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As the weather gets warmer, many of us are ready to get outside and grill. Elevating the al fresco dining experience by having an outdoor place to eat is a great addition for entertaining, but creating one can be expensive. If you don’t have the budget for a total patio renovation, here are some budget ideas for creating an outdoor cooking and dining experience that can boost your BBQ hosting game.

Create some counter space

Adding an island or a counter for your grilling space can make cooking outdoors that much easier. You can upcycle a rolling cart ($37.99) into a work table or counter space by adding some countertop material to the top. You can usually get discounted scraps of countertop from cabinet or building supply outlets. You can also opt to use a finished kitchen cart ($85.49) or a thrifted set of shelves and then add some more robust casters ($25.19) for outdoor use. Having your countertop on wheels allows you to move it easily indoors for seasonal storage as well as double your work surface as a dining surface if you have a smaller space.

Add a mini fridge

A small fridge can up your outdoor cooking game by giving you a place to keep food chilled while you do prep or keep a few cold beverages on hand. You can add a truly tiny fridge ($46.27) that accommodates up to 15 12oz cans or you could opt for a slightly larger, 1.6 cubic foot fridge ($98.00). Make sure you have an outdoor outlet nearby to keep your fridge plugged in.

Add an ice bucket

If you don’t have an outlet for an outdoor fridge, you can still serve up some frosty beverages with an ice bucket to keep them cool. You can add a pair of simple, four-gallon ice buckets ($25.98) or you can choose to use a drop in tub ($37.50) that you can add a cutout for in an existing countertop or table. You can also opt for an ice bucket that doubles as a side table ($54.99) for some extra table space along with your cold drinks.

Shed some light

Adding lighting both for food prep and ambiance can help you to upgrade your outdoor space from a plain old cookout location to an outdoor kitchen. You can add some wired outdoor industrial sconces ($29.99/two) if you already have power in your outdoor area. If not, you can opt for solar sconces ($29.99) as long as you have a place to hang them with sun exposure. For ambiance, you can add a solar pendant light ($22.95), or some lanterns (29.99/two) to your seating or dining area to brighten it up.

Turn a shelf into a bar

You can add a shelf to the side of your house or shed by hanging a 12-inch board ($14.22) with some shelf brackets ($69.99 for four) or fold-down brackets ($13.99 for two) to create a surface for drinks and plates without taking up a ton of space or blowing your budget. You can also choose to upcycle a thrifted console table, shelf, or desk into a bar space by adding some good quality exterior paint ($28.04/quart) to protect it from the elements and make it easier to clean. Adding some bar stools ($61.99/set of four) can help to give your outdoor bar a more finished feel.

Add color to your table

Adding textiles like an outdoor table runner ($5.90) or a new table cloth ($29.99) can give your old table a whole new look and make your outdoor dining space that much more inviting. If you have a table that’s showing some wear, you can choose to update the surface by giving it a good sand and some paint ($15.96) as well. If the surface is great, you can also freshen up an old piece by painting the legs instead.

Use planters or benches to delineate your space

In order to define your outdoor kitchen as well as give people somewhere to sit, using benches ($54.99), planters ($35.99), or a combination of both to outline your space can be very effective. Planning out the shape of your outdoor kitchen can be crucial to keeping the space feeling inviting as well as functional. If you’re handy, you can build some benches from cedar boards ($9.25 each for a ¾ inch by 4 inch by 8 inch board) supported by some wooden planter boxes ($60.99/set of two). Make sure that your bench seat has some support every two feet or so, to keep it sturdy.

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