7 ways to save money when hosting a bbq for a crowd. funcheaporfree.com

Are you hosting a BBQ this summer?  Then you're in luck because today I'm going to be sharing how you can easily save money while hosting your own BBQ!  As you guys know, hosting a BBQ or party for family and friends is something Bubba and I love to do, but is also something that can seriously break the budget if you aren't careful.  

*Note: When you click the links in this post, we may receive a commission at no extra cost to you.

Recently, Bubba and I not only hosted a BBQ for 61 friends, but also threw a BBQ for our entire neighborhood (about 150 people)! How do we do this on a tight budget? Let's just say we've got a few tips and tricks up our sleeves. Today I'll teach you some of our secret sauce to hosing a BBQ or gathering, big or small, by finding the best deals on food, knowing what to serve (and how much!), and will share some of our top-secret hacks for keeping it simple.

Let’s get down to bizzznass!

7 Ways to Save Money When Hosting a BBQ

This post is full of juicy good tips on how to save money when hosting a BBQ, but this first one if my all time favorites!

7 ways to save money when hosting a bbq for a crowd. funcheaporfree.com


It's no secret that I love me some Costco! (Hence the fact I've been doing blog posts and TV segments on it for years…).  We love Costco because they have bulk sizes of all the things we use most. But whether you shop Costco or not, BULK is the name of the game. By buying food, paper goods, and condiments in bulk, it gets us a better price per unit, which saves a ton of money in the long run. If it's more than we need for the particular gathering, we put extras in the freezer or pantry to use later (go HERE to see some of my best leftovers hacks!).  We also buy extra when things like paper goods and condiments go on sale; and store them in our pantry to use later in the year when the products go back up to full-price.  If you don't live by a Costco, that's totally ok!  There are lots of local grocery stores that have annual bulk sales.  So make sure to keep an eye out for those and stock up on as much as you can then.

For a huge gathering, like the neighborhood BBQ I mentioned, it's hard to know how much food to buy. Our tips for LARGE gatherings and planning for food are to gather as many RSVP's as you can, and do it early in the summer so you can store the leftover food in your freezer and pull it out throughout the summer.

7 simple ways to save money when hosting a bbq for a crowd. funcheaporfree.com


Like I mentioned in my  feeding a crowd on the cheap post, it's important to plan out your menu according to WHO is coming over.  If we are only having one family over for Sunday dinner, sure, we might serve salmon, steak, roast, pork chops, or “finer” food.  For a BBQ though?  We are all about store-bought burgers and dogs. It’s more about the company than the food! Besides, there are simple ways to spice up plain burgers (Hint: my recipe Pinterest board is an AH-MAZING resource!)! 

For instance, one of my favorite ways to spice up a burgers is by incorporating fun toppings like grilled pineapple, avocados, and even bleu cheese.  One of my favorite burgers to make is one that's topped off with guacamole, Monterey Jack cheese, and spicy mayo.  As for hot dogs, you could spice things up by wrapping your hot dogs in bacon before grilling them up and offering different hot dog bun options for your guests to try.

7 ways to save money when hosting a bbq for a crowd. funcheaporfree.com


I know this sounds random, but hear me out on this one! Serving food in a home container, like a bowl, makes life so much cheaper! Take chips for example.  When hosting a BBQ, instead of serving chips in the bag they come in, serve them in a bowl instead of having to open a brand new bag.  That way, you can serve bags of chips that have already been opened and need to be used up and your guests will never know!  Don't serve chips?  That's ok!  You can also do this with any other bagged items (aka grapes, pretzels, candy, or whatever!) that you like to serve.

7 ways to save money when hosting a bbq for a crowd. funcheaporfree.com


For BBQ's we always use paper plates.  Makes for easy clean-up, but paper goods can get pricey if you aren't careful. One of our best kept secrets for saving money when hosting a BBQ is that we DON’T use the largest size of dinner plates!  The bigger the plate, the more food is wasted because people feel the need to fill their plates bigger than their stomachs can handle.

For example…for the adults, 10″ dinner plates are common, but are pretty darn big.  So instead of 10″ we will opt for an 8.5″ plate, or the 8 7/8″ plates they sell at Costco. It's still plenty big, but that 2 inch difference is substantial when it comes to wasting food. For kids then, we will leave out a stack of 8″ or 8.5″ lunch plates, or even 6 7/8″ dessert platesIt’s a subtle difference, but makes such a difference on the wallet by keeping people from letting their eyes be bigger than their stomachs and wasting food.  After all, if they are still hungry after their first round of food, they can always go back for seconds!

7 ways to save money when hosting a bbq for a crowd. funcheaporfree.com


Trust me, I LOVE me some soda, especially that good ol’ DDP! And I actually love setting up a soda bar with sodas and fun mix-ins and syrups when serving a small group, or hosting a GNO. But at a BBQ or large gathering, rather than serving sodas, juice, or fancy drinks, we serve plain old water! Hey, it’s H-O-T, so people don’t mind!

Just make sure to serve the water in large drink dispensers when you're hosting a BBQ so you don’t have to refill often (I got mine from Costco but really like THIS ONE from Amazon!), and make sure your water is ICE COLD! I like to keep my ice separate from the water, since it melts so fast inside the dispenser. I found an ice bucket online (I've also seen cute ones at Target) that keeps ice from melting so quickly, and we keep it out next to the cups so people can add as much ice as they’d like.

ICE TIP: Gas station ice is the most expensive! Avoid buying bags of ice at gas stations when at all possible. Costco ice is the most affordable, so stock up while you are there grabbing bulk items. However, if you can’t make it to Costco and need something quick and convenient, as I shared in this IG post, many McDonalds restaurants sell 8lb bags of ice for just $1! And you can pick it up in the drive-through! Can’t beat not having to get out of your car…

7 ways to save money when hosting a bbq for a crowd. funcheaporfree.com

To take it one step further, here is a REEEEEEEEALLY old post and TV segment I did with creative ways to make homemade ice, and how to make it extra fancy, using things you already have lying around your house!
Boy, can you tell I’m an ice addict? Someone call ice anonymous for me…


When we invite people over they (luckily) almost always ask what they can bring.  But even if they don’t offer, we will ask! “BBQ at our house Saturday night! Do you guys mind bringing a side or dessert to share?”  The only exemption to this is a birthday party. But even still, if someone asks if/what they can bring, we will always let them!  And trust me, it doesn't have to be complicated when doing this.  We seriously as people all the time to help with the food.  Because, not only does it help you save money, but it's also fun to see what types of foods our friends like to make and bring to gatherings. 

So, to keep things simple on your end, simply ask your guests to bring their favorite side dish or their favorite dessert to share.  Heck, you could even add a little fun to this by telling your guests you will having a cooking contest where one person will win a prize for the best side dish and/or dessert.  You'd be amazed at how much your guests would get in to this!  Especially if there was some sort of small prize or trophy involved.


Sounds funny, I know, but it’s true!  I’ve been to parties where food is placed wherever and there’s no flow, no organization, and a feeling of chaos that leads people to eat more and only grab the most expensive and desirable food.  So, to keep this from happening while hosting a BBQ of your own, here’s the flow I keep at my food tables:

  • plates and utensils first
  • buns
  • meat
  • condiments
  • salads
  • sides
  • chips 
  • meat other than hot dogs or hamburgers
  • desserts-want a yummy dessert to serve at your BBQ? Check out THIS amazing brownie recipe!
  • drinks (I usually put these on their own table)

A tidy, organized table keeps a tidy, organized flow.  People can see all the options and don’t take more than their fair share of food.  Again, funny, but it makes a HUGE difference!

7 ways to save money when hosting a bbq for a crowd. funcheaporfree.com

Now, how do we budget for BBQ's in general?

I use my grocery shopping/envelope method and just plan ahead the week or two before and use part of that budget to buy the food I need! I can even tap into my “other” budget for big ones like the neighborhood BBQ's. If I need more than my grocery + “other” allotment for the week (which has never really happened, by following my tips above, but still…) then you would just follow my simple budgeting method and make sure it fits within your 70%!

Need more budgeting tips? Don't forget my super fun BUDGET BOOT CAMP course that was designed to be as simple as possible and filled with all the money saving tips and tricks Bubba and I learned to successfully get ourselves out of debt AND still enjoy gatherings like this! 

Use the code FCFBLOG for 10% off!

So there you have it Freebs! 7 ways to save money when hosting a BBQ. Now you definitely don’t have an excuse to not host one of your own! Happy grilling!

Check out ShelfCooking.com

Have you checked out ShelfCooking.com yet? Our brand new site is dedicated to helping you cook delicious, nutritious and budget-friendly meals for your family without slaving away in the kitchen! Basically every parent's dream, right? Join our Shelf Cooking Community today!