If you're one of the millions of Americans who enjoy throwing a big bash to celebrate the country's Independence Day, you might want to take a look at some of my easy tips for throwing a 4th Of July Barbecue On A Budget. By following even just one or two of these suggestions, you can cut plenty of overhead costs out of your big party without sacrificing any quality - in fact, you might actually notice an improved "guest experience" as a result.
The good news is that these are all ideas I've implemented myself over the years, and can vouch for their effectiveness. So instead of a bunch of "try this" and "try that" from a person with no experience actually using what he or she is suggesting, you're getting all this information straight from a guy who uses these guidelines on a very consistent basis.
(Hint: Many of these ideas work for any party or barbecue, not just a Fourth Of July shindig...)
Tip #1: Ask guests what they want to eat ahead of time. Before I started doing this, I'd spend lots of money at the store guessing what people would eat (and how much). I'd inevitably end up with a lot of extra food - usually the expensive kind, too, like steaks and other meats. That's because not every guest wanted a steak (shocking, I know...). Some were very happy eating just a couple of hot dogs and others only munched on chips and cookies. Long story short, don't spend $10 per person in meat unless you know they're going to eat it.
Tip #2: Marinate the meat. Not only does this lock in some awesome flavor, but I've found that it brings meat to an optimum cooking temperature. I can't prove that from a scientific standpoint, it's just my own observation, but here it is none the less. So why is a shorter cooking time important? Because it will require less fuel for your barbecue!
Tip #3: Load guests up on non entree items before serving the main course. If you load up your guests stomachs with cheaper foods before sitting down to eat the expensive stuff, they won't eat as much! Think about it: If you spent an hour munching on chips, cookies, soda pop and other snacks, would you really dive head first into a triple serving of rib eye steaks? Probably not. And neither will your guests.
Tip #4: Buy decorations online or at a dollar store. Some Fourth Of July theme decorations can really add some ambiance to your party, so don't disregard them! However, paying top dollar for season merchandise at your local store is murder on your checkbook. Instead, shop at your local dollar store or even online for discounted decorations. You'll probably never believe how much money you can save until you actually do it! As a brief example, I once spent about $15 on an American Flag table cloth at my local supermarket, then I saw a nearly identical item at the dollar store for, you guessed it, a buck!
Tip #5: Wear an American Flag themed top hat when you cook. No real reason, I just like it. I figured I throw that in to make sure you're still paying attention...
Tip #6: Don't assume that store-bought goods are more expensive than home made ones. While it's true that you can usually make food items cheaper than you can buy them, there are many instances when this isn't the case. For example, unless I make about ten gallons worth of potato salad, I don't break even on the ingredients in relation to just buying a couple of pounds at the local deli. So do a little math before automatically assuming that you can cook cheaper than you can buy, because it's not always true.
So there you have it. My top six (well, five at least) suggestions for throwing a 4th of July barbeque on a budget without sacrificing the overall experience.