Cheap Cookout Menu Ideas For Your Next Backyard Party

Summer is here, the flowers are blooming, the birds are singing, and the warm sun is beckoning everyone to shed layers of clothing. You know what that means: backyard parties! 

Everyone loves a fun outside gathering with friends and family. There are usually no space restrictions as you might find inside, cleanup is a breeze, and the fresh air seems to put a pep in everyone’s step. 

One of the best parts is the limited cost. Menus can be simple and many of the most delicious fruits and veggies are in season. So not only are they tastier, but they’re cheaper as well. 

Decorating doesn’t need to break the bank either. Holiday lights strung around the yard and an abundance of mason jars with tea lights can turn your backyard into a majestic space for little to no cost. Look for the most inexpensive colorful cloth at your local fabric or dollar store to use as table coverings. You can add wildflowers in vases for the perfect touch. 

Your menu can be as simple as burgers on the grill or let guests show off their culinary skills with a potluck. If you’re making a full menu, look for local, in-season fruits and veggies and plan your menu around food at the height of taste. 

Here are a few ideas for simple dishes that don’t cost a lot of money, and that your guests will love


Kabobs are versatile and can be made ahead of time. Just throw them on the grill about 15 minutes before dinner is served.  

  • Cut chicken, steak, pork, or firm tofu into chunks 
  • Bathe them in your favorite marinade for about an hour 
  • Cut veggies into chunks and keep in the fridge until you’re ready to assemble the kabobs
  • Choose those that won’t fall apart on the grill, such as whole button mushrooms, onions, peppers, asparagus, zucchini, and summer squash 
  • Small, red potatoes cooked on the grill are delicious 
  • They should be parboiled first so that they will be done at the same time as everything else on the kabob. 

Guests enjoy foods like kabobs since they are easy to eat while standing, and it saves you a bit of money on serving forks and knives. 


Color brightens up any table, so why not make mini Caprese salads in the colors of the Italian flag?  

  • Simply put a grape tomato and a mini mozzarella ball on a toothpick and add a single basil leaf 
  • Make a balsamic vinegar reduction ahead of time by boiling a cup of vinegar until it lessens to half 
  • Assemble the salads 
  • When you plate them for the party, drizzle the balsamic glaze over the top and add a couple of basil leaves for garnish 

You can use any flag that strikes your fancy. Simply substitute ingredients for the colors you need. 

cold drinks

Who doesn’t crave a cool refresher during the scorching days of summer?  

  • Slice lemons, strawberries, cucumber, oranges, or grapefruit 
  • One or two different kinds of fruit work best 
  • Place the fruit in a clear pitcher of ice water 
  • Don’t make it too far ahead since the fruit can break down after a while and lose its vibrant color. 

Even kids love the fruity taste, which is a great way to get them to drink more water. 


Punch is always an inexpensive way to keep your guests’ thirsts quenched.  

  • Use your favorite lemon-lime soda, cranberry juice, and orange juice in a 2-1-1 ratio 
  • Add ice (and vodka, if you’d like) 

For kids: 

  • Make punch made from lemon-lime soda, red tropical punch, and pineapple juice in a 2-2-1 ratio 
  • Add scoops of fun rainbow sherbet floating on top. 

Consider buying frozen juice. It’s equally satisfying and will save you money. 

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Summer parties and fruit salad always seem to go hand-in-hand. You can even use watermelons to create a wow factor.  

  • Slice a watermelon in half 
  • Clean it out and use it as a bowl to serve your fruit salad
  • It’s simple to do and always impresses  
  • Include succulent summer fruit such as strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, peaches, and nectarines 

For an added touch, you can find fun serving cups at the dollar store. 


If you don’t want to spend time cutting up fruit, opt for just watermelon. After all, nothing says summer like a big wedge of watermelon dripping juices down your chin.  

  • Cut slices that are only a couple of inches wide at the rind so your guests can avoid dripping on their clothing 
  • For added fun, place Popsicle sticks in the rinds and serve them like pops. 

You can blend any watermelon that is left over for a juicy treat the next day. Add ice for thickness. 


No party is complete without a dip or two. Add all your favorite Mexican ingredients into a large bowl: 

  • Chopped tomatoes 
  • Canned black or pinto beans, drained 
  • Chopped avocado (tossed in a little lime juice to keep it from browning) 
  • Corn (canned or frozen) 
  • Chopped red and green peppers 
  • Chopped red onion 
  • Cilantro 
  • Chopped jalapenos 
  • Salt and pepper to taste 

Keep in the fridge until ready to serve. Serve with tortilla chips. To make a creamier version, mix and add equal parts of sour cream and mayo to the salad until your desired thickness is achieved. 


For just a few dollars, you can purchase a plastic stuffed burger maker to create a pocket in the hamburger meat. Now your guests can have juicy fun by adding their favorite foods.  

Put out several options such as: 

  • Bacon 
  • Mac and cheese 
  • Spinach 
  • Caramelized onions 
  • Jalapenos 
  • Avocado 
  • Several types of cheeses

It’s cheaper to purchase meat in bulk at a warehouse store like Costco or BJs. 


Here’s a dessert that never falls short because strawberry shortcake is always a hit.  

  • Mash half of your strawberries with a potato masher and a little sugar to help bring out the juices 
  • Slice the other half and add to the mashed strawberries 
  • Put a slice of store-bought pound cake in a bowl or small dish
  • Add your strawberry mixture 
  • Whipped cream (fresh or canned) 
  • Top it with a mint leaf or slice of strawberry for garnish 

If your local grocery store offers a BOGO deal on pound cake, you can save money by taking advantage of the special savings. Then freeze the cake until your next party.    

Before planning any party, you should set a budget and stick to it. Otherwise, it’s all too easy to get caught up in the fun of planning a backyard party and spending beyond your means. Never use a credit card to pay for a party. Instead, plan your party ahead of time so that you can set aside a little money each week. If you plan well, with cash in one hand and a budget in the other, you can enjoy your backyard party without worrying about how to pay for it later. 

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