How to Grill on a Budget

February 20, 2019 | Food Lion
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How to Grill on a Budget

Spring is right around the corner, and you know what that means: it's time to start planning your next cookout! Grilling is an easy, healthy way to fix up your favorite meats and spend time with loved ones outdoors as the weather warms up. But all that meat for the grill gets expensive, doesn't it? Not necessarily. With some smart shopping habits and helpful grilling ideas,  you'll be whipping up cheap, easy meals that bring the spirit of summertime right to your backyard.

What's the Best Meat to Grill?

Ask any carnivore this question, and they might say "All of them!" However, a few meats do better cooked over an open flame than others. When you're grilling, keep in mind that meat with some fat content cooks nicely. The fat keeps the meat moist while it's over the high heat. And, these meats can still be healthy. That's because much of the fat drips off as a steak cooks. Marbled steaks turn out great on the grill — think ribeye, New York strip, and sirloin. Dark-meat chicken also stays nice and moist.

What Are the Most Economical Meats for Grilling?

Near the traditional cookout holidays like Memorial Day and Labor Day, check Food Lion's weekly specials to see what's on sale. This is a good time to stock your freezer for future grilling opportunities. When you're ready to fire up the barbecue but don’t want to break the bank, try these best cuts of meat for saving big:

  • Chicken thighs: These sections stay incredibly juicy on the grill, and they're often some of the cheapest cuts you can find. To keep the meat even more tender, go for skin-on thighs and drumsticks. Another great thing about chicken? Its mild flavor means it takes on marinades exceptionally well.
  • Burgers: Skip the lean beef here. Ground chuck is famously affordable, and it also stays nice and juicy when cooked over a flame. One helpful tip: crack an egg into your ground chuck before forming it into patties. This keeps the meat moist and helps the patties maintain their shape.
  • Chicken wings: Another affordable chicken cut tops the list, and wings are great for feeding a big crowd, too. Try a medley of marinades to make sure everyone gets to enjoy a flavor they like.
  • Skirt steak: If you love beef fajitas, this is one meat to throw on the grill — pronto. Skirt steak is relatively tough, so you'll want to tenderize and marinate it beforehand.
  • Pork loin: It's easier to save money when you buy a larger piece of meat and cut it into smaller portions for all your diners. Like chicken, pork takes on marinade flavors nicely, and it doesn't take long to cook.
  • Tilapia: It's not exactly a meat, but tilapia is an affordable fish that stays nice and moist when prepared on the grill, especially if you wrap it in foil and steam it over the grates.

Adding Flavor to Your Meals

Now, what's with all this talk of marinades? They're not just a great way to enjoy a diverse range of flavors on your meat; they're also ideal for tenderizing those tougher cuts. These easy meat seasonings can also make every morsel tender and juicy.

Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind is that anything acidic tenderizes beef. That means things like citrus juices, flavored vinegars, wine, and even tomato sauces are ideal for softening those chewier steaks. When you're cooking affordable cuts that might not be as tender, it helps to use an acidic base for your marinade. Skip these for chicken, though; acid can sometimes toughen that meat.

Creating a marinade isn't as difficult as it sounds, and you almost don't need a special recipe for it. Instead, keep this formula in mind:

  • Half oil
  • One quarter acid
  • One quarter other flavorings

Neutral oils help the marinade stick to the meat without adding too much flavor. When it comes to acids, you can choose whatever sounds good — things like pineapple juice, rice wine vinegar, or even pureed onions can all work. And flavorings might be anything from smoked paprika to chopped herbs to mustard. Have fun experimenting with your combinations using things you already have around the house, and simply remember your marinade proportions as you whip something up.

Stretching Your Grilling Budget

Beyond shopping the sales, buying cheap cuts of meat, and building flavor and tenderness into more economical cuts, you have other options for making meat last longer. Buying in bulk is a smart way to save on the per-pound price of meat. Package up your meat in freezer-safe bags or storage containers. If you have a vacuum sealer, now is the time to break it out. Label everything with the packing date and the type and cut of meat so you can easily identify it.

If you have leftovers, wrap them tightly with foil and store them in an airtight container. Put a few drops of water on grilled meat the next day when you're reheating it. You can use leftovers for sandwiches, sliced over salads, in burritos, or in soups and stews. You can even chop up meat and make a hearty plate of nachos for tomorrow's dinner.

One more clever way to save when you're cooking on a budget is to use Food Lion's Shop & Earn program. Simply download the Food Lion app or sign up online to start getting personalized sale information and coupons tailored to your preferences. Once you start making purchases, you'll also begin earning rewards to redeem on future purchases.

Want more summer grilling ideas? Check out Food Lion's Fresh Ideas Blog to find out what else to toss on the barbecue and what to serve on the side.