Meal Planning Monday ~ Save Big, But Still Impress, at Your Summer BBQ!

Today’s Post is By Natalie Marusi of ShopAtHome.com

Summer, once again, seems to be flying by, and already the Fourth of July is knocking on my door. Yep, it’s definitely time to start planning a barbeque for my friends and family. Trouble is, hosting a bash can be expensive, and, although I’d love to, I can’t spend a whole week’s pay on my patriotic party.

Thankfully, little tips here and there can end up being a great help when it comes to saving money and keeping my financial independence intact. So, in the spirit of my love of finding a great deal – and celebrating the U.S. of A., of course, here are three ways to save on summer barbeques this summer. Happy Fourth of July!

Plan ahead. Seriously.

I know, I know, it sounds simple and you’ve heard it before, but, tell the truth, now: How many times have you ended up with way too much food at your summer gathering? Or had to race to the nearest (and often pricy) corner market because you forgot something? Planning ahead, keeping track of the number of guests you will host and knowing how much food you’ll need really will amount to big savings. So, yes, you must make a list and stick to it. Heading into the grocery store with a game plan is one of the easiest ways to spend less for a party. And if, like me, you’re not a pen and paper person, a grocery list app for your smartphone or tablet can be an awesome way to stay organized at the store.

Also, check out the new ShopAtHome.com grocery page,  full of user-friendly features – like the ability to digitally clip coupons to store in your account for printing later and easy item-based searching.

Keep calm and stay simple.

Just check your Martha envy at the door right now, OK? In my heart of hearts, I’d love to throw an elaborate barbeque soirée fully equipped with domestic goddess-worthy cocktails, canapés and gourmet desserts galore. Unfortunately, I don’t have the time – or, let’s be honest, the cash – to put Stewart to shame. However, you don’t have to break the bank to make the occasion special. Choosing one signature cocktail that’s fast and easy to whip up can be the perfect way to impress your guests when you’re on a budget. I can’t wait to try this White Wine Berry Sangria, by Karen from the blog Tasty-Trials . This prepare-in-bulk cocktail has just a few ingredients and combines into a festive Fourth of July libation. And with the potential of some left over chopped fruit, I could add the extra ingredients from the Sangria into a side salad. Simple, festive and multi-use? Done, done and done.

DIY, and SWB (Save Way Big).

Another great way to save on your summer barbeque is by making certain items yourself. Having grilled chicken or ribs? Combine ketchup, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar and other spices to create your own barbeque sauce. I love this barbeque sauce recipe from Food Network.  Instead of buying a pricy pasta or potato salad at the store, try making it at home – and ahead of time – to save both time and money. Don’t splurge on a cake from the bakery. Delicious? Yes? Expensive? For sure. Rather, choose your favorite cookie recipe to save money and still satisfy your guests’ need for sweets. Another option? Popsicles or otter pops. Buy them in bulk and chuck ’em in the cooler for a treat that’s yummy, nostalgic and, best of all, affordable. Seconds totally allowed.

Natalie Marusin writes for the Online Shopping Report at ShopAtHome.com.

Photo credit: A big batch of red, white and blue berry Sangria, like this one from Tasty-Trials, is festive and affordable. (Photo permission granted)