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How To Serve Great Food on The Grill Cheap

Summer is such a glorious time here in upstate New York. After what feels like the darkest days of winter warm sunshine and our grills smoking is one of the best feelings.

I grew up in the midwest. For us the nights my mom was working late or my dad decided to cook dinner it was always Brats and Bush’s beans on the grill.

I love getting beans at BJ’s  if there isn’t a good sale at Tops.

Grilling is one of my dad’s favorite things. He’s the one to share how he cooked a brat three different ways grilling on Instagram.

After I gave birth to our first daughter in the middle of winter, he grilled out- snow and all.  I expected my husband to be a griller to.

Today I’m sharing HOW to grill food for cheap.

I’ll share a hilarious first-time story with you.


My husband and I met when I was 19 and he was 18. We were in college loving the freedom of being away. I thought it would be fun to cook out. We didn’t even have a grill.

I was living with a friend at the time so we hit up Walmart and bought a tiny Weber grill. My dad would have been pretty upset if I didn’t buy Weber.

My dad is also a charcoal guy. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a gas grill. My husband didn’t know anything about charcoal.

Trying to impress me, of course, he used lighter fluid. He had no idea that you should let it burn off. He made us burgers. My first taste of a burger from my boyfriend. When my dad was a grilling master. Seriously everyone always came to my parent’s house for his cookouts.  It still rings true to this day.

I immediately said it tasted like lighter fluid. My husband said, “What? No, it doesn’t. I think it’s good.”

Since we were just “dating” I stayed quiet, but I ended up throwing the burger in the woods. He choked the thing down.  I brought up my dad’s burgers and well that was something we had to get through, as you do in the early years.

I thought I would NEVER eat a burger again. I teased him for a long time about it tasting like lighter fluid.

Oh, the joys of first dates right? Anyways my husband is better on the grill now. He too has come a long way and prefers charcoal.

We all start somewhere.

If you are new to grilling or dating someone who is, let me share how you can grill on a budget.

Buy Less Expensive Cuts of Meat

I love stepping foot inside our local grocery store and looking for the yellow “price reduced” stickers on meat. If you aren’t going to use it by the time it expires throw it in the freezer. If your store doesn’t run specials often on meat opt for a cheaper cut.

The cheaper cuts of meat are usually more flavorful. Fat is a great thing to have on meat when you are grilling. Some of the lower quality cut names are plate, round, flank, or chuck for beef. I would ask the local butcher at your grocery store for a cheaper cut of meat that is best for grilling.

You could even take it a step further and tell them your budget.

Buy in Bulk and Divide

This is my go-to method. Over the last few years, I have been buying a majority of our cuts of beef at BJ’s Wholesale Club. I know many people are die-hard Costco fans, well I am a huge fan of the wholesale club BJ’s instead.

Many reasons which you can read about on my other blog here. I have always found their meat prices to be best the deal when compared to Aldi and Walmart. They also have a butcher if you need a smaller size of meat.


I like to buy ground beef and divide into smaller sections for later use. Our local grocery store will also have better prices on larger packs of meat. I know Wegman’s family pack size is a decent deal too. Don’t think you won’t use. Meat is great to toss in the freezer for another meal.

You can cook all the meat right away if you want and then freeze later. It will have a great smokey grilled taste.

Stretch Ground Beef 

If you weren’t able to purchase ground beef in bulk, consider adding to your ground beef.

You can add in pureed veggies, breadcrumbs, ketchup, or any other soup. You can read an article I wrote here about more specific ways to stretch hamburger meat.

Cook Everything on The Grill

Make your entire dinner on the grill. This will save costs on propane or especially with charcoal. Once you get charcoal going it will stay hot for quite some time. It’s a great time to take advantage and cook your side dish or extra meat for a meal later in the week.

Don’t underestimate what you can cook on the grill. From watermelon to avocados. You can find a recipe for pretty much anything on Pinterest. It will make your mouth water.

Need help planning meals? Check out this amazing meal planning app here. 

Shop From Your Pantry/Fridge

It’s amazing what you can find to cook on the grill right in your pantry. This is my biggest tip when it comes to creating the perfect grocery list.  I know if I don’t shop from my pantry often and head out to the grocery store, I’ll come home and add all the new stuff in front of the old stuff. Five months later I’ll find the old stuff, stale or expired.

Shopping from your pantry forces you to use what you have, before you run out and get what you want.

Make Your own Rubs and Marinades

This ties in perfectly with the last one. It’s a good idea to always have these items on hand in your pantry. When you do you can make your own rubs and marinades. Especially if you are cooking a certain type of meat a few times a year. You would hate to waste a huge bottle of spice.

Spices do lose their potency after time. I like to crush my dried spices in my hand before I mix in a bowl for a rub.

Our Favorite Frugal Meals on the Grill

  • Hot dogs
  • Brats
  • Sausage
  • Chicken thighs in a marinade
  • Fresh Veggies Roasted in tin foil-use this oil to make any veggie delicious
  • BBQ Chicken
  • Beer Can Chicken
  • Grilled Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato- yes grill it all!
  • Beef Kabobs, or chicken too
  • Burgers- here is how to make amazing venison ones


How to Make Your Own Taco Seasoning

Thinking about grilling for your next party?

Check out my tips for how to be a super awesome host without spending a ton of money here.

If you need some frugal grilling tools check out my post here. 

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Donna Paglia

Monday 9th of July 2018

Great advice

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