Grilling on a Budget

Grilling on a Budget: Delicious Recipes that Won’t Break the Bank

Ah, grilling. There’s nothing quite like the sizzle of fresh ingredients on a hot grill, the aromatic smoky scent wafting through the air, and that unmistakable flavor that only grilling can provide. Many people shy away from this culinary delight, thinking it’s a luxury they can’t afford. But guess what? It doesn’t have to break the bank! I’m here to guide you through the wonderland of affordable, mouthwatering grilled recipes.

Benefits of Grilling on a Budget

Health benefits

When you grill, especially on a budget, you tend to use less oil. This translates to dishes that are naturally lower in calories. Plus, the inherent flavors of the ingredients are given a chance to shine, meaning fewer additives and more natural goodness.

Financial savings

Think grilling is all about premium cuts and expensive seafood? Think again! By choosing cost-effective cuts and relying on seasonal and local produce, you can save a surprising amount without compromising taste.

Skill enhancement

Grilling on a budget teaches you to be resourceful. It pushes you to experiment and become creative, turning simple ingredients into delectable masterpieces. It’s all about making the most of what you have!

Benefits of Grilling on a Budget

Key Tips for Budget Grilling

Planning ahead

Start by crafting a weekly meal plan. Not only does this reduce food waste, but it also helps you scout for sales, discounts, and deals, ensuring you get the best bang for your buck.

Buying in bulk

Ever considered buying meat in bulk and freezing it? You’d be surprised at the savings, especially when shopping wholesale. Plus, portioning and freezing mean always having ingredients on hand.

Opting for cost-effective cuts

While fillet mignon is delightful, cuts like skirt steak, chicken thighs, and pork shoulder are more wallet-friendly and equally delicious when grilled. A good marinade for tenderizing technique can work wonders.

Vegetable grilling

Seasonal veggies aren’t just flavorful; they’re affordable. Think charred corn, bell peppers, and zucchinis. Veggies offer a delicious and pocket-friendly way to diversify your grilling menu.

DIY marinades and rubs

Store-bought sauces might seem convenient, but they can be pricey. Why not make your own? Often, you’ll find you have most of the ingredients in your pantry, and the taste? Unbeatable.

Delicious and Affordable Grilling Recipes

Meat and Poultry

Herb-Marinated Chicken Thighs

Herb-Marinated Chicken Thighs


  • 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Optional: Red pepper flakes for a hint of heat


  • Prepare the Marinade: In a large mixing bowl, combine minced garlic, finely chopped rosemary, thyme, lemon juice, lemon zest, and olive oil. Mix well until all the ingredients are blended together. Add salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes (if using) according to your taste preference. Give it a good whisk.
  • Marinate the Chicken: Place the chicken thighs in the bowl, ensuring each piece is well coated with the marinade. Rub the marinade into the chicken to infuse the flavors deeply. If you have a zip-top bag, you can also put the chicken and marinade inside, seal it, and then massage the bag to ensure every piece gets a good coating.
  • Refrigerate: Once the chicken is well coated, cover the bowl with plastic wrap (or seal the zip-top bag) and place it in the refrigerator. For the best flavor, let the chicken marinate for at least 2-3 hours. However, if you have the time, letting it sit overnight is ideal.
  • Preheat the Grill: When you’re ready to grill, preheat your grill to medium-high heat. If you’re using a charcoal grill, let the coals burn until they’re ash-covered.
  • Grill the Chicken: Remove the chicken from the marinade, letting the excess drip off. Place the chicken thighs on the grill, ensuring they’re not overcrowded. Grill each side for about 6-7 minutes or until fully cooked through and they have a nice char. The internal temperature should reach 165°F (74°C) for safety.
  • Rest and Serve: Once done, remove the chicken thighs from the grill and let them rest for a few minutes. This ensures the juices redistribute throughout the chicken, making it more tender and juicy. Serve with your choice of side – perhaps some grilled veggies or a fresh salad.

Pro Tip: For added flavor, you can reserve a bit of the marinade before adding the chicken, and use it to baste the thighs as they grill. Just ensure you don’t use the marinade that has come into contact with raw chicken without cooking it first, to ensure safety.

Grilled Skirt Steak with Chimichurri

Grilled Skirt Steak with Chimichurri


For the Steak:

  • 1 to 1.5 lbs of skirt steak
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Salt, to taste
  • Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

For the Chimichurri:

  • 1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped (you can adjust the ratio of parsley to cilantro based on personal preference)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (adjust to taste)
  • Salt, to taste
  • Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
  • Juice of 1 lemon


  1. Prepping the Steak:
  • Take your skirt steak out of the refrigerator about 30 minutes prior to grilling. This will allow it to come to room temperature, ensuring even cooking.
  • Drizzle the steak with the 2 tablespoons of olive oil on both sides. Season generously with salt and pepper.
  1. Making the Chimichurri:
  • In a mixing bowl, combine the finely chopped parsley, cilantro, and minced garlic.
  • Pour in the 1/2 cup olive oil and the 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar.
  • Add the red pepper flakes, salt, and freshly cracked black pepper. Mix well.
  • Squeeze in the juice of 1 lemon, and give the chimichurri another good stir. Adjust seasoning as needed. Let the sauce sit for at least 20 minutes to allow flavors to meld. This sauce can also be made ahead and stored in the fridge.
  1. Grilling the Steak:
  • Preheat your grill to a high heat.
  • Once the grill is hot, place the skirt steak on the grates. Grill for about 3-4 minutes on each side for medium-rare. Adjust the time based on your preferred doneness.
  • After grilling, let the steak rest for about 5 minutes. This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, ensuring a juicy result.
  1. Serving:
  • Slice the skirt steak against the grain into thin strips.
  • Drizzle or spoon over a generous amount of chimichurri sauce.
  • Serve with your choice of side dishes. Some popular choices include grilled veggies, rice, or a simple green salad.

Chef’s Tip: The key to a perfect skirt steak is not to overcook it. Because of its thin nature, it cooks fast. Always rest your meat after grilling, and remember to slice against the grain for maximum tenderness.


Lemon Garlic Grilled Tilapia

Lemon Garlic Grilled Tilapia


  • 4 tilapia fillets (about 6-8 ounces each)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • Zest and juice of 2 lemons
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt (adjust to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (adjust to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • Optional: red pepper flakes for a hint of heat


Marinade Preparation:

  • In a bowl, combine the olive oil, minced garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, sea salt, and black pepper. Mix until well combined. Add in a touch of red pepper flakes if you want a spicy kick.
  • Stir in the chopped parsley.

Prepping the Tilapia:

  • Place the tilapia fillets in a shallow dish or a resealable plastic bag.
  • Pour the marinade over the tilapia, ensuring each fillet is well coated.
  • Seal the bag or cover the dish and let it marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to 1 hour. If you have the time, allowing it to marinate longer (up to 4 hours) will deepen the flavor.

Grilling the Tilapia:

  • Preheat your grill to medium-high heat. If using a charcoal grill, ensure the coals are evenly distributed and at the right temperature.
  • Lightly oil the grill grates to prevent the fish from sticking. This can be done by dipping a paper towel in oil and using tongs to rub it over the grates.
  • Remove the tilapia from the marinade and let the excess drip off. Place the fillets on the grill.
  • Grill the tilapia for about 2-3 minutes on each side or until it’s opaque and can be easily flaked with a fork. The exact time will depend on the thickness of your fillets.
  • Be gentle when flipping the fish to prevent it from breaking apart.


  • Once cooked, remove the tilapia from the grill and place it on serving plates.
  • Garnish with additional fresh parsley and lemon wedges if desired.
  • Serve immediately, preferably with a side of grilled vegetables or a light salad.
  • This Lemon Garlic Grilled Tilapia is a light and flavorful dish that’s perfect for warm days. The tanginess of the lemon combined with the aromatic garlic truly elevates the mild tilapia, making it a delightful meal to enjoy.

Did you know: Spiced mackerel fillets – These are packed with omega-3s. A little cayenne, paprika, and lemon zest, and you’re golden!


Grilled Stuffed Bell Peppers

Grilled Stuffed Bell PeppersIngredients:

  • Bell Peppers: 4 large ones (choose a mix of colors for a vibrant presentation: red, yellow, green, and/or orange).
  • Cooked Rice: 1 cup (white, brown, or wild rice based on preference).
  • Black Beans: 1 cup, drained and rinsed.
  • Corn Kernels: 1 cup (can be fresh, frozen, or canned).
  • Grated Cheese: 1 cup (cheddar, Monterey Jack, or your preferred cheese).
  • Red Onion: 1/2, finely chopped.
  • Tomatoes: 2 medium-sized, diced.
  • Cilantro: A handful, chopped.
  • Garlic: 2 cloves, minced.
  • Ground Cumin: 1 tsp.
  • Chili Powder: 1/2 tsp (adjust according to taste).
  • Olive Oil: 1 tbsp.
  • Salt and Pepper: To taste.


Preparation of Bell Peppers:

  • Start by cutting the tops off the bell peppers and removing the seeds and membranes, creating a hollow cavity. Brush the outsides with a bit of olive oil. This helps in getting a nice char on the peppers.

Prepare the Filling:

  • In a large mixing bowl, combine cooked rice, black beans, corn kernels, half of the grated cheese, red onion, tomatoes, minced garlic, chopped cilantro, ground cumin, and chili powder. Mix well until all ingredients are well combined. Season with salt and pepper as per taste.

Stuffing the Bell Peppers:

  • Carefully spoon the mixture into each bell pepper, pressing down gently to make sure they are fully stuffed. Top each filled pepper with the remaining cheese.

Grilling the Bell Peppers:

  • Preheat your grill to a medium-high heat.
  • Place the stuffed peppers on the grill, standing them up so that the open/stuffed end is facing upwards.
  • Cover the grill and let them cook for about 20-25 minutes or until the peppers are tender and have nice grill marks, and the cheese on top is melted and slightly golden.


  • Carefully remove the peppers from the grill using tongs (they’ll be hot!).
  • Plate them on a serving dish and garnish with some more chopped cilantro or a drizzle of sour cream if desired.
  • Serve hot and enjoy your Grilled Stuffed Bell Peppers!

Tip: Feel free to customize the stuffing based on your preferences. You can add ground meat, different veggies, or even switch up the spices for a new flavor profile!

Zucchini Boats with Feta and Herbs

Zucchini Boats with Feta and Herbs


  • 4 medium-sized zucchinis
  • 1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons fresh dill, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh mint, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small red onion, finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts or walnuts (optional)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1 tablespoon breadcrumbs (optional, for added crunch)


Preparation of Zucchini:

  • Preheat the grill to medium heat.
  • Wash the zucchinis and cut them in half lengthwise. Using a spoon or a melon baller, scoop out the seeds and some of the flesh to create a boat shape. Make sure to leave about 1/4-inch thickness around. Keep the scooped-out flesh.
  • Brush the zucchini halves with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle them with salt and pepper.


  • In a pan over medium heat, add the olive oil. Once hot, add the diced red onion and sauté until translucent, about 2-3 minutes.
  • Add the minced garlic and the scooped-out zucchini flesh. Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes.
  • If using nuts, add them to the pan and toast lightly.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool for a few minutes.
  • In a mixing bowl, combine the feta cheese, dill, mint, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Mix well.
  • Fold in the sautéed onion, garlic, zucchini flesh, and nuts (if using). Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Stuffing the Zucchini Boats:

  • Carefully spoon the feta and herb mixture into each zucchini boat, pressing down gently to pack the filling.
  • Sprinkle breadcrumbs on top if you want a slight crunch.


  • Place the stuffed zucchini boats on the preheated grill. Cook for about 10-15 minutes or until the zucchini is tender and the top has a slight golden color.
  • Be careful not to overcook, as the zucchini can become too soft.


  • Once done, remove from the grill and let them cool slightly.
  • Serve warm as a side dish or even as a main course for a light meal.

Note: You can easily customize the filling by adding or replacing ingredients. Grilled bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, or olives can be added for more flavor.

Vegan and Vegetarian options

Portobello Mushroom Caps with Garlic and Balsamic

Portobello Mushroom Caps with Garlic and BalsamicIngredients:

  • 4 large Portobello mushroom caps
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Fresh parsley or basil, finely chopped (for garnish)
  • Grated Parmesan cheese (optional, for garnish)


Preparation of Mushrooms:

  • Begin by cleaning the Portobello mushroom caps. Use a damp cloth or paper towel to gently wipe off any dirt or debris from the mushroom caps.
  • Using a spoon, gently scrape out and discard the gills from the underside of the mushrooms. This will allow the marinade to penetrate better and will improve the overall texture of the grilled mushrooms.
  • Trim the stem so that it’s flush with the cap.


  • In a mixing bowl, combine the minced garlic, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil. Whisk them together until well-combined.
  • Season the mixture with salt and pepper according to your preference.
  • Place the cleaned mushroom caps in a shallow dish or a resealable plastic bag. Pour the balsamic-garlic mixture over the mushrooms, ensuring they are well coated.
  • Allow the mushrooms to marinate for at least 30 minutes, turning occasionally to make sure they are evenly marinated. For deeper flavor penetration, you can marinate them for up to 2 hours.


  • Preheat your grill to a medium heat. If using a charcoal grill, ensure the coals are evenly spread and have turned ash gray.
  • Once heated, place the marinated mushroom caps on the grill, stem side down first.
  • Grill for about 5-7 minutes on each side, or until they are tender and have well-defined grill marks.
  • While grilling, you can occasionally brush the mushrooms with the remaining marinade for added flavor.


  • Once grilled to perfection, remove the mushrooms from the grill and place them on a serving platter.
  • Garnish with freshly chopped parsley or basil. If you like, you can also sprinkle some grated Parmesan cheese on top.
  • Serve immediately while they’re warm. These grilled Portobello mushrooms can be paired with a fresh salad, quinoa, or even as a burger substitute with your favorite toppings!

Note: The balance of balsamic vinegar and garlic can be adjusted according to personal preference. If you like it tangier, add a bit more vinegar; if you’re a garlic lover, don’t hesitate to add an extra clove or two!

Grilled Tofu Skewers with Peanut Sauce

Grilled Tofu Skewers with Peanut SauceIngredients:

For the Tofu Skewers:

  • 1 block (about 14 oz) firm tofu
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-inch ginger, grated
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Bamboo skewers (pre-soaked in water for at least 30 minutes to prevent burning)

For the Peanut Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp honey or maple syrup
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1-inch ginger, grated
  • 1-2 tsp chili flakes (adjust according to heat preference)
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Warm water (to thin out the sauce)


For the Tofu Skewers:

  • Prep the Tofu: Remove the tofu from its packaging and press it to remove excess water. You can do this by placing the tofu block between two clean kitchen towels and setting a heavy object on top (like a skillet or canned goods) for about 15-20 minutes.
  • Marinate: Once pressed, cut the tofu into long, even rectangles. In a mixing bowl, combine soy sauce, sesame oil, minced garlic, grated ginger, and lime juice. Mix well. Add the tofu pieces, ensuring they are well-coated with the marinade. Allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes. The longer, the better – overnight is ideal!
  • Skewer: After marinating, thread the tofu pieces onto the pre-soaked bamboo skewers.
  • Grill: Preheat your grill or grill pan over medium heat. Once hot, place the skewered tofu on the grill. Grill each side for 3-4 minutes or until you see grill marks and the tofu is golden brown.

For the Peanut Sauce:

  • Combine Ingredients: In a bowl, combine the peanut butter, soy sauce, rice vinegar, honey/maple syrup, minced garlic, grated ginger, chili flakes, and lime juice. Stir well to combine.
  • Adjust Consistency: If the sauce is too thick, add warm water a tablespoon at a time until you reach your desired consistency. It should be smooth and pourable.
  • Taste and Adjust: Check the taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. If you like it a bit sweeter, add more honey/maple syrup. For more tang, add a bit more lime juice.

To Serve:

  • Place the grilled tofu skewers on a serving plate. Drizzle some of the peanut sauce over them or serve the sauce on the side for dipping. Garnish with some chopped cilantro or crushed peanuts for added texture and flavor.


Grilled Peaches with Honey and Cinnamon

Grilled Peaches with Honey and CinnamonIngredients:

  • 4 ripe peaches, halved and pitted
  • 2 tablespoons of honey
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • Olive oil or melted butter for brushing
  • Vanilla ice cream or whipped cream (optional, for serving)
  • Fresh mint leaves (for garnish)


  • Preheat the Grill: Heat your grill to a medium temperature. If using a charcoal grill, make sure the coals are evenly spread and have a nice gray ash.
  • Prepare the Peaches: Wash the peaches and cut them in half. Remove the pit. Lightly brush the cut side of each peach half with olive oil or melted butter. This will prevent them from sticking to the grill.
  • Grill the Peaches: Place the peach halves, cut side down, on the grill. Cook for about 4-5 minutes or until the peaches have nice grill marks and have softened a bit.
  • Honey and Cinnamon Drizzle: While the peaches are grilling, in a small bowl, combine the honey and cinnamon. Mix well until you have a smooth mixture.
  • Flip and Flavor: After the peaches have grilled on the cut side, flip them over and move them to a cooler part of the grill. Drizzle the honey and cinnamon mixture over the grilled side of the peaches. Let them cook for another 2-3 minutes to allow the honey to caramelize slightly and for the peaches to be tender yet still hold their shape.
  • Serve: Remove the peaches from the grill and let them cool for a minute or two. Serve warm, optionally with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream on top. Drizzle with any remaining honey-cinnamon mixture and garnish with fresh mint leaves.
  • Enjoy: Dive into this delightful dessert and relish the harmonious blend of smoky, sweet, and spicy!


  • Make sure to choose ripe but firm peaches. Overripe peaches can become too soft and mushy when grilled.
  • For a nutty twist, sprinkle some crushed almonds or walnuts on top before serving.
  • This recipe can also be used for nectarines or apricots.

Grilled Pineapple Slices with a Hint of Mint

Grilled Pineapple Slices with a Hint of MintIngredients:

  • 1 ripe pineapple, peeled, cored, and sliced into 1/2-inch rings
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • A handful of fresh mint leaves, finely chopped (about 2 tablespoons once chopped)
  • Optional: a pinch of chili powder for a spicy kick


  • Preheat the Grill: Preheat your grill to medium-high heat. Ensure the grill grates are clean to prevent sticking.
  • Prepare the Pineapple: While the grill is heating, peel the pineapple and remove its core. Slice the fruit into 1/2-inch thick rings.
  • Minty Glaze: In a bowl, whisk together the honey, lime juice, and chopped mint leaves. If you like a bit of spice, add a pinch of chili powder to the mixture.
  • Grill the Pineapple: Place the pineapple rings on the preheated grill. Cook for about 3-4 minutes on each side, or until they have nice grill marks and are slightly caramelized.
  • Brush with Glaze: A minute before the pineapples are ready, brush each side with the minty glaze, allowing them to caramelize further and absorb the flavors.
  • Serve: Remove the grilled pineapple slices from the grill and place them on a serving platter. Drizzle any remaining glaze over the top and garnish with a few whole mint leaves for presentation.

Serving Suggestions:

  • Serve these grilled pineapple slices with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or coconut gelato for a refreshing summer dessert.
  • They also pair wonderfully with grilled meats, offering a tangy and sweet counterpoint to savory dishes.


  • Ensure the pineapple is ripe for the best flavor. A ripe pineapple has a sweet aroma at the base.
  • Don’t grill the pineapple for too long, as it can become overly soft. Aim for caramelization without making the pineapple mushy.

Additional Tips to Enhance the Grilling Experience

  • Using foil packets: Great for delicate items or for infusing flavors. Plus, it makes cleanup a breeze.
  • Reusing leftovers: Grilled veggies in a salad? Leftover chicken in a wrap? Be innovative and make the most of your grilled items the next day.
  • Optimal use of charcoal or wood: Experiment with different types to infuse your food with varied flavors. Plus, buying in bulk can lead to savings.

Grilling Tips


Grilling on a budget is more than possible; it’s a delightful adventure. With a little planning, creativity, and my tried-and-tested tips, you can enjoy delectable grilled dishes without burning a hole in your pocket. So, fire up that grill and dive into a world of flavors. Happy grilling!


Can I grill fish on a budget? Absolutely! Look for seasonal sales on fish like tilapia or mackerel.

How can I make sure my budget meat cuts are tender? Marinating and slow cooking are your best friends. They infuse flavor and ensure tenderness.

Is charcoal better than wood for budget grilling? Both have their merits. Charcoal heats up faster, but wood imparts a unique flavor. Check local prices and see what fits your budget.

Any quick budget-friendly marinade recipe? Olive oil, lemon juice, crushed garlic, salt, and pepper. Simple and versatile.

How can I optimize my grill’s heat? Ensure it’s clean and preheat it for at least 15 minutes. This ensures even cooking.

Are frozen veggies good for grilling? While fresh is best, frozen veggies, when properly thawed, can be a budget-friendly alternative.

What’s a good vegetarian protein for grilling? Tofu is affordable and grills well. Just ensure it’s firm and well-marinated.

How long should I marinate budget cuts? Ideally, overnight. But if you’re short on time, even 2-3 hours can make a difference.

Can I reuse charcoal? Partially burned charcoal can be reused. Just ensure it’s dry before you light it up again.

Is grilling desserts a good idea? Absolutely! Fruits like peaches and pineapples develop a rich, caramelized flavor when grilled. It’s a sweet end to a grilling session!

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