When the weather is nice, it’s a good time to cook outside, but a lot of cooks still find themselves stuck inside while they’re doing all of the prep work. That doesn’t have to be the case, though: With an outdoor kitchen, you can cook a whole meal in your backyard, socializing with family or guests in the fresh air while you work. Outdoor kitchens are great for entertaining and can expand your living area. They can also increase the value of your home. Of course, building an outdoor kitchen can get a bit pricey, but it doesn’t have to be out of your reach. Here are some things I’ve learned about setting up an outdoor kitchen on a budget.

Essential Items

  • Grill: Barbecue grills can be mobile or permanently positioned. Consider what size you’ll need based on how many people you plan to entertain. A two-burner grill might be enough for smaller families, but if you think you might want to host bigger parties from time to time, get a five-burner grill.
  • Prep Surface: Adding a countertop or some other sort of prep surface. The surface you choose should be durable enough to withstand the weather. You can often find discounted countertops at stone yards, granite suppliers, or home improvement stores that have material remnants.
  • Cabinets: Outdoor cabinets can be handy for storing ingredients. Look online for people selling free or deeply discounted used cabinets. You can also save money by choosing ready-to-assemble (RTA) cabinets rather than pre-built ones.
  • Lighting: If you plan to use your outdoor kitchen in the evening or at night, lighting is a must. Use adjustable task lights over the grill and prep area. Rope lights, decorative lanterns, or strings of twinkle lights can also help illuminate the space.
  • Refrigerator: Having a refrigerator in your outdoor kitchen can make grabbing food and drinks more convenient and give you a place to keep perishable ingredients. You don’t need to put hundreds of dollars into a full-size fridge, though.: A small dorm-size fridge is a budget-friendly alternative.

DIY Ideas

While hiring a contractor to come in and install an outdoor kitchen can be faster, you can save a lot of money by doing it yourself. A wooden deck is a great DIY project to start with. Making choices such as using 2-by-4 Douglas fir instead of more costly options can save you money. If you want something to cover your outdoor kitchen, consider building a simple pergola. You can build a pergola from scratch using basic supplies, including treated lumber that’s both durable and economical.

Things to Avoid

If you’re trying to save money on an outdoor kitchen, make sure to stick to the basics. For instance, adding a sink to your outdoor kitchen can be useful, but the cost of running plumbing to your backyard can be astronomical. Hooking up a natural gas cooktop can also be highly expensive due to the cost of running gas lines. You can save a lot amount of money by choosing a propane grill. You might also want to go with concrete or ceramic tile countertops instead of more costly granite.