How to Throw a Labor Day BBQ on a Budget

Big thanks to News 12 Westchester’s VJ Seltzer who was kind enough to interview Westchester Woman founder Dina Sciortino on ways to save money when throwing a Labor Day bbq on a budget.

Seltzer had some real eye-opening facts about grocery prices and gave us a glimpse into what it’s like for Westchester residents in the grocery aisle.

Check Seltzer’s story below:

Westchester home and lifestyle writer dishes on ways to save on Labor Day barbecues

News 12’s Veronica Jean Seltzer visited Stew Leonard’s in Yonkers Friday, where staff says they were slammed with shoppers preparing even with higher food costs.

Here’s a bit more detail to help you get the most bang for your buck when shopping for your Labor Day barbecue.

To throw a Labor Day barbecue on a budget, or not to throw a Labor Day barbecue on a budget

First and foremost, if you can’t swing it or it will just bring on too much stress, DO NOT feel obligated to throw a party. Prices everywhere, especially the grocery store, are RIDICULOUS. Actually, beyond RIDICULOUS. If you’re not up to hosting this year, then skip it and don’t think twice about it!

New York Times Opinion on TikTok

“To understand why grocery prices are way up, we need to look past the headlines about inflation,” writes Stacy Mitchell in an essay for @nytopinion. The real issue, according to Stacy, is that big retailers are “exploiting their financial control over suppliers to hobble smaller competitors.”

Still, we can not let hard times prevent us from having good times. You’ll find some fun and free stuff to do this weekend below:

What to Do for Labor Day Weekend in Westchester County

Westchester has a lot to offer this Labor Day Weekend. We’ve compiled a list of events and activities for you to attend!

If you are throwing a barbecue, here’s how you can do it on a budget:

How to throw a Labor Day BBQ on a Budget

Use what you already have

Get on that step ladder and reach up into that top back corner of your pantry because you know you could very well have a case of paper plates from 2018 that have accumulated from your last five get-togethers. You may find that while you have a ton of spoons and knives, you need forks.

Still, have two cans of leftover condensed milk from Christmas that are still good? Awesome! The featured dessert at your party will have to use condensed milk so, make this four-ingredient key lime pie or some pannacotta shooters. Doing a quick check will help you buy only what you need, eliminate buying doubles, and help shrink your food budget costs.

Set a budget before you set foot in the store

Make a budget and set the intention that you will get everything you want and need for your party within that budget. A great way to help you stay within your budget is to go to your grocery store’s website place all your items in their virtual shopping cart and take a look at the total. You can add or eliminate things as needed to stay within budget.

Your grocery store’s website may also have a shopping list feature you can print out and take to the store with you. This method will help you stay hyper-focused at the grocery aisles and will help you avoid having to put things back at the register. If you want to save some time, you can send your order through to be picked up. Shop Rite offers free pickup on your first online order of $50 or more.

Sign-ups, coupons, and flyers

Before you head to the grocery store, make sure you sign up for their savings club card and any other discounts or offers they might have. Load up on digital coupons, just be sure to check in the aisle or online that there isn’t another brand that’s cheaper even with your coupon.

You’ll also want to check the flyer to see what’s on sale so you can develop your menu based on the sale items to get the most savings.

Avoid premade items

While you may be tempted to purchase premade items to save time, you can save a lot of money by making things from scratch. You’ll find tons of inexpensive, easy-to-make recipes online. Westchester also has some great foodie and chef bloggers, like Cheftini’s Tina DiLeo, so you should check them out.

You can get some real value and get really festive with your food choices with something as simple as a cookie cutter. Make pizza dough and cut star shapes into it. Then fill it with gouda and apricot jam or pepperoni, sauce, and cheese, and add another star on top to make festive handheld cheese pocket bites.

Don’t be afraid of the dollar store

Believe it or not, you can find some of the same brands at the dollar store as you do in the grocery store. You can save on things like chips, snacks, candy, and table coverings. The Dollar Tree also sells things like pizza crust and those Knorr rice flavor packs which you can use to give your menu an extra kick.

You can also save big at the dollar store with spices, canned goods, and baking items. Just be sure that you’re getting a good deal. Sometimes dollar stores have smaller packaging and you’ll find that you actually get a better deal at the grocery store. Do a quick search on your phone if you’re unsure about an item.

Get drinks at a distributor or a wholesale club

If you’re having a party you should definitely head to your wholesale club and buy whatever you can on your list there. These big box stores can be especially helpful for beverages and buying beers or hard seltzers in bulk. Some wholesale clubs, like BJ’s in Danbury, sell liquor. You can get a ton of savings here.

Check to see if your closest whole club offers this or if you’ll be traveling close to one that does. If that’s not an option, head to your local beverage distributor or wholesale seller.

Opt for cheaper cuts of meat and go heavy on the sides

No one is going to expect filet mignon at your barbecue. Stick with hot dogs and hamburgers and opt for cheaper cuts of meat like chicken legs or turkey burgers. You can jazz these up with some nice marinades or rubs. Another option is making a variety of smaller main dishes that use less expensive meats, like beef. I LOVE these burger-stuffed onion ring, which uses less beef than a hamburger, but I would use only enough bacon here to hold it together. Another great option is these “Easy, Cheesy Shredded Buffalo Chicken Sliders.”

You can have a few main bites, but go heavy on the sides and finger foods. People love variety and side dishes are typically less expensive to make. But they can be even more delicious with a few spices and a good recipe. With a little love and enthusiasm while cooking, people could be talking about that dish for years.

Don’t be afraid to ask for a hand

Don’t be afraid to ask your guests to bring a dish or let them it’s a BYOB (bring your own booze) event. Just make sure you have all the main bases covered yourself, in case they fall through.

You can just say “It would be great if you could bring something, we could really use some… Or feel free to bring whatever you want. If not, no worries! We’re just happy you can make it!” or “Hey, we’re having a BYOB party. We’d love it if you could make it!”.

You can just literally tell your guests “We’re having a Labor Day bbq on a budget” and make that the theme. If you’re friends and family have a sense of humor, they’ll totally get it and it could make things a lot more fun.

But your friends and family will likely be more than happy to whip something up or grab whatever is it they want to want to imbibe. Having your people make dishes that their own families enjoy infuses love into your event making it even more special. And the food definitely tastes better that way!

Final thoughts on your Labor Day bbq on a budget

Have fun

The most important thing you’ll spend on your Labor Day bbq on a budget is time: having fun with your family and friends and enjoying being together. So, make sure you afford yourself a good time at every step from party planning to the actual celebration.

While you’re knocking back a cold one and eating a frank at your Labor Day bbq on a budget, pour one out to remember those who have fought for labor rights in the past, as well as all the labor unions and workers fighting for fair pay and working conditions in our country and the world right now —the teachers, hospital employees, writers, locomotive workers, flight attendants, actors, and auto workers (to name a few)— and consider supporting their cause.