Create an Outdoor Kitchen Without Overcooking Your Budget

Want to enjoy outdoor cooking and entertainment but don’t want to spend the money for an elaborate outdoor kitchen set-up? Try these affordable ideas for putting together an outdoor kitchen on a small budget.

DIY Landscaping for Less photo

Dear Dollar Stretcher,
We’d like to create an outdoor kitchen on our patio. We do a lot of entertaining and enjoy doing it outdoors. What will we need for a functional outdoor kitchen and how can we keep it from overcooking our budget?


Building an outdoor kitchen can certainly be a worthwhile investment. It allows you to cook, entertain and relax outside without having to run back and forth to your indoor kitchen.

However, these outdoor additions can sometimes get quite costly.

Here are several tips to help you create an outdoor kitchen on an affordable budget:

Plan Carefully

Before starting anything, make a detailed plan of what you want and need in your outdoor kitchen. This will help you avoid unnecessary expenses.

Measure your space accurately and determine which appliances you’d like to include in your outdoor space.

Start With the Essentials

The most important piece of an outdoor kitchen is the grill. Start with a good-quality grill that fits within your budget.

As you save more money, you can add extras like a fridge, a sink, or a pizza oven.

Keep It Simple

A simple design is not only cost-effective, but it’s also easier to build and maintain.

Avoid unnecessary features like a wine fridge or an ice maker that can increase the cost and maintenance.

Sign Up for Savings

Subscribe to get money-saving content by email that can help you stretch your dollars further.

Twice each week, you'll receive articles and tips that can help you free up and keep more of your hard-earned money, even on the tightest of budgets.

We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at any time.

Phased Building

You don’t have to build everything at once. Start with essential items like a grill and seating area. Then, as your budget allows, add on additional features.

Select Budget-Friendly Materials

Opt for materials that are durable but don’t break the bank.

Instead of expensive stone countertops, consider tile or sealed concrete. You could also use treated lumber for building frames or cabinets.

DIY When Possible

If you’re handy, consider doing some or all of the work yourself. Hiring professionals can add up quickly, so DIY can save a significant amount of money.

Look up tutorials online or go old-school and check out DIY books from your local library to learn how to do the tasks needed.

Repurpose and Recycle

Use reclaimed or recycled materials where possible. You can find many used items at a fraction of the cost of new ones, such as outdoor furniture, bricks, tiles, etc.

This not only saves money but also adds a unique touch to your outdoor kitchen.

Shop Sales and Discounts

Look for sales at home improvement stores, especially at the end of the summer when outdoor items often go on sale.

Online marketplaces might also offer discounted items.

Weather Considerations

Make sure you design your outdoor kitchen to withstand the elements in your area.

If you’re in a rainy climate, you’ll want to invest in good covers for your appliances.

If you’re in a hot and sunny climate, consider a shade structure to prevent damage from the sun.

A Reader’s Advice for Creating an Affordable Outdoor Kitchen

Outdoor kitchens can be super elaborate and expensive or simple, rustic and made of DIY items and reclaimed materials. Either way, it starts with preplanning.

First, you have to look at your space and needs. Decide if you want a roofed over area or not and what will work. Our outdoor “kitchen” is very small, fitting just the BBQ, tools, and refrigerator, so we built a small gazebo type structure over it. If you want it larger, you will have to decide if a structure is needed or not and what type fits your budget.

Do you already have a BBQ that fits the bill or are you looking for a new one? What features do you think you need? Does the space allow for a built-in or is a stand-alone more suitable for you?

Do you want a refrigerator outside? If so, will it be a small bar refrigerator or do you need something larger? We found a second hand, nearly new apartment size refrigerator for a song. For us, it allows more food storage outdoors as well as beverage storage, so it’s what worked for us.

Then deal with storage and food prep areas. How much space do you need for food prep or buffet set up outside? Do you need a sink or is your kitchen sink close enough to the door to make that unnecessary?

After you have the basic questions answered and have an idea in your head of the layout that works for your space, start looking for the elements needed.

A food prep/storage area is basically a base cabinet with a work top. There are lots of options from a stainless steel secondhand industrial kitchen cart to a large toolbox base to a DIY pallet cupboard with a weather resistant worktop. If you want something elegant, check out local granite suppliers to see if they have any countertops that were cut wrong or consider making a DIY concrete countertop. If the area is sheltered, you could consider butcher block if you don’t mind some extra maintenance and protection.

Reviewed June 2023

Wouldn't you like to be a Stretcher too?

Subscribe to get our money-saving content twice per week by email and start living better for less.

We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at any time.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This