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How To Host a Perfect Cookout [Without Breaking The Bank]

Every year as summer rolls around, I have high aspirations for throwing a picture-perfect summer soiree. I imagine all of the appetizers I could serve, all of the drinks and meals I could make off of Pinterest, and I even imagine that I’d send my guests home with some kind of party favor (Yes, I am my mother’s daughter).

In reality, finding room in the budget to spoil my guests with a lavish experience is…well, pretty much unrealistic. That’s why I have all the praise-hands for Sam’s Club. My husband and I are currently DINKS (dual-income-no-kids), so we don’t shop there for our weekly groceries, but when we need to buy anything in bulk or for a group (think 10 or more), we make a trip to Sam’s Club so we can save as much money as possible—and so we can take advantage of all of the free samples.

I’m here to tell you that you can throw an amazing cookout this summer right in your own backyard without spending an arm and a leg just to impress your friends.

Make Your Shopping List

When you’re trying to decide what to serve at your cookout, think through menu items that are versatile and can be served in different ways so you don’t have to spend the extra money. I recommend grabbing a bag of Tyson® Frozen Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts at Sam’s Club—you can throw them straight on the grill frozen, and the bag reseals so you can save whatever you don’t end up using. Then, guests can use it to make chicken sandwiches, cut it up for a salad or to serve for kids, or just eat it plain Jane style!  

Do the same thing for sides, thinking through simple, versatile items, like classic Lay’s® Potato Chips, salad, and fruit. Then, put out dressings, seasonings, and dips that people can sprinkle on top to their liking.

Go Shopping at Sam’s Club

Head to Sam’s Club to pick up your main menu items and any sides. As a Sam’s Club member, you get access to Instant Savings, so be sure to check in-store and on your Sam’s Club app for any deals that might be running! Don’t forget to check your other money-saving apps for deals, like Ibotta.

And, between you and me, there’s actually a lot of ways you can save by shopping at Sam’s Club—like by checking the code by the price tag.

Prep In Advance

You’ll likely want to grill your meat right before guests arrive so it’s fresh—but you should prep any items that require chopping or peeling in advance so you’re not running around like a crazy person 10 minutes before everyone arrives (I may or may not be speaking from experience here…).

Set It Up

Trust me, I know as well as anyone that the pressure is on to throw a Pinterest-perfect party. But, if you’re on a budget, there’s not a lot of wiggle room for items like floating tiki torches and 10-foot outdoor swing beds. I like to make the most of the items I already own or have in my backyard, like simple tablecloths, potted flowers, and trees. Then, I throw in a few extra summer touches, like tea light candles, string lights, or mason jars with some flowers. Remember: It’s a backyard cookout, not a circus.

Get Grillin’

Like I said before, you’ll want to prep some items in advance and grill your meat right before guests arrive so it’s fresh—but if you do have to cook anything a little early, just wrap it in aluminum foil so it’ll at least stay warm. I usually put any pre-made food in a disposable aluminum foil pan with a lid to keep it warm (and the flies away).

Serve It

I’m a big fan of serving things buffet-style so people can get items as they please and make their food just the way they like it. Put up a spare folding table with a vinyl throwaway tablecloth on it to use as your buffet station for your condiments, sides, and drinks.

Kid Friendly

If you do have kids attending, set up a special table just for them and put some simple toys out that’ll keep them entertained in the backyard like bubbles, chalk, croquet or discs.

Save Your Leftovers

If you end up with lots of leftovers after your event, don’t just throw them out! Your leftover Ball Park® Franks and Tyson® Frozen Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast are resealable, so throw them back in the fridge and freezer. For any other sides you have left, just store them in a plastic container or refrigerator storage bag. Then, consider using all of those leftovers to make some tasty kebabs