I don’t know about you, but every time I say I’m hosting a small get-together, I have to last minute run around a store figuring out how to do a budget barbecue for 25 guests. It’s quite the pain. Although, really, it’s more of a hassle when I’m throwing a fancy dinner party for eight and my husband takes over the guest list and I suddenly have to find venison for 12… But I digress.
Trying to host a budget barbecue at all, let alone one for a plethora of people, can be complicated. I’ve got a post on the basics of budget barbecues, but I’m finally getting around to the meat of things, pun intended. For the purposes of this article, I chose two stores that are pretty common – Walmart and Costco – to get prices. Whenever possible I used Kirkland and Great Value brands. Most example recipes I use had to be doubled or tripled. Obviously this is just going to give you a general idea, but hopefully it helps. Now, let’s jump in, shall we?
Barbecue for 25 Guests Ideas
Drinks – Say No to Individuality
Alcohol ($0 – $27)
Friends, if you drink alcohol, this is the first place where you can go terribly wrong. Buying bottles or cans is going to eat up your budget IMMEDIATELY. If you truly want to provide everything and still have a budget barbecue for 25 guests, you need to do a punch. One bottle of average liquor costs a lot less than 50 beers. I’d still suggest everyone bring beer or wine (BYOB is totally okay at a barbecue), but this way you can offer everyone one serving of booze.
So, punch. You’ll want to choose something with three ingredients or less to keep costs down. Personally, I think vodka is the way to go when trying to satisfy that many different tastes, but you know your friends so that’s up to you. As an example, I chose this Pink Lemonade Vodka punch. You can triple the recipe and still only need one bottle of vodka, which runs around $20 at Costco. Altogether, it’ll set you back $27, or about $1 per person.
Not Alcohol ($5 – $17)
Coke cans aren’t much better than beer bottles, folks, so guess what? I still think you need a punch if you want to provide some delicious non-alcoholic beverages. There’s some really fabulous alcohol-free party drinks out there. You can check out my Pinterest board for more ideas, but a really simple one that costs around $12 is Sparkling Citrus Punch. You can do this one alongside an alcoholic pink lemonade and no one will get confused. You can also provide 2-liters for around a $1 apiece. There’s 10 servings per bottle, so 5 will give each person 2 servings.
Bottled water is just not going to do for your budget barbecue for 25 people. Nope. But you would be crazy not to serve water at all, so you better get your pitchers out. Don’t have a pitcher? Hit up Dollar Tree for a cheap one or Walmart for a fancy high-end one (just kidding). Now, you can do tap water and call it a day. Or, you can dazzle your guests by chopping up some cucumbers and throwing them in. Infused water will make it seem like you are very fancy instead of very cheap.
Meat – To Patty or Not to Patty
This is the important part of the barbecue, right? Even if you’re a vegetarian, just pretend I said protein instead of meat. You can skip literally everything else when you’re having a barbecue for 25 guests, but you cannot escape the meat. It’s also extremely off-putting to suggest your guests BYOM. Now, I come from the middle of nowhere, so if you are laughing at me, saying ha ha, we can’t get budget meat out here, sit down. I know you can’t. I also know you have a meat freezer for your deer, so you stock up in advance next time you hit the nearest “big city.”
Hot Dogs ($22 + condiments)
Hot dogs are fun for groups because they’re so easy. They can get oddly pricey though, for garbage meat. It’s still a good idea to provide them. You can get a 16 pack for about $9, so two of those will set you back $18. You could stop there if you’re feeling really frugal, so long as you provide a lot of condiments and buns. I actually don’t think you’ll need as many buns as hot dogs if it’s an additional meat, but if it’s your main thing you better have them.
Hamburgers ($32-$37 + condiments)
Are you so excited to find out what’s more expensive, pre-made patties or ground beef? Me too! Okay, so first off, let’s just assume you’re only doing one hamburger per person. You would need 25 .6oz patties or 9.5lbs of beef. So, pretty good news if you don’t mind serving frozen patties. You can spend less than $30 on a 40 count.
Surprisingly, even if you aren’t into frozen, it’s usually cheaper to pick up preformed patties. At around $3.50 a pound for ground beef, you could get either 9.5 pounds or 28 patties for $33. But, you want to be careful here. Why is that? Well, most pre-formed packages come in multipliers of 4, but you really need to pay attention to the counts and the cost per pound. You have to go over 24, but if your only choice is 24 or 32, you’d be saving with regular ground beef. And, of course, there’s buns (which I do include in my cost up there).
As it turns out, serving chicken at a budget barbecue for 25 guests won’t actually break the bank. Of course, it totally depends on what kind of chicken you buy. Here’s a break down of average chicken prices. I’m not going to regurgitate it, but you want to serve each guest about 1/2 pound, which means you need 12.5 pounds. The highest chicken is boneless, skinless thighs, and even that would only be about $31. To use a whole chicken you’d only need about $16 (although that’s a low estimate – you won’t get as much meat off a whole chicken as you would when it’s already broken down).
Sides, Sides, Sides
This is where you can really get some bang for your buck. You scrimp and save where you can with the main course. With sides, you can truly go nuts. If you can serve at least two sides, you can usually get away with serving smaller main courses. Here’s a few ideas and their estimated costs:
- Grilled Corn on the cob – $18 (although this can vary wildly depending on the season and store)
- Baked Beans – $11 (~5 oz per person)
- Pasta Salad – $18 ( ~5 oz per person based on boxed pasta, not including oils)
- Potato Salad -$17 (homemade)
- Green Salad – $10-$25 (totally depends on what you put in it)
- Watermelon – $10
Share some Sweets
I’m not a big baker, and honestly, I can take or leave dessert. But, if you’re throwing a barbecue for 25 guests, one of them will probably want some dessert, no? If you’re up for cooking it yourself, you might not have to spend anything. I could go bake up my white chocolate chip cookies n creme cookies right now, as well as some chocolate chip and again, I’m not a baker. If you are, perhaps these 7 frugal desserts will strike your fancy. However, if you don’t have sugar on hand, here are some ideas:
- Brownie Bites – $8 for 32
- Freezer Pops (for the kids) $6
- 3 Pack of Cookies – $10
And Please…if you’re having a budget barbecue for 25 Guests…
Don’t decorate! Use all your budget on food/drinks/things that will make people happy much longer than a few streamers. But hey, since you’re here, this is not the first time I’ve done a bit of cost analysis. Here’s a few more articles you can check out if you just have to have some decor:
So, that’s it on my advice for throwing a budget barbecue for 25 guests. Remember, your grocery store will vary, but don’t forget to use their digital coupon apps, Ibotta, and Checkout 51 for deals. Now, are you ready for some grand totals? Let’s see.
Total Costs of Budget Barbecue for 25 Guests Menus
The Cheapskate Plan ($50 plus condiments)
- Tap water, hot dogs, Green salad, watermelon, and brownie bites
- Hey there cheapskate! I say this fondly because I admire your savings efforts. You’re not going to wow anyone but you’ll only pay around ~$2 per person. Super!
- Oh hey, wondering why I did hot dogs instead of whole chicken? Sorry, I’m just having a hard time believing one whole chicken would be enough to feed 25 people.
One of Everything Please ($260 plus condiments)
- Well hey, that’s actually not that bad! Only $10.40 per person.
- But… you still need condiments, paper plates, cups, ice, etc.
The Reasonable $5 a Person Plan
- boozy punch, 5 2-liters soda, infused water, 32 hot dogs, 28 hamburgers, baked beans, potato salad, and brownie bites
- Sounds yummy to me. I’m sure there’s other combinations, but I’m mathed out for the day.
- Hey, why don’t you tell us how much condiments cost? Leave me alone, reader. What weirdos don’t already have condiments in their fridge? Use those up, don’t waste food.
Planned your shopping list yet? Great! Now get to barbecuing!