Our desire to take living, entertaining, and cooking outside increases as temperatures rise. Here's a look at how you can devise a dollar-wise outdoor kitchen that makes it easy to do all three!

By Ann Wilson
March 14, 2017

Wouldn't we all love to have a well-equipped outdoor kitchen that works as well as our indoor kitchen? Alas, not everyone's budget affords the luxury of built-in stations for grilling, cooling, cleaning, and prepping. Fortunately, there are numerous outdoor kitchen ideas on a budget that you can use to set up an alfresco work space that won't bust the bank.

Devise an Outdoor Kitchen Plan

Determine where you want to situate your outdoor kitchen. Keep it as close to your interior kitchen as possible to ease the transfer of ingredients, tools, and dishware. Setting up shop near an exterior wall also allows you easier (and more affordable) access to plumbing and electricity if your budget includes buying and operating outdoor sinks and refrigerators. Be aware that tapping into your home's plumbing and gas lines and hard-wiring appliances will be costly and may require building permits.

Draw up a list of your outdoor cooking and entertaining requirements. Prioritize how you want your outdoor kitchen to function; then, find the furnishings and fittings that fulfill those functions.

Cooking in an outdoor kitchen requires only a gas or charcoal grill and a nearby surface to park foods that are going onto and coming off the flames. An efficient outdoor kitchen, on the other hand, requires a bit more equipment and a few modern amenities.

Include the Basics and More

When making your outdoor kitchen plans, include a cooking area, countertops for prep and serving, storage that keeps grilling necessities close at hand, and garbage and recycling bins that supply cleanup convenience. Think about what and how you want to cook outside, then buy a grill (the best you can afford!) with the appropriate number of burners, counter surfaces, and storage cabinets.

Want to stretch your outdoor kitchen's purpose? Include an outdoor kitchen bar with stool seating, a roof that protects chefs and guests from blazing heat and pouring rain, and extras such as running water, undercounter refrigerators, and wood-burning ovens.

Tips for Building an Outdoor Kitchen on a Budget

Look to reuse-it centers and salvage yards for inexpensive outdoor kitchen cabinets, countertops, building supplies, apartment-size appliances, and other materials you can upcycle to flush out your budget-friendly outdoor kitchen. Use reclaimed flagstones or bricks to enclose a grill and other outdoor kitchen equipment. Construct a prep station from old shipping pallets and a premade solid-surface or stone countertop.

Don't feel like building? Check big-box stores for modular outdoor kitchen components that allow you to mix and match an array of workstations. Stop at discount home and garden retailers to look for weather-resistant accessories, outdoor kitchen furniture, patio bars, and other practical gear that improves your outdoor kitchen's beauty and utility.

Round out your outdoor kitchen on a budget by setting up a dining table and chairs and a living area. Add comfortable lounge chairs near the cooking station to fashion an alfresco great room that allows for cooks and company to easily interact whenever a party is on tap. Remember to direct outdoor lighting and arrange outdoor lamps to illuminate both grilling and relaxation stations.

Be Imaginative

Rethink how inside furnishings can satisfy your outdoor living needs. Stock a rolling serving cart or a movable island with grilling implements, seasonings, paper towels, a gallon of water, and cooking spray—move the cart in and out of the garage or house as needed.

Patio and garden furnishings, such as potting benches, resin cabinets, prep stations, teak deck boxes, and benches with lift-up seats, offer affordable and stylish storage options for outdoor kitchens. Want to have a water source handy? Check out heavy-duty garden sinks that hook up to a hose and cost less than $100. There are nifty freestanding stations that hold coolers or act as giant coolers, while providing serving and prep surfaces and storage. Another place to shop? Camping retailers sell an array of compact utilitarian pieces that serve as wash-up, serving, and cooling stations.

Like any home-improvement project, budget outdoor kitchens require thoughtful planning and a good deal of research up front. With your outdoor kitchen wish list in hand, surf the Internet, wander home store aisles, and hit resale shops for economically priced equipment and furnishings that will make outdoor kitchen operations run smoothly.

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