Tag Archives: budget

Patriotic Summer BBQ on a Budget

Summer BBQ budget

I love throwing a BBQ. It’s one of the reasons we built a huge deck and patio. There is nothing quite like spending an afternoon outside with friends and family eating, drinking, and playing games while watching the kids run by laughing as they chase each other. Unfortunately, the cost of hosting parties has started to become prohibitive. It’s amazing how much I can spend on food for a gathering of just 10 people. Regardless we have started hosting an annual Memorial Day party, and I have started searching for ways to keep the price in check. Below our my tips for hosting a patriotic summer BBQ on a budget (I mentioned this was a memorial day party but obviously all the decor and food can be used for 4th of July or Labor Day as well).

patriotic decorations

I have 2 secrets for showing off the red, white, and blue at your BBQ: The Dollar Store and Target’s Dollar Stop. It’s a little ridiculous to spend a lot of money on decor that might literally be up for a couple of hours. I bought the miniature flags from Target (3 for $1) and I place them in all our pots. They also look great lining paths. The pinwheels also came from Target while the paper lanterns were from the Dollar Store. My other secret is that I save all these decoration from year to year. I have a large plastic bin that I put all our party decorations in and pull them back out for each party.

memorial day children

The Dollar Store and Target are also great spots to pick up patriotic accessories for the kids. Beside headbands I also picked up the kids a bunch of temporary tattoos and glow sticks.

 

summer bbq food

Food and drink is single handily the largest expense of any party, so this is where you really have to keep your budget in mind. There are 4 things to keep in mind when picking your menu:

  1. Limit the amount of dishes you serve. You are not Golden Carrol.
  2. Choose dishes that make a lot of food for little money (salads).
  3. Choose dishes that can be prepared in advance, so you can actually enjoy your guests.
  4. Ask guests to help out.

The chicken kabobs were a big hit. I bought 4lbs of boneless skinless chicken breast (@1.99/lb) and marinated them for a hour before skewering them with red, green, orange, and yellow peppers as well as onions. It only took 1 of each pepper to do this. We had 12 people at this particular BBQ and we maybe only went through 2/3rds of the kabobs.  We prepped all the kabobs before our guests arrived. This was the only dish that had to be cooked once the party started.

The strawberry spinach salad is my go-to dish for just about every potluck. People always rave about it and it’s super easy to make.  All you have to do it combine spinach, sliced strawberries, feta ( i like the herbed feta), and pecans (look for Pecan Pie flavored pecans for something really special). I usually offer many dressings on the side for guests to choose from but raspberry vinaigrette is definitely the best.

A fruit salad is another dish that everyone with enjoy and that will allow you to stretch a buck. I combined watermelon, pineapple, and blueberries to keep with the patriotic theme. I used metal cookie cutters to cut the watermelon into star shapes for an extra special touch.

The alcohol budget can get out of control quickly. Remember, it’s not your job to provide everyone’s favorite drink. We always have  water, lemonade, and beer on hand then I choose to make one signature drink. This year I choose a Star Spangled Sangria. Click the link to get the recipe. What was great about this drink was that I used the strawberries, pineapple, and blueberries in the other dishes as well, so I didn’t have to buy any extra fruit for it.

summer sangria

Finally, our guests each brought a dish to share. That included potato salad, cucumber salad, salsa and chips, and chocolate eclair. I am always very directive when guests ask what they can bring. The last thing you want it to have 3 potato salads. I’ll often tell people the menu I have already decided on then ask them to specifically bring either a side, appetizer, or dessert. This helps ensure that you have all the bases covered and don’t get too many similar dishes. Also, don’t be afraid to ask guests to BYOB. My brother is a beer drinker and not much of a cook, so I always suggest that he brings beer to the party. He feels like he gets to contribute and I don’t have to buy beer. It’s a win, win!

 

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Tips for remodeling a kicthen on a budget

When it comes to remodeling a kitchen most of us have expensive taste and a small budget. That was our case when we tackled our first big home improvement project: updating our 1960’s kitchen.  As promised here is some of our tips for how we remodeled the whole kitchen on a $5,000 budget. Oh and just as a reminder here is the before and after shots again:
                                                                                              remodeling a kitchen on a budget                           remodeling a kitchen on a budget
Cabinets: Reface the cabinets instead of replacing them. If your cabinets are nonfunctional then only replace those ones and reface the rest to match. This is what we did and people can’t tell the difference between the new and the old ones. We replaced only 3 cabinets (the two bottom and one upper to the left of the stove) with Ikea cabinets. They are so much more functional the the old 12 in blind corner cabinets that they effectively doubled our storage space. Also consider buying cabinets that you have to assemble yourself like from Ikea. Yes, it’s a major pain in the butt but you’ll save 50-75%.
Appliances: Opting for something other than stainless will save you a bundle. We picked white appliances that matched our cabinets, but also had stainless hardware and glass surfaces to look updated. Also we bought our fridge used for $200, it was 1 year old and in perfect condition. The original owners upgraded to stainless (their loss).  Craigslist is a great place to check for used appliances. Besides a new Viking stove may not be in the budget now, but you can always slide one in later. Also buy energy efficient. Not only will it save you money in the long run, but you may also be able to get a tax right off.
Counter tops: You could easily break the budget here with solid surface counter tops. We went with an earth friendly and budget friendly butcher block which not only looks great but is cleaned with just water and is naturally anti-microbial. Stains come out with a light sanding or you can cut right on it to add character. Solid Surface would have run us about $4000, the butcher block cost just $300 and we could install it ourselves. Being able to install it ourselves was a huge plus as most of the money in a kitchen remodel goes towards labor costs. butcher block can also be stained and sealed in a variety of colors and finishes to give it a custom look.
Back splash: We choose to go with bead board which was not only cheap ($30) but was easily installed by Cody. Also consider tin back splashes and waterproof wallpaper to make a big splash without taking a bite out of your wallet. This stainless steal one is awesome. One benefit of all of these back splashes is that they are easy to take down and replace if you want to replace them with tile down the road. If you know how to install tile (it’s not difficult) then check big box stores for in stock tile that can save you a bundle.
Lighting: Shop around but don’t skimp. We found all our lighting at Ikea for around $150 about half of what it would cost at Lowe’s. Also, check thrift stores and Craigslist for older fixtures that can be fixed up with a quick coat of spray paint.
Hardware and facets: Again shop around. You’d be amazed at how the same drawer pulls are twice the price at Home Depot than Lowe’s.
More Budget Kitchen Tips:
Make a budget and stick to it. Seriously. Do all of your research ahead of time to price everything out and assume everything will cost 10% more. Next wait for it to go on sale. Lowe’s , sears, and home depot put appliances and kitchens on sale 10-15% off all the time. Don’t forget to budget for incidentals like paint brushes, screws, and caulk.
Do the work yourself or find a handy friend that can be paid off with a pizza a couple of beers. This was a huge one for us. We didn’t hire a single person for this entire remodel even though we installed a new dishwasher, a new light fixture, and a new garbage disposal. We are lucky to have friends that are electricians and plumbers. Scope out your friends talents and see if they are willing to help you. Offer them dinner, help on their own project, or even a negotiated payment that you can both agree on.
Don’t over improve if its not your forever house. I know the $400 copper facet is amazing, but its not worth is if you’re only going to be there for a couple of years.
Pick one focal point to splurge on, but only one. The sink, range hood, or island is ideal for this. Or maybe it’s the counter tops. Only splurge on items that will make a big statement.
Be realistic. Six burner gas stoves look amazing, but its not worth the money unless your a gourmet chef or you cook for 10 frequently. Put your money into something you use more frequently like a new garbage disposal, dishwasher, or pull out shelves.
Keep the same layout. If the layout is functional you’ll save a lot of time and money keeping it the same.
Reuse whatever you can. Just because you are remodeling the kitchen doesn’t mean you have to get rid of everything. If you like the hardware, lighting fixtures, or faucet then put them back into you new kitchen. Not only is it free but also good for the environment.
Don’t forget the little things. Nothing will ruin a new beautiful kitchen quicker than an outdated and clashing outlet plates. Plain plastic ones are 22 cents and will instantly update an old house.
Buy in stock items. If you have to have it special ordered count on it being twice the price.
Not everything has to be done at once. I’ll agree that it’s probably best of the cabinets and counter tops all go in together, but the appliances and backslash can all easily be replaced at a later date. I know it’s not fun to have brand new cabinets with your old appliances, but it’ll buy you time to save up for what you really want later down the road.
For more pictures from our kitchen remodel click here.