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Barbecues without breaking the bank

With warmer weather and longer evenings, barbecues are back! It’s time for fresh, exciting salads, outdoor dining and catching up with friends and family. We share our top tips for affordable and great tasting barbecuing this summer.

A family comprising two adults and four children sit around an outdoor wooden table in a garden. The sun is shining, the family are laughing. They are eating salad.

With the cost-of-living crisis hitting Kiwi pockets hard, many people are looking for more affordable options to provide a hearty barbecue for the whole family this summer.

From more vegetables on the hot plate to interesting new salads, there are many ways to make the barbecue more cost-effective and to make your meat go further.

Here are our five top tips for barbecuing on a budget

1. Use seasonal vegetables on the grill or hot plate

There are plenty of great vegetable options at this time of the year, such as courgette, eggplant, corn, capsicum and asparagus that all taste amazing when cooked on the barbecue! The great thing about these vegetables is that they are often more abundant and, therefore, more affordable during the warmer months, from late spring into summer.

You can try the following:

  • Courgettes cut lengthways, seasoned, or flavoured with garlic, herbs or interesting spice rubs like harissa.
  • Eggplant, courgettes and capsicum barbecued and mixed through a lettuce or couscous salad, in a pita with tzatziki (yoghurt dressing), or mixed with lemon and chilli for that classic Mediterranean flavour.
  • Fresh corn, seasoned with salt, pepper and chilli, drizzled with olive oil, then wrapped in tinfoil.
A hand holding a pair of tongs is turning vegetable kebabs on a BBQ grill. The kebabs comprise of colourful vegetables.

2. Try some exciting new salads

Salads provide freshness, different textures and a burst of colour and flavour to any barbecue table. They also offer a fantastic platform for lots of different vegetables, herbs and other ingredients.

Here are a few examples that won’t cost a fortune:

With some of the more basic salads, some toasted nuts and seeds or adding a dressing can make a big difference to its appeal and lift it to the next level. Making salad dressings at home also means you have control over the ingredients and can tailor them to your tastes.

Here are some basic ideas for dressings to which you can add your own variations.

Easy vinaigrette dressings

Large serving dish containing a panzella salad. Panzella means croutons. Other visible ingredients include asparagus, cherry tomatoes, spinach leaves.

3. Enhance the flavour with herbs and spices

Herbs and chillies can be grown in pots at home and partner barbecue food very well.

Rosemary and thyme are great for seasoning meat or vegetables before cooking. Other herbs like mint and parsley are ideal for salads, condiments, or dressings.

One of the best and cheapest condiments that you can make at home is Chimichurri. Chimichurri combines roughly chopped parsley, oregano, garlic and chilli mixed with olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper. It can be made with fresh or dried herbs and is excellent with meat, roast vegetables and fish.

Chimichurri is a Latin American sauce made from various herbs, garlic and pepper. This image shows Chimichurri verde in a glass bowl on a white background. Sauce of parsley, oregano, rosemary, garlic, pepper, and oil.

4. Get creative with leftovers

We can often be left with more leftovers than usual, with entertaining and extra people staying over the summer months. It’s always best to try and use up what you have, especially with food prices being higher than usual. Repurposing leftover meat and vegetables can be a great way to make your meals go further for the cost.

You can try the following:

  • Use leftover roasted or barbecued vegetables like asparagus, broccoli, courgette, carrot, capsicum, kumara or pumpkin in a salad or frittata.
  • Use the corn kernels from leftover corn cobs in a bean or corn salad, or make it into salsa with red onion, coriander, chilli and vinegar.
  • Leftover barbecue meat can be used in sandwiches, salads or wraps. Or visit for some clever and creative ideas for using leftover barbecued meat.
  • Leftover bread (such as rolls and baguettes) can be cut into cubes, lightly seasoned and roasted to make croutons. Croutons give a delicious crunch and texture to salads. Leftover bread can also be made into garlic bread by wrapping it in tinfoil and reheating directly on the barbecue.
A frittata made with chicken, potatoes and vegetables depicted on a plate surrounded by tomatoes, cucumbers and sliced bread.

5. Make the meat go further

While meat is often the mainstay of most Kiwi barbecues, it can dominate the table. This can be expensive and increase our risk of heart disease, as shown by the Heart Foundation's latest evidence on red meat, poultry and the heart.

If you are serving meat, consider some ways to make the meat content go further.

You can try the following:

  • Serve the meat on the same plate as barbecued vegetables, alongside salads and bread, to encourage people to take a variety of things – not just the meat!
  • Thinly slice meat cuts (e.g. steak, pork and even chicken thighs) to make it go further rather than serving whole individual portions.
  • Kebabs are a great way to serve more vegetables alongside the meat. Alternately thread meat and vegetables, such as courgette, onion, capsicum and mushrooms, onto a metal skewer and barbecue.
A fresh and tasty chicken and salad wrap, made from tortilla. Salad comprises lettuce, tomato, capsicums, grated carrot and pea sprouts.

Just because we all have to tighten our purse strings doesn’t mean we can’t continue enjoying the Kiwi summer tradition of a family barbecue. So get out there and have some fun in the sun!

Useful links

Storing food safely


Love food, hate waste


Fire safety while barbecuing

Dave Monro, NZRD

Dave Monro, NZRD

Chief Advisor Food & Nutrition

I completed chef training while studying nutrition/ dietetics and enjoy combining both of these elements to develop practical solutions for families to eat healthier.