We challenged our writer, Dana Leigh Smith, to throw a backyard barbecue for eight people for under $100, complete with an appetizer, main dish, dessert, and both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. The meal had to appeal to kids and adults alike. Find out how she did and learn how you can pull off the same feat!
Written by Dana Leigh Smith
Nothing says barbecue like Labor Day weekend. If a big food bill is holding you back from inviting friends and family over to celebrate the unofficial end of summer, think again. Here are tips for how to shop on the cheap and cook a healthy, kid-friendly menu that’s sure to be a hit. Not only will everything taste delicious, but you'll even have leftovers and more money in your pocket—I only spent $85 for this entire meal!
Sticking to the Budget
When shopping on a budget there are a few simple ways to save. First, don’t bother buying paper plates or plastic utensils. Although they make cleanup a bit easier, they are an added cost. It’s also smart to shop for seasonal produce at a farmers’ market. Local fruits and veggies are cheaper since importing and shipping aren’t factored into the cost. Stretch your dollar even further by nixing bottled water, soda and beer and serving pitchers of lemonade, iced tea and tap water instead. Drink mixes also make a great base for cost-friendly cocktails.
Here are some ideas for your next barbecue:
Cocktail: Blueberry Lemonade Cocktail, serves 8
This low-cal beverage was a total hit at my barbecue, and your friends are sure to love it, too! Coming in at just 140 calories per cocktail, this antioxidant-rich drink was easy to blend before my guests arrived.
● 12 ounces Absolut Berri Acai Vodka
● 4 cup blueberries
● 4 packets Crystal Light Pure Lemonade
● Juice of 4 lemons
● 8 cups water
● 4 cup ice
1. Combine all ingredients in blender, and blend until smooth.
Appetizer: Kale, Spinach & Artichoke Dip With Greek Yogurt, serves 8-12
Fool kids and adults alike with this healthy, low-fat alternative to traditional dip. Skip the chips and serve with whole wheat pita bread slices and your favorite vegetables for added nutrients. A number of my guests used the dip as a turkey burger condiment, too—give it a try!
● 4 cups nonfat Greek yogurt
● 2 carrots
● 4 cups kale
● 4 cups spinach
● 1/2 red onion
● 4 tbs. minced garlic
● 1 cup marinated artichoke hearts
● 2 tsp. salt
● 1 tsp. black pepper
● 1 tsp. paprika
● 4 tbs. honey
1. Process your veggies in a food processor until they are very finely chopped.
2. Mix your veggies into your Greek yogurt and stir.
3. Add in your salt, pepper, paprika and honey and stir until it is very well mixed.
4. Serve with chips, bread, or veggies!
Main Dish: Turkey Burgers with Zucchini, makes 10 burgers
This turkey burger is a great way for crafty moms to get more vegetables into their family's diet. Packing zucchini into the meat also lowers the calories and fat per serving and adds moisture to the meat, making a typically dry dish, deliciously juicy.
● 2.5 lbs. 93% lean ground turkey
● 2 small zucchini, grated
● 1/2 cup seasoned whole wheat breadcrumbs
● 2 clove garlic, grated
● 2 tbsp. red onion, grated
● Salt and fresh pepper
● Oil spray
1. In a large bowl, combine ground turkey, zucchini, bread crumbs, garlic, onion, salt and pepper. Make 10 equal patties.
2. Heat a large skillet on high heat. When hot, lightly spray oil. Add burgers to the pan and reduce the heat to low. Cook on one side until browned, then flip. Flip over a few times to prevent burning and to make sure the burgers are cooked all the way through.
3. If grilling, clean grill well before cooking and spray with oil spray to prevent sticking.
Side Dish: Easy Veggie Kabobs, serves 8-10
Since you’re already using the grill, keep mess to a minimum by utilizing it to cook a healthy, simple side dish. When assembling the kabobs, leave a small amount of space between each vegetable to promote even cooking.
- 2 sweet potatoes
- 1 large eggplant
- 2 summer squash
- 1 onion
- Italian dressing
1. Slice vegetables and place in a bowl with desired amount of marinade.
2. Cover and let chill in the refrigerator for one hour.
3. When ready to cook, remove the vegetables from the marinade and slide onto skewers.
4. Cook on the grill until all vegetables are golden and tender, 20 to 25 minutes.
Dessert: Frozen Peanut Butter-Pretzel Pie, serves 8
With just 288 calories per serving, this creamy, sweet pie only looks sinful. Tip: Make at least three hours before guests come. Not only will prepping ahead of time make hosting less stressful, but it will ensure your pie is fully frozen before it’s served.
● 3 cups low-fat vanilla frozen yogurt, softened
● 1/3 cup creamy natural peanut butter
● 1/4 cup broken thin pretzel sticks, plus more for garnish
● 1 9-inch chocolate-cookie pie crust
1. Combine frozen yogurt and peanut butter in a medium bowl. Stir in 1/4 cup pretzel pieces. Spread into crust. Freeze until very firm, at least three hours. Let stand at room temperature for about 10 minutes before serving. Top with more pretzel pieces, if desired.