Everything You Need to Know About BBQing on a Budget

Barbecuing is a beloved tradition for many, offering a great way to gather with friends and family to enjoy good food in the great outdoors. However, hosting a BBQ doesn't have to mean spending a fortune. With some smart choices and a little preparation, you can enjoy delicious, high-quality barbecue meals without breaking the bank.

1. Choose Cost-Effective Cuts of Meat

Cost-Effective Meat Cuts

Chicken: Thighs and drumsticks are more economical than breast meat and contain more fat, which contributes to a richer flavor and juicier texture when grilled. These cuts are excellent for marinating and can withstand the high heat of the grill without drying out.

Pork: Pork shoulder or Boston butt are perfect for barbecuing because of their fat content and connective tissues, which break down over long cooking periods, rendering the meat tender and flavourful. These cuts are ideal for pulled pork recipes.

Beef: For beef lovers, opt for chuck steak, brisket, or skirt steak. These cuts are generally less expensive than premium cuts like ribeye or sirloin but are packed with flavour. Brisket and chuck benefit immensely from slow cooking, which allows their tough connective tissues to soften into gelatin, enhancing the moisture and taste of the meat.

Sausages: Sausages are a barbecue staple that won't strain your wallet. Available in a variety of flavours and types—from spicy Italian to milder chicken sausages—they provide an easy and delicious option that caters to a range of preferences.

Vegetarian Options

Adding vegetarian options to your barbecue not only caters to those who don’t eat meat but can also be a cost-effective way to bulk up your offerings without spending a lot.

Portobello Mushrooms: These large mushrooms are perfect for grilling and can serve as a substantial meat alternative. Their meaty texture makes them satisfying and they are excellent at absorbing marinades and spices.

Halloumi: This firm, grillable cheese has a high melting point, making it ideal for barbecuing. Halloumi is slightly more expensive than some other cheeses but is very filling and can be a main dish contender alongside or instead of meat.

Tofu and Tempeh: These soy-based proteins are very affordable and versatile. Both hold up well on the grill and work best when marinated beforehand to enhance their flavour. They’re excellent for skewers or as burger replacements.

Legumes and Pulses: Chickpeas, black beans, and lentils can be used to make homemade veggie burgers or grilled patties. These are not only inexpensive but are also high in protein and fibre, making them a nutritious and filling option.

By incorporating these cost-effective meat and vegetarian options into your barbecue menu, you can provide a diverse and delicious feast that won’t blow your budget. Whether you’re catering to meat-lovers or vegetarians, these choices ensure that all your guests will leave satisfied without needing to spend a lot on high-cost ingredients.

2. Make Your Own Marinades

Making your own marinades and rubs is a cost-effective way to add incredible flavour to your barbecue dishes. By crafting these at home, you gain the ability to customise ingredients according to your taste preferences and dietary needs, ensuring that every grilled dish is delicious and unique. Here’s an expanded look at how you can create your own marinades and rubs, along with some additional recipes to try out.

Benefits of Homemade Marinades and Rubs

Cost-Effective: Store-bought marinades and rubs can be pricey, especially those with gourmet or organic labels. Making your own is significantly cheaper, particularly if you buy spices in bulk.

Control Over Ingredients: When you make marinades and rubs at home, you control the quality of ingredients. This is particularly beneficial for those with dietary restrictions or allergies, as it allows you to avoid unwanted additives like preservatives, excess salt, and sugars.

Customisation: You can tweak recipes to suit your taste or experiment with different spices and herbs to create a signature blend. This customisation can turn a simple meal into a gourmet experience.

Marinde Recipes

Basic BBQ Marinade:
This all-purpose marinade is perfect for chicken, pork, beef, and even vegetables. The combination of tangy vinegar, sweet brown sugar, and smoky paprika provides a classic BBQ flavour.


  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup vinegar (apple cider or white)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. In a mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients.
  2. Whisk until the mixture is smooth and the sugar has completely dissolved.
  3. Use immediately, or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. Shake well before use.

Simple Dry Rub:

Ideal for ribs, steaks, and brisket, this rub adds a robust flavour and forms a delicious crust on the meat as it grills.


  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp chilli powder
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder


  1. Combine all the spices in a bowl.
  2. Mix thoroughly to ensure even distribution of all ingredients.
  3. Rub onto your meat at least an hour before grilling to allow the flavours to penetrate.

Additional Recipes

Citrus Herb Marinade:
This light and refreshing marinade is perfect for fish and poultry, infusing them with a bright, zesty flavour.


  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh herbs (such as basil, thyme, or parsley)
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Whisk together all ingredients in a bowl.
  2. Pour over your chosen protein and let marinate in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before grilling.

Spicy Rub:
Kick up the heat with this spicy rub, great for those who enjoy a little extra spice. It’s excellent on chicken wings or grilled vegetables.


  • 2 tbsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tbsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp sugar (optional, for balance)


  1. Mix all ingredients in a bowl until well combined.
  2. Apply generously to meat or vegetables before grilling to add a spicy kick.

By utilising these homemade marinades and rubs, you’ll not only save money but also elevate the flavours of your barbecue dishes, making your next outdoor cooking session a memorable one.

Short on time and wanting some go to meat rubs/ marinades. You can find them below.

Plan Ahead

Buying in bulk can save money, especially if you plan multiple barbecues throughout the season. Keep an eye on sales at local supermarkets and stock up on non-perishable items like condiments, seasonings, and even charcoal or propane. We recommend Aldi as a popular budget option to stock up on the essentials!

Borrow, Don't Buy

If you don't own a grill, consider borrowing one from a friend or neighbour instead of buying. This can also apply to other barbecue essentials like chairs, tables, or outdoor games.

Here at Sydney BBQs & Rotisseries, we have lots of grill options & accessories to suit all budgets. Shop our range here.

Barbecuing on a Budget

Keep it Simple

Keeping it simple is often the key to hosting a successful and budget-friendly barbecue. Rather than attempting to impress with a wide array of complicated dishes, focusing on a few well-selected, high-quality options can ensure that your guests are satisfied without the need for extravagance. Here’s how to apply the principle of simplicity to your next barbecue to maximise enjoyment while minimising costs and stress.

Benefits of a Simple BBQ Menu

Less Preparation Stress: Preparing a multitude of dishes can be overwhelming and time-consuming. A simple menu allows you to focus on fewer items and spend less time prepping and more time enjoying the company of your guests.

Reduced Costs: Fewer ingredients and simpler dishes mean lower expenses. This approach avoids the purchase of seldom-used spices and condiments that can inflate your grocery bill.

Enhanced Flavors: With fewer dishes, you can concentrate on enhancing the flavors of what you are cooking. This often results in better-tasting food, as each dish can be carefully prepared and cooked to perfection.

Easier Management: Managing the grill becomes much more straightforward when there are fewer types of food to keep an eye on. This means less chance of overcooking or undercooking items, ensuring everything served is just right.

Ideas for a Simple BBQ Menu

1. One Protein, Done Well: Choose a single protein that you can do exceptionally well, such as a beautifully marinated pork shoulder, slow-cooked for pulled pork sandwiches, or a batch of marinated chicken thighs. This focus allows for a standout dish that's sure to impress.

2. A Signature Side: Complement your main protein with a signature side that's easy to prepare in bulk, like a classic potato salad, a vibrant coleslaw, or a hearty pasta salad. These dishes can often be made ahead of time and taste even better when the flavors have had time to meld.

3. Keep Snacks Basic: Instead of an array of appetizers, opt for simple snacks like a bowl of chips and a homemade dip or a platter of cut vegetables with hummus. These are easy to serve and can be very filling.

4. Limit the Dessert Options: A simple dessert like grilled fruit—peaches, pineapples, or bananas—can be a refreshing end to a barbecue meal. Alternatively, a batch of homemade cookies or brownies can satisfy sweet tooths without requiring complex preparation.