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Cheap Recipes for Your Summer Cookout

Ready or not, it’s summertime! There are pool parties, snow cones, trips to the lake and best of all—barbeques and cookouts! If you’re not a grill master, you might be a little nervous about what to bring to (or even how to host) a barbeque. Have no fear. We have some great tips and cookout recipes to help you kick summer off with a bang!

Easy BBQ Sauce Recipe

 Yields 2 cups

If you buy packaged, premarinated meat at the grocery store, it’s going to cost you. Sure, it’s convenient . . . but not for your wallet. And instead of just grabbing a bottle of barbecue sauce or marinade to solve your problems, why not make your own! This cheap and easy BBQ sauce recipe is sure to please both your crowd and your budget!

BBQ sauce recipe


  • 2 cups ketchup
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 1 teaspoon garlic
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


  1. Combine ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Bring to a simmer and reduce to low heat for 30 minutes, being sure to stir frequently.
  3. Let cool and serve!

Now that you’ve made your killer BBQ sauce recipe, you’re going to need some meat to pair it with. Look for cheap cuts of meat to grill up, like chicken thighs, drumsticks, or of course, ground beef for juicy burgers.

Tart Coleslaw

 Serves 6–10 as a side

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This isn’t your drippy, run-of-the-mill coleslaw from the grocery store deli. If tart, savory and crunchy suits your fancy, give this coleslaw recipe a try.

tart coleslaw recipe


  • 1 bag shredded cabbage and carrots (coleslaw mix)
  • 1–2 apples
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Chop apples into small cubes.
  2. Add chopped apples, shredded cabbage and carrots mix, sunflower seeds and dried cranberries to large mixing bowl
  3. Toss with apple cider vinegar and mayo until mixed throughout.
  4. Serve right away or refrigerate.

Mexican Street Corn

 Serves 6–10 as a side

Bring a little bit of flavor and spice to the table with this dish. It’s the perfect pairing of budget friendly meets taste-bud friendly. Plus, you’ll impress your friends with your knowledge of trendy food finds too!

mexican street corn recipe


  • 6 ears of corn on the cob, grilled or steamed
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons chili lime seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 cup Cotija cheese
  • Cilantro (to garnish)


  1. Cut corn off the cob and place in large mixing bowl.
  2. Add sour cream, mayonnaise, chili lime seasoning, garlic powder, fresh lime juice and Cotija cheese to bowl and stir thoroughly.
  3. Add cilantro for garnish. Best served while still warm.

Cook’s note: Depending on the season, it may be cheaper to substitute 5 cups of canned or frozen corn for your Mexican street corn.

Apple Crisp

 Serves 8–12

Nothing says an American Summer quite like apple pie, but why not surprise your guests with a twist on a classic? Hello, apple crisp! It’s apple pie’s hip, low maintenance cousin.

apple crisp recipe


For Apples

  • 8-10 peeled apples
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/8 cup lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon (or to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

For Topping

  • 1 cup oatmeal
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons cinnamon (or to taste)
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F and spray medium baking pan with cooking spray.
  2. Cube peeled apples and add to mixing bowl. Combine with lemon juice, salt, sugar and cinnamon.
  3. In a separate mixing bowl, combine oatmeal, flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt. Once mixed, add melted butter and stir.
  4. Add apple mixture to baking dish, then top with oatmeal-flour mixture.
  5. Bake for 1 hour or until golden brown and bubbling around the edges.

Cook’s note: Make this apple crisp recipe less expensive by substituting the apples for 8 cups of fruit on sale at your local grocery store and leave out the cinnamon. We especially love this recipe with peaches or berries.

5 Tips for a Cheap and Easy Cookout

Now that you have some tasty (and cheap!) cookout recipes, don’t miss these extra tips that can help you save even more!

1. Shop at a dollar store for paper products.

Breathe a sigh of relief, because people expect to eat on paper plates at a cookout. They just do! That’s good news for your budget and your dishwasher. So, don’t waste money on the fancy napkins and paper plates, and just grab what you need at your nearest dollar store.

2. Buy in bulk.

If you need that ketchup bottle to make it through 20 plates of burgers, you might want to grab a massive bottle of it from your favorite warehouse store. The same goes for any other condiments you know you and your guests will want.

3. Host a BYOB.

Let’s be real here—buying drinks to please the taste buds of all your guests gets real pricey, real fast. If you’re trying to have a cookout on a budget, then that just isn’t going to fly. Here’s the simple fix: Ask your friends to bring their own drink of choice with them. Gasp! It’s a revolutionary concept—we know.

4. Grill fruits and veggies.

If you have a friend who can’t eat meat, then they’ll surely appreciate that you thought of them. Plus, grilling up some tasty fruit or veggie kabobs is much cheaper than springing for expensive cuts of meat!

5. Make it a potluck.

If you’re in charge of grilling up the meat, the least your buddies can do is bring over their favorite side dish or dessert. This is a great way to let everyone show off their signature dishes while taking the pressure off of you to provide the entire meal. All you have to worry about is perfecting your grill recipes. Best of all, you never know what new cookout recipes you’ll gather up from what your friends bring with them!

Make It a Cookout to Remember

Who says having a cookout has to cost you an arm, a leg and a drumstick? With these tips and flavorful recipes to guide you, you can shop on a budget and cook up some delicious recipes for your friends and family. It’s as easy as apple pie . . . we mean, apple crisp. Use our free budgeting app, EveryDollar, to get your cookout budget started, and get ready to have a summer cookout to remember!

Ramsey Solutions

About the author

Ramsey Solutions

Ramsey Solutions has been committed to helping people regain control of their money, build wealth, grow their leadership skills, and enhance their lives through personal development since 1992. Millions of people have used our financial advice through 22 books (including 12 national bestsellers) published by Ramsey Press, as well as two syndicated radio shows and 10 podcasts, which have over 17 million weekly listeners. Learn More.

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