Have a smokin' cookout without scorching your budget

The pump isn’t the only place you’re going to feel the pinch of rising gas prices. According to news reports, your annual Memorial Day cookout is going to cost 29 percent more this year than it did in 2010.

The 44 percent price jump at the pumps this year is affecting industries and agriculture to the point where they can no longer absorb the extra costs, according to reports by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Therefore, consumers are paying for the difference in the form of higher prices at the grocery store.

For example, an ear of corn on the cob that would have cost you 20 cents last year will now run you 50 cents. And how about those tomatoes for your burger? Those will cost you about 86 percent more than last year.

The price bump is based on a traditional Memorial Day cookout menu for 12 people, which includes ground beef burgers, hot dogs, potato salad, lettuce, tomatoes, ice cream and coffee. It does not include soda, beer, and other alcohol, which will also drive up the cost of your gathering.
So what can you do to cook up a Memorial Day feast without burning a hole through your wallet?

Make your cookout potluck. Ask everyone to bring something for the meal. But instead of having everyone bring a side dish, encourage them to bring their own meat to grill. It’s a fun way to add variety to your menu without breaking the bank.

Get more out of your meat – and your dollar. Make more burgers with your beef by adding and egg and bread crumbs. You’ll also save money by making the burgers yourself rather than buying the pre-made patties.

Get creative. Instead of feasting on the traditional burger and hot dog, try something different. Check out your local grocery store’s circular and make note of the food that’s on sale. Search for creative recipes that incorporate less-expensive food.

Serve more sides. Stock up on side dishes, such as baked beans, that will be filling form of protein (and a cookout favorite), but will be less expensive than the meat. You can even get spice it up by adding some hot dogs to the baked beans (a childhood favorite!) and it will become a more substantial part of your meal.

Download our Cheap Eats eBook. Get valuable tips that can save you money on food year-round. You can browse more frugal foodie tips and get some delicious recipe ideas.

Even if you end up spending more money than you anticipated on your Memorial Day gathering, make sure to utilize leftovers. If you have enough – you could end up saving money by feeding your family for the rest of the week!

Jessica Horton is a former copywriter and community manager at MMI.