If you’ve been trying to avoid your calendar recently, we have some news you may not want to hear: summer is almost over. The truth hurts, doesn’t it? Never fear, there’s still time for one more amazing backyard barbecue. Better yet, one that doesn’t break the bank.
You can make your final summer party an epic one (without spending epic amounts of money) by using these cheap barbecue upgrades! Your guests will think you dropped hundreds on a swanky party, when in reality, you pulled off this fancy shindig for next to nothing.
But they don’t need to know that, do they?
Check out these eight quick, cheap tricks to take your final summer barbecue to the next level without overspending.
MIX UP THE MENU
Grilling summer staples like hot dogs, chicken, and cheeseburgers are a barbecue requirement. But a quick way to establish yourself as a barbecue boss? Adding something a little unexpected to the lineup.
Try making some personal pizzas on the grill, customizing them to whatever toppings and cheeses your guests want. Vegetarian friends? Grill up some portobello mushroom caps to really make things fancy.
Good rule of thumb: vegetables are ALWAYS better on the grill. And wrapping them in BACON seriously seals the deal.
DIY FIRE PIT
PHOTO: THE OWNER BUILDER NETWORK
A barbecue without a roaring campfire is like Donald Trump without his toupee. There’s something inherently disturbing about it. But if you don’t have a fire pit (and you don’t have the time or money to buy one of make one), this is an easy little hack.
Grab a wheelbarrow and fill it with firewood and kindling. Set up benches around your impromptu fire for easy seating. You can keep a fire safely contained within the wheelbarrow and set a shabby-chic vibe for the whole evening. You may be doing it out of necessity, but if you play it cool, you just changed the entire nature of fire pits.
PHOTO: HOLLYWOOD CANDY GIRL
Now that you have your fire pit all taken care of, it’s time to provide the reason we have campfires in the first place: s’mores.
On a little table near the fire pit, set up your skewers, graham crackers, chocolate, and marshmallows. For extra swag, add something unique, like mini-candy bars, so guests can upgrade their s’mores if desired. The key to the presentation is the containers each of your ingredients are held in. We suggest metal tins or rustic wooden boxes, which you can easily get at any dollar store if you don’t have something hanging around the house.
PHOTO: SHE KNOWS
If your group of friends have a slightly competitive nature, a game station is a must. There are so many easy, DIY games you can make right on your yard to keep the party going.
Spray paint dots on your grass for outdoor Twister, use recycled bottles for bowling, paint letters onto wooden planks for giant Scrabble, or even make a bean bag toss by painting point amounts onto clay or plastic plates. Another one of our favorites? A carnival game coming to a backyard near you! String Solo cups between two posts and give your guests water guns to race each other to the other side.
Whether they’re boozed up or not, your guests are going to have a rocking time.
UP YOUR GRILL GAME
Excited to serve up dry, brittle burgers for your backyard barbecue? If you answered yes, for some God forsaken reason, you can get out. Everyone knows, when it comes to burgers on the grill, the juicer, the better.
For the most tender burgers, try these two tricks. First, put some apple juice in a regular spray bottle and spray it onto both sides of your burger patties. Next, take an ice chip and press it firmly into the burger while it’s still pretty raw on the grill. Both of these hacks will leave you with the juiciest burgers you’ve ever tasted.
SET THE MOOD
How you decorate your space for your barbecue will set the mood for the entire evening. Luckily, you don’t have to go overboard on themed decorations — in most cases, something simple and rustic bodes well for your vibe and your wallet.
Try these DIY paper lanterns to set some seriously enchanting mood lighting for your party. These are so easy to make with dollar store products, and you’ll love the way they transform your backyard. Not in a DIY kind of mood? Invest in these string lights if you’ve got the extra cash and the time.
BUTCHER PAPER BUFFET
PHOTO: LILI VANILI
The coolest way to serve any food nowadays is with a buffet-style setup. This makes for a casual vibe, and also allows guests to easily take whatever foods and portions they want. There is a simple way to take your buffet from boring to brilliant in all of two seconds. And you only need one material to get the look!
Your miracle item? Butcher paper. While you can get this online, you can also buy rolls of this rustic brown paper at Walmart for under $20. All you have to do is wrap your buffet table in the butcher paper, taping the edges under the table for a taut surface that won’t get caught in any summer breezes.
Then, take a thick, black marker, and label every item at the buffet. This adds instant class to a simple spread, and you can even use this to clarify if a dish is vegan or gluten free. Bad handwriting? No worries. Use printable templates for classy printing.
GRILL YOUR LEMONADE
PHOTO: MAGNOLIA DAYS
Queen Bey would be so proud of you. This homemade lemonade is made on the grill (remember, unusual things on the grill = instant style points) and gives a unique, smoldering flavor to your regular fresh lemonade.
All you have to do is slice a few lemons and lightly grill them. You can use these lemons in a traditional lemonade recipe to give it a grown-up flavor that your guests will flip for. Add a smoky liquor, like whiskey or scotch, to REALLY make this a drink for the big kids only.