G is for Great Grilling Tips to Save You Money

G is for Great Grilling Tips to Save You Money
Personal Finance from A to Z
Eileen St. Pierre, The Everyday Financial Planner

They say the unofficial start and end to summer are Memorial Day and Labor Day, respectively. Grill season lasts a lot longer in the St. Pierre household. It usually starts in early April and lasts until sometime in October. Once it starts, I do not use the oven – period. We’ll grill dinner every night, as well as occasional lunches. Our family laughs at us. They know once we “spring forward” we cook outdoors, and once we “fall back” Eileen starts using the oven.

 

My husband Jeff got to pick this week’s blog subject. He wanted to give you some great grilling tips to save you money:

 

 

Grilling helps lower your air-conditioning bill.

Running the oven during the summer can really heat up the house, especially in early evening during the hottest time of the day. We try to pick the last really cool day in spring to run our oven through its cleaning cycle with the windows open.

A decent gas grill and temperature gauge are all you really need.

You can do anything on a gas grill that you can do in the oven. See how quickly your grill temperature rises to 350 degrees (a common baking temperature). With a little practice, you’ll get to know the nuances of your grill. For example, one side may be a little hotter than the other.

  • You do not need to go out and buy every single gadget and grill accessory out there.
  • A few utensils like a spatula and pair of tongs, along with a can of Pam are all you really need.

Cook “outside the box.”

It is not a requirement that you cook only steaks, hamburgers, and hot dogs on your grill. Being creative does not have to be expensive.

  • One of our favorite Meatless Monday dinners is grilled tofu, which costs less than $2 a package at our Chinese market.
  • Just weigh the slices down a few hours beforehand with paper towels and a cast-iron pan to dry them out.

By far, our favorite “oven-alternative” dish on the grill is pizza. I make it using a Boboli crust and Jeff bakes it on indirect heat for 30 minutes (you’ll need two burners for this). Other favorites include:

  • Roasted vegetables, especially asparagus – No pans needed; just toss them with olive oil on some aluminum foil.
  • Cornbread and those “take-and-bake” rolls and baguettes
  • Fruit cobbler – I just top the dish of fruit with yellow Jiffy cake mix and melted butter.
  • Fish and vegetable packets – A complete meal wrapped in foil, and no dishes to wash.
  • Beer can chicken – We walk to the convenience store and pick up a tall can of beer with our Sunday paper. The chicken fits better on it. I get to drink the top half of the can before stuffing it with herbs and spices.
  • My mother, who still cooks for a small army, regularly roasts turkey breasts.

We usually go through a tank of propane every six weeks. Last winter, the price of propane really skyrocketed, but it has since stabilized. We eat a lot healthier and enjoy planning our meals. Take some time this summer to expand your grilling horizons.

For more saving tips, visit my Basic Financial Management page.  This column is also posted on Yahoo!.