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Yup, this first heat wave of the year makes it official – it’s Summertime! Bring on the barbeque! I’m hearing from a lot of people how the double whammy of tighter wallets combined with rising food prices is putting the potential squash on summer entertaining plans. But no fear – your food-loving-frugalista is here! Read on to throw a fabulous summer bash, without getting bashed at the bank.

The Food – If you’re like most summertime party-throwers, the neighborhood all-you-can-eat-steak cookout of years past might be well out of your budget comfort zone this July. No worries, easy solutions abound that will still satisfy your heartiest meat-loving friends. A fabulous alternative: take one of those gorgeous steaks, cube it, and skewer it with fabulous veggies like zucchini, grape tomatoes and peppers to create enough beef kebobs for four people! If one of your wonderful neighbors is just starting to get produce in their garden, encourage them to bring as much as they’d like, and add it to the mix! It cuts down the food costs significantly, and guests will adore your culinary touches.

To cut down the costs further, never forget your meat and potatoes purist buddies who come to a barbeque looking for nothing more than a fabulous burger, a hotdog or two, and a handful of chips. Keep the costs low by hitting your local discount gourmet grocery to get the best brand names of those summertime staples, for easily 50% off. And don’t forget to pick up fresh jars of condiments as well! This time, in addition to the usual ketchup, mustard and relish, keep an eye out for some of the more exotic fare. Burgers are great, but burgers put together with some salt, pepper and oregano, topped with jalapeno-studded-swiss and a touch of herbed mayo are going to be raved over. It’s the little touches that your guests will adore, and they’ll cost pennies to create.

The Side Dishes – Here is where a brilliant summertime host can really shine without breaking the bank. Potato salads, pasta salads, green salads, all easy to make (don’t you dare hit the supermarket and pay $25 for a container of potato salad you can easily make for $2!). The secret is in the ingredients. The simplest of herbs, the perfect blend of spices, the right vinaigrette will turn an average salad into a showstopper. Hit your local discount gourmet grocery for the ingredients, then head to a dependable recipe database like http://www.FoodNetwork.com and go straight for the “Easy” recipes. There you’ll find thousands of recipes for every bite of your BBQ menu – fun, fabulous, and zero stress. You’ll have a table full of incredible side dishes faster than you can say “Paula Deen”.
The Alcohol – I’ve spoken to people (who clearly party far heartier than I do) who have regaled me with stories of parties of years past in which the alcohol budget inadvertently surpassed that month’s rent. Yowsa. It’s generally acknowledged that an alcohol budget can be one of the toughest things to keep under control when you want to pull off a great party. The fabulous fact here is that all of your guests are going to want to bring something to your get-together, and here is where their offerings can keep costs down considerably. Have your buddies with the more expensive beer tastes bring a pack of their favorites; let your designated driver friends bring a pack of their favorite organic carbonated cola. You supplement with the sodas and mixers. Always remember, the more the thermometer peaks at your party, the more you need to stay hydrated – above all else, keep the ice water flowing!

The Kids at Your Party – Throwing a bash that will ensure lots of little ones running around? How fabulous, the more the merrier! Keep in mind that your ingrained frugalista mindset is perfect for a munchkin menu. Kids have wonderfully simple tastes that couldn’t be easier to satisfy. Your fabulous orzo and zucchini medley delicately tossed with raspberry vinaigrette will get little more than a wary glance from these guys. However, hotdogs, chips, brightly colored soda and some fun desserts (unlimited cupcakes and popsicles, anyone?) will put you at hero status with the 12-and-younger crowd. Hey, you’re only young once.

Above all else, remember that these fabulous get-togethers are about celebrating another gorgeous, long-awaited summer and having a terrific time with family and friends. Bon Appetit!

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