How to save on a July 4 barbecue despite inflation


Family and friends gathering on the Fourth of July for food and fun is a longstanding tradition. But inflation is no joke. According to Wells Fargo’s July Fourth Food Inflation Report, a get-together for 10 people could cost about 11% more than last year.

Along with barbecue essentials like meat, bread, beer and packaged goods like snack foods, other associated costs that keep rising include fireworks, propane and, of course, gas.

But that doesn’t mean you should skip the cookout, close the blinds and sit on the couch. Instead, look for ways to save without sacrificing enjoyment. Following are eight painless ways to minimize expenses while maximizing the fun this Fourth and all summer long.

Shorten The Guest List

While the saying “the more, the merrier” may be true, scaling down to a smaller group of family and friends can be easier on your budget. Not only is less food required, but you can also minimize everything from decorations to plates and utensils.

Not only is a smaller barbecue more affordable, but it can also be more enjoyable and meaningful.

“If you want a lively but inclusive conversation as a core part of your gathering, eight to twelve people is the number you should consider,” wrote author Priya Parker in her book, “The Art of Gathering.


Make It A Potluck

Nobody says you have to shoulder the cost of the entire celebration. Your friends and loved ones would likely be happy to bring a dish or supplies for the cookout. The chances are good that when you invite someone, they’ll ask if they can bring anything.

You can save cash and relax a little more when everyone pitches in. You might get to try something new or dig into Aunt Mary’s famous blueberry cobbler. Of course, a potluck helps everyone feel included, as well.

Make sure you have all the bases covered. For example, while six different desserts might be tempting, you might want to assign items like side dishes, chips or paper plates and napkins.


BYOB (And Other Stuff, Too)

According to Food Network, guests at a barbecue typically drink two beverages in the first hour and one every hour after that. Of course, this amount could increase if you are all outside and the weather is hot. And whether those drinks are beer, soft drinks or another thirst quencher, they could get pricey.

One way to reduce costs is to ask your invitees to bring their own beverages. Each couple or family might bring a cooler to use, or you could put them all in one place. Alternatively, you could provide bottles of water and request that guests bring anything else they want to drink.

Consider other items your friends wouldn’t mind bringing along. For instance, if you are short on seating, perhaps they could pack folding chairs.


Savvy Grocery Shopping

Make sure to shop items that are in season and buy in bulk where you can. Scout the sales and build your party table around what’s available for less. For example, chicken prices are up this year — so instead of getting wings, consider pork as a substitute.

You can save by skipping the supermarket for some of your items when you run out to shop for supplies. For example, you might be able to pick up delicious watermelon and salad fixings at a local farmer’s market, which could be cheaper depending on where you are. Try getting hamburger and hot dog buns at a bakery outlet store and shop for paper supplies at a dollar store.


Serve Sweets From Scratch

A special cake or fancy dessert from the bakery might look festive and taste good too, but it will come at a premium. So, why not whip up some simple and delicious homemade red, white and blue treats? Nothing’s as good as something made with love, and you’ll save a little cash.

Bake cupcakes from a mix and top them with vanilla frosting dyed with food coloring. Make cookies with red, white and blue M&Ms mixed in. Or decorate a tray like the American flag using foods like berries, cherries, banana slices and yogurt-dipped pretzels.


Simplify Decorations

You don’t have to go all out with red, white and blue or flag-printed decor. Instead, a red tablecloth, blue paper plates and some white flowers will provide the same ambiance.

Consider things you have that aren’t traditional decorations but could be used to embellish a table or wall. For instance, red, white and blue bandanas, construction paper and burlap banners could all fit a patriotic theme.


DIY Outdoor Fun

Food plays a pivotal role in a summer barbecue, but enjoying time with family and friends is the center of it all. Think of things to do that are low in cost but high in entertainment value for kids and adults alike.

There are tons of DIY yard games you can set up with items on hand. For example, a long rope is all that’s required for a tug-of-war competition. Numbered paper plates and a few bean bags create an instant toss game. And a collection of hula hoops, pool noodles and other everyday items can quickly become an obstacle course.


Catch Free Fireworks

Increased shipping rates, raw materials and labor expenses have led to a significant increase in the price of fireworks.

“I would say from 2019 till ’22, items’ (costs) have at least doubled,” Bruce Zoldan, president and CEO of retailer Phantom Fireworks, told USA Today.

Fireworks at home can also be hazardous. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, thousands of people are injured by fireworks each year.

Instead, find a free fireworks display in your area and watch them together. If you can watch them from your backyard, that’s even better.


Have a safe and happy Fourth of July!

About the Author

Tricia Goss

Tricia is a professional writer and editor who lives in North Texas with her family and one smelly dog. She is a wannabe problem solver, junk food maven professional coffee practitioner, web guru and general communicator. More.

More to explore