$20 barbecued dinners

The economy has bitten each of us in the butt the last few years and chewed up any extra pennies we’ve tried to save. Finding economical meals and stretching them to feed the entire family has become a challenge. Even barbecue or grilling meals rather than going out to eat seems a little pricey these days. Here are some tips on putting together meals for under $20 that will feed the entire family, save some pennies and satisfy the soul.


When buying meat, check the price per pound versus the on sale price to ensure that those specials are actually a deal. Furthermore, always check the expiration dates on any cut of meat that is prepackaged. Look for specials on everything from whole chickens to pork chops to ribs because this is where the savings starts.


The key to a successful economical meal is utilizing the side dishes as fillers that surround the main meat course. These sides will help make up the four basic food groups including your main meat dish. By accentuating the side dishes and giving larger portions, you will find the most expensive dinner item of meat being stretched a little further. After all, the main goal is to feed the family something delicious for under $20.


Whole chickens are easy to prepare, offer tons of flavors, and stay juicy the whole way through. The trick is in the seasoned rub. This beer butt chicken recipe will treat the bird with a little respect as it sits up the bird while it cooks. Brush on your favorite BBQ sauce (Stubbs BBQ sauce is a favorite around here) but only towards the end of the cooking or the sugars will cause it to burn rather than flavor the bird. The side dishes will include a tin foil packet of garlic roasted potatoes, carrots sautéed in butter and brown sugar and cheesy garlic toast. Finish it off by making some store bought chocolate chip cookies and your family will hug and kiss you all the way till bedtime.


  • 3-4 lbs. Whole Chicken: $5
  • Six Pack Beer: $5
  • Potato Packet: $2
  • Carrots: $2
  • Garlic Toast: $2 loaf
  • Cookies: $3


Ribs are a great dinner item and a full slab of baby backs can help feed a family of four very economically. The kicker is the sides. These fillers or sides will complete the meal and allow everyone to enjoy your succulent baby backs as well. This recipe for baby back ribs works well when you make your favorite dish of macaroni and cheese, heat up a can of green beans and spend a little time baking some homemade biscuits with honey. Finish up with a Jell-o® and whipped cream layered parfait.


  • Full Slab: $11
  • Mac-n-Cheese: $4
  • Can of Green Beans: $1
  • Biscuits: $2
  • Jello® with whipped cream: $2


Pork chops are usually followed with a box of au gratin dehydrated potatoes. Why not cook from scratch and grill the chops to create a wonderful home cooked meal? Season some thick cut pork chops with salt and pepper. Place in sealable freezer style plastic bag and add a cup of your favorite marinade and let set for an hour in the fridge. Prepare an au gratin of slice potatoes and cheddar cheese and bake accordingly. Now prepare the grill with a heat searing flame, take out the chops and let the marinade drip off. Place them on the grill and cook for one to two minutes. Rotate 45º to get that wonderful cross hatch and cook another two minutes. Flip and grill for two more minutes and then rotate another 45º for the last two minutes. Move to the top shelf of the grill to rest and let the juices re-mingle. Add a wonderful tossed salad of fresh vegetables. Slice some strawberries and mash in a bowl with a ¼ cup of sugar. Let it set in the fridge for a bit and then serve as dessert on top of slice pound cake.


  • Thick Pork Chops: $8
  • Au Gratin Potatoes: $4
  • Fresh Salad: $3
  • Strawberries: $3
  • Pound Cake: $2


Sliders, homemade baked sweet potato fries, and grilled corn on the cob will feed everyone heartily and all within budget. Place two pounds of ground beef into a large bowl and season with salt, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder. Use your hands to blend the ingredients together and paddy out 8-10 evenly sized burgers. Pile high on plate and separate each paddy with wax paper. Thick slice one whole large Vidalia onion and place in a large cast iron skillet with a tablespoon of butter. Shuck 4 whole ears of corn and break in half, wrap with tin foil and include a slab of butter and salt in each. Wash and then thick slice 4 sweet potatoes into long strips leaving on the skin. Place these on a cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place into a preheated 400ºF oven for 20-30 minutes flipping once. Now head to the grill with the skillet full of onions, the plate of sliders, and the corn wraps. Toss the corn on a very hot grill and rotate often to get that golden color inside the foil. Use the side burner to caramelize the onions, stirring occasionally. Finally, put the burgers on the grill. Flip once they are browned on one side and add your cheese. Once everything is done head back to the kitchen and start the plate assemblies. Slice the Hawaiian rolls in half, slide a burger on each and top with onions. Pull the fries from the oven and salt immediately. Unwrap the corn and there you have a unique twist on those boring weekday burgers. To boot, finish off with a scoop or two of Butter Pecan Ice Cream.


  • 2 lbs. Ground Beef: $7
  • Pepper Jack Cheese: $2
  • Hawaiian Rolls: $3
  • Sweet Potatoes: $2
  • Corn: $2
  • Butter Pecan Ice Cream: $4



Obviously, each of these meals depends upon your pantry. Spices, sugar, flour, butter are normal staples within the kitchen and utilizing these stored items helps your budget. Each meal is large enough to fill a belly, contains the four basic food groups, and satisfies with a wide range of flavors. Try these great meals for under $20 that the whole family will love.


Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em and don’t forget your bib.


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