More than ever, everyone is keeping a close eye on their wallets, and with that in mind, our team at BBQ Grill Academy put together these easy, low-cost, affordable grilling ideas to keep enjoying your grill and cook great meals for your friends and family on a dime.
This article will provide you with nine inexpensive recipes, cheap grilling ideas, and budget-friendly grilled main dishes you can try at home.
Cheap Budget Friendly grilling ideas and grilling recipes
1. Skinless chicken breasts
Chicken breasts are one of my favorite go-to foods when it’s time to find something fast and easy to make on the grill. The price of chicken is reasonable, and grilled chicken is a popular and staple BBQ dish.
Grilled chicken is a great protein source and, if seasoned with the right BBQ rubs and a little bit of a smoky flavor using wood chips, if you have a gas grill, grilled chicken can taste delicious.
If you own a pellet grill, cooking grilled chicken is as easy as turning on your pellet cooker, setting the temperature to about 350 degrees, and let it rip! The pellet grill will do the work, and the wood pellets will take care of the flavor.
I use a combination of salt and pepper to make my skinless chicken breast recipe, and occasionally I like to use a chicken dry rub BBQ dry rub to add more flavor. If you keep it simple, a salt and pepper grilled chicken breast goes well with a simple side like jasmine rice. If you went more on the BBQ side, things like coleslaw, a salad, grilled sweet potatoes, and grilled corn go well. Just be sure to cook the chicken to the right doneness level.
2. Grilled Chicken Wings
Let’s talk about chicken wings since the subject is chicken. One of the simplest meats to grill is chicken wings, which you can cook for a reasonable price. There are three things that I like about chicken wings. One, you can get more wings for your money, two, you can serve more people, and three, they are easier to prepare.
My recipe for chicken wings is simple. Grab a chicken rub or seasoning, throw the wings in a bowl, and coat the wings with the seasoning. After the chicken wings have reached the desired doneness, increase the grill’s heat to a higher temperature. Grill and carefully crisp the outer skin of the wings. Because they are finger food, chicken wings can be served on their own on occasion.
3. Grilled pulled pork ( or smoked )
Some people are intimidated by the thought of preparing pulled pork, but the reality is that it is simple and yields a substantial amount per person. I enjoy preparing pulled pork because it not only pairs well with numerous side dishes, but it also allows for a great deal of culinary creativity.
Furthermore, it is easier to be left with a large amount of pulled pork and have plenty of leftovers for sandwiches, snacks, and even the next main meal.
My recipe for pulled pork is simple. If I’m going for a more Texas-style flavor profile, I use a simple combination of salt and pepper. Put the pork butt or pork shoulder in the smoker at 250 degrees until done, then let it rest, shred with bear claws, and serve.
If I want something sweet or savory with a hint of spice, I choose a sweet pork rub heavy on brown sugar and proceed as described above.
Pull pork is a low-cost recipe because you can order a cheap pork shoulder online and, because you’re “shredding” the meat, you can serve a large number of people, making this a great tailgate recipe, Fourth of July dish, and great for Superbowl parties.
4. Pork Chops
Pork chops are one of my favorite things to cook for my family. Pork chops can be purchased in small packages or in larger packages for a better price. Pork chops have the advantage of being simple to prepare and quick to grill.
Pork chops are a tough cut of meat, so I like to use a spray bottle and spritz the pork chops with a little bit of apple juice to keep them moist, especially if grilling high and fast. Second, I like to use a simple salt and pepper one to one mix, but you can also use sweet seasonings to enhance that apple’s sweet flavor from the apple juice.
5. Grilled pizza
One of my favorite weekend activities is grilling pizza. Grilling pizza is easier than you think. You can purchase pre-made pizza dough at your local grocery store or order it online. The rest is up to you to customize your own Slice of Heaven on your grill by selecting your favorite cheese toppings and vegetables. Baking pizzas on your grill is not that complicated. You do need a good pizza stone to make sure the pizza comes out crisp.
6. Tacos a la Plancha
This means tacos on your griddle, my friend. This is by far one of my favorite summer main dishes to prepare. All you need is ground beef, and if you have a lot of mouths to feed, grab a little more, but the point here is that ground beef is the main ingredient for tacos, and it is inexpensive.
You can definitely use other proteins like steak, bacon, and chicken. Buy bell peppers, garlic, onions, red onions, red peppers, and a host of other vegetables to make as toppings. This is one of the beauties of tacos. There’s no such thing as a way to make tacos. You can make tacos 100 different ways and still be amazing.
I like to keep things simple, and my go-to taco recipe is good ground beef, onions, a little lemon juice, and tomatoes, all cooked on the grill. That’s the cool part about tacos you can take a small portable griddle to the beach and still make amazing tacos without breaking the bank.
7. Pork Pinchos (pork kabobs).
Pork pinchos are kabobs made out of pork chunks. You can use different pork cuts to prepare kabobs. Pork tenderloin works, but you can also use fattier cuts like a boston butt. The key here is to cut the chunks into nice squares so they cook evenly, but not so small that they cook too quickly and become dry and tough.
Pork Pinchos is a great recipe for family gatherings, a tailgate recipe to grill on your tailgate grill, and yes, because you are cutting a larger cut of meat into small chunks, it is inexpensive and yields a lot of portions.
8. Smoked Mac and Cheese
Smoked Mac and Cheese is a tasty recipe you can make on your grill or smoker. If you own a pellet grill, the wood-fire flavor from the pellets will infuse the macaroni and cheese with a smoky taste. I have also made just cheese with the same amazing results.
Mac and cheese is easy to make, and you don’t have to spend hours making a recipe. One of my favorite tricks is to grab a Bob’s Evans Mac and Cheese tray from my local grocery store. I pour the mac and cheese onto a cast iron skillet and put it in the smoker for about 30 minutes.
I also have a Smoked Mac and cheese recipe you can try, which is amazing.
9. Grilled chicken thighs
Chicken thighs are easy to grill and, with the right seasoning, can be a delicious main dish. Another reason I like grilling chicken thighs is that, besides being budget friendly you can make other dishes or the chicken thighs can be the main dish.
I often make chicken thigh tacos, salads, and pico.
Great Tips for grilling on the cheap and keeping it budget friendly
Buy in Bulk
Before you go and buy ingredients for your next grilled meal take some time and do some research to find stores where you can buy in bulk.
When you go to the store, try to buy large cuts of meat that you can slice and dice into smaller cuts and create lots of smaller dishes. Buying in bulk is a great way to save money, especially when buying meat.
Buy unseasoned, untrimmed primal cuts.
We all like our ham sliced, our ribs trimmed, our chicken spatchcocked, and our briskets cut. However, you can save money at the grocery store by buying primal cuts and then trimming them to what you want to grill. For example, you can buy a whole brisket and cut it down into slices, burn ends, or take a pork sirloin and cut it into small chunks.
This is the same case with pork belly and bacon. You can get a full slab of pork belly, which is a primal cut, and take it home and slice it into bacon using a meat slicer. A large cut of pork belly can be turned into a lot of different smoked masterpieces.
Add vegetables and side dishes
Vegetables can be more price friendly than other proteins. Side dishes like grilled sweet potatoes, grilled corn, sweet corn, and even asparagus can help increase portion sizes while keeping cooking costs low. So don’t be afraid to add some greens to those plates.
Complement main dishes with desserts
Desserts can be a good way to justify smaller serving portions. Everyone wants to have space to eat dessert.
One Last Word
We all want to find ways of cooking and grilling for our family while staying within our budgets. I hope these inexpensive grilling ideas help you for your next cookout. The key here is to get creative, get out of your comfort zone and find ways to make less with more.
I personally like to buy meat in bulk and then slice and dice it at home to make smaller dishes and get creative. Things like ground beef can be turned into many different dishes; chicken is also very versatile; and vegetables can help fill a plate.
I hope you enjoyed this guide and take some of these ideas and turn them into your own. The important part is to try and learn something new.