Outdoor Party Food on a Budget

Cheap party food for a crowd is easier to make than you might think.

By: Kristin Anderson, Editor,
Backyard BBQ

Coming up with good cheap food for large groups can be a challenge. Many of the recipes that we usually use and love don't scale well to larger gatherings. Plus, your favorite salmon dinner - which is perfect for a double date - becomes prohibitively expensive when you have 30, 50, or even 100 people coming over.

The good news is that there are actually a lot of great options when it comes to making cheap party food for a crowd. And, when the weather is nice, it's even easier when you decide to host your party outdoors.

Read on to find some of our favorite recipes that will feed a lot of people without breaking the bank. We also have some general party tips that will save you some money!

Have you ever noticed that some of the most budget-friendly food ideas aren't really recipes at all? We've noticed that too, so we've included some of our best ideas that aren't recipes. They're just smart ways to serve food that everyone will love.

Great Outdoor Party Food on a Budget

What's the secret to finding cheap food for large groups? Start with meals that you already know are a bargain! Here are some of our favorite affordable foods that everyone will love to see at a large party. It doesn't matter whether you're throwing a graduation party, birthday celebration, or annual backyard bash, these ideas will be crowd pleasers. These ideas also work well for outdoor parties or indoor parties.

Baked Potato Bar - Cook up a bunch of baked potatoes and serve them with delicious toppings. You can make your baked potatoes in the oven or in your slow cooker. Serve with sour cream, cheese, vegetables, black beans, or anything else you like! Try it out with our easy baked potato recipe!

Grilled Pizza Party - Pizza is a great budget-friendly meal, as long as you don't load up on expensive toppings. Pick one or two cheese options, fresh tomatoes or tomato sauce, some herbs and vegetables, and enjoy! You can make or buy fresh dough ahead of time.

Simple Salt Baked Potato Recipe

Walking Taco Bar - Walking tacos are great party food because they're mobile! You'll just need to buy individual bags of chips for everyone attending your party. Then set out toppings like taco meat, beans, cheese, sour cream, lettuce, and tomatoes. To make this even more budget-friendly, you can offer more vegetarian options like beans or vegetarian taco meat.

Pasta Bar - Pasta might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about outdoor party food. However, it's a great way to elevate a pasta party! Cook a variety of pasta in advance of the dinner, and then top it with grilled vegetables, chicken, or seafood. Should you add some grilled bread to the menu, too? Absolutely!

Grilled Quesadillas - This is a fun twist on a taco bar that's perfect for outdoor parties. Provide a variety of fillings, such as chicken, beans, cheese, and grilled veggies. Then grill up your quesadillas and serve with sides like grilled corn, salad, and homemade salsa. It's economical and easy to make!

How to Barbecue on a Budget

BYO Barbecue - Asking your guests to bring part of the meal is a great way to save some money when entertaining. Tell everyone that you'll handle the buns, condiments, and side dishes. They should bring their favorite burgers, hot dogs, or veggies to complete the meal. It's easy, and everyone gets the food that they want!

Budget-Friendly Barbecue - Don't want to ask your guests to chip in? Save yourself some money with these tips.

  1. Choose cheaper cuts of meat like chicken thighs, chicken wings, and hot dogs.
  2. Grill vegetables! Round out the meal with grilled corn, zucchini, onions, and more.
  3. Add grilled bread. Bread is cheaper than meat, and your guests will love filling up on some slices of crusty grilled sourdough or multi-grain loaf.
  4. Stock up around big grilling holidays like Memorial Day or the Fourth of July, when foods like hot dogs, ribs, and beef are on sale. Stick them in the freezer for a party you have planned later in the summer!

Backyard BBQ

Cheap Party Food Recipes We Love

In addition to the theme ideas above, we want to talk about some budget-friendly recipes that are great for outdoor parties. Your guests will love how these recipes taste, and you'll love that they only cost a few dollars. They're also easy to eat as you mingle in the backyard and play games.

Must-Have Classic Deviled Eggs

You might think that deviled eggs are boring, but we're sure that this recipe will change your mind. This classic recipe is full of tangy, creamy flavor. And they're super cheap to make.

Get the recipe here.

Must Have Classic Deviled Eggs

5-Ingredient Pasta Salad

This fantastic pasta salad is bursting with flavor, and yet it's still affordable to make. It's super easy to make a big batch of this side and serve it at your next outdoor birthday party, graduation celebration, or other event.

Get the recipe here! 

5-Ingredient Pasta Salad

Summer's Best Pull-Apart Bread

Everyone is going to go crazy for this budget-friendly recipe. Get ready! All you have to do is slice into your favorite loaf of sourdough bread and fill it with goodies like cheese, scallions, and seasoning.

Get the recipe here.

Summer's Best Pull Apart Bread

Sweet and Spicy Jezebel Dip

Cheap party appetizers don't get much easier than this! All you have to do is mix up some apricot preserves with our secret blend of seasoning and pour it a block of cream cheese. It's a good thing that this recipe is easy to make, because your guests will want a second helping.

Get the recipe here.

Sweet and Spicy Jezebel Dip

Cake Mix Peach Cobbler

Your summer barbecue won't be complete without this simple dessert. It's so affordable and so easy to make! Simply whip up a batch of packaged cake mix and bake away with canned peaches for a dessert that's gooey, fluffy, and irresistible with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Get the recipe here!

Cake Mix Peach Cobbler

German Chocolate Lover's Frozen Pie

Looking for another easy, affordable outdoor party dessert? This frozen chocolate pie is exactly what you need. It uses so few ingredients, and it's super simple to assemble. This dessert is the perfect solution to a summer heat wave!

Get the recipe here.

German Chocolate Lover's Frozen Pie

Aunt Bee's Cheesy Potatoes

Cheesy potatoes might not be the first meal you think of when you imagine your outdoor party. But, hear us out. These potatoes are so cheap to make, and there's nothing easier than carrying out your pan of cheesy potatoes from the kitchen to the back yard.

Get the recipe here!

Aunt Bee's Cheesy Potatoes

What are your favorite budget-friendly party food ideas? Let us know in the comments below!

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Summer is quickly approaching, so it's always a good idea to consider ways to save money when hosting a party. I'm planning a housewarming party within the next few months, so I'll definitely make use of these tips!


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