A Graduate’s Guide to Grilling on a Budget


That $50,000 certificate on the wall of your new apartment says that you have a B.A. in Art History from the University of Wherever. Congratulations! As soon as you received it, you put it in the most expensive custom made frame you could find. Now, you’re broke, barely employed, and worst of all—hungry. But let’s just say that before you moved into your post-graduate home or apartment you decided that you were going to learn how to grill. It’s not because you were inspired by below-average, grilled hamburgers and hot dogs at frat house cookouts, but because you’re a bonafide adult now. And real adults know how to use a grill for efficiency, health, and style, not just for special occasions.

You may find yourself on a fixed-budget for the first few years of your professional life. Don’t panic. For now, budgeting down to your last nickel will help you build discipline for those later years when you actually have more money to manage. You’ll be spending a considerable portion of this money on food, and because you’re about to dedicate yourself to becoming a grillmaster, here are a few tips on how to grill on a budget without compromising the integrity of your meals.

1. The first step is to pick your grill. The raw truth is that anyone can by a $6,000 gas grill, but unfortunately, the grill doesn’t come prepackaged with a Chopped Grill Master that will cook the food to perfection. That’s your job and you can do it just as good on an ankle-high Weber Smokey Joe charcoal grill. The only annoyance with these starter grills is that the low height requires you to bend down in order to tend to your food. But, I suggest that you start off with a low-coast charcoal grill. Sometimes charcoal will infuse your food with an unsavory residue flavor. However, just make sure that you let the coals burn long enough before you throw your food on the grill. Gas grills are harder to lug around and if you forget that your gas grill’s propane tank is running low, you may run out of gas mid-cooking, which is such a “pro-pain” to have if you’re cooking for other people.

2. No one is saying that you have stoop to the point where you’re grilling Spam, but you also won’t be grilling filet mignon every evening. Buy your meat in bulk and don’t be afraid of a big bag of boneless chicken breasts. They’re great for grilling and I’ve found that if you cook them correctly, they won’t turn out as dry as they would on the stove.

3. A recent USA Today article reported that, “over 13% of Americans consume pizza on any given day, with college-age people among the groups with the highest reported percentages.” It doesn’t, however, talk about what kind of pizza is being consumed. Now that you’re not surrounded by dormitory graveyards of pizza boxes. You can make and eat pizza the right way—from scratch. Doing it on the grill is rewarding, easy, and cheaper than having one delivered to your doorstep. You can always buy pre-made dough from the grocery store, but consider that the ingredients that it requires to make two medium-sized pizzas costs under a dollar. The toppings are all up to you, but you shouldn’t have to spend over $5.

4. The myth about lamb is that it’s always expensive, no matter which cut you buy. But if you are craving a grilled burger and you want to switch things up, ground lamb is surprisingly inexpensive. Ground lamb also gives grilled burgers a distinct taste, especially when cooked over an open flame. For an added zing to your lamb burger, splash it with some Bragg Liquid Aminos a couple of minutes before you take it off of the grill.


Blaine Kelton is a recent graduate of UCLA with his degree in English. He lives in Los Angeles.  In addition to writing, his other passion in life is grilling.