A long-time contributor to SeriouslySmoked. Jim has had a lifelong relationship with the art of grilling, passed on from his father and grandfather to him.
Annabelle is an experienced food writer and editor. She focuses on common sense, easy to replicate recipes formulated
to help keep things fresh and exciting while fitting into her day to day life as a wife and mother.
To many people, grilling feels like a luxury, of sorts. It might require equipment you don’t have, and seems like it requires stuff that might not be in your budget. Steaks are expensive, right? And so are many of those other common grill staples.
But while that can be true, in some ways, that’s not all that grilling is. A grill is, above all else, behind the mystique and different-ness just a fancy stove in a lot of ways. It’s a method you use to cook, and while it can achieve results far different from cooking on a stove or in an oven, the principle is much the same.
All this is to say that the key to grilling on a budget is dispelling that idea that grilling is something that REQUIRES a lot of money or investment, when it really doesn’t. The only thing, really, is that grilling on a budget tends to take space; you can’t really grill unless you have at least a little bit of space outdoors to do so.
1. Buy a Cheap Grill
Did you know you can get a workable grill for something like $20 to $30? Particularly, a nice and simple charcoal kettle grill is going to be your best bet for grilling on a budget. This will give you somewhere in the ballpark of 250 to 300 square inches of cooking space, and even the cheapest, most poorly made grill is going to last you about a year before it gives out, so it’s quite the fine investment; cook about three meals on it and it’ll pay for itself.
The expensive grills are either extra large, have a bunch of electronic components (like digital temperature controllers), are big propane models, built in, etc.
A simple, no frills grill will get the job done just as well if you know what you’re doing…and are the best kind of grill to LEARN what you’re doing in the first place.
2. Grill Anything
Grilling, for some reason, falls into two categories for a lot of people: extremely cheap food (hamburgers, hot dogs, etc.) and the more expensive stuff you bust out for special occasions (the good cuts of steak, full racks of ribs, etc.), with no thought to the in between.
But that in between is where grilling THRIVES, in my experience.
One of the best things to grill, for me, is also one of the cheapest, most cost effective cuts of meat you can pick up: the humble pork chop. Whether it’s bone in or bone out, a pork chop grills up extremely well. Much better than you’ll get out of pan frying it or breading and baking it, for sure.
Grilled chicken breast is also of course great, and extremely cost effective.
But beyond that, many vegetables are delicious when grilled as well. Corn, potatoes, asparagus (though this is a bit pricier, of course), etc. Basically any vegetable with a more solid structure or is a bit starchy, can go on the grill and come out great.
One of the keys to grilling on a budget…in fact, cooking on a budget in general, is to cook what you have, no matter what that is. You can make amazing meals out of things you have around the house right now, you just need to try and find a recipe that fits your current resources, instead of the other way around.
Buying groceries to fit a recipe is going to leave you with a ton of waste and a huge grocery bill. Searching for recipes to cook the stuff you already bought is definitely the way to go.
3. Look for Sales
This may sound like an obvious one, and it is, but it’s an important one.
Meat is one of those things you can buy in bulk and freeze for later, which you should take advantage of as much as possible. If you have a card for somewhere like Costco or a similar warehouse style store, stocking up food for a month or more is a really cost effective way to keep on grilling for a minimal cost.
But more than that, meat constantly goes on sale at grocery stores. Sometimes they have too much stock, sometimes demand is low so supplies are in danger of going bad, or any number of other factors.
But at times like these, it’s extremely easy to get your hands on good quality cuts of meat for more than reasonable prices. If you pick these up when they’re on sale, even if you don’t intend to cook them immediately, you’ll have them for later. Trust me, you’re not going to notice a difference between a half off ribeye and a full priced one, nor any real difference between one that’s been frozen for a month over one that’s off the shelf as long as you bring it back up to room temperature properly before cooking and make sure it doesn’t get freezer burnt.
Buying your meat from a local butcher can also be a great way to get good meat for surprisingly low prices. Even better, they can often cut the meat to your exact specifications.
4. Roast is Steak
Buy a sirloin tip roast for $15, and you could have 4 to 5 sirloin steaks…something that would normally run your about $30 depending on the current price, all cut to your desired thickness.
Combined with the above, a good sale from your grocery store or local butcher gives you an insane deal on steaks.
This goes for other things as well; a slice off a pork roast isn’t exactly a pork chop, but it’s really tasty, that’s for sure, and fills the same role easily.
This little trick not only saves you money, but makes your supply look a lot more versatile that you initially thought.
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