We don’t want to tempt fate, but the weather seems to be brightening up a little and the shops have started to stock up on BBQ essentials.
If you want to be the first of your friends to hold a BBQ party, but don’t have a lot of spare cash, our easy eight-part list will help you plan an unforgettable night without breaking the bank.
Who you invite will help determine how much you spend and what you cook. Think about the space you have, will the garden comfortably fit 20 people, with space for them to move around – or will it only allow five? Once you’ve decided on a guest list, you’ll be able to split your budget by each person and start planning your food.
Be honest, are you a good cook? If your daily diet consists of microwave pizzas and beans on toast, you might want to ask a friend to cook on your behalf. Food poisoning is a very real, and very unpleasant, threat at any BBQ.
If you do cook, keeping the number of dishes you make to a minimum means that you can source better quality ingredients (try your local butcher for great quality, low-cost meat) and save some money. Pick recipes that have ingredients in common and buy them in bulk.
Failing that, get your guests to bring their own meat. That way you don’t have to spend more money and they’re happy with their meals.
Do you own a BBQ? If not, your local supermarket will no doubt have a cheap and cheerful, standard BBQ. Don’t be sucked in by the big, gas monster BBQs or top of the range grills – this is about saving money and cheaper ones work just as well.
Don’t forget you’ll also need coals, firelighters, a metal spatula, fork and set of tongs. Keep a bucket of water on standby too, just in case.
Prep as much as you can the day before and you’ll have much more time to enjoy yourself on the night. Chop salad/ vegetables, make side dishes and marinade meat – keeping them all in airtight containers in the fridge.
Your guests will need somewhere to sit. Check sites like Freecycle or Gumtree for cheap, or even free, garden furniture. Alternatively, ask a friend or neighbour if they have any you can borrow. This goes for tables too; you’ll need one to hold food and another for your guests to use. Pasting tables (for wallpaper) are around £10 at B&Q and can be folded away after use.
String up inexpensive, solar-powered fairy lights along fences and in any trees or bushes. Maybe even arrange some tea lights, in holders, on the table. Hang some cheap bunting, create a playlist of party songs and you’re all set!
If your guests all know each other, they’ll likely be happy to entertain themselves. But, if you want something extra to keep them occupied, have a look for some oversized garden games (pound shops are usually good for these) or ask a more musical mate to bring their guitar.
If you’re good with your hands, you could even try building your own limbo set!
Alcohol is expensive, so don’t even think about providing it for your friends if you’re on a tight budget! People are used to bringing their own booze to parties, so yours should be no different.
Fill some big buckets and tubs (or an old paddling pool) with ice and water, to keep the drinks cool, and pop some mixers (cheap cola and lemonade should suffice) and some plastic cups on the table.
We don’t want to sound like party poopers, but there are some simple things you should bear in mind before the party starts – so your BBQ bash goes without a hitch and you don’t inadvertently breach the terms of your tenancy agreement or upset the neighbours.
1. Keep it clean. You’re not going to want to tidy the mess in the morning, so keep bin bags to hand and use disposable plates, cutlery and cups that can be thrown away as soon as you’ve used them. Make sure you’ve also got plenty of clingfilm and foils so any leftovers don’t go to waste!
2. Check your tenancy agreement to make sure you’re allowed to light a BBQ in your garden. Same goes for fireworks and bonfires, if you’re planning to have these too.
3. Let the neighbours know you’re having a party (or invite them along!). BBQ smoke can be quite intrusive if the wind’s blowing it into gardens and the noise from the party could be annoying if it’s unexpected or continues until the small hours.
4. Above all, have fun!