Get your grill on for less this summer


The blog Financial Highway has offered a list of suggestions for making that summertime staple -- cookouts -- more wallet-friendly. Since more Americans are likely to be turning to backyard barbecues this summer instead of indulging in pricier entertainment, we think this is a great idea.

A couple of their tips are super-easy to implement: Ask your guests to bring over their choice of grill-ready meat or beverage of choice. This is a solid idea, although we'd like to add that it benefits from a touch of coordination so you don't wind up with nothing but hot dogs and orange soda.

If you invite guests via email or a service like Evite, encourage them to tell everybody what they plan to bring to avoid overlap. Also, if anyone asks what they should bring, the answer should always be, "A cooler full of ice, please." There's pretty much no such thing as too much ice at an outdoor get-together.

They advise to skip buying paper plates (which always get soggy anyway, in our opinion) and invest in a cheap plastic set you can reuse season after season. If you're holding the event in a park or public place instead of at home, they suggest bringing dessert -- specifically, ice cream -- for any kids present to resist the inevitable siren song of the ice-cream truck jingle.

Financial Highway also suggests buying your grill and stocking up on charcoal during the off-season. We'll give that a thumbs-up and add that it can hold true for meat, as well. If you have a vacuum sealer or a deft hand with plastic wrap, stock up on ground meat or steak (which is relatively cheap this summer) when it's on sale and stash it in your freezer til 'cue time rolls around (let it thaw in the fridge for a day beforehand).

Another suggestion is to purchase bone-in cuts of meat. While few pleasures can match that of a roast with a crispy, char-grilled exterior, we'd like to add a couple of thoughts: First, while bone-in cuts of meat are often cheaper than their boneless counterparts, keep in mind that's because you're also paying for bone. The dog is sure to be thrilled, but you're basically spending money on something you can't eat. Also, the size of many bone-in cuts may entail pre-cooking them in the oven first, so consult a good cookbook or recipe site (I'm a huge fan of if you want to make sure your selection will keep you out of the kitchen on a hot day.