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Throw a 4th of July BBQ for Less

With 4th of July less than a week away, it’s time to start planning your backyard BBQ. There’s nothing quite like getting family and friends together to relax and celebrate with good food. But you might be wondering how you can feed a crowd without blowing your food budget for the month. Here are five easy ways you can save on your next cookout.

Shop the Sales — Take some time to plan your menu and shop based on what’s on sale for the week. Most BBQ basics like hamburgers, hot dogs, brats, buns, chicken, chips and soda will be on sale leading up to the 4th. If you can find coupons for what you need, you’ll save even more. And if you’re planning on grilling out frequently this summer, you might want to stock up and freeze your favorites to use throughout the season.      

Make It a Potluck — There’s no reason to be responsible for buying all the food yourself. Most guests will probably ask if there’s anything they can bring. Instead of insisting you’ve got it covered, take them up on the offer. Whether it’s having them bring salads and side dishes, dessert, or chipping in to cover the cost of beer and wine, you’ll spend a lot less on your celebration if you let everyone pitch in a little bit.

Chop, Chop — Trays of pre-cut vegetables, fruit and cheese are definitely convenient, but they’re also expensive. Your dollars will stretch further if you do that prep work yourself. The night before the party, set aside an hour or so, put on some energizing music or stream an episode of your favorite show, and start slicing. Once you get into a rhythm, you’ll be surprised by how quickly time flies, and you’ll have one less chore to do the day of the BBQ.

Prepare for Leftovers — If you plan well, you can probably have several more meals for the week based on BBQ leftovers. The trick is to handle food carefully so it stays tasty and safe. The USDA indicates a “danger zone” for cooked food that is between 40-140 degrees, meaning it shouldn’t be left out for more than 2 hours at room temperature. Obviously, if you’re cooking and serving outside, food should be consumed almost immediately and any leftovers brought back inside and refrigerated right away. In very hot climates, you’ll be safer (and cooler) if you cook outside and set up a buffet line inside the house where temps stay more stable.

Keep it Simple — Any time you entertain, it can be tempting to go overboard with the decorations or the food. But remember, your guests aren’t expecting a Martha Stewart-level spread. As long as  there’s plenty of tasty food and good company, everyone will have a great time. Try to focus on  making real memories, not just pretty Instagram posts.