Monday, July 27, 2009

Saving Money During Grilling Season

As I mentioned before, the grocery budget can take a beating during the summer months if you cook meat on the grill often. During the cooler parts of the year, I only serve meat as a "main course" maybe once or twice a week. For the most part, we eat stews, casseroles, pasta and rice dishes that require only a little bit of meat, if any. Some suggestions for stretching your grocery budget further when you're serving meat as a main course more often:

  • Buy meat on sale, of course. I look for all types of meat to be less than 1.99/lb, unless it's fish- I think fish for less than 3.99/lb isn't too bad. I stock up on different meats maybe once a month.
  • When you buy your meat, put it in meal-size portions and freeze what you're not going to eat in a couple of days. Despite what most restaurant menus would have you believe, a serving of meat is only 3-4 oz., so based on that and the number of people in your household, portion meat accordingly.
  • I also look for hot dog and hamburger rolls in the reduced section (at Shaw's of course). They often have them for .50 per package, and I freeze them for later.
  • Don't spend extra for special marinades- I have some suggestions here for frugal marinade options.
  • Plan ahead! I honestly think that planning your meals is where you get your biggest payoff for time invested. That way, you use up stuff that you already have and you don't buy more than you need. At the same time, be flexible-I often end up changing my plan mid-week due to unexpected circumstances. For example, last week my mom surprised me and showed up at my house with all kinds of food to cook on the grill. We ended up eating what she brought over all week long, and even freezing some for later.
  • As much as I try to avoid making my kitchen into a restaurant, grilling can be one area where it pays off to make different people different things. For example, Pepper likes hot dogs and no one else does, so I keep a package around for her and throw a hot dog on the grill if we're having turkey burgers or something. This can also work well if the grown-ups want something more expensive that the kids don't like (like steak or fish...)
  • Make side dishes that can last for multiple meals. I will make a big batch of potato salad and it usually provides us with a side dish for the next three dinners. With that and a garden salad, the only additional food I need to prepare each night is what we are planning to grill.
  • Go veg. I was pleasantly surprised that most of my family members (except for Pepper, content with her hot dog) enjoy veggie burgers. Since we often get them on sale with coupons, they are a quick and convenient alternative. I don't find that they're necessarily cheaper than buying meat by the pound, though.
  • Make sure you don't waste money on propane- only turn on as many burners as you need, run it only as long as needed, and shut the grill off immediately when you're done. According to The Simple Dollar, it's actually a little bit more expensive to grill rather than use the oven or stovetop. However, for most people grilling is an essential part of summer- the extra cost is worth it.
  • On nights when you don't grill, look for lower cost menu options like using leftovers and making meatless dishes, to balance out higher costs on the other nights.
Also see:

Ten Frugal Tips for a Great Grilling Experience, from The Simple Dollar
The Frugal Barbecue Grill from
Grilling on a Budget from the Hillbilly Housewife
60 Cheap Marinades, by CheapHealthyGood

No comments: