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Downturn Dish: Ways to save with summertime picnics

Here's a list by Jennifer Horn, co-host on the Good Day radio program, from about hosting backyard BBQs without breaking the bank:
  • Don't buy pre-made burgers. Buy ground beef in bulk and form your own patties. They taste much better and will save you money. If you have kids around, have them help make the patties -- they love it!
  • Plan your menu around what's on sale. This time of year, you can get great deals on hot dogs, chicken, ground beef and steaks. When you see a great deal, buy a lot and freeze the meat until you are ready to use it.
  • Every party needs drinks. Serve up big pitchers of lemonade or iced tea, both of which are great summer thirst-quenchers and can be cheaper than sodas or beer. If you want the best deals on the carbonated stuff, shop supermarket sales and warehouse stores.
  • Serving alcohol at parties can be expensive. To save money, offer beer, wine and one signature cocktail. Find great discounts on cool whites on sale at your grocery store. Pick a signature cocktail that looks festive while using few ingredients. You can never go wrong with the good ol' fruit juice+vodka combo.
  • Don't buy prepared salads. They can cost $5 and $6 per pound. Make your own using fresh summer produce, which will be much cheaper and easier to find this time of year. You can usually find some good deals at your local farmers market.
  • Keep dessert simple. Watch the sales for deals on ice cream and top each scoop with crumbled cookies and a drizzle of chocolate sauce. If you're feeling nostalgic for those childhood summers, make old fashioned s'mores. The ingredients are cheap and you can make a lot of s'mores from a box of graham crackers and a bag of marshmallows.
  • For entertainment, choose great music (your local cable or satellite provider may even have a full channel of summer tunes in their audio lineup), swim if you have a pool, buy cheap water toys at the dollar store for the kids, or play a classic board game under the stars.

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