spend less and balance out the table with some greenery?

    Potato salads are a true necessity for any barbecue anyway, and can be made for next to nothing, while also being one of the many salads that are also really filling.

    Take meat off the menu

    cheap BBQ

    Credit: Getty

    When you add it up, all those steaks and burgers, sausages and pork chops are not only a little unnecessary but are sure to have made up almost all of your BBQ shopping bill. Most people won’t be expecting (or want) a full-on meat feast at a barbecue and will welcome the idea of more veggie options.

    Go for a vegetable kebab with lots of red pepper and aubergines, smoked corn on the cob or baked potatoes with coleslaw, finished off on the barbecue. Not having meat at your BBQ won’t hinder the experience at all and it’s bound to save you loads of money.

    But if you’re not so sure that a meat-free BBQ will be well-received, why not go for meat look-alikes? One’s like Fry’s meat-free chick style burgers are the same price, if not cheaper than classic burgers, and are packed with protein.

    Consider a cheap BBQ alternative – like your oven

    There’s no denying that even with all the saving and opting for cheap alternatives, a BBQ can end up costing a fair amount of money. So don’t worry if you think you won’t be able to manage it this summer because there’s always an alternative!

    Arun Bhatoye, Senior Marketing Manager at Hisense, says, “Cooking and eating together has become even more important than ever before. Naturally, given the glorious sunshine, the UK is seeing a huge spike in interest for barbecues and recipes, but if you can’t get hold of one in time for the good weather, or if you don’t have access to outdoor space, your oven is the best appliance for the job!”

    For getting that barbecue taste in your own kitchen, the experts at Hisense suggest the following:

    • Make your own BBQ sauce: “Creating your own barbecue sauce at home is a sure-fire way to make sure that your meats have that delicious, close-your-eyes-and-smell-the-summer flavour. Most of the ingredients are cupboard staples, including sugar, vinegar and ketchup as well as mustard powder and seasoning. Don’t buy in processed products – home cooking is much better with fresh ingredients.”
    • Smoke without the fire: “If you love the smokiness of a barbecue, invest in some smoked salt or smoked paprika to add depth to your meats and mains.” It’s definitely going to be cheap compared to a new BBQ!
    • Cook directly on the wire rack in your own: “To achieve that griddled effect, cook your kebabs and meats directly on a wire rack or on a griddle tray. This will give your food that mouth-watering, freshly barbecued appearance and taste.”

    So there’s no need to get in a pickle about your BBQ, with so many ways to bring down the costs or alternatives to make a BBQ cheap, anyone can have a great time grilling in their home this summer.