Chuck steaks are a great alternative to more expensive steaks and the chuck eye steak is the best of this primal cut. Make sure you talk to your butcher so you are sure of what you are getting. Chuck steaks are not as tender as their more expensive cousins and will benefit from a good marinade. This will make the meat more tender so you won't notice that you save yourself some money. Also, avoid overcooking chuck steaks. They are perfect at medium rare, but tough at well done no matter how you prepared it before it hit the grill.
Chicken is a great choice for any cookout. Inexpensive, versatile, and easy to prepare chicken is always a favorite. The secret to saving yourself money when buying chicken is to avoid the pre-cut pieces. With a little practice you can easily cut up a whole chicken and save yourself some money. Take those pieces and throw them on the grill over a medium fire, brush on some barbecue sauce, and you have a great meal.
Also, avoid buying prepared skinless, boneless chicken breasts. It really isn't too much trouble to cut out the breast meat from a skin on, bone in chicken breast and the price difference is definitely worth the bother.
Whether beef for pork, ribs are an inexpensive solution to any cookout and something everyone loves. The secret to any rib is to cook it low and slow so you get tender meat and great flavor. When shopping for ribs, look for ones that have plenty of meat and a small amount of fat. The fat will keep the meat moist while it cooks, but don't pay for excessive amounts of fat. At least half the weight of a rack of ribs is bone so take fewer bones for the price if you can find it. Maximize the meat and get the most for your money.
Hamburgers at the most popular food to hit the grill and for a very good reason, everyone loves them and they are inexpensive to prepare. Nowadays people seem to be coming up with hundreds of ways of making a better burger. Truth is keep it simple and it will be perfect. Choose fresh ground beef, handle it as little as possible, and you will have a great burger every time without spending a lot on expensive meats and ingredients. Another tip is avoid making your burger patties too thick. This may sound like a good idea, but thick burgers require a longer cooking time meaning a dryer burger. Also, you can stretch your ground meat farther by making a patty that fits your bun, not your eye.
5. Hot Dogs
Most of the cookouts I go to feature food for the adults and something for the kids. Typically the kids get hot dogs. One reason is that kids love hot dogs and the other reason is, they are cheap. Of course hot dogs are much more than just treats for the kids. Hot dogs make a great meal for most any cookout and a great way to save money. You can spend a lot on hot dogs these days as so many people have come up with all sorts of specialty dogs and sausages, but you can shop wisely by looking for something in the middle. The expensive hot dogs at the deli counter are great but so are many of the more commercial ones. I suggest getting something good, but not expensive. Then set up a toppings bar to dress these dogs up anyway you want.
6. Flat Steaks
These three steaks, the Flank Steak, Skirt Steak, and Hanger Steak used to be so cheap that butchers used them up for ground beef. Over the years they have become popular for many dishes and the price has gone up so they are not as economical as they once where. What makes these cuts a good deal is what you can do with them. Since these are tougher cuts of meat your best bet is to marinate, grill, and slice. Serve these meats up on rice or pasta, as fajitas, in tacos or in other dishes. This stretches the meat making a meal for many out of a smaller cut of meat.
Pork shoulder, generally divided between the picnic roast and the Boston butt are among the least expensive cuts of pork. Of course the secret of turning these tough pork roasts into a wonderful meal is to smoke them low and slow and turn it into barbecue pulled pork. This is one of the most popular types of barbecue and has been a mainstay of American cooking for centuries. The reason for this is because this is not only an inexpensive cut of meat, but an inexpensive way to prepare it. Once you have your pork smoked and pulled, pile it up on cheap white bread buns and you have the perfect sandwich.
Untrimmed Beef Brisket is one of the least expensive meats you can buy. Of course once you cook it (low and slow) you will only get about half the weight in meat, but few things are better and barbecue brisket. For this you will definitely need a smoker and a lot of time to smoke it right. When selecting a good beef brisket look for one with a good layer of fat, but not too thick. The fat is vital to good smoked brisket, but excessive amounts is just a waste of money. Examine the brisket carefully so you get the one you want. Frequently stores will only put a few briskets out front at a time. Talk to the butcher and ask to see what he has in the back if you can't find a brisket out front that meets your needs.
9. Lamb Breast
Lamb is one of my favorite meats for the grill. Unfortunately good lamb can be hard to find and expensive. Lamb breast is cut from the rib section of the lamb. While it doesn't contain the much desired rack of lamb it has good meat that is very flavorful. Typically you can get the lamb ribs (sometimes called Denver Ribs) or lamb riblets. These can be tough cuts. I suggest that you start with a strong marinade, putting in lemon juice as the acid. This will tenderize the meat and cut the sometimes strong flavor of lamb. Let the lamb sit in this marinade for several hours before cooking. If you are working with a relatively thin piece, cook it hot and fast trying not to over cook it. If you have a thicker cut go slow and grill indirectly.
Outside of the Holidays, turkey is largely overlooked. This is unfortunately. Turkey is an economical way to feed a lot of people and there are so many ways you can prepare it. I always suggest that you brine turkey before you cook it, no matter how you cook it. As with chicken, you get a better deal buying a whole turkey and cutting it up (if that's how you want it). Turkey breast tends to be pretty expensive relatively, but other cuts like thighs can be much more reasonable. Look for fresh turkey, not those packed with chemicals.