10 Best Cities for Affordable Summer Cookouts
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10 Best Cities for Affordable Summer Cookouts

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Summer is prime time to fire up the grill and enjoy the great outdoors. But because cloudy skies and expensive food and drinks can put a damper on any backyard barbeque, we went in search of cities that offer an enviable combination of ample sunshine and affordable prices on cookout staples. We found ten that fit the bill.


To compile our list of the best cities for cheap summer cookouts, we looked at metropolitan areas with an above-average number of sunny days during the summer and populations over 50,000. In the typical U.S. city, the sun shines 66.5% of the time between June and August, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

We turned to the Council for Community and Economic Research, which tracks living expenses across the U.S., to calculate the cost of cookout staples. Specifically, we looked at the prices of a pound of 80% lean ground beef ($3.08, on average), an 11.5-ounce bag of potato chips ($3.51), a two-liter bottle of soda ($1.52) and a six-pack of beer ($8.39). The total cost for the average U.S. city adds up to $16.50. The price tags for these cookout staples in the ten cities that made our cut came in from 4.6% to 14.6% lower.
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10 Best Cities for Affordable Summer Cookouts | Slide 2 of 12

10. Memphis, Tenn.

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Metro Population: 1,316,100

Cost of Cookout Staples: 6.2% below average (U.S. average: $16.50)

Odds of a Sunny Summer Day: 73% (U.S. average: 66.5%)

Great Grilling Spot: Overton Park


The largest city to make our list, Memphis boasts an impressive variety of barbecue specialties. Regional classics include pulled pork sandwiches and pork ribs. Though the ribs are occasionally slathered in sauce, Memphis barbecue is better known for the use of dry rubs. Complete your meal with a side of potato chips, which cost 10% less in Memphis than in the average U.S. city, and a cold beer (3% less).
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10 Best Cities for Affordable Summer Cookouts | Slide 3 of 12

9. Lake Charles, La.

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Metro Population: 119,607

Cost of Cookout Staples: 4.6% below average

Odds of a Sunny Summer Day: 80%

Great Grilling Spot: Lock Park


Though Lake Charles offers the least savings on cookout staples, it is the second-sunniest place on our list. Located directly on its namesake lake, as well as a short distance from several other large lakes and the Gulf of Mexico, Lake Charles cookouts are the perfect opportunity to indulge in a classic Louisiana shrimp boil, complete with crawfish, corn and potatoes. This being Cajun country, boudin sausage stuffed with pork, seafood or even alligator is also popular.
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10 Best Cities for Affordable Summer Cookouts | Slide 4 of 12

8. Victoria, Texas

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Metro Population: 115,384

Cost of Cookout Staples: 9.2% below average

Odds of a Sunny Summer Day: 73.8%

Great Grilling Spot: Riverside Park


Victoria marks the junction of three major highways and is about a two-hour drive from San Antonio, Austin and Houston. The diverse influences are evident. Though there’s no shortage of Tex-Mex favorites, smoked beef brisket served with a sweet tomato-based sauce is a common barbecue specialty. And don’t be surprised by the appearance of an Eastern European-influenced dish or two at cookouts. The city holds an annual Czech festival. Potato chip prices in Victoria run 26% below the national average.
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10 Best Cities for Affordable Summer Cookouts | Slide 5 of 12

7. Lawrence, Kan.

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Metro Population: 110,826

Cost of Cookout Staples: 10.1% below average

Odds of a Sunny Summer Day: 68.3%

Great Grilling Spot: Centennial Park


When you’re talking Kansas cookouts, you’re usually talking beef—most likely slathered in the state’s signature thick, sticky, tomato-based sauce. Lawrence, located midway between Kansas City and Topeka, is no exception. The college town is known for its lively art scene and, you guessed it, beef barbecue. Prices on cookout staples are low across the board, but the most substantial savings come from ground beef, which costs nearly 18% less than the national average.
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10 Best Cities for Affordable Summer Cookouts | Slide 6 of 12

6. Corpus Christi, Texas

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Metro Population: 428,185

Cost of Cookout Staples: 9.2% below average

Odds of a Sunny Summer Day: 73.8%

Great Grilling Spot: West Guth Park


Corpus Christi, which lies on the Gulf of Mexico, offers a prime opportunity to try the Texas take on grilled seafood. To work up an appetite and beat the South Texas heat in summer, take a dip at one of the city’s beaches. While you’re there, snack on potato chips that cost 26% less than the national average. Work off the calories with a post-cookout stroll along Corpus Christi’s eight-mile Bay Trail.
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10 Best Cities for Affordable Summer Cookouts | Slide 7 of 12

5. Pocatello, Idaho

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Metro Population: 90,656

Cost of Cookout Staples: 14.6% below average

Odds of a Sunny Summer Day: 79.8%

Great Grilling Spot: Ross Park


Pocatello is the least populated place on our list, but what it lacks in people it more than makes up for in savings and sunshine. You’re likely to have good weather eight out of ten days during the summer, and the city boasts the lowest overall prices on cookout staples on our list. Because Idaho is the nation’s top potato-producing state and home to 400,000 acres of potato fields, it comes as no surprise that potato chips sell for nearly 38% less in Pocatello than the national average. As an added bonus, ground beef prices run one-third below average.
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10 Best Cities for Affordable Summer Cookouts | Slide 8 of 12

4. Monroe, La.

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Metro Population: 176,441

Cost of Cookout Staples: 6.1% below average

Odds of a Sunny Summer Day: 72.3%

Great Grilling Spot: Chennault Park


Northeastern Louisiana is home to the twin cities Monroe and West Monroe, divided by the Ouachita River. The area offers a variety of cookout cuisine, from soul food to Cajun fare. A common link is the liberal use of peppery Louisiana-style hot sauce. Monroe sports the second-best beer prices on our list, coming in at almost 5% below the national average, as well as a nearly 14% savings on ground beef.
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10 Best Cities for Affordable Summer Cookouts | Slide 9 of 12

3. Brownsville, Texas

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Metro Population: 406,220

Cost of Cookout Staples: 9.6% below average

Odds of a Sunny Summer Day: 74.3%

Great Grilling Spot: Resaca de la Palma State Park


Located at the southernmost tip of the Lone Star State, Brownsville stands alongside the Rio Grande and is just a short drive from numerous Gulf of Mexico beaches. The area’s generally low cost of living is best seen in the price of groceries. Ground beef costs a full 25% less than the national average, and potato chips sell at nearly 19% below average. Brownsville barbecues offer the chance to cook up a variety of Mexican and Tex-Mex favorites, including fajitas.
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10 Best Cities for Affordable Summer Cookouts | Slide 10 of 12

2. Reno, Nev.

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Metro Population: 425,417

Cost of Cookout Staples: 9.3% below average

Odds of a Sunny Summer Day: 90%

Great Grilling Spot: Idlewild Park


For cookout enthusiasts who can’t bear the thought of cloudy skies ruining their plans, Reno is a sure bet. The sun shines down on the Nevada city 90% of the time during the summer, making it the most reliably sunny place on our list. In addition to fair weather, Reno features the cheapest beer (5% below average) in our roundup. Ribs of any kind are a barbecue staple in this region, but slow-cooked pork ribs often hold a special place at the table. The neighboring city of Sparks is host to the Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-Off.
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10 Best Cities for Affordable Summer Cookouts | Slide 11 of 12

1. McAllen, Texas

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Metro Population: 774,769

Cost of Cookout Staples: 11.6% below average

Odds of a Sunny Summer Day: 74.3%

Great Grilling Spot: Westside Park


McAllen is cheap. In fact, we recently named it one of the cheapest places to live in America. Nestled in South Texas, within the Rio Grande Valley, McAllen earns the top spot on our list of affordable cookout cities thanks to its blend of low food costs and nice weather. Soda prices in McAllen run 15% below the national average and are the cheapest among the ten cities that made the cut. Because McAllen is less than a 30-minute drive from the Mexican border, many cookout dishes are heavily influenced by that country’s culinary traditions. Case in point: beef barbacoa, shredded meat traditionally made from a slow-cooked cow’s head.
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10 Best Cities for Affordable Summer Cookouts | Slide 12 of 12

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