Penny-Pinching Picnics: Summer party tips that will save you money

Summer is here and that means it is BBQ season. We all want to have a fun, stress-free backyard get-together without breaking the bank. Here are some tips to make you a BBQ bigshot.
  • Don't buy pre-made burgers. Buy ground beef in bulk and form your own patties. They taste much better and will save you money. If you have kids around, have them help make the patties -- they love it!
  • Plan your menu around what's on sale. This time of year, you can get great deals on hot dogs, chicken, ground beef and steaks. When you see a great deal, buy a lot and freeze the meat until you are ready to use it.

  • Every party needs drinks. Serve up big pitchers of lemonade or iced tea, both of which are great summer thirst-quenchers and can be cheaper than sodas or beer. If you want the best deals on the carbonated stuff, shop supermarket sales and warehouse stores.
  • Serving alcohol at parties can be expensive. To save money, offer beer, wine and one signature cocktail. Find great discounts on cool whites on sale at your grocery store, or shop specialty shops like Bev Mo. They frequently have 1 cent sales to save you even more. Pick a signature cocktail that looks festive while using few ingredients. You can never go wrong with the good ol' fruit juice+vodka combo.
  • Don't buy prepared salads. They can cost $5 and $6 per pound. Make your own using fresh summer produce, which will be much cheaper and easier to find this time of year. You can usually find some good deals at your local farmers market.
  • Keep dessert simple. Watch the sales for deals on ice cream and top each scoop with crumbled cookies and a drizzle of chocolate sauce. If you're feeling nostalgic for those childhood summers, make old fashioned s'mores. The ingredients are cheap and you can make a lot of s'mores from a box of graham crackers and a bag of marshmallows.
  • For entertainment, choose great music (your local cable or satellite provider may even have a full channel of summer tunes in their audio lineup), swim if you have a pool, buy cheap water toys at the dollar store for the kids, or play a classic board game under the stars.
Ready to sizzle and save? Ladies and gentlemen, start your BBQs!

Jennifer Horn is a co-host on the nationally syndicated Good Day radio program heard on more than 300 stations across the country in morning drive. An accomplished sommelier, Jennifer also co-authors a weekly Food & Wine Newsletter and is a contributor on the nationally syndicated What's Cookin' Show on CRN Digital Talk Radio. Follow Jen on Twitter here.
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