Cut the cost of summer barbecues

3 June 2009

It wouldn't be summer without the smell of sausages or vegetable kebabs sizzling on the barbecue in your back garden.

But while alfresco dining is one of the joys of the warmer weather, it can also be costly. For a start, you need the equipment - the most expensive barbecue on (the Weber Summitt S-650) will set you back £2,349.99. While there are far cheaper models out there, you also have to factor in the cost of fuel, tongs and grills, plus all the meat, vegetables, salads and drinks that a traditional barbecue calls for.

Luckily, a bit of forward planning can help keep the costs down.

1. Your barbecue

While you might not be in a position to fork out a lot of money on a barbecue, there is an arguement not to scrim either. The cheapest way to cook food outdoors is by opting for a deposable barbecue - a pack of three disposable barbecues costs £7.99 from Robert Dyas. However, each of these will only last once so it might be worth spending a little bit more on a permanent barbecue that you can enjoy again and again. 

Asda's cheapest model is just £10, while larger models cost anything from £20 to £235.

Generally speaking, charcoal barbecues are cheaper than gas models, but if you have a lot of barbecues then gas is cheaper in the long term.

For example, one gas cylinder provides enough fuel for eight hours cooking on the maximum setting and is quicker to heat up compared with charcoal, which typically takes 45 minutes.

2. Avoid pre-packed goodies

Avoid pricey pre-packed barbecue goodies. For example, a box of two Taste the Difference beef burgers from Sainsbury's (284g) will cost you £2.69, whereas a 500g box of fresh beef mince is just £2.20 and should be enough to make four to six burgers.

You can also keep costs down by making your own marinades – see below – and sauces.

Simply season food with salt just before cooking, as that will help bring out the flavour. If cooking on charcoal, you could also add aromatic wood such as hickory, or let the coals burn right down and add herbs for aromatic oomph.

3. Cheaper food options

Buy produce that you can freeze in case rain ruins your plans, and go for cheaper cuts of meat such as chicken thighs instead of breasts. Grilled fish is another great option, with a bag of frozen sardine fillets from Sainsbury’s costing just £1.99. Meanwhile, 400g of beef mince from the supermarket's Basic range is just 97p.

4. Build your own

If you decide to go for a charcoal barbecue, building your own fire pit is fairly straightforward and won’t cost you much. Go to for instructions.

You can also register with your local The website allows you to post enquiries for particular items in your local area, and if someone has one all you have to do is pick it up for free.

5. Weather proof

A rainy day doesn’t have to mean the end to your barbecuing plans. Invest in an umbrella shelter for £34.99 from - and ensure your food doesn’t go to waste.

Old-fashioned thrifty tips

Spicy marinade:

Use the following store-cupboard essentials to make a marinade that won’t add anything extra to your shopping bill.

4 tbs oil
300 ml (1/2 pint) red wine
2 tsp mild chili powder
2 tsp mixed-spice seasoning
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1/4 tsp coarse ground black pepper

Combine all the ingredients together and marinate steak and red meats before grilling and barbecuing.


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