My family and friends all know I’m a tight-ass. frugal shopper, which is why they all come to me when they’re about to make a big purchase. Saving money has become a way of life thanks to Fatwallet.
However, my passion is food – specifically grilling and BBQ. Heck I even run a popular Weber Forums website. Here are some of the ways I’ve applied money saving techniques to backyard cooking.
Charcoal Baby! – That’s right, save the gas for AFTER dinner. The up-front cost of a charcoal grill is considerably cheaper than a propane grill. While the fuel cost of charcoal IS higher than the cost of propane, it’s not significant enough to cover the difference in price.
A Weber One-touch-gold (charcoal) is $146 on amazon and will cost ~$2 per cookout. A Weber Genesis (propane) is $699 and will cost about $.70 per cookout. Weber charcoal grills don’t require any maintenance. Gas grills need new flavorizer bars every couple of years. The burners also need to be replaced eventually, as well. The cost of flavorizer bars and burners is likely more than MOST people would spend on charcoal in a year.
Not to mention, gas grills can’t hold a flame to the great flavor that charcoal grills add to the food.
Avoid BBQ Toolsets – Sure they look great in that plastic case, with those beautifully finished rosewood handles and those super cool corn holders and steak knives. You tell yourself that you’ll keep everything in the case when not in use and it’ll last for years. I got news for you, it’ll never happen – and the tongs ALWAYS suck in those kits. (The corn holders and steak knives always suck too)
Here’s what you need:
– BBQ Tongs. ~$5 at your local home improvement store. Get the ones that look like elongated versions of your kitchen tongs. (I recommend getting TWO pairs of tongs)
– Spatula. (optional) ~$8 also at your local home improvement store. Look for a sharp edge and solid construction. Avoid the ones with serrated sides or bottle openers in the middle.
Use the grill for the entire meal – it’s hot, afterall. Planning on cooking veggies to go with your steak? Put them on the grill! You can even steam veggies on the grill, just put them in a pan of water with a lid just like you’d do inside. Your grill will also heat up garlic bread, bake apple turnovers, deep fry, saute, simmer, etc.
More veggies – Grilled vegetables are amazing. And they’re also a lot cheaper than meats. Rather than having a $14 porterhouse for everyone, share it and make sure there are enough side dishes to fill up on.
Cut your own planks – Making cedar plank salmon on the grill? If you’re lucky, you can buy two 15″ cedar planks for $10 bucks at your local supply store. But if you’re frugal, you can buy SIX 15″ cedar planks at home depot for $11. The cedar boards are eight feet long, and the friendly staff will gladly cut it into 15″ planks for you – for free. Just make sure you buy untreated cedar. Rinse it off and soak it in water before putting it on your grill.
Shut it down! – In the words of Gordon Ramsey, SHUT IT DOWN when you’re done. Turn off the gas if you’re a gasser, close all the vents if you’re a charcoaler. Don’t bother leaving it hot to ‘clean’ the grates. It’s better to clean the grates next time when you’re grilling again (tomorrow).
Re-use your charcoal – Another perk of shutting your grill down when you’re done! Re-using those half-burned briquettes or chunks of lump means you use less fresh charcoal and waste a lot less. Plus getting a good look at leftover coals from your last cook will help you learn how much charcoal you really need for a cook. A whole chimney for a couple hot dogs!?!? Not anymore!
Use a charcoal chimney – Lighter fluid is a waste of money and eyebrows, plus it gives off a nasty smell and has a negative affect on your food. Invest in a charcoal chimney. They’re about $15. I prefer the Weber brand (see a pattern here?). The off-brand chimneys only last about 2 years and they’re smaller and less efficient than the Weber. Instead of using newspaper, drizzle a bit of cooking oil on a couple sheets of paper towel. Your charcoal chimney is also a great tool for measuring charcoal!
Plan for leftovers – Double up on those pork butts! Leftover BBQ is one of my favorites. There’s nothing like eating pulled pork for a week. And its SO cheap. Pulled pork tacos, pulled pork egg rolls, pulled pork nachos, pulled pork omelets, pulled pork loaded baked potatoes… Get the point Forest? If you REALLY have a lot of leftovers, use a Foodsaver to vacuum seal and freeze them.
Be Safe – There’s nothing more expensive than burning your house down. Keep a fire extinguisher handy. Don’t grill indoors (with charcoal). Keep your grill at a safe distance from all things flammable. If you’re using charcoal, leave the grill outside even after you’re done. Smoldering coals produce carbon monoxide – which will kill you.
Raw chicken will also kill you, or give you the runs so bad you’ll wish it had. Invest in a good instant read meat thermometer. I swear by my Thermapen.
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