Bag up the bargains for a brilliant barbecue feast without burning stacks of cash
Everyone loves a good barbecue and with the promise of continued good weather for the next few weeks, many of us will be dusting off the garden furniture and the barbecue to start planning an evening outdoors with friends and family.
If you still need to buy the actual barbecue, check out some of the bargain stores for some great offers. Or if your budget won't stretch to a reusable one, there are lots of cheap disposable ones that will do the same job.
Hosting a barbecue needn't be as expensive as you think - there are lots of ways that you can make your budget stretch and still pull off an event to remember. A bit of forward planning, setting yourself a budget and looking out for the best deals can really make a difference.
The main event
Buying meat can be the biggest expense, but there are lots of ways to keep costs down. Look out for reduced meat in supermarkets and start stocking your freezer early. Chicken legs, thighs and wings are much cheaper than chicken breast, and have much more favour - making a homemade marinade with store cupboard ingredients like chilli and soy sauce will give them that extra kick. Burgers and sausages are also barbecue favourites - buying frozen instead of fresh will not only save you money but will also reduce waste. Most butchers and supermarkets sell barbecue packs which are a great way to get all of the staples at a fraction of the cost.
Fill up on sides
Serving lots of filling and tasty side orders will also help you keep down costs. Visit the bread section in your local supermarket and look out for reduced bread rolls and pitta breads. You can freeze these as soon as you get home, and then use them as you need to. Or look out for part-baked rolls that you can cook as required.
Ready-made salads can be pricey, so why not make your own with bags of lettuce, tomatoes and peppers. Rice, pasta salad and homemade coleslaw can be made relatively cheaply and will help to fill guests' plates. Jacket potatoes are another firm favourite. Buy cheap salad potatoes, rub in some sea salt and oil and bake them in the oven. They make a great accompaniment to the meat and sides.
Go cheap on the drinks
There is no need to go mad with the drinks. Multi-packs of beer, supermarket own-branded soft drinks, or boxes of wine could all help to keep down the cost. Put out jugs of cordial or iced water, or ask guests to bring a bottle along with them.
Bring inside out
Bringing some of your indoor accessories outside will help you decorate your table and patio area without any added cost. Tea lights, candles and lanterns create atmosphere as well as light and if you don't have garden furniture you can use your dining room or kitchen table chairs. Use your normal day-to-day crockery, cutlery and glasses instead of wasting money on disposable ones, and bring out throw-overs and cushions to dress up your chairs.
- MoneySense is a free, independent programme by Ulster Bank for schools and parents covering topics including banking, borrowing, budgeting and running a small business. Find out more ways to make your cash work harder in Jill Smyth's column next week