Monday, 22 July 2013

My Official Entry into #TheCharcoalChallenge

Frugaldom's Big Summer Barbecue(s) on a Budget

The Charcoal Challenge

I was recently invited to take part in 'The Charcoal Challenge', a bloggers' competition run by, so I jumped at the chance to throw the ultimate summer barbecue and the chance to win £250! (See for full details.)
Not being the most organised of people, I still haven't got around to building a barbecue in the garden since moving here, so the fact that we were each being given £50 to fund this challenge was brilliant - first thing I did was order a small barbecue, which arrived within about 48 hours. Brilliant! Next up was decide on a date and hope that it fell within the current spell of sunny, summer weather.
The date came sooner than planned, when not one but two lots of friends, none of whom I'd seen in years, contacted me to say they were coming to visit. Trouble was, they were visiting on different weekends! Hmm... I wonder if I can make £50 stretch to two barbecues? The Charcoal Challenge was now on!

Luckily, I have a stock of charcoal for frugal emergencies like power cuts, so carrying a sack of that home on the back of the bike wasn't going to be an issue, but the fresh food for the BBQ was going to have to be bought from the local village store. We don't have any supermarkets here, nor do we have a car, so nipping out to pick up some groceries isn't an option.
The 7-mile cycle at a rate of knots along the shore late on a Saturday afternoon in blazing sunshine was actually quite enjoyable, even with the basket laden on the way home. I had also asked a neighbour to get me some sausages when they were in town at the supermarket, so we ended up with rather 'posher' ones than we would normally have bought, albeit on offer at 3 packs for £6.
So, here we go for BBQ #1 on Sunday 14th July 2013 from a starting total of £50.00
£  8.65 - BBQ from Amazon (inc delivery)
£20.68 - Chicken fillets, sausages, bread, peppers, red and white onions, tomatoes, snacks, sweets, kitchen rolls (cheaper than napkins) and reduced packet trifle.
£  3.80 - Plastic cups
[b]Balance remaining - £16.87[/b]
I set about printing out a few 'Welcome to Frugaldom' pages, cut them up and threaded them onto some garden wire before hanging them across the garden path (left of photo) and then looked out some bunting and flags from previous events - these have been in a box for the best part of 10 years, but looked as good as new - you can tell we're in Scotland by the beautiful blue sky and sunshine? (No political statement is meant or intended here.)
The new barbecue had only just been ordered, so it hadn't arrived in time for the first BBQ. Fortunately, I had a disposable one that we'd rehomed from someone, so it got put to good use!
Foodwise, I roughly chopped the onions, peppers and chicken then made up kebabs, adding a few
mushrooms to the combination. More peppers got sliced and added to a shredded garden lettuce, tomatoes and half a cucumber donated by neighbours. I made up a strawberry trifle, hard-boiled a few duck eggs - which I forgot to add to the salad! - and raked out the most important BBQ tools of all ... assorted herbs, Avon Skin So Soft, citronella candles and the Factor 50! These are all very, very important ingredients for a Scottish summer barbecue - as are liquid refreshments, which most folks bring along for themselves. I did have a choice of  homemade elderflower or mixed berry 'champers'.

The herb arrangement is made up of lemon balm, lavender, rosemary and bog myrtle. It does help a bit, even if it is just to swat at the pesky flies and midges if it doesn't keep them at bay. These herbs are all growing around my patio but they still don't stop the midges having a bite now and again.

Finishing touches for this barbecue included inviting the immediate neighbours, raking out all the picnic plates (plus reusable plastic 'glasses' bought from local shop), borrowing some extra patio chairs from next door, finding the radio/CD and digging out some music. By 7pm, we were cooking with charcoal to feed our impromptu party of 7 and a jolly decent evening was had by all.

I apologise to my guests for subjecting them to a photograph and sorry that all concerned weren't captured in this freeze-frame for posterity, but I'm sure all would agree that the evening went quite well.
The new barbecue

Monday morning dawned fair and dry (it's also Glasgow Fair Weekend, meaning this was a holiday weekend in some parts of Scotland) so we decided to head out for a walk before having coffee and cake on the patio. We'd just sat down to the mid-morning cuppa when the postman arrived, with this...

Well, you know what that means, don't you? We have the BBQ, we have charcoal, we have 2 chicken breast fillets plus some peppers, mushrooms and onions remaining, plus some wine and 'nibbles' leftover...

You got it! BBQ #2 in Frugaldom - the all new, 'use it up' barbie on Monday 15th July 2013. Leftover diced chicken breast, yellow peppers, mushrooms, white and red onions. Add to that a half bottle of elderflower fizz and it all adds up to yet another tasty al fresco meal. Yum!

This £50 budget was stretched to the limit. The next visitors to Frugaldom arrived on Saturday, 20th July! I'd ordered some savoury vegetable rice, sparkling elderflower and apple juice, marshmallows and Texas style BBQ dressing from Approved Foods* and my £50 had already bought a new barbecue and fed 9. Let's see how much further it can stretch and how many more can be fed and entertained. I had a balance of £10.89 remaining to pay for enough food to allow for BBQ #3.

Summer socialising in the sunshine is great fun - and I did check my home insurance to make sure we are covered for any third party liability and I do use some basic health and safety plus food hygiene common sense, despite my absent-mindedness. However, I can't wave a magic wand and alter time.
Trying to get friends and family all in the same place at the same time to fit in with work and home commitments can be a nightmare, so I chose to take the only other route possible - split my ultimate summer barbecue into several smaller, yet equally fabulous, frugal barbecues.

1kg of marshmallows!
Of the original £50, I had already spent £39.11 including buying the brand new mini barbecue. My next visitors arrived on Saturday 20th July - frugal friends from Birmingham whom I hadn't seen in some years, along with Max, their little dog. It's all so exciting managing to catch up with friends and celebrating the occasion with an al fresco meal - I love it, even if I do end up chasing my tail or forgetting my head sometimes! (Or burning pots, breaking eggs, forgetting things and spilling stuff.) 

So far, my £50 had fed 9 and then there were another 7 mouths to feed. To all intents and purposes, people must think I keep a pet gran, but it was just too warm for my eldest guest, my spritely, eighty-something-year-old next door neighbour, to sit outside in the garden. Instead, she sat indoors, next door in her own house, but I made sure she was well fed and didn't miss out on the chatter. She even provided music from her conservatory, which is adjacent to my patio, albeit separated by the garden wall and gates between is.

BBQ #3 - To make the most of the remaining few pounds, I called in the help of my son, who popped into the supermarkets in town with my list, got the best deals he could and then delivered the groceries to me on his way home from work. This was a great help, as it meant I got all of the following:
£10.02 in supermarket
  • Chicken breast fillets - £3.95
  • Mixed peppers - £1.98
  • Mushrooms - 95p
  • Onions - £0.25
  • Sausages - £1.60
  • Tomatoes - £1.29
  • Lettuce, herbs, fresh eggs and chives from the garden to make up a bowl of salad.
Spend - £10.02, so I still had 87p remaining from my original £50.
But hold on, I must be able to do something with 87p, surely? Dessert, anyone?

87p for 8 desserts
A cupboard and garden scavenge turned up the following:

Strawberry jelly bought for 19p from Asda (19p)
Angel Delight bought 3 for 99p from Approved Food (33p)
Tin of sterilised whipping cream bought 4 for £1 from BB4L (25p)
Tinned mandarins bought 10 for £1 from Approved Foods (10p)
(The tinned mandarins have now increased in price to 8 for £1)
Fruit picked from garden (Free)
Chocolate - already had some but there was also a free Yorkie bar with last week's Approved Food order

Total cost - 87p

That's it! My entire £50 was spent. The 87p worth of assorted items got turned into 8 small desserts, so there was plenty to feed seven that afternoon. In fact, I had two desserts left over, as someone didn't want one. (Only small hiccup was that I couldn't get the cream to whip up properly, I'll blame the heat.)

It was brilliant catching up with the Birmingham guests, especially as I hadn't seen them for four years! Everything that got cooked got eaten and the last of the berry fizz got drunk. Max, the visitor's little dog, even had a BBQ sausage.

From the supplies bought, there was still salad stuff, several bottles of elderflower and apple juice, savoury rice, two desserts, a pack of veggie sausages that never got used and masses of marshmallows. Most of it got used up the following day, when we polished off the leftovers.

It was excellent weather throughout both weekends and everyone said what a great time they had. Neighbours had supplied extra lettuce, cucumber, a couple of extra chicken fillets and beer. Last weekend's guests brought wine, flowers, juice and fresh bread, then my further-travelled friends brought a superbly thought out frugal gift of cheese, milk and dried yeast for bread-making!

You can tell they all know me well!

Not content with all of that, my lovely next door neighbour gave me a wooden dining table that was, otherwise, being ear-marked for the dump! Add to this the fact that we were unable to eat and drink all the leftovers and it makes the £50 look like a fabulous amount. I could easily have fed 25, even after buying the barbecue!

For all of these things, I am truly grateful. I love it when friends visit and this challenge was a real tonic. Thank you to all who helped make the days special and thank you to for providing me with £50 and the chance to show how much frugal fun can be had, not to mention feeding an overall total of 20 over the space of four barbecues, on such a small budget. And lest we forget, here's what was left over for future use. There are also the 30 reusable plastic glasses that have been washed, dried and stored away for future use.

All in all, this was a great challenge and showed me that it is still possible to feed partying guests for £1 per person and approximately £2 per person for special occasions such as the above barbecues. I love money challenges!

This is Frugaldom's entry into The Charcoal Challenge. I hope you have enjoyed reading how I spent the £50. You can catch up with all the other entrants by using #TheCharcoalChallenge on Twitter.

Until next time, Frugaldom.


  1. You did brilliantly well. You made that £50 stretch till it snapped - well done :-)

    1. Thanks, Sue, it was fun having the barbecues but even better that it allowed me to do a bit of catching up with old friends, none of whom I'd seen in years. :)

  2. I agree well done. I hope you win,


  3. I've had a nosey round some of the other entries and whilst they are all good, yours is the most original in my opinion. I think you have a chance of winning and I hope you do! x

    1. Hi Samfan! It's not as straightforward as that... it would appear that they select the winner by means of a random draw, which means to me that they don't even need to read the blog posts if they don't want to.

  4. Aww, that's pants lol. I thought it was a competition type one. The least they should do is read the blog posts. Good luck anyway! X

  5. The draw has been made and the winning entry was


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