Designing a Budget-Friendly Outdoor Kitchen 


An outdoor kitchen can really liven up a backyard. It serves as a gathering space for those summer backyard barbecues, and a refreshing change to al fresco dining for your family. Unfortunately, many homeowners shirk on the opportunity to install an outdoor kitchen because of perceived budget limitations. 

While an outdoor kitchen may sound like a luxurious, out-of-reach upgrade, it doesn’t have to be. It can be an accessible, budget-friendly addition that simultaneously boosts your home value and your enjoyment. The key is finding out how you can save money on the outdoor kitchen of your dreams. 

Less is more 

You don’t need a sprawling outdoor kitchen complete with a pizza oven and Viking range. A simple, understated outdoor kitchen can still give off a sense of opulence and get the job done. All you really need is a grill, some counter space for food prep, and storage. Anything beyond that is an optional add-on. 

Small outdoor kitchens are charming and especially fitting for homeowners with smaller yards. If you have a small backyard, a large, over-the-top outdoor kitchen won’t be doing you any favors. It’ll overwhelm the outdoor space. 

A wraparound or marquee style small outdoor kitchen can still be an eye-catcher when accented properly with columns or a pergola. Work with the space you’ve got, and not off an idealized vision of what an outdoor kitchen should look like. 

Consider the cabinetry

Make sure to do your research and carefully select your outdoor kitchen cabinets – this is what can absolutely make or break your project. When you initially seek out outdoor kitchen cabinets, you may be presented with numerous stainless steel options. However, it’s not as durable (or stainless) as many people think. 

Stainless steel rusts, corrodes, and easily shows watermarks and scratches from simple, day-to-day use. So, if you’re trying to protect your outdoor kitchen cabinets from the elements, there are other weatherproof options that are more effective. 

Outdoor kitchen cabinets made out of High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) are stain-resistant and prone to weathering. They also don’t split, fade, or crack the way traditional cabinetry does. HDPE is also more versatile and customizable, coming in a variety of colors, where stainless steel has one uniform look, and doesn’t allow you to spice up the appearance of your outdoor kitchen. 

Not only is HDPE usually more affordable than stainless steel, it’ll keep you from having to replace your outdoor cabinetry as often – which will save you thousands in the long run. 

Opt for countertop seating 

Outdoor dining goes hand-in-hand with an outdoor kitchen. However, an outdoor dining area is a whole other project you’d have to sink your money into. Rather, arrange some countertop seating. If you’re adding on an island to your outdoor kitchen, invest in some barstools to turn it into an eating space, as well. 

This spares you the unnecessary expense of a dining set (and a tarp to cover it up). It’ll act as an extension of your outdoor kitchen, and you can implement seating on both sides of the island to maximize capacity. 

Choose appliances carefully

It’s best to take it slow with the appliances. After all, you can add on ones you need or upgrade existing ones at any time, so there’s no sense in starting with a bang. You’ll definitely need a grill, but you don’t have to shell out the big bucks for one quite yet. 

Start off with a cart grill until you can afford a built-in grill cabinet. Also, use propane bottles to fuel your grill, as this will save you the expense of running gas or electricity lines to your outdoor kitchen area. 

You might also want to forego a sink at the start, as building codes and plumbing costs can make it a pricey add-on, running you at least $300. 

While you’ll need refrigeration, you might want to buy a mini fridge instead of a full-sized one. The key is to design your budget-friendly outdoor kitchen by priority. Start with the appliances you need the most and work your way up. Unlike indoor kitchens, outdoor kitchens can be easily upgraded and expanded. 

So, don’t rush into an expansive outdoor kitchen project. This is a home upgrade that should bring you immense pleasure, not stress. And, for less than $5000, you can easily create an outdoor kitchen that’s sure to awe your guests.